A More Tolerable Day of Judgment?


Here are a couple of verses (among a group of related verses, Matthew 10:15, 11:21-24, Luke 10:12-14) that could indicate a chance for postmortem redemption.

Matthew 11:21"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”

Matthew 11:22 “Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in {the} day of judgment than for you.”

Jesus is saying that Tyre and Sidon would have repented long ago if the miracles had occurred there. In addition, Jesus is saying that judgment day will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, presumably because they did not have the benefit of witnessing the miracles.

Now, what does it mean that judgment day will be more tolerable? If the judgment is burning in hell for eternity, as hell is often depicted, how can anything about that be more tolerable? Are we to imagine that burning at a lesser temperature for eternity or that burning for a briefer time per day for eternity is more tolerable?

If suffering in hell, instead, comes through separation from God, then what possibly could be said to be more tolerable about judgment day if one is still going to be separated from God?

And more importantly, would God really condemn these people to hell in the first place, knowing they would have repented had they experienced the miracles?

Is it possible that more tolerable means that these people would be given a chance to repent sometime after they see God in all of His glory? That would be a more tolerable judgment day, and it would be compatible with the character of God as depicted in the Bible.

This possibility may also shed some light on the puzzling verses, 1 Peter 3:18-20.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

1 Peter 3:19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

1 Peter 3:20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

Here Jesus preaches to the spirits of those people who were not saved in the days of Noah. That they were not saved implies they were among the wicked. Why would Jesus have preached to these people who were destined for hell? Will they experience a more tolerable judgment, too? Does God know they, too, would have repented had they witnessed the miracles?


I tend to agree; both sets of scripture are testifying, in different ways (and maybe at different stages of ‘process’), to some kind of legitimate and effectual post-mortem evangelization. In one case (the ‘spirits in prison’) the evangelization happens while the rebel spirits are in hades, before the resurrection. In the other case (the Synoptic declarations in relative favor of Tyre and Sidon over against good Galilean cities like Chorazin and Bethsaida), the evangelization happens after the general resurrection in the Day of the Lord to come.

The more practical point, of course, is that these people over here who have more advantages (and who think they have a superior lock on ‘salvation’ compared to those damned pagans over there), are in fact setting themselves up for an unpleasantly shocking surprise: a major theme all throughout the Synoptics (and to a lesser but real extent in GosJohn, too.)

If we Christians, though, smirk about how those foolish Jews over there were only hopelessly flailing around for their salvation and were instead setting themselves up for hopeless zorching–then guess where we are putting ourselves by analogy? (Hint: not with Tyre and Sidon. :mrgreen: Which in its own way is the warning of St. Paul to his Gentile readers in Rom 11.)


Thanks for the response.

The message of these verses seems clear to me, but when some Christians hear my interpretation of the Matthew verses, especially if they accept transworld damnation, they respond that Jesus is trying to teach the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida in these verses and that his comments about Sidon and Tyre are just hyperbolic and are not to be taken literally.

Do you see any sign of hyperbolic language in the text of these verses?


I’d say yes, there’s hyperbole for poetic emphasis; especially in the ‘a fortiori’ structure (if x is true, how much moreso is y). This shouldn’t be taken to obviate the principle relationships, though. The hyperbole doesn’t even have anything to work with unless those principle relationships are true.

"Be wailing, Chorazin! Be wailing, Bethsaida! For if the works of power had happened in Tyre and Sidon which happened in you, they would have long-since willingly changed their hearts, sitting in sackcloth and ashes! Beyond all this, I say to you: Sidon and Tyre shall find the Judgment Day more bearable than shall you!

“And you, Capernaum! Not to the heaven shall you be exalted! Into the hell shall you go down!–for if the works of power occurring in you had happened in Sodom, it might be remaining unto today! Beyond all this, I say to you: the land of Sodom shall find the Judgment Day more bearable than shall you!”


Thanks for that. It is so true, but I missed it!

As for the rest of your post: BRAVO!



Thanks for the intriquing comments. I’ve long thought that Jesus’ implications in several texts that future judgment or ‘hell’ will vary in severity, as if customized for different cases, does not fit our traditional assumption that any failure to receive ‘salvation’ from sin leads to an equal penalty of separation from God or the same infinite eternal burning. Rather such personalized levels of consequence seem more suggestive, or at least compatible with, the Old Testament’s assumption that God’s judgment is redemptive rather than simply retributive.