Daily Word

Who’s worse? | Matthew 11:20-24

20 Then He began to denounce [the people in] the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent [and change their hearts and lives]. 21 “Woe (judgment is coming) to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon [cities of the Gentiles], they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes [their hearts would have been changed and they would have expressed sorrow for their sin and rebellion against God]. 22 Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for [the pagan cities of] Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.

23 And you, Capernaum, are you to be exalted to heaven [for your apathy and unresponsiveness]? You will descend to Hades (the realm of the dead); for if the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment, than for you.”

Matthew 11:20-24 (AMP)

Tyre and Sidon and ?

Never heard of Tyre and Sidon? Surely you heard of Sodom (from where we get the vulgar term sodomy). These pagan cities were condemned by God to judgment for their fighting with Israel and wicked acts (respectively). Tyre and Sidon are condemned in Isaiah 23 and other places in the OT. Sodom (and Gomorrah) are found in Genesis 19 and condemned in many places in the Bible. 

Who’s worse?

These Jewish cities (Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum) that Jesus had preached in and done miracles are not receiving Him. Jesus compares them to these pagan / wicked cities that were punished for their sins and says if He had gone to these ancient cities and preached and done miracles, they would have repented. And here, these Jewish cities have all the blessings of Judaism and even the King of Jews, the Messiah, and they don’t repent.

Degrees of punishment?

As we read this passage, we have to wonder if there are degrees of punishment in hell and whether the same applies to Heaven. There are plenty of scripture passages (as we’ll see in Matthew 16:27) to confirm both are true. Carson suggests, “…when God judges, He will take into account the opportunity people have had. There are degrees of punishment in hell, as there are degrees of reward in heaven (v. 24; Luke 12:47-48; Rom. 1:20—2:16; Heb. 10:28-29).” (planobiblechapel.org quoting Carson)


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  1. I agree that there certainly must be degrees of punishment in the same way that there will be degrees of reward because we have so many passages that speak in those terms. I think of the verse where Paul says “henceforth there is laid up for me a GREAT reward which the LORD Jesus Christ shall give to me on the day…”.

    Thank you Doug!

    1. It’s my pleasure to do this blog daily, to study His Word and jot down thoughts that may be helpful to others. Believe it or not, I re-read some of them myself and am blessed. I also use them at times for discipleship.

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