Kevin Straub’s Rewrite of Fred Wright’s Behold Your God, Chapter 28



"God destroys no one." Testimonies, Vol. 5, 120.


"God destroys no man. Everyone who is destroyed will have destroyed himself." Christ's Object Lessons, 84.


"God does not stand toward the sinner as an executioner of the sentence against transgression; but He leaves the rejecters of His mercy to themselves, to reap that which they have sown. Every ray of light rejected, every warning despised or unheeded, every passion indulged, every transgression of the law of God, is a seed sown, which yields its unfailing harvest. The Spirit of God, persistently resisted, is at last withdrawn from the sinner, and then there is left no power to control the evil passions of the soul, and no protections from the malice and enmity of Satan." The Great Controversy, p. 36.



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Foreword by Ron: I have added the above statements by Ellen White, which support the findings of Wright and Straub. The link to the complete book as written by Fred T. Wright appears below the main menu on my website.


“The last message of mercy to be given to the world is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them.”--COL 415, 416 (1900). {LDE 200.4}


It is not a true message of the character of God’s love to in any way teach that He kills anyone. Such messages are from the arch rebel, Satan.


God does not kill. He removes His protection from the sinner because His presence cannot accompany the presence of sin. If God directly killed anyone, He would violate His own character, His commandments, which are a written transcript of and a virtual testament of His character.—rwb

Ch. 28 Pre-Reading Questions:















Chapter Twenty-Eight

Sodom and Gomorrah


Noah and his family emerged from the ark to tread a shattered earth. The destruction was beyond description. They needed no convincing that the flood had come, but they did need a very real assurance that it would not happen again. This the Lord was able to give them. 


“Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there a flood to destroy the earth.’


“And God said: ‘This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:


“I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. 


“It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud” Genesis 9:11-14. 


These words assure us that there will never again be a repetition of the deluge which twice before has covered the earth, firstly in the opening days of creation, and secondly, during Noah’s time. 

It is interesting to note that the token of God’s assurance that there would never again be a flood is in itself an indicator that points us to the fact that there had been a monumental change in the environment. Specifically, the conditions required to produce the rainbow never existed before the water mantle broke. The water vapor held in the atmosphere would have been a barrier to the direct sunlight required in order refract and produce the colors of the visible light spectrum. Now that the band of water above the earth had passed away, direct sunlight could pass through the thin dispersion of water droplets in the earth’s atmosphere and create the rainbow phenomenon. So, here we have yet another example of Biblical language, in that God says that He “set the rainbow in the cloud.” The rainbow is a natural phenomenon, but God takes the responsibility for it, as He is the Creator of all of nature.


The Noachic flood was none of God’s doing, it having come in spite of His efforts. Therefore, His statement that there would never again be a flood of water, was not an undertaking to restrain Himself, but a prediction of what the future held. Specifically, the prophecy is limited to a flood of water. It does not ensure against the deluge of fire by which the earth will finally be consumed. See 2 Pet. 3:5-7


For there to be another flood of water, the conditions necessary to produce it must exist, as they did before Noah’s time. The only way total flooding could reoccur would be for the polar caps to melt, the mountain chains leveled into the ocean depths and, in general, the land masses reduced to about the same elevation. All the water which covered the earth in the first days of creation and which returned to submerge it again, is still here. Therefore, it would cover the earth if it was evenly distributed over the surface again. 


Should the Lord withdraw His sustaining presence from the earth, convulsions of this magnitude are not impossible and, in fact, will happen again, but the result is not seen in a flood of water. Rather, a flood of fire will engulf the planet. 


These floods, firstly of water and lastly of fire, are not disconnected. The former is the parent of the latter. This relationship should be clearly understood.


It is not usual to think of water producing fire, for water is the most commonly used means of extinguishing a conflagration. However, the waters of the flood were the means whereby enormous amounts of fuel were buried under the earth and will be provided to fire that last great holocaust.


Moreover, the flood, though itself long since over, lives on in the form of offspring. Some roam the earth as storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones, and tempests, others are confined to specific locations such as volcanoes, geysers, and any other geothermal activities, while still others break forth in expected and unexpected spots as earthquakes and tidal waves. All are devoted to missions of destruction. 


The flood marks the time division between original tranquility and the aberrations of nature. Of every one of these deviations from God’s original scheme of things, the flood is also the parent. These disturbances may be divided into two categories: those found in the earth, and the others in the atmosphere. 


The first of these include volcanic eruptions, thermal activities, earthquakes and tidal waves. In the latter are storms, tempests, hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, typhoons, floods, and droughts. 


