Does Matthew 10:15 refer to different degrees of torment/punishment in the eternal judgement?
No. The penalty of sin is death - there is no degree within death.
What is the Day of Judgement?
The Day of Judgement does not result in death, torture or hell (whatever that is). Judgement is a pronouncement of guilt or innocence. It is not an execution of penalty.
The scriptures are clear that all will be judged - indeed, all are already guilty because of the inherited guilt from Adam and their own sins, thus there are no innocent except those in Christ. Only in Christ are any saved - in him guilt is removed and righteousness obtained. (any who thought they lived good lives and did good things will be made aware of that fallacious reasoning and shown the true nature that has separated them from God and true life - by no good works will any be saved)
It is because of Him (God) that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God: our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. 1 Cor 1:30
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all. . . 1 Tim 2:3-6
Notice this passage is referring to the presently unsaved - 'all people', 'mankind', 'ransom for all'. God's plan is to have Jesus (the ransom) as the mediator between Him and them. Why, so He can then torture them all forever?
How can one be counted in Christ? Only by knowing who Jesus is and understanding what Jesus' life and death (and life again) has accomplished.
One can only grasp this spiritual reality by spiritual means - not from the spirit of the world, but God alone - who desires all men saved.
But God has revealed it to us by the spirit. The spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 1 Cor 2:10
It is from this unique vantage that salvation is offered to all - the truth about God and His son. No part of this world's system offers this true understanding - it comes only from God. Each will have opportunity to make their own, informed, rational, conscious, undeceived choice.
Judgement is part of salvation
Clearly, only a fraction of mankind has had this opportunity. Is God willing that the little village that was never reached by the 'flat-tyred-missionary', miss out on their chance, their choice? What an absurd concept - all constructed from a skewed understanding of the bible as we'll see.
Each and every life is made in God's image and each is precious to God - who desires all be saved. At the very least - that they all be given a proper choice! The bizarre rationale that man has 'freewill' while under the deception of the great deceiver is without merit. This is not freewill, it is merely the illusion of freewill.
This is why the deceiver is removed from the world during the Millennium. This time of renewing the earth and readying it for the second resurrection of all who ever lived and died, is done by the remnant of the world led by Christ and his transformed-to-spirit-life saints. (This is NOT the 'new heavens and earth' spoken of in Rev 21)
an angel. . . seized the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. And he cast him into the abyss, and shut and sealed it over him, so that he should not deceive the nations any longer Rev 20:2-
Notice in Rev 20 the "1000 years" is mentioned 6 times in 7 verses! This is not a figurative expression meant to be interpreted anyway we might imagine. There is a clear sequence revealed.
Notice - 'not deceive the nations'. So there are still nations of physical mortal people who have survived the tribulation and are present at Christ's return. Those who survived the end of this age will be able to understand and choose God unhindered by millennia of untruth and mystery.
Their new reality living under Christ's reign of truth will be contrasted with the memory of living under the reign of evil and terror they endured under the curse of sin and the dreadful consequences of that self-centred way of life and their choices. Only now, can they make an informed choice and decision - only now - in Satan's absence, do they have true freewill in order to make such a decision and choose life and not death.
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live. Deut 30:19
The Israelites here were God's chosen people - they had a measure of freewill only. Today, true Christians are also able to exercise freewill and choose God's way of life, empowered by the indwelling Lord Jesus via the spirit - this the Israelites never had. But this is only made possible by God's express intervention to call each one to Himself - He always makes the first move. We never will, and cannot, know him unless He makes Himself known.
Israel was a trial run of sorts. A physical people from one Abraham who had a chance at great life in this world. To be God's people, His model nation. The future is not governed by a covenant of sin and death, of sacrifices and laws and human priests. The new covenant is about life, spirit, grace and one sacrifice of holy blood and an eternal High Priest.
This is what will happen in the Day of Judgement.
- people will be set free from deception.
- they will encounter Jesus and his saints (Abraham, David and whoever else is raised to immortal life in the First Resurrection).
- they will be made aware of their guilt - both inherited and earned.
- they will be pronounced guilty, and as Adam was told, the penalty is death.
- they will be offered a choice to repent of that old way and choose a new way - just as it is today, it will not be by works, but grace and by the person of Jesus.
