Why did Jesus say that Sodom and Gomorrah would be better off in the day of Judgment than the people He was talking to? Does this mean that everyone will be resurrected to be judged at the last day, even the people of Sodom and Gomorrah? (See Matt. 10:15; Luke 10:12; Mark 6:11; Matt. 11:24)?
A surface reading indicates Jesus is saying the people of Sodom and Gomorrah will be present at judgment. Those who believe that all who ever lived will be resurrected at the last Day often build on these words of Jesus. However, the Bible does not teach that all who ever lived will be resurrected. On the contrary, there is a class who will “sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake” (Jer. 51:57). Those who “sin without law” shall also “perish without law” (Rom. 2:12), and there is no indication they will be resurrected. In view of these texts, it seems hard to conceive of Sodom and Gomorrah as being called to Judgment. So, let us look individually at these statements.
The first is in Matt. 10:15, where Jesus sent the Twelve on a missionary venture. Whenever a city or house would not receive them, they were to “shake off the dust of their feet” as a witness against that city, and depart. And Jesus commented, “Assuredly I say unto you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.” Jesus repeated the statement in condemning Capernaum for their unbelief (see Matt. 11:24). Are there any other passages of Scripture we can look to?
A statement in Jude 7 is enlightening. “As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Sodom and Gomorrah were cited as “examples of the fate of evildoers.” Those cities suffered the “vengeance of eternal fire,” i.e., everlasting destruction. Nothing suggests that they will be brought back to the scene of action, only that they were to be remembered as an example of how God requites evil.
A statement in 2 Peter 2 states that Sodom and Gomorrah were to be remembered as examples. God turned “the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes” and “condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly” (2 Pet. 2:6).
Jesus Himself used Sodom again as an example, to describe the Judgment that would come upon the world at the time of His second advent. After speaking of the fall of Sodom and the cities of the plain, He said: “Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:30).
Sodom was a proverbially wicked city, and is referred to as such a number of times through Scripture. Jewish history states that the rabbis debated whether or not the people of Sodom would be resurrected and judged on the day of Judgment. It does not seem that this could have been Jesus’ meaning. It seems more likely that He was merely employing a figure of speech to picture the unworthiness of the people of His day. In other words He was saying, If Sodom and Gomorrah were to rise and appear with them at Judgment Day, even they—wicked as they were—would condemn the people of His time for their hardheartedness and unbelief.
The cities of Tyre and Sidon were used in the same manner. Will those people be raised at Judgment Day? Any who were under covenant to serve God will certainly be raised, being amenable. However the entire population would not be in this category. The prophet Ezekiel used the name Tyrus (Tyre) to represent the unfaithful followers of God in any age. Speaking for God he said: “You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty… You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you” (Ezek. 28:12-15). This language is highly figurative, but it pictures a people who knew the law of God and were disobedient, rather than those who were totally ignorant of God’s demands.
God looks upon all transgression of His law as displeasing to Him, however those who are not voluntarily subject to His laws are not accountable, only as He may choose to send judgments upon them. In the words of Paul, “For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified)” (Rom. 2:12-13).