Then "the fountains of the great deep" were "broken up,” (see Gen. 7:11) and water came up from below, in addition to the great downpour from above.


“Jets of water burst from the earth with indescribable force, throwing massive rocks hundreds of feet into the air….”  {PP 99.1}

Problems arising within the earth were spawned when the earth’s crust suffered this breakage. The inner molten materials are now brought near the surface in many locations and in many cases erupt onto the surface of the earth. Water and other substances, such as coal, sulfur, and other minerals, may interact with the hot material in the depths, resulting in other disruptive occurrences. The tensions and pressures built up at fault lines result in sudden shifts of the rocks beneath the surface, resulting in earthquakes. When earthquakes or volcanoes occur under the sea, tidal waves and tsunamis are launched. 


Thus, the flood is truly the parent of all these troubles within the earth itself. 


Weather as it is today, is the product of conditions brought about by the deluge. The redistribution of land and water masses, the location of mountains and flat lands, and the inequalities of climate, all formed by the flood, are the determining factors in producing atmospheric problems from their mildest to their wildest forms.


What tremendous changes the flood set up, producing results which reach down to the end of time. The destruction initiated at the flood but halted before it had finally consumed all things, will then break forth to completion. Those fires by which the earth will be reduced to ashes, will also be the child of the flood, for the remaining deposits of coal and oil in the earth will contribute to the fuels of that last conflagration. Undoubtedly, there will be other sources of fire coming in at that time, as well. The inner molten materials will be released at unprecedented rates and volume, as there are no restraining protections in place to keep the mantle of the earth from breaking apart in continuance of the chaos that was initiated at the flood. As the liquefied elements release under great pressures they will spew high into the atmosphere, as did the waters from under the earth, during the time of the flood, to rain down upon the heads of those who have cast their lot on the side of rebellion.


We have no way of knowing for certain what other mechanisms may contribute to the fires, but it is not outside the realm of possibility that there may be burning materials coming in from outside of earth’s atmosphere, in the form of meteoric showers or other material.


Additionally, it seems highly probable that man’s activities will play their role. We know that Satan will have marshaled his forces together and the great men of war of the earth will have applied all of the most advanced technology available, under the direct instruction of the most brilliant created mind in the universe, to rebuild their implements of war. (GC88 664.1) These weapons will be unleashed, for without the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit, the ultimate in vicious and desperate human passions will arise and release in untempered fury. (GC88 671-2)


Whenever man goes to war he generates fire. Much of this fire may be “unconventional,” as in nuclear weaponry. The chain reactions may spread to all the elements, without any of the expected “natural” restraints, as God is no longer present, acting in His role of Savior and Protector. It could be that this “fervent heat” that Peter speaks about in 2 Peter 3:10-12, is not an ordinary fire, as all the elements are dissolved. See also Zech. 14:12, 13.)


Drought and flood, tempest and earthquake, tidal wave and hurricane, volcano and fire, are that cataclysm’s troubled offspring which will plague earth dwellers till the end. 


Not every area is afflicted with all these scourges. In fact, some parts are apparently free from them. This explains why some centers of sin pass unscathed year after year, while others seemingly less iniquitous, are struck down with shocking suddenness. Those cities located right where one of these children of the flood resides, need to be far more careful than those in positions more favored. For years the giant of destruction will remain unseen or manifest itself only in mild forms, because the restraining power of God holds it in check while He seeks to woo men from their danger and while there remains in the city a faithful remnant for whose sake He will continue His restraint. But, during this time, the unwitting inhabitants continue to resist His appeals until finally He has no choice but to leave them to their desires. 


The unfettered monster then bursts with unannounced fury upon the unprotected heads and homes of the abandoned sinners, whose destruction may be as total in the area where they are, as it was over the whole earth when the flood came. 


Sodom and Gomorrah were a case in point. 


The Scriptures report the devastation of those cities and their peoples in the same way that all the other destructions which fell upon abandoned sinners are described. 


“Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens. And He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.” Genesis 19:24, 25. 


To millions of Bible readers, these words have pictured God as personally pouring great sheets of flame from His own hands upon the hapless victims below. But, those who have come to learn and accept the principles of God’s character as explored in this study and who have learned to use the Bible as its own dictionary, know that such an interpretation is wholly incorrect. 


Rather, the truly Biblical interpretation of these words is that the Lord had no option but to withdraw and leave the wicked to the fate they had chosen. This He had done only when every means and appeal had been totally exhausted and there was nothing more He could do. Then, whatever potential of destruction was lurking in the area, was unleashed. The result was terminal. 


There is always great value in assessing the implications of a certain belief, so study will now be given to see in what image God is cast by the belief that He personally poured that fire down upon the dwellers on the plains. Only a certain kind of God would do this. 