But I tell you that men will give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matt 12:36-37
The words of each, like works, are another expression of faith - either in God, or in the world's ruler. Our words (and works) are a sign of where our worship has been directed.
Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. Luke 12:48
This is why it will be 'more tolerable' for those who are not expected to know right from wrong (gentiles for eg.), as much as those who were and did not choose it - effectively rejecting it, and God who offered it.
So speak and so act as being about to be judged by the Law of freedom. For judgment without mercy will be to the one not having shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:12
We see the emphasis moving from the law of sin and death to the law of spirit and life - a law of freedom. This was not possible before Christ's redeeming sacrifice. God does not want to kill, but to save. Killing is a last resort for those unrepentant - not for those without their chance, their choice.
For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them deep into hell, placing them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment. . . 9if all this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 2 Pet 2:4-
Notice even here, 'hold the unrighteous for punishment' is not explicitly providing the punishment, they are held to account in a new environment of grace and freedom - only IF they are willing, now with their hinderances of deception removed, to embrace the forgiveness offered. Whatever the pending punishment is, it is not yet a fiery death. These are the nations mentioned earlier.
2Now it will come about that in the last days, the mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. 3 and many peoples will come and say, “Come, let’s go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; so that He may teach us about His ways Isaiah 2 Micah 4
During this Millennium, people will live and die - just as they do now, having children and enjoying life in a restored and healed world, both physically and spiritually.
At the end of the 1000 years comes the Final Judgement.
And when the thousand years shall have been completed, Satan will be released out of his prison, and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth Rev 20:7
This is when all who have lived, incl. those who died of old age during the Millennium, will live again and be judged just as in the first Judgement. The devil will be released and people will have their choice. If they choose evil, they will be eliminated permanently. (more on how this will work later)
Prior to the new heavens and new earth, all physical life will be finished Rev 21, Is 65. It seems there will be some who have not chosen True life and these will cease to exist. This number would be small compared to all who have ever lived.
The Judgement then is an opportunity, not for some bizarre ongoing punishment and torture, but for redemption and salvation through grace and mercy - offered in the name and person of Jesus the Christ. It is not unconditional - it IS conditional - on accepting Jesus' sacrifice and choosing life God offers.
How then will it be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah?
Part of the judgement will be a calling to account of all wrong done. For those who were presented the truth of Jesus with a degree of awareness of who he was (Capernaum Matt 11:23) (signs, miracles etc), they will be chastised for not believing. The others who were just guilty of sin from living under deception, they will be given a more gentle chastisement. However the penalty will be the same - death. And the offer of grace will also be the same. The sacrifice of Jesus has covered all - all are unworthy to stand alone. Being called to account when you should have known better, will be tougher (less tolerable) than those who did not know any better and sinned in ignorance.
God called Saul (Paul) to follow His lead, just as He did Moses and David and all the others who lived their life under God's direction. He didn't call Judas to Himself, He didn't call Pharaoh - these were living under the rules of evil - the way of the world and God had a job for them to accomplish in this age.
Are they any less precious to God than David, Paul or Abraham ? No. God's plan includes all who have ever lived and all will be offered the same salvation found in Christ - just at different times. Who are we to question how God does this or when He does it? He desires all men saved. Will they be? I think not, but all will have their opportunity. Clearly this extends to Muslims, Hindus and Jews and all the other religions who have not recognised Jesus as the name of salvation. We know even the Jews were hindered from understanding and believing.
For if glory was in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory! . . . Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness, and not as Moses would put a veil over his face for the sons of Israel not to look intently into the end of that fading away.
But their minds were hardened; for until the present day, the same veil remains at the reading of the old covenant, not being lifted, which is being removed in Christ. But unto this day, when Moses shall be read, a veil lies over their heart. But whenever one shall have turned to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 2 Cor 3:9-16
Anyone who cannot accept Christ still has a hard heart - no matter when they lived, God will see that they get their day of choosing and be relieved of their inability to choose Jesus. Their day of judgement is just the beginning of being offered that choice. This is not a second chance as some protest.
For the Lord disciplines whom He loves, and He scourges every son whom He receives. Heb 12:6
Blessed is the man You discipline, O LORD, and teach from Your law Psalm 94:12
And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” Acts 1:18
Who are the gentiles? The opposite of His people - they had no law, no Godly principles, riddled with all kinds of sin, idolatry etc. Yet He had a place for them in His plan - even holding back the Jews for a time so they might be joined together as all people in Christ.
more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah...
