Almost a year ago, Chris Date and I had several conversations about his position and about coming on our radio podcast. He first emailed us and asked us to come on the show to talk about conditionalism. Being familiar with his ministry at that point for almost three years, I desired to converse with him about some of the details of what he believed. The conversations didn’t go well. Partly because Chris felt as though I was being mean-spirited and rude. Mostly because he doesn’t know how to be critically questioned about his belief in conversation (more specifically by me) and can’t answer my follow up questions. And Jude’s eternal fire is definitely a golden calf that he and other conditionalists vehemently defend. But recently, Chris blocked me from Facebook so that I cannot see his interactions and posts. It’s a good strategy. But just like many of his followers who send him my articles and social media posts (who also aggressively swarm my brethren’s blogs and podcasts in almost militant fashion), by God’s providence, I have been give the privilege to see Chris’ recent post about Jude 7’s eternal fire. His thoughts about Jude were off back then when he shared them with me. The ones I received recently were just as fallacious.
Before we dive in, if you remember from article 8a, I promised that I was going to go into more linguistics as to why Jude 7 indeed teaches us that the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah are currently undergoing punishment in eternal fire. As I predicted though, Chris has some bad interpretations about this Scripture, and even tries to use Josephus as justification to interpret Jude from an annihilationist’s perspective. So let’s deal with the problem at hand. Unfortunately for some, this article may be a little technical, but as usual, I promise to try and make it readable
First, the context.
In article 8a I hyperlinked one of Bill Mounce’s posts about Jude 7 that explicitly stated whether the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah are presently experiencing punishment in eternal fire. Bill Mounce exegeted and responded with a resounded yes! But Chris, in typical fashion, disagrees with our Greek linguist/scholar in question, and believes “he is mistaken.” Why? Well, here is the original post that someone else created on their Facebook account so that you can see what is being asked and why.
Here are Chris’ answers. The underlines are there to show where I plan to lay my focus.
Snapshot #2Snapshot #3
What Did Bill Say?
Before we dive into Jude 7, some observations must be noted. For some reason, Chris believes what Mounce wrote is not only mistaken, but at times he thinks Mounce affirms his view. Say whaaaat? The reason why I posted Mounce’s exegesis in my previous article (8a) in the first place was to show how the Scriptural interpretation of Jude 7 affirm eternal conscious torment. Here are some quotes from the article with emphasis:
“However, if relative time is accounted for, since πρόκεινται (serving, or being laid out in plain sight) is present, the linear ὑπέχουσαι would be describing action happening at the same time as πρόκεινται and hence a present “undergoing.” So the suggestion is that the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah are currently being punished for their sins, and their current punishment serves as a current warning to us.”
In the very next paragraph, Mounce admits that the historical location serves as an example to us for sure. That is something I touched on and will readily accept as part of how we should understand Jude. Because certainly the location was a present example in Jude’s time as it is to us as the grammar suggests. But Mounce also says:
“As far as the timing of their ongoing punishment is concerned, relative time does suggest they are currently experiencing it at the same time as we are being warned.”
I said this very same thing to Chris a while back, and repeatedly stated this to a few conditionalists even before Mounce’s article was even published.
How Chris interprets Mounce as affirming annihilation (Snapshots #1 and #2) is beyond me. Thankfully Chris recognizes the relevancy of Mounce’s quote above (Snapshot #7), but of course, Mounce is “mistaken.” Predictable. And I’m not saying you can’t disagree with other linguistic interpreters, but why Chris feels Mounce is mistaken is simply deceptive. Chris seems to think that just because Mounce “observed” that Sodom and Gomorrah is “being laid out in plain sight” as a present example, since it is referencing an historical record, that the “undergoing” is happening in the past (Snapshot #7). Um, no. That’s not what Jude is saying. And Mounce made that abundantly clear! But did you notice how Chris switched up the language first before making his point?
What Does Chris Say?
Framing is a linguistic tool often used by politics, media, and yes, even preachers. It is especially cunningly used by Chris Date and most of Rethinking Hell’s writers. Every Christian should be aware of how annihilationists (and any teacher/speaker really) frame their arguments as a means of potentially manipulating the Scriptures and your thinking. I say that to say this. In Snapshot #1 & 2, Chris admits that Sodom and Gomorrah “serve” (πρόκεινται – prokeintai) as an example (presently), and frames the important question: How or in what way are they serving, or being laid out in plain sight, as an example? But even though, in the Greek, this participle of means “undergoing” (ὑπέχουσαι – hupechousai) answers that very question, and does so with a present implication along with this main verb prokeintai, Chris frames his answer as if the present undergoing isn’t even a factor. And he even tries to make it look like Mounce agrees with him. The answer to the question isn’t that Sodom underwent, did undergo, or were undergoing punishment at some point in the past, with no implication to present suffering. But our participle in question clearly reveals a present undergoING, and our governing/main verb that Chris so vehemently loves to emphasize can also be translated as presently “servING” as an example just to make Jude’s point clearer (as Bill Mounce points out in his article above).
