The Concept of Punishment
Text: Matthew 25 : 31 - 46
Few dispute the concept of punishment. Punitive judgment is part and parcel of justice. Law and order must of necessity include the punitive element. There isn’t a judicial system that exists in the world that does not include punitive judgment.
THE CONCEPT OF ETERNAL PUNISHMENT
This concept is more difficult to accept. Even among Christians, there is strong disagreement concerning this teaching of Jesus about eternal punishment. Nevertheless we see this concept consistently taught. Let us review some statements Jesus made concerning “the judgment” and “hell”.
1. The Sermon on the Mount
“But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother
without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.
And whoever says to his brother ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger
of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger
of hell fire.”
“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it
from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your
members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”
2. The Kingdom Parables
(i) The parable of The Wheat and The Tares
“The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom,
but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.
The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is
the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.
Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire,
so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out
His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things
that offend, and those who practise lawlessness, and will
cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing
and gnashing of teeth.
(ii) The parable of the Dragnet
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast
into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which,
when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down
and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away.
So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth,
separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them
into the furnace of fire.
There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
3. Judgment Parables
The Parable of The Sheep and The Goats
“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when
did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked
or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’
Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you,
inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these,
you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into
everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The concept of eternal punishment was taught by Jesus most consistently. He did not use this teaching to threaten anybody though. He taught this doctrine as a fact, as sine qua non, in the body of doctrines He gave to His disciples!
UPHELD BY THE APOSTLES
The teaching of eternal punishment was certainly upheld by the Biblical writers. Let us consider what the apostle Peter wrote.
“For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them
down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness,
to be reserved for judgment.
The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations
and to reserve the unjust under punishment for
the day of judgment.”
2 PETER 2:4, 9
Let us read what the apostle John wrote in his book of Revelation.
“The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades
delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged,
each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast
into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”
Rejection of this doctrine of judgment and eternal punishment does not annul its reality or veracity. Sobriety and humility are better alternatives. Let godly fear prevail!