Death by fire is one of the cruelest and most-to-be-feared ways to die. On February 1, 1974, “a fire, started by an electrical short-circuit in an air-conditioner, engulfed the upper fourteen stories of a newly constructed twenty-five story bank building, trapping hundreds of workers as the flames fed on combustible interior-finish materials; due to inadequate escape facilities, at least two hundred and twenty-seven persons lost their lives.” 1975 Britannica Book of the Year, page 238. Those in the higher floors above the fire level found themselves cut off. As the fire advanced upwards, many chose to die by leaping from the upper levels rather than face the hungry flames. 


In the jungles and forests it is the thing most feared by the animal kingdom. Beasts and reptiles lose all fear of each other as they flee pell-mell from the roaring flames. There is good reason, for death by fire is a horrible death. 


Think of yourself as facing the death penalty, the only consolation being that the choice of how you will die is given to you. The choices are firing squad, gassing, the electric chair, beheading, hanging, or being burned alive. None of these is a pleasant prospect, but when you sit and think of your body being roasted while you are still alive, you know that that is the very last choice you would make. It is not difficult to realize that this is the kind of death which a judge or king would impose upon a person whose death he wished to make as painful as possible. 


It is not a pleasant scene upon which to dwell. Yet it must be visualized as realistically as possible so that it can be comprehended that no God of mercy, justice, and love, would ever behave in such a way to personally and deliberately inflict a death of this nature upon anyone. 


The ability to do certain things reveals the disposition within the doer. It is not possible for any being in the universe, including God, to do everything. The truth of this statement is confined to the spiritual and ethical side of the person. Admittedly, God has the physical power by which He can do anything. But while He has the might, there are some things His character will never permit Him to do. If God poured the fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah, it could only be because it was in Him to do so. It had to be a part of His character. Therefore, God has within Him a spirit of cruelty by which He is motivated to select the cruelest possible death for those who have refused to obey Him. Without that, He could never have treated the Sodomites as He is accused of having done. 


But that is not God’s character. He is not cruel, sadistic, and revengeful. He would never select the worst conceivable punishment, and then administer it to those who did not appreciate His ways and acted contrary to His ideas. 


Terrible are the implications of believing that God determined that the cities of the plain should be consumed by fire and then proceeded to do so. It is to equate Him with the papacy, whose constant practice was to burn to death those who refused to submit to her assumed authority. Something of the seriousness of this is manifested when it is recognized that the papacy is Satan’s masterpiece of misrepresentation of God’s character. If we wish to understand what God is not, then behold the principles and practices of the papacy. The way God is supposed to have behaved at Sodom and Gomorrah is exactly as the papacy would have behaved if she had been in God’s position. Therefore, how God is thought to have behaved is certainly not the way He conducted His affairs there. 


The papacy went forth to convert the people to her religious beliefs and service. When her first efforts were unsuccessful, she began to exert pressure upon them until, when it was clear that the subjects of her ministrations had no mind to ever obey her, she cruelly destroyed them with fire. In doing this, she represented herself not only as administering the will of God, but of doing so as she and Satan would have it believed God does it.


In all of this the papacy was carrying out Satan’s plans. The very fact that this is the way of the papacy is certain denial of its being God’s way for, if anyone wishes to know what God is not, let him behold what the papacy is and what she does. Contrariwise, if anyone wishes to know what God is, let him look at the life of Jesus Christ. Never will the two witnesses agree. 


The ultimate witness to the character of God is found in those who have drawn so near to Him as to possess His character. Such a people cannot be brought to take up any weapon of destruction against anyone, not even their very worst enemies. They would much rather die themselves than take the life of another. That is the example of the life of Christ. He would rather die Himself than require that the life of another be taken. This is the ultimate outliving of the injunction to turn the other cheek and go the second mile. A God who counseled this kind of behavior as the reflection of His own, could never pour fire on Sodom and Gomorrah. He did there just what He did on every other occasion. He did not “stand toward the sinner as an executioner of the sentence against transgression; but He” left “the rejecters of His mercy to themselves, to reap that which they have sown.” The Great Controversy, 36. 


If the Lord of heaven did not act the part of an executioner and personally pour fire on those cities, then how were they destroyed? Are we left with no scientific information to reveal the nature of that disaster? 


There is a considerable amount of information available if careful search is made for it, though hampering the search is the relative uncertainty as to where these cities actually stood. 


