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Sodom, Gomorrah, and Pornography (Jude 7)
I was asked the other day about the present tense of “undergoing” in Jude 7. “What is the likelihood that Jude believes the inhabitants of Sodom are presently experiencing eternal fire (in Hades for example) — as opposed to having undergone the penalty when fire and brimstone came upon them?”
Jude writes, “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve (πρόκεινται) as an example by undergoing (ὑπέχουσαιa) punishment of eternal fire” (ESV).
ὑπέχουσαι is present tense, so it might imply a present punishment. However, remember there is no absolute time significance outside the indicative, and this is a participle. So all the tense of ὑπέχουσαι says is that it is undefined in its aspect.
However, if relative time is accounted for, since πρόκεινται 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.
How could they be a present example? The historical descriptions of the traditional location of Sodom and Gomorrah certainly serves as an example to all who see it, and smell it. Wisdom 10:7 says, “Evidence of their wickedness still remains — a continually smoking wasteland, plants bearing fruit that does not ripen, and a pillar of salt standing as a monument to an unbelieving soul” (in Kelly, 259). You could even translate πρόκεινται as “are serving” to make the point clear.
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 listened to an excellent sermon this morning from First Baptist Houston on the epidemic of pornography and was reminded of another statistic, that 75% of the men and 60% of the women entering seminary are addicted to pornography. Pornography is a horrific, shame-ridden addiction that alters brain patterns in the same way as cocaine and heroin, treats people as objects and not souls made in Gods image, and destroys people, families, and churches. It turns the beautiful giving of the sexual union into a narcissistic taking of pleasure without relationship. And it is not something that you can just say no to, no more than a smoking addict or gambling addict can just say no. But perhaps a starting point is a little bit of righteous fear to at least get our attention.