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The “Heavenly” and “Earthly” Yahweh:
A Trinitarian Interpretation of Genesis 19:24

Part IV

By Anthony Rogers

(Continued from Part IIIb)

Direct Evidence that Jesus is the One Who Appeared to Abraham and Subsequently Went Down To and Destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah

The Testimony of Jude

This brings us to the testimony of Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, who wrote:

“For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 4-7)

At least four lines of evidence from this passage demonstrate that the Lord Jesus is the one who visited Sodom and Gomorrah in fiery judgment from Yahweh in heaven:

First, Jesus is identified in the immediate context as “our only Master and Lord” (v. 4); He is also repeatedly called Lord in this epistle (vv. 17, 21, 25). Consequently, both thematic and exegetical consistency require us to understand “the Lord” who judged the Israelites (v. 5), the angels (v. 6), and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 7), as the Lord Jesus Christ.

Second, the other examples that Jude gives of “the Lord” judging the ungodly for licentiousness and gross immorality – 1) the generation of Israelites that died in the wilderness (e.g. 1 Corinthians 10:1-9), and 2) the angels who are kept in eternal bonds in the abyss (e.g. Matthew 12:22-32) – are things associated with the activity of Jesus in other parts of Scripture. Consistency should once again lead us to include the third and final example, Sodom, among Christ’s judgments and devastations.

Third, Jude concludes verse seven by saying that the people of Sodom are “exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.” This yields another compelling line of proof that Jesus is the Lord who visited Sodom and destroyed it. Note the parallels between the judgment on Sodom by Yahweh and what the New Testament say the Lord Jesus will do at the end of history, of which the former is said to be an example or type:

  • Jesus Himself will come from heaven to earth
  • Jesus will be accompanied by angels
  • Jesus will execute the judgment of the Lord in heaven
  • Jesus will ultimately cast into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone
  • The smoke of the damned will ascend before all of heaven

Finally, the strongest manuscript evidence and other sources favor “Jesus” in place of “Lord” in verse five,1 the English Standard Version:

“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, after destroyed those who did not believe… just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment by eternal fire.” (Jude 4ff.)

The Testimony of Christ

A final piece of evidence for identifying Jesus as the LORD who appeared to Abraham in Genesis 18, who from there went down to Sodom and called down fire from the LORD in heaven, comes from the Lord Jesus Himself. In John 8:31-59 Jesus, in a protracted debate with the religious leaders of the Jews, taught that He existed before Abraham, and even that He knew and was known by Abraham, as has already been mentioned. What hasn’t been brought out yet is the fact that Jesus in John 8 specifically identifies at least one of the occasions on which He conversed with Abraham: the occasion recorded in Genesis 18, which is the beginning of the account that culminates in Sodom’s destruction in Genesis 19.

The present writer cannot improve upon the case for this already provided by Jay Hess, who wrote:

Contrast what Jesus said in verse 56 with how the Jews responded in verse 57. Jesus said "Abraham rejoiced to see My day and he saw it" and the Jews responded "... have you seen Abraham?" Their question reveals much about how they perceived Jesus' claim. It is apparent their question "have you seen ...?" went beyond Jesus' plain statement 'Abraham saw ...' They presumed Jesus' meant more than a unidirectional viewing (Abraham saw Jesus and his day) but imagined the reverse was also implied (Jesus saw Abraham), that is, Jesus appeared to be claiming to have met Abraham face-to-face. They had no reason to ask "have you seen Abraham ...?" if they thought Jesus was only claiming a limited, one-way vision, with Abraham looking forward (possibly seeing a vision of the coming Messiah in Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18) without someone looking back. Otherwise they would have simply asked 'When did Abraham see your day?' Their statement "You are not yet fifty years old" establishes that they understood Jesus to be claiming a face-to-face meeting where Jesus was present in the ancient past, an impossibility due to Jesus' apparent age. There was no reason to argue this way if Jesus' physical presence in Abraham's lifetime was not assumed.

Was this an unfounded presumption or did they correctly understand Jesus' true meaning? The answer to this question is key to our understanding what Jesus meant in verse 58.