There are those scholars who have looked for the cities on the northern side of the Dead Sea, but “Other scholars seek these cities underneath the waters of the southern end of the Dead Sea. Arguments for this view are more numerous and weighty: (1) The ‘vale of Siddim’ in which these cities were located is identified with the ‘salt sea’ in Genesis 14:3. The northern two-thirds of the present Dead Sea reaches a depth of one thousand, three hundred and twenty-eight feet, and must have existed as early as Abraham’s time, but the depth of the southern part nowhere exceeds sixteen feet. Submerged trees show that part of this area was dry in relatively modern times, and accurate measurements have shown that the level of the sea has been steadily rising during the last century. “


(2) Asphalt is found at the southern end of the Dead Sea, while the Vale of Siddim is said to have been ‘full of slimepits,’ RSV ‘bitumen pits’ (Genesis 14:10). Bitumen, or asphalt, still erupts from the bottom of the southern part of the Dead Sea and floats to the shore. 


“(3) Statements made by classical authors, Diodorus Siculus (ii. 48. 7-9), Strabo (Georgr. xvi. 2. 42-44), Tacitus (Hist. v. 6. 7), and Josephus (War iv. 8. 4), describe an area south of the Dead Sea (presumably now covered by its rising water) as scorched by a fiery catastrophe that destroyed several cities whose burned remains were still visible in their day. Foul gases are said to emerge from fissures of the ground. Compare Deuteronomy 29:23. 


“(4) Geologists have found oil and natural gases in the ground at the southern end of the Dead Sea, which is at the same time an area frequently disturbed by earthquakes, hence furnished all the conditions for the catastrophe described in the Bible, if God used natural means in the destruction of the cities (see above). Furthermore, Jebel Usdum, the ‘Mount of Sodom,’ at the southwestern shore of the Dead Sea, consists of 50 per cent rock salt. Some have conjectured that in an upheaval during the destruction of Sodom some of this salt may have been dislodged and may have buried Lot’s wife, piling over her to form a ‘pillar of salt’ (Genesis 19:26). 


“(5) A number of streams enter the southern part of the Dead Sea from the east, in a region that is still very fertile, and it is reasonable to believe that the whole valley now forming the southernmost part of the Dead Sea was once that exceptionally fertile plain, one fitting the Bible description which compares the land with the Garden of Eden and the Nile valley (ch 13:10). 


“(6) Kyle and Albright, in their exploration of the region lying southeast of the Dead Sea, found no ancient ruins of cities, but discovered an elaborate place of worship on a hillside with remains dating from before 1800 B.C. This site, Bab edh-Dhra’, evidently was a place where the annual festivals of a large population were held. The cities in which this population once lived must have been in the area now covered by the waters of the Dead Sea. 


“(7) Zoar, one of the 5 cities of the plain (Genesis 14:2), was at the southern end of the Dead Sea in the time of Christ.” Seventh- day Adventist Bible Dictionary 8:1028, 1029. 


This statement gives excellent reasons for concluding that the site of those ancient cities was at the southern end of the Dead Sea. But it also tells some further interesting facts about the area. 


“Bitumen, or asphalt, still erupts from the bottom of the southern part of the Dead Sea and floats to the shore... Geologists have found oil and natural gases in the ground at the southern end of the Dead Sea, which is at the same time an area frequently disturbed by earthquakes.” 


The Encyclopedia Britannica 1975 Edition, Macropedia, Volume 14:165 states: ‘The Dead Sea was known in ancient times as Lake Asphaltites (from which is derived the term asphaltum) because of the semisolid petroleum washed up on its shores from underwater seepages.’ 


“Even today the southern region of the Dead Sea is rich in asphalt. Inflammable gases still escape from rock crevices in the area. Asphalt rising to the surface of the southern part of the Dead Sea gave to it the name Lake Asphaltitis in classical times. Massive lumps of asphalt floating on the surface are often of sufficient size to support several persons. Asphalt, sulphur, and other combustible materials have been reclaimed and exported from this region for years.” Seventh-day Adventist Commentary 1:335. 


Asphalt, oil, natural and highly inflammable gases and earthquakes are not common to every part of the world, but they are a combination often found together. Where they are found indicates a spot where enormous amounts of vegetable material in the form of plants and trees together with animal and human carcasses were buried at the flood. Where such materials are found there is the formation of coal, oil, gas, and petroleum which may or may not ignite. If it does, thermal activity will result, usually accompanied by earthquakes and tremors. 