Another thing to be aware of is that although Chris recognizes that the participle “undergoing” is present tense, he is trying to make it seem like the “undergoing” was happening in past tense simply because Jude is referring to the historical record of Sodom and Gomorrah. Not only that, he tries to fit a square peg into a round hole when he says that the participle is “in the present tense, yes, but it is referring to a past event whose record exists in the present, so the participle is taking place at the same time as the past event” (emphasis mine, Snapshot #4). Um…no Chris. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. The present tense of “serving as an example” makes this subject a contemporary matter. Our participle of means (undergoing) is also a contemporary, progressive action (in this particular context). Chris recognizes the idea that undergoing follows the time of the main verb (Snapshot #3), but distorts the word “undergoing” to fit his model. In plainer terms, he believes that because our governing verb “to serve” refers to an event in the historical record, and that that event presently serves as an example of what will happen to the ungodly, that the participle must be interpreted with the idea that Sodom and Gomorrah was “undergoing” the punishment in the past.
Before I we move into why this interpretation is seriously flawed, and linguistically inaccurate, there are several presuppositions that I will briefly touch on here that will help you understand what is guiding annihilationistic interpretations of Jude (and other Sciptures).
1) God’s love.
We must remember that conditionalists have stated at various times that eternal conscious torment (ECT) is contrary to the nature of God’s love. This is a point that they profess is a “minor” point, and that there are “plenty” of Scriptural reasons to deny ECT. But this is no small point! This has huge implications and presuppositions that will guide one’s interpretation of any text. This is a point I will expound upon in later articles, but just remember it is hard, if not impossible, to persuade someone about ECT when they have this kind presupposition. Even if you clearly reveal to them how passages like Jude affirm it.
2) The Fire of Sodom and Gomorrah were temporal.
Since the fire and brimstone that rained on Sodom and Gomorrah were temporal when they destroyed the inhabitants, and are not currently burning, it only serves to understand that the “eternal fire” mentioned in Jude is in reference to those fires that came down upon them. Of course, I could understand why someone would assume this. But it’s still wrong. Underneath the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Jude could (and did) illustrate the severity of God’s judgment upon the wicked by pointing to a specific event in the past and expounded upon it by further revelation concerning the present condition of their punishment. In this case, the current “undergoing” of eternal fire.
3) 2 Peter 2:6.
As you saw Chris profess, the parallel passage in 2 Peter 2:6 clearly speaks of Sodom being reduced to ashes, and how their punishment is an example of what God will do to the ungodly. Amen! I agree. What I don’t agree with is how apparently Peter “tips the scales” in Chris’ favor as he supposes (Snapshot #6), because Jude and Peter are indeed making two essentially separate points about a similar event. This is a point that Peter Grice admits as “possible” (Snapshot #7). But of course, in typical Rethinking Hell fashion, he further answers by stating “it’s far more likely that they don’t.” Furthermore, 2 Peter makes it clear that Sodom and Gomorrah are examples of God’s judgment upon wickedness, but one of his main points also is how God will punish the wicked and preserve the righteous. He’s not seeking to reveal how Sodom and Gomorrah are an example of final, annihilationistic type punishment. This kind of proof-texting is one of the main problems with the conditionalist’s hermeneutic, and was also addressed by Jerry Shepherd when he debated online with Chris. You can also go to article 4c which relates a little more on this point. But there is an ironic twist about 2 Peter 2:6 that completely flips the scales over against conditionalism. That will be touched on below.
I am going to expound upon why using Josephus as a comparison for Jude is completely a farce in the next article. I think this one deserves some special attention that I do not want to reveal here for the sake of brevity. For now, here are two of the many thoughts I will deal with. 1) If you use Josephus in order to cross-exegete Jude, or if you are going to compare linguistic features with other sources, the word(s) or grammatical construction in question should at least be found in the alternate source. Or at minimum should share some contextual relationship with the way Jude uses the word. Which brings me to my second thought. 2) Nowhere in Josephus’ passage is our participle (undergoing) used. Nowhere! The word πρόκειται (prokeitai – to serve) is used, which is another form of prokeintai – our governing verb in question in Jude 7. Also, hupodeigma (ὑπόδειγμα) is used in Josephus’ passage, which 2 Peter also uses to depict the “example” we learn concerning Sodom being reduced to ashes. Heck, even Jude 7 uses deigma (δεῖγμα) for the word “example,” without the “hupo-“ prefix. But our participle of means, which expounds upon and defines our main verb more clearly (as we will learn below), is nowhere to be found. So I can see why Chris would confuse Josephus and Jude together, but while there may be some semantic correlation because of the words listed above, just like Chris is mistaken about Peter, he is also wrong about Josephus.