Did Jesus next correct or confirm their presumption? Within the context of Jesus saying "Abraham ... saw" and the Jews' question 'have you seen?' did Jesus respond by correcting their assumption, implying that the 'seeing' was in only one direction ('Abraham ... saw')? Or did his response confirm the 'seeing' was bi-directional? Jesus' first words were "Truly, truly" and added "... before Abraham was born, I am." This response would naturally explain how he could have personally seen Abraham even though he did not look old enough to have been there in Abraham's presence. But if his claim meant nothing more than Abraham looked forward with no one looking back then the reference to "... before Abraham was born, I am" seems to be disjointed from the conversation while confirming their misperception. Therefore Jesus' statement was not a correction of their assumption, it was a confirmation. When Jesus said "Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad" he was claiming two things: First, Abraham had developed an anticipation for a future joyous day – a day somehow associated with Jesus. Second, there was a later time where Abraham saw that day and he met Jesus face-to-face and was glad.

The following conclusions all hinge on whether Jesus' claim was a uni-directional 'seeing' (as many scholars claim) or whether it was a bi-directional 'seeing,' that is, John 8:56 refers to an event where Abraham and Jesus met face-to-face.

What day would the Jews imagine Jesus meant when he said "my day?" Examine the life of Abraham looking for a prophetic day associated with gladness and with the miraculous appearance of a person. The only matching account seems to be in Genesis 17:1,15-22 and Genesis 18:1-14. In Genesis 17 God appeared to Abraham and promised that his wife would bear a son. To this Abraham laughed. God further stated this birth would happen in the coming year. Certainly a day to look forward to with joy, the day when his promised son would be born.

Next, in Genesis 18 the Bible tells of three persons who visited Abraham. (one is identified as God and the other two persons are later identified as angels – see Genesis 19:1,13,15). God promises in Genesis 18:10,14, that Sarah will give birth the following year (Genesis 21:1,2). To this Sarah then laughs. Abraham and Sarah are now looking forward to a miraculous day, about which they both felt great joy, when the promised seed, Isaac, would appear. Abraham lived to see that day and was glad. They named their son "Isaac," which name meant "laughter" in Hebrew (see Genesis 21:3,6). What "day" better fits Jesus' reference to a day that Abraham looked forward to with gladness, a day that he lived to see along with seeing a person whose 'day' it was?

A paraphrase of Jesus' claim might be something like: 'As you know, your ancestor Abraham waited in great anticipation for the day of my appearance and when I arrived and we met, he was glad.' The Jews recognized this as an extraordinary reference to a very significant day in Abraham's life, the day of Isaac's foretold birth. They may have wondered if Jesus was claiming to be Isaac, the promised one. That would be consistent with the existing rumors heard among the Jews that Jesus might be some ancient prophet (Matthew 16:13,14). This would sound absurd, motivating them to ask whether Jesus really believed he had met Abraham. Jesus then affirmed his statement as being absolutely true and then added another significant statement. He then asserted he had existed even before Abraham was ever born. By saying this it was clear to them that although he was indeed claiming to have met Abraham he was definitely not claiming to be Isaac. Then who was he claiming to be? If this special day was not Isaac's day, then whose day was Jesus saying it was?

Take a close look at the passages in Genesis 17 and 18. We see that the Speaker promised to return on the same joyous day of Isaac's birth. Who was this Speaker? In Genesis 17:1 the Speaker is identified as "Yahweh" (in Hebrew this is the Divine name of God) as well as "God" in verses 3,9,15,18,19,22 (compare Genesis 17:5 with Romans 4:17).  He is repeatedly referred to as "Yahweh" in Genesis 18:1,13,14,17,19,20, 22,26,33; Genesis 19:27), and as "Lord" (Genesis 18:27,30,31,32), "Judge of all the earth" (Genesis 18:25), and "God" (Genesis 19:29). (That this person is "God" can be seen by comparing Genesis 18:18 with Acts 3:25 and Galatians 3:8.) But the most outstanding reference is in Genesis 17:1 where the speaker is identified as "God Almighty". Since Jesus claimed to have been alive before Abraham's birth, he could not be claiming to be Isaac, he must have been claiming to be the Speaker who said he would return on a day the following year, that is, Yahweh, God, Judge of all the earth, God Almighty, the same one who appeared in Genesis 17, 18 and again in chapter 21 at the foretold day of Isaac's birth. The day of Isaac's birth, although a special day for Isaac, it was also God Almighty's day, the day He would fulfill his promise to Abraham and the day He would return. This was the day Jesus claimed as 'my day' and therefore he must have been claiming to be God Almighty. It was at that moment the Jews picked up stones to throw at Him.What was Jesus’ claim in John 8:56-58? (Emphasis original)