“Before the flood there were immense forests. The trees were many times larger than any trees which we now see. They were of great durability. They would know nothing of decay for hundreds of years. At the time of the flood these forests were torn up or broken down and buried in the earth. In some places large quantities of these immense trees were thrown together and covered with stones and earth by the commotions of the flood. They have since petrified and become coal, which accounts for the large coal beds which are now found. This coal has produced oil. God causes large quantities of coal and oil to ignite and burn. Rocks are intensely heated, limestone is burned, and iron ore melted. Water and fire under the surface of the earth meet. The action of water upon the limestone adds fury to the intense heat, and causes earthquakes, volcanoes and fiery issues. The action of fire and water upon the ledges of rocks and ore, causes loud explosions which sound like muffled thunder. These wonderful exhibitions will be more numerous and terrible just before the coming of Christ and the end of the world, as signs of its speedy destruction. 


“Coal and oil are generally to be found where there are no burning mountains or fiery issues. When fire and water under the surface of the earth meet, the fiery issues cannot give sufficient vent to the heated elements beneath. The earth is convulsed—the ground trembles, heaves, and rises into swells or waves, and there are heavy sounds like thunder underground. The air is heated and suffocating. The earth quickly opens, and I saw villages, cities and burning mountains carried down together into the earth.” Spiritual Gifts 3:79, 80. 


This makes it plain that wherever there is a spot on the earth where such enormous amounts of vegetation have been buried to petrify into coal and oil, there is the potential for volcanic eruptions and devastating earthquakes. The evidences still existing today show that Sodom and Gomorrah and their associated villages and towns were located over just such a spot. 


They were in danger constantly, for they were living over a powder keg, a disaster which was only waiting to happen. But the Lord desired their salvation. He was as loathe to see them perish as He is to see anyone destroyed. So, He filled His usual role of protector of those wicked cities, while His Spirit pleaded with them to repent and escape the wrath to come. But they would not and the time came when finally the protecting Presence had to be withdrawn leaving no power to control the seething elements beneath the ground. Long held back, when released they exploded in one spectacular and all-consuming fireball of destruction that filled the heavens above where they stood and the earth where they rested. 


It was not something which God sent in the sense that He decreed what should happen to them and then personally used His power to see that it happened. Rather it came, not because the Lord brought it, but because He could not hold it back any longer. There was no one the Sodomites could blame for their destruction but themselves. 


The burning of the cities of the plain is not an event singular to them. There is a modern counterpart to this in the destruction of St. Pierre, on May 8, 1902. 


“It was on May 8, 1902, that the town of St. Pierre, on the lush West Indies island of Martinique, abruptly died. At exactly 7:50 A.M. on that disastrous morning, 4,583-foot Mont Pelee—a long-dormant volcano—blew its top in one of the world’s most cataclysmic explosions. 


“The French-held island of Martinique shuddered like a stricken giant at the violent eruption. From the yawning mouth of the volcano, a huge black cloud of superheated air and gas emerged that rolled down the sloping side of the mountain like a monstrous tumbleweed. In its path, at the foot of the mountain, lay the harbor town of St. Pierre. Within seconds the cloud swept over the city. Street by street, buildings leaped into instant flame and people were turned into human torches. The hideous black ball—its core later estimated to have been at least 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit—quickly reduced St. Pierre to smoldering ashes. Only two people survived the fiery devastation, and the rest of the populace— more than 30,000—died. 


“Elapsed time from the moment of eruption to extinction of the city was less than two minutes!” Nature at War, 131, 132, by Hal Butler. 


“…There were a few eyewitnesses outside the area covered by the black ball who survived, a handful on land and a dozen or more on ships at sea. From these came the most graphic descriptions—in fact, the only descriptions—of the sudden catastrophe. 


“An unidentified passenger on the Roraima described the destruction of St. Pierre this way: 


“‘I saw St. Pierre destroyed. It was blotted out by one great flash of fire. Thirty-thousand people were killed at once….


“‘Our boat arrived at St. Pierre early Thursday morning. For hours before we entered the roadstead we could see flames and smoke rising from Mont Pelee….


“‘When we anchored at St. Pierre I noticed the cable steamship Grappler, the Roddam, three or four other steamers and a number of Italian and Norwegian barks. The flames were then spurting straight up in the air, now and then waving to one side or the other for a moment, and again leaping suddenly higher up. There was a constant muffled roar. It was like the biggest oil refinery in the world burning up on the mountain top. 


“‘There was a tremendous explosion soon after we got in. There was no warning. The side of the volcano was ripped out and there hurled straight toward us a solid wall of flame. It sounded like thousands of cannon... Before the volcano burst the landings of St. Pierre were crowded with people. After the explosion not one living being was seen on land.’ 


