The judgment carried out against Sodom & Gomorrah for the sins of the people was literally and actually fire and brimstone. Abraham bargained with YHWH that if He found even ten (10) people who were righteous, YHWH agreed He would not destroy the cities.
“And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.” (Gen. 18:32, KJV)
We can know that YHWH did not find even ten righteous souls in those cities because He did destroy them. That destruction was a sign to the people of the entire earth of YHWH’s judgment against the wicked, of YHWH’s righteous anger. The fire of His judgment was literally carried out upon the earth.
“24 Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.… 28 And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.” (Gen. 19:24, 25, 28, KJV)
Fire from heaven. Sodom and Gomorrah became a symbol of wicked people, and the form of the judgment carried out upon those wicked became another symbol of YHWH’s judgment and anger. Ever after when the Lord would mention Sodom and Gomorrah the people would remember what had happened.
The promise made to Israel if they forsook the oath of the covenant with YHWH:
“22 So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the Lord hath laid upon it;
23 And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the Lord overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath:
24 Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger? 25 Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt:
26 For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them: 27 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book:
28 And the Lord rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.” (Deu. 29:22-28, KJV)
YHWH called Israel by Sodom’s name many times, comparing their wickedness and idolatry to that city He had destroyed.
“32 For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: 33 Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps. 34 Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures?” (Deu. 32: 32-34, KJV)
YHWH remembered, and stored up the promise of their destruction. Isaiah spoke to Israel, reminding them of this promise.
“7 Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. 8 And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.
9 Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah. 10 Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.“ (Isa. 1:7-10, KJV)
YHWH continually used Sodom and Gomorrah as the symbols of wickedness and righteous judgment, and called the people of Israel by their names.
“8 For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory. 9 The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.” (Isa. 3:8-9, KJV)
“14 I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness; they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.“ (Jer. 23:14, KJV)
YHWH used this comparison against other wicked nations such as Edom (Jer. 49:17-18), and against Babylon (Jer. 50:40), against Moab and Ammon (Zeph. 2:9), but the prophets sent to Israel and Judah were well used to this symbolism applied to the wicked children of Abraham. Ezekiel used it throughout chap. 16.
“45 Thou art thy mother’s daughter, that lotheth her husband and her children; and thou art the sister of thy sisters, which lothed their husbands and their children: your mother was an Hittite, and your father an Amorite.
46 And thine elder sister is Samaria, she and her daughters that dwell at thy left hand: and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters.
47 Yet hast thou not walked after their ways, nor done after their abominations: but, as if that were a very little thing, thou wast corrupted more than they in all thy ways.
48 As I live, saith the Lord God, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters.
49 Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” (Ezek. 16: 45-49, KJV)
Our Messiah used it again for the people of Judea living in that Roman province in the first century AD. He told His disciples that if any of the cities of Israel to whom they were sent rejected them that their judgment would be worse than that of Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt. 10:15). He pronounced the same worse judgment against Capernaum (Matt. 11:23-24).
Paul used the comparison in speaking to the assembly of believers in Rome (Rom. 9:29) that without the Seed, Yeshua (Jesus), they would have been as the wicked of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Then, when YHWH used this same comparison in Revelation and linked it with the place of Yeshua’s crucifixion, there cannot have been any doubt which city was meant.
“ And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.“ (Rev. 11:8, KJV)
Just as in Ezekiel, the great city that was condemned for their unrighteousness, for their many transgressions against YHWH was Jerusalem. It was Jerusalem and all of Judea that was the focus of the judgment that was pronounced to come soon (Rev. 1:1; 22:6) upon those living in the first century AD.
The sign of the rainbow around the throne scene in both Ezek. 1:28 and Rev. 4:3 was the sign of the promise YHWH had made with Noah, that this judgment was to be a limited judgment against a land region, and not the entire earth.
In his comments on Ezek. chap. 16, Philip Mauro said:
“Manifestly this is just a strong way of saying that the overthrow of Jerusalem was to be forever; since the cities of the plain, and the northern kingdom, of which Samaria was the capitol city, had been completely obliterated. God had already said to the people of Israel through Moses that their overthrow would be “like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah.. which the Lord overthrew in His anger and in His wrath” (Deu. 29:23). In fact, Sodom and Gomorrah are in Scripture the very type of complete and irrecoverable overthrow (See Isa. 1:8,9; Jer. 49:18; 50:40, Matt. 11:23). And God had said through Hosea, concerning the northern kingdom (Samaria), that He would “cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel,” and would “no more have mercy on the house of Israel” (Hos. 1:4, 6).
And now God concludes His threat of judgment upon Jerusalem by saying, “For thus saith the Lord God; I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, which hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant” (v. 59).
So there was to be a complete breach of the covenant, that had subsisted between God and the earthly Jerusalem. ….But, the prophesy itself goes on to declare, as Jeremiah had already foretold, that God would work out His purposes under a new and “everlasting covenant”; …
It is easily to be seen, in the light of the New Testament Scriptures, and of the way O.T. prophesies are interpreted by Christ and Peter and Paul, that this latter part of Chap. XVI is a foretelling of the work of the gospel, which was to be proclaimed “to the Jew first,” and which would have the effect of separating the true “Israel” (Rom 9:6) from the mass of the apostate nation….” Source: The Hope of Israel, chap. XI, p. 96-97, 1922:
The second destruction of Jerusalem and the temple prophesied by Christ through John in Revelation was the vision foretold by Ezekiel. It was the change from the earthly physical, and temporary accommodation God had made with the children of Abraham by which He would fulfill the blessing to all nations on earth (Gen. 18:18, 22:18; 26:4)
Jerusalem was the place of the birth of the church on the day of Pentecost in AD 30-31, and it was from Jerusalem that the word, the gospel went forth into all of the lands. Jerusalem was the focus of Ezekiel’s prophesy and of Revelation’s prophesy. Jerusalem was the birthplace of the spiritual covenant, and the death of the old Mosaic animal sacrificial temple system (AD 70).
Sown in corruption, raised in incorruption (1 Cor. 15:40-49), the corollary to the fleshly body of man, and the fleshly temple system is apparent. The heavenly, everlasting kingdom and its heavenly city, the New Jerusalem was birthed out of the old one on earth. The prophesies of both Ezekiel and Revelation were for that new heavenly and everlasting Jerusalem that is the spiritual city in which all believers in Christ dwell (Rev. 21:1-3).