The wicked, the sinners of the world - are they any different? They don't deserve a chance at true life according to the 'hellfire and torture' preachers. God says different! He desires all men saved - therefore, all will have ample, fair and just opportunity.
What about the 'eternal punishment' construct.
And these will go away into eternal punishment; but the righteous into eternal life. Matt 25:46
Death is not some kind of eternal life in torture. I wont bother citing all the scripture that bears this truth. The soul that sins will die... etc.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 6:23
- God grant immortality to the 'wicked' so they can be punished forever?
- God's gift of life seem redundant if we are already immortal souls?
- Death anywhere get described as ever-living?
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive an abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Rom 5:17
Those in Christ are forgiven and declared righteous - they need no punishment.
The wicked are brought before the Judgement seat and given the correction necessary to move ahead and leave the past behind. We even call our prisons Correctional Facilities. They are intended to redeem criminal hearts and minds, restoring them to function in society as contributors not takers - granting them an opportunity for a repentance of sorts. This is the ideal on an earthly level - God is much better at redemption and restoration on a heavenly, spiritual level.
Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, having indulged in sexual immorality and having gone after strange flesh, in like manner with them are set forth as an example, undergoing the penalty of eternal fire. Jude 1:7
Are they still burning? No. Same Gr. word αἰωνίου aiōniou as Matt 25:46. This can readily be translated as 'age-long'. It is for a time. Eternal or everlasting is not required, but enforced on the text to maintain the hell for sinners construct. The 'age of fire' for Sodom has passed, the treatment God sentenced has been completed. They were an example to all who followed 2 Peter 2:6.
And these will go away into (not 'eternal' but) 'age-long correction or discipline' ... Matt 25:46
God is a God of salvation - not destruction. He is Saviour before He is Destroyer. He is love, not of spite and cruelty.
God has planned a way that all will have opportunity to choose life - not multiple times - just once is enough. His grace and love and mercy is greater than evil and He will not allow evil to triumph because He is capricious - sending some into life and others to death because of a 'flat tyre' or deception not of their own making. The devil is the one God holds responsible and he will bear his sentence. But God holds a greater responsibility to all He has created - to give them a fair chance against the evil He wrote into His plan for man to produce a better eternal outcome than otherwise possible - that's why there were two trees in the Garden and a serpent who offered an alternative.
And when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then he will sit upon his throne of glory. 32And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them one from another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33And indeed he will set the sheep on his right hand, and the goats on his left. Matt 25:31-
The unrighteous will have their day in court. They, even some who thought they were safe, will be bitterly disappointed. Are they put to death in eternal fire? No, read on.
We can get misled by the 'eternal fire' - God uses fire to cleanse - it is not a literal fire^, but a severe trial and discipline to bring about change and repentance - just as He does when He calls any to Himself. God is a consuming fire. Is He consuming His beloved creation? Or the evil that has caused it so much grief? He is a God who grants repentance, who sent His only son to die for all - He so loved the world and all therein.
And the devil, the one deceiving them, was cast into the lake of fire and of sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet also are; and they will be tormented day and night to the ages of the ages. Rev 20:10
Here the beast and FP are given their dues. The Devil, an archangel, a spirit... what is fire going to do to him? We must be careful to correctly recognise the literal and the symbolic language.
There must be a second resurrection because there is a second death. We cannot have a second death w/o a second resurrection as the second death has no power over those in the First Res. So after the 1000 years, all others will rise to their judgement. Satan is released and they get to have their choice. Both sides will be represented - they have freewill at last to see and choose God or not. After this is the second death and permanent removal of all unrepentant flesh. Then, the new heavens and new earth is imminent.
This is a 'thumbnail sketch' only. There is much more to unpack, but the point has been to show another, more biblical reading of how the end of the age will unfold. The scriptures have often been presented with a bias not of God or His word, and all kinds of resultant bad theologies have arisen.
For those who have an understanding of the Jewish/Israelite Holy day sequence, there is a plan of salvation outlined throughout - culminating in the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day. While these are not required for salvation, they still exactly represent the plan God has put in place. He has allowed His people to glimpse and celebrate year after year, as the promises get closer to fulfilment, His steady, inalterable focus on redeeming His creation will become apparent.