“M. Albert, owner and manager of an estate near St. Pierre, witnessed the eruption from a position on land, and gave a vivid account of his experience: 


“…there was a rending, crashing, grinding noise, which I can only describe as sounding as though every bit of machinery in the world had suddenly broken down. It was deafening, and the flash of light that accompanied it was blinding, more so than any lightning I have ever seen. It was like a terrible hurricane, and where a fraction of a second before there had been a perfect calm I felt myself drawn into a vortex and I had to brace myself firmly. It was like a great express train rushing by, and I was drawn by its force. 


“‘The mysterious force leveled a row of strong trees, tearing them up by the roots and leaving a bare space of ground fifteen yards wide and more than one hundred yards long. Transfixed, I stood not knowing in what direction to flee. I looked toward Mont Pelee and above its apex formed a great black cloud which reached high into the air. It literally fell upon the city of St. Pierre. It moved with a rapidity that made it impossible for anything to escape it. From the cloud came explosions that sounded as though all the navies of the world were in titanic combat. Lightning played in and out in broad forks, the result being that intense darkness was followed by light that seemed to be magnified in power….


“My estate was ruined while we were still in sight of it.’ 


“…Leon Compere-Leandre, the shoemaker who was sitting on the doorstep of his home trying to decide whether or not to leave St. Pierre, had his reverie shattered by Mont Pelee’s final eruption. The explosion was so violent that it shook the entire island, and Leon felt a shuddering spasm under his feet. He staggered upright and caught a glimpse of the darkening sky and the menacing black ball rolling down the side of the mountain toward the doomed city. Trembling with fear, he turned to enter the house, but a hot wind buffeted him and he felt his body burning as if tongues of flame already were licking at his flesh. With difficulty he made his way into the house and staggered to the table. Three men and a ten-year-old girl were in the tiny house, all of them screaming with pain as the heated air raged over them. 


“Leon moved to a table and hung over it, wondering if the end was near for him. Then he saw the girl collapse and die in twisting agony, and the three men fled blindly from the room. For what seemed hours—actually about a minute—he held tightly to the table. Then, noticing that the strange hot wind had abated, Leon pushed himself erect and walked into the bedroom where the little girl’s father lay. He found the man dead in his bed, already burned to a crisp by the heat. Stumbling into the courtyard he discovered the three men on the ground, their inert bodies charred. The thought crossed his mind, How can I be alive when the others are all dead? Screaming, he ran back into the house, threw himself on a bed, and awaited death. 


“But for some strange reason no one since has been able to explain, death did not come. Instead Leon became aware that the roof of the house was burning and once more he stumbled outside. He saw now that his legs and arms were severely burned and bleeding, but he managed to run six kilometers to the next town—Fonds-Saint-Denis. Once he looked back. All of St. Pierre was in flames. A strangled cry escaped him and he staggered on. Unknown to him, he was one of only two people who had survived the annihilation of St. Pierre. 


“Louis Cyparis, the prisoner, awaiting a breakfast that would never be served, knew that something more dreadful than a thunderstorm had taken place when Mont Pelee’s final paroxysm laid waste to St. Pierre. The noise of the explosion penetrated his underground chamber and the ground beneath his feet vibrated. He rushed to the grate to peer out but staggered back under an onslaught of heated air. The superheated cloud that had engulfed the city had stabbed through the open grating and seared Cyparis’ face and body. With a scream of pain he rolled in agony on the dungeon floor. 


“‘Help! Save me! ’ he yelled, hoping to attract the attention of one of the jailers. But by this time there was no one to hear or to care. 


“The fiery intrusion in the cell lasted only minutes, then faded. But it left Cyparis in agony, tortured by his burned flesh. For three days he lay groaning in the cell, not knowing what had happened or why no one came to his aid. 


“On the third day he heard voices over his head and he yelled at the top of his lungs for help. This time he was heard. A rescue party searching the ruins of St. Pierre at once broke open the cell door. When Cyparis was brought out into the light of day, he was amazed to find that the city of St. Pierre no longer existed. In the case of Louis Cyparis, as in the incident involving Leon CompereLeandre, the blast from the volcano had acted capriciously, leaving him as the only other survivor of the doomed city.

“…On the freighter Roraima, Chief Officer Ellery S. Scott turned his telescope from the city of St. Pierre, where he was watching the colorfully attired people wending their way to and from church, toward the summit of Mont Pelee. At that exact moment the volcano exploded, and Scott witnessed the destruction of St. Pierre in the less than two-minute interval that followed. Afterward he was able to provide a detailed account of the tragedy: 


“‘The whole top of the mountain seemed blown into the air. The sound that followed was deafening. A great mass of flames, seemingly a mile in diameter, with twisting giant wreaths of smoke, rolled thousands of feet into the air, and then overbalanced and came rolling down the seamed and cracked sides of the mountain. Foothills were overflowed by the onrushing mass. It was not mere flame and smoke. It was molten lava, giant blocks of stone and a hail of smaller stones, with a mass of scalding mud intermingled. 


