In Genesis 19 we read the account of Lot and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In this famous story, Lot, his wife, and their two daughters are unwillingly dragged out of their hometown by the angels sent from God. They are given the opportunity to be saved from the coming judgment on the city. However, Lot’s wife dies because she looks back at the city. After the destruction of the cities, Lot and his daughters fall into incestual sin, resulting in the birth of two sons. Through these sons, two evil nations are also born, and the legacy of Lot and his family ends in ruin and death.
This is an interesting case study when dealing with Reformed theologians. Reformed theology teaches that believers will live righteously. They argue that if a person is “genuinely” saved, they will not sin habitually, but will persevere in good works. If left with only the account in Genesis 19, we would have no evidence from Lot’s behavior of a righteous lifestyle. He decides to live in Sodom and when told to leave the city for his protection, he argues with the angels. He doesn’t want to leave. He likes where he lives and begs to be taken to a smaller, neighboring town.
“What is amazing in the rescue theme is their resistance—the family would rather not go. At the heart of the tension was the family’s assimilation into the life of Sodom…” (Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis, p. 355).
The conclusion of the account is far from ideal. Lot gets drunk and sleeps with his daughters. If a reader sought to determine Lot’s regeneration based solely on this account of his works, they would be left to assume that the man was an unbeliever. However, regeneration is not determined by works. Furthermore, in 2 Peter, the apostle makes a startling statement about Lot, saying that he was, in fact, a righteous man (2 Peter 2:7-8). Based on this statement, most Reformed theologians begrudgingly seem to admit that the man was saved.
Ross makes this astute comment regarding Lot:
Genuine faith is often hard to detect (Ross, Creation and Blessing, p. 357).
While the Reformed theologian might reluctantly admit to Lot’s regeneration, there is another person in the narrative who deserves further attention. What about Lot’s wife? The Bible makes no definitive statement, as it does regarding Lot, as to whether or not she was a believer. Many assume she is an unbeliever due to her failure to obey the Lord and because she looked back at Sodom. However, as already proven by her husband, a failure to obey does not disprove her salvation.
Furthermore, in Luke 17:32-33, the Lord makes this interesting comment about Lots wife:
“Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.”
In this passage, the Lord is addressing the disciples (v 22) and is discussing end times. In the context He is warning Tribulation believers of the danger of living for this world rather than the world to come. This is a warning applicable to believers in all dispensations. The NT is full of warnings to believers regarding the distractions of this present world (1 John 2:15-17; Jas 4:4). Believers are capable of being seduced by the world. We can have a wandering eye that looks to the present and its empty promises, rather than at the Lord and His eternal promises. The Lord’s point is clear. We can be like Lot’s wife.
This is an odd comparison if she was an unbeliever. He is speaking to believers and citing her as an example to us. We can fall into the same trap that Lot’s wife fell into. Contrary to what Reformed theologians claim, a believer can fail. Like Lot’s wife, we can live for this present world, and if we do, it can lead to our destruction and even to physical death. This is the type of salvation that the Lord is referring to in verse 33. The danger for Lot’s wife was not eternal damnation. It was the ruin of her home, possessions, and ultimately her physical life. Just as Sodom was destroyed, this world will likewise come to ruin. As believers, if–like Lot’s wife–we invest all our life’s work in this doomed world, we will experience the loss of all that we hold dear.
Perhaps you’re reading this and still think Lot’s wife was an unbeliever. There is room for discussion on that point. However, regardless of her personal regeneration, it’s clear that she is meant to be a reminder and to serve as a warning to believers. We can be like her. We can lose benefits in the kingdom to come if we fail to endure (2 Tim 2:12). We can experience the ruin of our lives if we are greedy or self-seeking. We can also experience premature death if we live for this world rather than the world to come. Her example is certainly a sad and sobering warning to all believers. Therefore, let us heed the Lord’s instruction. Remember Lot’s wife!