Side note: I’d love to explore these kinds of things in a real conversation where ideas and follow up questions can be asked, and implications and presuppositions can be explored. But as I stated, Chris no longer wants to speak to me in real conversation or do a public interview, and neither does any teacher or leader from Rethinking Hell. They seem to prefer timed, moderated debates, where they can control the linguistic context, or at minimum, very carefully pick and choose who they will be interviewed by. But apparently, not by me. Still waiting Chris. Still waiting.
What Does Jude Say?
Now to my favorite part – Scripture. Let’s deal with one, overarching point first. Does Jude teach that the inhabitants are currently undergoing punishment in eternal fire, even as we speak, or not? If you have not read article 8a, I highly encourage you to do so now before you continue. Or at least refresh your memory if it has been a while.
First, let’s remember that Bill Mounce sets in plain sight that Sodomites are undergoing current and present punishment. And both the serving as an example and the undergoing are written through the present perspective of Jude. But also Dan Wallace, Greek linguist/scholar, lays out how to understand present participles of means like undergoing (ὑπέχουσαι – hupechousai) in his book, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. So here are some of the guidelines.
- A present participle is normally contemporaneous in time to the main verb. This is especially so when it is related to the present tense of the main verb (pg 625). In layman’s terms, the time of the “undergoing” will be happening at the same time as the main/governing verb, especially if both are present tense. Is “being set forth in plain sight” as an example present tense? Yes. Is “undergoing” present tense? Absolutely! Chris seemingly gives an acknowledgement to this simple fact, but then twists it. In his mind, because Sodom is serving as an example from a historical record in Scripture, he erroneously thinks that this past record, as it is written or recorded in ink, in and of itself is what serves as the present example. And since because it is talking about a past event, that “undergoing” must also be happening at the same time that event took place. Reread that slow, because this is probably the most cunning work of linguistic gymnastics I’ve seen so far. In other words, if I were to go back and read Genesis myself, I would not only find the historical record of Sodom being destroyed, but also, in that past record, I would read about them “undergoing” punishment in the past, which serves as an example to me now, in the present, as I read it. Wow Chris! Wow! Despite all this effort, Chris is still wrong. How exactly Sodom and Gomorrah are set before us as an example is defined and explained by the participle “undergoing” and is related to the time frame (present tense) referenced by the main verb. In this case, the moment when Jude was writing (contrary to Chris’ disagreement (Snapshot #3)). And since “undergoing” is a participle of means, let’s further see what Wallace has to say.
- A participle of means indicates the means by which the action of the finite verb takes place (pg 628). Wallace goes on to say that if the participle is removed, the point of the main verb is removed (pg 629). For example, what would the passage sound like if it just said, “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example… Well? How?! How does it serve as an example? C’mon Jude! Don’t leave me hanging man! How does Sodom and Gomorrah serve as a present example? By presently undergoing punishment of course! Wallace further states –
- This kind of participle defines and make more explicit the action of the controlling verb, and what the author intended to convey (pg 629). In this case, it extrapolates upon how Sodom of Gomorrah is presently and currently being an example – by undergoing (presently and actively) the punishment of eternal fire. Another example of how a participle of means works is in Matthew 27:4 when Judas betrayed Jesus. It says: “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” Judas confesses that he has sinned. But how? By betraying (participle of means) innocent blood! Notice though, that in this context, the grammar and style of Matthew was INDEED written to depict a past tense action in English and Greek. This is significant! Why? Keep reading.
Jude Makes A Powerful Point
There is another thing to take into consideration when interpreting this Scripture in light of our current word – the writing style of the author. No word should be translated in a vacuum. Word studies and proof texting are not good practice when it comes to understanding a passage or even just a word, especially when trying to understand theologically weighty topics like the one. There are nuances and shades of meaning that a word can bring to a passage, but the context and discourse will also have a great impact on the how the meaning of the word is brought out.