“‘For one brief moment I saw the city of St. Pierre before me. Then it was blotted out by the overwhelming flood. There was no time for the people to flee. They had not even time to pray.’ 


“The great black ball of destruction that bounded down the mountain side and swallowed the city of St. Pierre did not stop there. It rolled out into the roadstead where seventeen ships lay at anchor. Scott watched helplessly as the ball billowed out over the water and swept toward his ship. At the last moment, Scott and a few others sought shelter by leaving the open deck and retreating into the innards of the vessel. The move saved Scott’s life, but many caught on the deck perished. 


“When the ball hit, the Roraima rolled almost on her port beam-ends, then suddenly went to starboard. The stack, masts and lifeboats were carried away, and dozens of fires broke out. Eventually Scott and other survivors were removed from the burning ship by a rescue craft and taken to a hospital in Fort-de-France. 


“In the roadstead of St. Pierre, all but one of the seventeen ships at anchor sank or perished in the flames after the black cloud passed over them. Only the British ship Roddam, covered with seething volcanic debris, afire in a dozen places, and with 28 crewmen and most passengers dead, managed to escape. She got away because she happened to have steam up at the time and was ready to sail. Her captain, badly burned, personally took the wheel and guided the ship to the nearby island of St. Lucia. A port official, horrified at the battered condition of the ship and the blackened bodies strewn about the deck, said, ‘My God, what happened to you? ’ 


“‘We just came from hell,’ the captain said. 


“…Eventually, the Vicar-General and the police, soldiers and priests went ashore. In a letter written to Monseigneur de Cermont, Bishop of Martinique, who was in Paris, the Vicar-General described what he saw: 


‘…The Place is now nothing but a heap of confused ruins. Here and there are decaying bodies, horribly disfigured, and showing by the contraction of the limbs how awful must have been the death agony….


“Those aboard the Vice-General’s relief ship and others who followed had the unpleasant task of burning or burying 30,000 bodies that quickly putrified in the heat of the sun. They found many of the victims in casual repose, indicating that the black cloud had snuffed out their lives suddenly and painlessly. Others, however, were distorted in agony. Most of the victims caught outside their homes were naked, with their hair burned away and what had been clothing either torn or seared from their bodies; others, indoors, were still covered with their charred clothes. Every stone house in the city had collapsed, and most lay completely in fragments. The entire city was covered by a ghostly white ash that in some places was several feet deep. 


“Even though the giant ball of volcanic horror had swept the city in less than two minutes, it had enough time to play capricious tricks along the way. In many cases solid objects were pulverized, while fragile articles were left untouched…. Although the wall of the military hospital was completely leveled, one section containing the clock still stood. The hands of the timepiece had stopped at 7:52, marking the exact moment that St. Pierre had died. 


“…On May 20, cantankerous Mont Pelee erupted again. This time a violent explosion rent the air over the mountain at 5:15 in the afternoon. The Vicar-General, in Fort-de-France, stood on his balcony and watched the same amazing scene reenacted—a black ball of heated air and gases again tumbled down the slopes toward St. Pierre….


“On a recent visit to Martinique we saw a few remaining walls standing in what had been St. Pierre. That was all, for the city that was once called the ‘Paris of the West’ was never rebuilt. Mont Pelee had not only destroyed a city of 30,000 people; it had ended a way of life.” Nature at War, 142-152. 


We have no eyewitness accounts of the destruction of the ancient cities as we have here of the modern decimation of St. Pierre, only the terse Bible statement of what God did there. 

Yet the similarities between the two situations are very obvious. Both were located in an area of intense volcanic and earthquake activity and both were suddenly overcome by the descent of fire upon them of such ferocity and intensity that the cities were obliterated, never to be rebuilt, and the population was exterminated but for very few survivors. In the case of Sodom, there were only three, Lot and his two daughters. In St. Pierre, only two in the city and the family who fled just in time, escaped death. 


Like Sodom, St. Pierre was a place of abandoned wickedness. Here is the description of it as given in our source by Hal Butler: 


“In 1902, St. Pierre, on the western coast of the island and only four miles from Mont Pelee, was Martinique’s major city. Twelve miles to the south was Fort-de-France, the capital of the island, but this was a small village that bore no resemblance to glittering St. Pierre. France was proud of St. Pierre; indeed, the French often referred to the city as the ‘little Paris’ or ‘the Paris of the West’ because of its sparkling social life. 