Confirmation from Patristic Sources

Having considered before the nascent Trinitarianism of certain early Jewish sources in reflecting on the Old Testament, it is appropriate to consider here the response of the early church to the combined testimony of both testaments. In the process, let it be observed: this view was uniformly held by the early Christians, not only after but also before the council of Nicea (325 A.D.), which shouldn’t be surprising given the clarity of the Biblical witness and ancient Jewish understanding. It was at Nicea that the doctrine of the Trinity was first foisted on the Church, or so a multitude of unbelievers continue to assert. 2 The following testimony should be enough to put this issue to rest.

1. Ignatius

“For Moses, the faithful servant of God, when he said, “The Lord thy God is one Lord,” and thus proclaimed that there was only one God, did yet forthwith confess also our Lord [Jesus Christ] when he said, “The Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah fire and brimstone from the Lord.3

2. Pseudo-Ignatius

“… reject every Jewish and Gentile error, … neither introduce a multiplicity of gods, nor yet deny Christ under the pretense of [maintaining] the unity of God. For Moses, the faithful servant of God, when he said, “The Lord thy God is one Lord,” and thus proclaimed that there was only one God, did yet forthwith confess also our Lord when he said, “The Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah fire and brimstone from the Lord.”4

3. Justin Martyr

“I [Justin] inquired. And Trypho said, “Certainly; but you have not proved from this that there is another God besides Him who appeared to Abraham, and who also appeared to the other patriarchs and prophets. You have proved, however, that we were wrong in believing that the three who were in the tent with Abraham were all angels.” I [Justin] replied again, “If I could not have proved to you from the Scriptures that one of those three is God, because as I already said, He brings messages to those to whom God the Maker of all things wishes [messages to be brought], then in regard to Him who appeared to Abraham on earth in human form in like manner as the two angels who came with Him, and who was God even before the creation of the world, it were reasonable for you to entertain the same belief as is entertained by the whole of your nation.” “Assuredly,” he said, “for up to this moment this has been our [the Jews] firm belief.” … “And now have you not perceived, my friends that one of the three, who is both God and Lord, and ministers to Him who is in the heavens, is Lord of the two angels? For when [the angels] proceeded to Sodom, He remained behind, and communed with Abraham in the words recorded by Moses; and when He departed after the conversation, Abraham went back to his place. And when he came to [Sodom], the two angels no longer conversed with Lot, but Himself, as the Scripture makes evident; and He is the Lord who received commission from the Lord who [remains] in the heavens, i.e., the Maker of all things, to inflict upon Sodom and Gomorrah the [judgments] which the Scripture describes in these terms: ‘The Lord rained down upon Sodom and Gomorrah sulphur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.”5

4. Irenaeus

“Since, therefore, the Father is truly Lord, and the Son truly Lord, the Holy Spirit has fitly designated them by the title of Lord. And again, referring to the destruction of the Sodomites, the Scripture says, “Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah fire and brimstone from the LORD out of heaven.” For it here points out that the Son, who had also been talking with Abraham, had received power to judge the Sodomites for their wickedness.”6

“And then the Scripture says: And the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven: that is to say, the Son, who spake with Abraham, being Lord, received power to punish the men of Sodom from the Lord out of heaven, even from the Father who rules over all. So Abraham was a prophet and saw things to come, which were to take place in human form: even the Son of God, that He should speak with men and eat with them, and then should bring in the judgment from the Father, having received from Him who rules over all the power to punish the men of Sodom.”7

The Scripture is full of the Son of God’s appearing: sometimes to talk and eat with Abraham, at other times to instruct Noah about the measures of the ark; at another time to seek Adam; at another time to bring down judgment upon Sodom; then again, to direct Jacob in the way; and again, to converse with Moses out of the bush.8