Now if we study Jude, we will first note that this is a didactic (teaching) epistle, which is intended to warn its readers about false teachers. As I illustrated in my previous article, Jude uses various past examples to illustrate how God will deal with these false teachers, and even the ungodly. Starting in verse 5, he uses the past tense (aorist tense in Greek) to depict how he destroyED those who did not continue believing when they came out of Egypt. Then he uses the past tense (aorist tense) several more times to show how the angels did not stay within their own domain, but abandonED their dwellings. And because of their sin, God has kept them (perfect tense, which generally depicts a past completed action that has continuing consequences in the present) in chains until judgment day. But when he gets to verse 7, something changes. He teaches how Sodom indulgED (past tense – aorist) in sexual immorality and pursuED (past tense – aorist) strange flesh, and are NOW serving (present tense) as an example by undergoing NOW (present tense participle) the punishment of eternal fire. Why the sudden switch in tense? Surely if Jude wanted to show how Sodom and Gomorrah was is an example by undergoing eternal fire in the past, he was completely, utterly, and linguistically capable of using the aorist tenses (and perfect tenses) he used prior. But he didn’t. Sodom would still remain an example to us just like the angels and those brought out of Egypt even if Jude chose to use aorist (past) tense again. But he chose not to. This really tips the scales in favor of Jude’s original intention, because he makes a stylistic choice in his writing to illustrate a powerful point. That what Sodom and Gomorrah did was so heinous, that they didn’t just experience fire from heaven, but they are still currently suffering the punishment of eternal fire. But this gets better (or worse depending on which side of this debate you stand on).
What Does Peter Say?
In light of what we already know about Jude’s choice of grammar and syntax to make a very potent point, what about Peter? As I mentioned earlier, and Peter Grice couldn’t admit to it, Peter and Jude are making essentially different points about the same event. But what about the grammar and style Peter uses to make his point? I mean, he also believed that Sodom and Gomorrah were “examples” to us on how God will judge the wicked, right? Yes. But not in the way conditionalists want to interpret it. We’re almost done. So hang in there. You’ll want to read this part.
Peter, just like Jude, teaches how God judges the wicked, and will deal with false teachers. His simultaneous point is that God knows how to preserve the righteous in the midst of such judgments (2 Pet. 2:9). But observe Peter’s tenses. Below is 2 Peter 2:4 – 10 in Greek and English with some notes about their Greek tenses. And if you don’t know Greek, you have my promise that I will make this as simple as possible. Just remember what we’ve learned so far about Jude’s stylistic choices.
The words in red are verbs that are not participles, blue are participles, and the only bolded black word is our noun “example.” Verse 6 is highlighted by standing alone and underlined for easier reference since this is our verse in question.
For if God did not spare (aorist) angels when they sinned (aorist), but cast them into hell (aorist) and committed (aorist) them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept (present) until the judgment; 5 if he did not spare (aorist) the ancient world, but preserved (aorist) Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought (aorist) a flood upon the world of the ungodly;
6 if by turning the cities (aorist) of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned (aorist) them to extinction, making them (perfect) an example of what is going to happen (present) to the ungodly;
7 and if he rescued (aorist) righteous Lot, greatly distressed (present) by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived (present) among them day after day, he was tormenting (imperfect) his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue (present) the godly from trials, and to keep (present) the unrighteous under punishment (present) until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge (present) in the lust of defiling passion and despise (present) authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble (present) as they blaspheme (present) the glorious ones,
And for you Greek Buffs out there:
4 εἰ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ἀγγέλων ἁμαρτησάντων (when they sinned) οὐκ (did not) ἐφείσατο (spare) ἀλλὰ σειραῖς ζόφου ταρταρώσας (cast them into hell) παρέδωκεν (committed them) εἰς κρίσιν τηρουμένους (kept/reserved) 5 καὶ ἀρχαίου κόσμου οὐκ (did not) ἐφείσατο (spare) ἀλλὰ ὄγδοον Νῶε δικαιοσύνης κήρυκα ἐφύλαξεν (preserved) κατακλυσμὸν κόσμῳ ἀσεβῶν ἐπάξας (when He brought)
6 καὶ πόλεις Σοδόμων καὶ Γομόρρας τεφρώσας (reduced/turned to ashes) καταστροφῇ κατέκρινεν (condemned) ὑπόδειγμα (example) μελλόντων (what is going to happen/those who would) ἀσεβέσιν τεθεικώς (having made them)
7 καὶ δίκαιον Λὼτ καταπονούμενον (greatly distressed) ὑπὸ τῆς τῶν ἀθέσμων ἐν ἀσελγείᾳ ἀναστροφῆς ἐρρύσατο (rescued) 8 βλέμματι γὰρ καὶ ἀκοῇ ὁ δίκαιος ἐγκατοικῶν (living/lived) ἐν αὐτοῖς ἡμέραν ἐξ ἡμέρας ψυχὴν δικαίαν ἀνόμοις ἔργοις ἐβασάνιζεν (tormenting/tormented) 9 οἶδεν κύριος εὐσεβεῖς ἐκ πειρασμοῦ ῥύεσθαι (to rescue) ἀδίκους δὲ εἰς ἡμέραν κρίσεως κολαζομένους (under punishment) τηρεῖν (to keep) 10 μάλιστα δὲ τοὺς ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἐν ἐπιθυμίᾳ μιασμοῦ πορευομένους (indulge) καὶ κυριότητος καταφρονοῦντας (despise) τολμηταί αὐθάδεις δόξας οὐ τρέμουσιν (tremble) βλασφημοῦντες (blaspheme/revile).
