Embraced  by  Truth . . .
                                    reflections on theology and life

THEOLOGY > Future > The Final Judgment > Aspects of Punishment  


On the one hand, punishment must be exercised, and every individual understands in some manner the concept of consequences; but, on the other hand, punishment is unthinkable. To ponder man before God giving account of his life is unimaginable. Just the thought is overpowering. And then to know that punishment will be decreed—such contemplation is inconceivable.

But punishment is the lucid teaching of Scripture; there is no equivocation or suggestion of alternative. Man will be judged and punishment will be administered. A few of the aspects of the Biblical teaching will be considered.

Reason for punishment

The reason for punishment is simple: it is for those who reject the Father, His Son, and the Word of God. Man cannot oppose God and His Revelation and escape the results of such an attitude with the resulting sinful and damning actions. The breaker of the Law will not escape the judgment of the Law. Jesus speaks: “The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace” (Matt. 13:41-42).

The reason for punishment is because man has placed himself in opposition to God, and such a posture cannot endure. For such a position to endure unpunished would reveal that God is not God, He is not the God of the Bible. To vindicated Himself and His Word, God must and will confront the “law-breaker.”

Place of punishment

Various terminology is used to speak of the place of punishment. Note the following verses:

the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness (Matt. 8:12);

and throw them into the fiery furnace . . . (Matt. 13:42; “furnace of fire” in NKJV);   And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life (Matt. 25:46);

And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 25:30; see: 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Lu. 13:28);

Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41; see: Mk. 9:43, 48; Lu. 16:22-24);

he will be tormented with fire and sulfur (Rev. 14:10);

And the smoke of their torment . . . (Rev. 14:11);

These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone (Rev. 19:20);

And anyone not found written in the Book of life was thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15).

The place is a place of “outer darkness” where will be heard “weeping and gnashing of teeth”; it is a place of “eternal fire,” a place of “fire and sulfur”—“the fiery furnace,” “the lake of fire”—where there is “eternal punishment.” It is a place of “smoke.”

These literal and vivid images are of such weight that any honest and reflective person would shrink from them. How can these things be? If these images are not to be taken as literal, then the actual place of punishment is worse than the images—surely that is the message of the images. But if that is the truth of the images, then how can the mind contemplate and process such a thought? The thought is unfathomable. On the other hand, it is possible that the images provide an insight into reality.

The words of God at the judgment are daunting: “Depart from Me, all you workers of evil” (Lu. 13:27). The place of punishment can be defined in terms of God and the words He will speak at the judgment: “Depart from Me”; therefore, punishment is away from God, away from His presence, His blessings, His glory. The most awful aspect of punishment is the banishment from God, to hear the words: “Depart from Me.” To be separated from Him is the place of punishment.

Length of Punishment

Simply and tragically stated, the length of punishment is forever. “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name” (Rev. 14:11).

Forever is incomprehensible. What can be said by the way of commentary? What can be said by way of comfort?

Degrees of Punishment

There are adequate direct and indirect references in Scripture to justify the concept of degrees of punishment.

And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But he one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more (Lu. 12: 47-48; see: 19:11-27);

But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you (Matt. 11:22);

If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’ wrath, poured full strength into the cup of His anger and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb (Rev. 14:9-10).

Paul’s well known affirmation in his epistle associates the reaping with the sowing: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).

Return to: The Final Judgment; Next Article: Purpose of Judgment 

For overview of THEOLOGY, see: Site Map - Theology
Copyright © Embraced by Truth
All rights reserved.
Materials may be freely copied for personal and academic use;
appropriate reference must be made to this site.
Links are invited.