5. Tertullian

“That is a still grander statement which you will find expressly made in the Gospel: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ There was One ‘who was’, and there was another ‘with whom’ He was. But I find in Scripture the name LORD also applied to them Both: ‘The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand.’ And Isaiah says this: ‘Lord, who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” Now he would most certainly have said Thine Arm, if he had not wished us to understand that the Father is Lord, and the Son also is Lord. A much more ancient testimony we have also in Genesis: ‘Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven.’ Now, either deny that this is Scripture; or else (let me ask) what sort of man you are, that you do not think words ought to be taken and understood in the sense in which they are written, especially when they are not expressed in allegories and parables, but in determinate and simple declarations?”9

6. Cyprian

“That the Father judgeth nothing, but the Son; and that the Father is not glorified by him by whom the Son is not glorified.

In the Gospel according to John: ‘The Father judgeth nothing, but hath given all judgment unto the Son, that all may honour the Son as they honour the Father’… Also in Genesis: ‘And the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah sulphur, and fire from heaven from the Lord’.”10

7. Novatian

“… it was only God the Son, who also is God, who was seen by Abraham, and was believed to have been received with hospitality. For He anticipated sacramentally what He was hereafter to become. He was made a guest of Abraham, being about to be among the Sons of Abraham … Whence also, that there might be no doubt but that it was He who was the guest of Abraham on the destruction of the people of Sodom, it is declared: ‘Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrha fire and brimstone from the Lord out of heaven.” For thus also said the prophet in the person of God: ‘I have overthrown you, as the Lord overturned Sodom and Gomorrha’. Therefore the Lord overturned Sodom, that is, God overturned Sodom; but in the overturning of Sodom, the Lord rained fire from the Lord. And this God was the guest of Abraham, certainly seen because He was also touched. But although the Father, being invisible, was assuredly not at that time seen, He who was accustomed to be touched and seen was seen and received to hospitality. But this is the Son of God, ‘The Lord rained from the Lord upon Sodom and Gomorrha brimstone and fire.’ And this is the word of God. And the Word of God was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and this is Christ. It was not the Father, then, who was made a guest with Abraham, but Christ. Nor was it the Father who was seen then, but the Son; and Christ was seen. Rightly, therefore, Christ is both Lord and God, who was not otherwise seen by Abraham, except that as God the Word He was begotten of God the Father before Abraham himself.”11

“For thus say they, ‘If it is asserted that God is one, and Christ is God’, then say they, ‘If the Father and Christ be one God, Christ will be called the Father.’ Wherein they are proved to be in error, not knowing Christ, but following the sound of a name; for they are not willing that He should be the second person after the Father, but the Father Himself. And since these things are easily answered, a few words shall be said. For who does not acknowledge that the person of the Son is second after the Father, when he … holds in his hands: ‘The Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrha fire and brimstone from the Lord from heaven?”12

8. Constitution of the Holy Apostles

“… He is the Christ of God, who is ‘determined by Him to be the Judge of quick and dead.’ To Him did Moses bear witness, and said: ‘The Lord received fire from the Lord, and rained it down.’”13

9. Chrysostom

“… let them learn that this mode of speech is not uncommon in Scripture [that more than one person is called Lord and God]; as when it is said, ‘The Lord said unto my Lord’ … and again, ‘I said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord’ … and, ‘The Lord rained fire from the Lord.’ … This indicates that the Persons are of the same substance, not that there is a distinction of nature. For we are not to understand that there are two substances differing from each other, but two Persons, each being of the same substance.”14

10. Eusebius of Caesarea

“Moses most clearly proclaims him second Lord after the Father, when he says, The Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrha brimstone and fire from the Lord (Genesis 19:24). The divine Scripture also calls him God, when he appeared again to Jacob in the form of a man, and said to Jacob, Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel shall be your name, because you have prevailed with God (Genesis 32:38). Wherefore also Jacob called the name of that place Vision of God, saying, For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved (Genesis 32:30).”15

11. Ambrose

“‘In thee,’ saith he, ‘is God’ – forashmuch as the Father is in the Son. For it is written, ‘The Father, Who abideth in Me, Himself speaketh,’ and ‘The works that I do, He Himself also doeth.’ And yet again we read that the Son is in the Father, saying, ‘I am in the Father, and the Father in Me.’ Let the Arians, if they can, make away with this kinship in nature and unity in work.

