Pollock on Jude 7
Next in his defense of the doctrine of eternal conscious torment (ECT) Pastor Pollock makes a short reference to Jude 7:
Further, Jude speaking of the inhabitants of the guilty cities of the plain, tells us that they are suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. No hint of soul-sleeping or of the non-existence of the soul (see Jude 7), though, when Jude wrote, two thousand years had rolled by since judgment had fallen upon them.
HADES and Eternal Punishment
A J Pollock
Pollock makes this quick reference without giving much detail. I suppose he believed the passage to be so clear that it does not require any further discussion. It makes sense to me that more time should be spent on this passage so, since it is my time, I am going to do just that.
First let’s take a look at Jude 4-7 using the King James version (the version that Pastor Pollock used):
4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
5 I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.
6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal (aiōnios) fire.
Reading verse 7 it looks like it provides strong support of the doctrine of ECT. If you look at the translation it says that the cities are suffering (present tense) the vengeance of eternal fire.
As I have studied this topic one of the first issues I ran into is the proper translation of the Greek word aiōnios (Strong’s G166) which is translated “eternal” in Jude 7. It turns out that aiōnios can be properly translated as “eternal” or as something that happens that has eternal consequences. The best way to demonstrate the difference is to translate that last clause of Jude 7 using the two different uses of aiōnios:
Suffering the vengeance of eternal fire
Suffering the vengeance of fire whose result lasts for eternity
This subtle difference can have a huge impact on how a passage is translated. In fact I can show you a verse where the difference in translation of aiōnios is of great importance:
12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal (aiōnios) redemption for us.
Using Hebrews 9:12 did Christ redeem us once for all eternity or is he continually redeeming us for all eternity? It all depends on how the translator chooses to translate aiōnios. Just to make sure that no reader misunderstands me: I believe that Christ redeemed us once on the cross with the result that we remain redeemed for all eternity. I am also not saying that Hebrews 9:12 proves anything about Jude 7, all it does is open up the possibility that instead of the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah presently suffering in eternal fire a legitimate alternative translation is that the cities were destroyed for all eternity by fire.
I think that is interesting and I hope you do too.
I am now going to provide two different commentaries on Jude 4-7 which challenge Pollock’s traditional interpretation, the first one is from 1855 while the second is from Edward William Fudge who is still alive and kicking. Any and all readers are free to make up their own minds.
Our first discussion is by Thomas B. Thayer:
Admitting the common interpretation of Jude to be correct, it is involved in inextricable difficulty; for, 1st. It states a falsehood, since the Sodomites were not set forth as an example of endless punishment in the invisible world, as no record of it is given by Moses, or the prophets, or any sacred writer. 2d. How is it that all mention of the matter should have been omitted until the time of Jude, and then be introduced, as it clearly is, incidentally, in the way of illustration? If there is any restraining power in the example, why was it concealed from the world more than two thousand years? Why was not the awful fate which awaited them revealed to the victims in the first place? It might have saved them. Why did not the sacred historian give account of it, that the millions who lived and perished between the event and the time of Jude, might have had the benefit of the example? If he was inspired, did he not know it? and if so, why was he silent?
But, as an example of divine judgment on the wicked here, in this world, visible to all future generations of men, the destruction of Sodom was worthy of special note, and exactly to the point of Jude’s argument. And it is under this light that it is seen by some of the best-informed orthodox commentators.
Benson, in his note on the place, says: “By their suffering the punishment of eternal fire, St. Jude did not mean that those wicked persons were then, and would be always, burning in hell-fire. For he intimates that what they suffered was set forth to public view, and appeared to all as an example, or specimen, of God’s displeasure against vice. That fire which consumed Sodom, &c., might be called eternal, as it burned till it had utterly consumed them, beyond the possibility of their ever being inhabited, or rebuilt.”
THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF THE Doctrine of Endless Punishment
BY THOMAS B. THAYER
And here is Edward William Fudge:
We have noted already the great similarity between 2 Pet 2 and Jude. Spurred on by the infiltration of some “godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 4), Jude urges his readers everywhere to “contend for the faith that [God has] once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3). God will surely punish evildoers, and he is well able to guard all who abide in his love. Indeed, Sodom and Gomorrah “serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7). The NIV interpolates the words “of those who,” which are not in the Greek text. The RSV and the ESV more closely follow the original, saying that the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah “serve as an example (deigma) by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire” (emphasis added).
Moulton-Milligan cite numerous references in non-biblical Greek where deigma is used of “samples of corn and produce.” Though the precise word appears only here in the New Testament, several other forms of it are used elsewhere. Yet deigmatizō (Col 2:15), paradeigmatizō (Matt 1:19; Heb 9:9) and hypodeigma (John 13:15; Heb 4:11; 8:5; 9:23; Jas 5:10; 2 Pet 2:6) all speak of “examples,” whether of good or bad. Nor does Jude say that the people of Sodom are a vague and general example of those who actually will suffer the punishment of eternal fire, but that they themselves exemplify that very punishment.
There is no biblical hint that Sodom and Gomorrah’s inhabitants presently endure conscious torment; several passages, in fact, make a point of their abiding extinction. John Nolland comments: “Jude 7 speaks of ‘a punishment of eternal fire’ . . . but this could . . . relate to the permanent desolation of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah—as the aftereffect and memorial of their punishment—rather than to continuing punishment of the people.”18
In the end, Jude says just what he seems to say, and the KJV may translate it most faithfully after all. The sinners of Sodom are “set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” The passage defines “eternal fire.” It is a fire from God which destroys sinners totally and forever. The residents of Sodom illustrate it, and the ungodly had better take note of the warning. Peter says the same thing in unequivocal language in his remark that God condemned these cities “by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly” (2 Pet 2:6). Jude will bring our thoughts back to Sodom’s fire a little later.
Fudge, Edward William (2013-12-22). The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, Third Edition (pp. 229-230). Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.
[Click on this link to see the next installment in this series: Pollock Once Again on Soul Sleep]