We will keep our emphasis verse 6, but not without gleaning from the entire context to make our point. Here is a graph that will help you understand the contrast between Jude and Peter concerning Sodom and Gomorrah. Use this chart as I explain.
There is much to say about the linguistics of Peter and Jude. But I promised to try and make it as simple as possible, so here it is.
The main gist concerning 2 Peter 2:6 is that God condemnED Sodom and Gomorrah in the past by reducing (or covering them) in ashes (aorist tense), making them an example (perfect tense – past action with ongoing results) as a demonstration and testament of God’s judgment against the ungodly from that point forward. Some manuscripts state that Sodom was an example to those who would afterward desire to live or be ungodly. Either way, it was a past action that was accomplished as a warning for future generations from that point forward. It was not intended to be an exposition on final annihilation of the wicked. And the present participle here concerning “what is going to happen” or” what is coming” to the ungodly is in direct connection to being condemnED by God who was making them an example. Pay attention here. This is where Chris and conditionalists keep getting this wrong.
The essential difference between Jude and Peter is that Peter is saying God made Sodom an example when he condemnED them by reducing them to ashes so that they can be an example of His judgment against the wicked from that day forward, meanwhile preserving the righteous. Jude is saying that Sodom and Gomorrah are present examples of God’s wrath because they are still currently undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. Even though they were judged in the past, their suffering has not ended. Peter uses aorist and perfect tenses which contextually indicate past tense actions that have present implications, and Jude principally does the same, but emphasizes the continuing, active and present progressive suffering since the event took place. Also Peter’s main point is contrasting what has happened and will happen to the righteous despite God’s judgment of the wicked, meanwhile Jude is only emphasizing what has happened and is happening to just the wicked.
Lastly, in Peter’s passage, the apostle repeatedly chooses to use past tense main verbs to draw indeed from a historical record, and then in verse 9 switches to present tense main verbs to make present application from his examples. And all the present participles from verse 7 – 10 are directly connected to the past tense main verbs (as they should for specific reasons) to portray a vivid picture of how Lot was behaving during those times, as well as describe the current sinful actions of those whom Peter is referencing. However, in Jude, he goes from using the past tense type main verbs to explain God’s judgment, and suddenly switches his tense to a present tense main verb USING a present participle of means to explain and define how exactly the main verb is carried out! Essentially proving the ongoing, active, and progressively continuing punishment that Sodom is currently experiencing.
What Do I say?
First, Discourse Analysis is a linguistic area of study that I encourage every pastor, teacher, evangelist, and elder to look into. It will help you to be more insightful to what you are reading, whether Greek, English, or any language you are researching. And it will strengthen your understanding of how language works, as well give you the discernment to understand the kinds of things that you have read above.
Second, As far as what we are dealing with concerning Jude and Peter. If you take Jude 7 as it is truly to be understood, and you take into consideration articles 2a-c, this ends the debate! The debate really ended long ago, but since people like Chris persist, there is more that needs to be said as time progresses. For now, it is astoundingly safe to say that Chris and Rethinking Hell, once again, have been placed on the scales and found lacking. Jude 7 does not in anyway support conditionalism. Nor does 2 Peter 2:6. And both placed side by side really flip the scales against annihilationism.
Lastly, the idea that Jude 7 describes a temporal fire is indeed a golden calf that has been collected from negligent proof texting and melted together by faulty presuppositions. All it takes is some proper, contextual exegesis, and this interpretation is grounded to powder. It is my hope that many who read this will continue to see through the smoke and mirrors of Rethinking Hell’s linguistic slight-of-hand.
– Until we go home