There is, therefore, God in God, but not two Gods; for it is written that there is one God, and there is Lord in Lord, but not two Lords, forasmuch as it is likewise written: ‘Serve not two lords.’ And the Law saith: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord thy God is one God;’ moreover, in the same Testament it is written: ‘The Lord rained from the Lord.’ The Lord, it is said, sent rain ‘from the Lord’ … So again, when you read, ‘The Lord rained from the Lord,’ acknowledge the unity of Godhead, for unity in operation doth not allow of more than one individual God, even as the Lord Himself has shown, saying: ‘Believe Me, that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me: or believe Me for the very works sake.’ Here, too, we see that unity of Godhead is signified by unity in operation.”16

IV. Conclusion

The Old Testament witness is clear: God is Triune. A Trinitarian reading of Genesis 19:24 is demanded by the context provided in chapters 18-19, as well as by many other relevant considerations drawn from the Old Testament (e.g. the inspired, interpretive testimony of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Amos). These insights were not lost on faithful Jews of pre-Christian times or on the early Christians, a fact that has also been brought out. Above all it has been shown that this view receives definitive approval from various lines of evidence derived from the New Testament – the Word of the Messiah, whose name is above all names, who has all authority in heaven and on earth, and before whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father.



1 NA27 supplies the following manuscript attestation for this reading: A, B, 33, 81, 1241, 1739, 1881, 2344, pc vg co Or1739mg [manuscript 33 should actually be 33C, a mistake that is also made in the textual apparatus of the Editio Critica Maior].  A note in the NET Bible adds the following witnesses: 88, 322, 323, 424c, 665, 915, 2298, eth Cyr Hier Bede (88, along with 915 [not listed], have the articular: o Iesous). Various patristic and versional witnesses also attest to this reading, such as: Vulgate, Coptic, Ethiopic, Cyril of Alexandria, Jerome, Didymus, and Origen.  J. J. Griesbach, K. Lachmann, Bruce Metzger, A. Wikgren, Osburn, F. F. Bruce, Jarl Fossum, Timo Flink, Klaus Watchel, Philip Comfort, Philipp Bartholomä, Jerome Neyrey, et. al., all offer scholarly support for this as the correct reading. The first and second editions of the United Bible Societies Greek New Testament have this reading as well.} a reading that is reflected in, among several other translations, {Other translations that go with the best witnesses include the New English Translation, Wycliffe New Testament, the New Living Translation and the Douay-Rheims Bible. Several other English versions note this reading in a footnote, e.g. ASV, RSV, NASV, NIV, NEB and TEV.

2 The Council of Nicea may well be referred to as the universally recognized dumping ground of non-Christians; the underlying idea all non-Christians seem to share is: if you do not like something, blame it on Nicea. The catalogue of dastardly deeds said to have been perpetrated by Nicene Christians is quite long and includes such as the following: getting rid of certain bona-fide writings as non-canonical; rewriting whatever Scriptures remained after the yard sale previously mentioned; imposing a pagan day of worship on the Christian Church (i.e., the Lord’s Day); laying the foundations for anti-Semitism; et cetera. You name it, they blame it. Challenge to the reader: think of some hated teaching of Christianity or the pet theory of any non-Christian group or cult and do an internet search along the following lines – “Nicea + ______ (fill in the blank)”. This exercise is bound to turn up a baseless accusation by someone that it was invented by a group of evil bishops and a pagan emperor at Nicea.

3 The Epistle of Ignatius to the Antiochians, ch. II

4 To the Antiochians, Ch. 1-2

5 Dialogue With Trypho, LVI. See also ch. CXXVII

6 Against Heresies, Bk. III, ch. VI, sec. 1

7 The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching

8 As cited in Richard Watson, Evidences, Doctrines, Morals and Institutions of Christianity (New York: T. Mason and G. Lane, 1836), 1:501.

9 Against Praxeas, ch. XIII

10 The Treatises of Cyprian, bk. III, sec. 33

11 Treatise Concerning the Trinity, ch. XVIII

12 Ibid, ch. XXVI

13 Constitution of the Holy Apostles, bk. V, ch. XX

14 Homilies on 2 Timothy, III

15 Church History, 1.2.9

16 Exposition of the Christian Faith, bk. 1, ch. III, sec. 22-25

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