“…In addition to being the social capital of the island, St. Pierre was also the commercial center. One of its major industries was the rum distillery, and its principal business street, Rue Victor Hugo, was lined with banks, stores and other commercial establishments. The ‘Paris of the West’ was also equipped to cater both to the welfare of the soul and the gratification of the flesh, for it boasted a stately Catholic cathedral and several parish churches, along with a theater where actors from France entertained, cafes, nightclubs and assorted emporiums designed specifically for uninhibited revelry. 


“The French colonists, whose ancestors had settled on Martinique generations before, represented the elite of the island. They owned and supervised plantations producing tobacco, coffee, cacao and sugarcane. Most of them had built ostentatious villas in the mountains and spent much of their time either relaxing at these summer homes or sipping cognac in St. Pierre’s hotels and inns. This wealthy group of Pierrotins—as residents of St. Pierre were called—numbered about 7,000. 


“Most of the city’s 23,000 other inhabitants were blacks. The men—usually bare-chested and dressed in canvas trousers and hats made of bamboo grass—were typically handsome; the women couched their natural beauty in colorful robes and turbans and strode the streets with trays and baskets of salable goods balanced on their heads. The waterfront was a scene of continuous activity as stevedores loaded and unloaded ships calling at what was one of the most profitable ports in the Caribbean. 

“This was St. Pierre in 1902—a city that had every reason to believe in its future but a city that had no future at all.” Nature at War, 132-133. 


Life in St. Pierre and Sodom followed a similar pattern. Sodom and Gomorrah were places where study was given to the development of every means whereby the desires of the flesh could be gratified and, from the description given here, so was St. Pierre. Thus the very things which caused the departure of the restraining and protecting Spirit of God in the ancient situation were also present in this fair city. In both cases, the balmy climate and abundant wealth tended to stimulate this pursuit for the licentious, until a fever pitch was reached. 


It is not to be supposed that Sodom was irreligious, for in those days worship of the sun god was the devoted spiritual exercise of those peoples. Wherever this religious influence has been present, it has encouraged licentiousness and immorality of all kinds. The Roman Catholic religion which dominated the spiritual life of St. Pierre, is the modern counterpart of the ancient sun-worship and has demonstrated that it, likewise, is the spawning ground for every type of sin and wickedness. The same religious influences therefore, which brought Sodom and Gomorrah to the pitch of wickedness equated with total and unrestrained rejection of God, also brought the inhabitants of St. Pierre to that point. 


St. Pierre, then, provides us with a splendid illustration of the death of Sodom and Gomorrah. God did the same thing in both the ancient and the modern situation for the same reason. He left the rejecters of His mercy to themselves to reap that which they had sown and He did that because that was what the people in each case demanded of Him. Because the cities concerned were sitting over a time-bomb just waiting to go off in the form of a volcanic eruption, that was the fate which overtook them. In other words, they died, not because God decreed that this was the way it should be, but because that was the potential destructive threat under which they lived. 


A wide variety of destructions befall the wicked. There are those who, as in the cases of Sodom, Gomorrah, and St. Pierre, are wiped out by volcanic eruptions, while others are taken by flood, earthquake, hurricane, hailstorm, accidents by air, sea, and land, giant conflagrations in forests and buildings, famine, or by the savage outbursts of human wrath. The only consistent pattern through it all is that the disaster is according to the potential of destruction common to the area. This denies the charge that God personally takes hold of the powers of nature and manipulates them according to His design to punish sinners. God has the power to create any kind of destruction at will. He is not bound to the particular peril present in a given area. Being a God of utter justice and consistency would require Him to punish the same offenses with the same punishments. But this is not what happened. The same offenses are dealt with by widely varying punishments always according to the destructive potential of the place where the offenders reside. 


The nature and location of these catastrophes are clear proof that they are not the work of God. They occur because of the presence, in scattered areas of the earth, of pockets of potential destruction seeded at the time of the flood. Those who live in such areas need the protecting care of God more than do others who live where there is a lesser threat. But, by their impenitent living they grieve away the shield of omnipotence thereby exposing themselves to the terrible storms or earthquakes, fires, floods, volcanic eruptions, or whatever else is poised to obliterate them. Therefore, they suffer the awful consequences of the withdrawal of God’s presence, as others in more favorable places do not. 


This does not infer that there are entirely safe places on earth, for this is not true. As the withdrawal of God’s presence becomes more extensive, the uncaged powers of nature are reaching out to waste areas previously untouched. As we draw nearer to the end, this will become universal. 


There is no problem in understanding what God did at Sodom, Gomorrah, and St. Pierre, if care is taken to consider all the implications and if the principles which govern God’s behavior are carefully kept in mind.