Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.
Question: Does Jude 7 prove eternal torment?
Answer: Jude 7 reads: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire”
Advocates of eternal torment use the expression “eternal fire” in Jude 7 as a proof of the eternal torture of the wicked in fire. Even if we should accept the translation of the King James Version, this verse does not teach such a thought; for the fire from which the people of Sodom and Gomorrha and the inhabitants of the surrounding cities suffered punishment did not last forever. The fact that the verse states that they suffered the punishment of eternal fire, when they at most suffered the punishment of but a few minutes of fire, proves that the translation of the King James Version is incorrect; for as it stands it teaches that their few minutes of suffering by fire were eternal.
The American Revised Version, in the margin renders the verse as follows: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha and the cities about them . . . are set forth as an example [type] of eternal fire, suffering punishment.” The thought would be even clearer if we should put the words in the following order: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha and the cities about them . . . in suffering punishment, are set forth as an example [type] of eternal fire.” In other words, St. Jude in this verse explains that God typed by the destruction of the cities of the plain the eternal punishment of the incorrigibly wicked; for in their undergoing the punishment that they suffered – destruction by fire and brimstone – they were used by the Lord to work out a picture of the punishment of the incorrigibly wicked, that is, eternal destruction, extinction, annihilation.
Hence the expression, “eternal fire,” in this verse means eternal destruction, which is the penalty for willful sin; and God, according to Jude 7, pictured this punishment forth in the destruction of the cities of the plain.