How is Eternal Punishment Just?

Posted: May 3, 2013 by Dillon in Theology
Tags: , , , , ,

I came across this CARM article and was definitely inspired to write about it.

How is a temporary action deserving of an eternal punishment?  It’s a question that I used to wrestle with.  It never seemed particularly fair.  Of course, I quickly realized that it’s actually a good thing life isn’t completely fair, but that’s another story.

Consider this point: punishment isn’t only based on what you do, but also who you offend.  You may not realize it, but this principle applies to every aspect of life.  If you talk back to your mom, you won’t be punished the same way you’d be punished if you talked back to your principal.  If you scream at your friend, way different than screaming at your boss.

Let’s take a little trip back to the Middle Ages.  You see in movies and read in books that messengers were often intimidated of delivering a message to a king or queen.  Why were they afraid?  If the king or queen didn’t like the message, the messenger could be killed.  You may not like that example.  How about lying?  If you lie to your neighbor, it might not amount to anything.  If you lie in court, now you’ve got to deal with perjury.  In both scenarios the offense is lying, but because of who is being offended, the consequence differs.

The article had a great example.  If I punch you, nothing much will happen (except you’ll probably punch me back).  If I were to punch the President of the United States, I’d be fined, imprisoned, and possibly listed as a terrorist.  Did I really do anything different?  Of course not!  But the punishment is elevated based on who was offended.

How does this apply to God?  God is by definition infinite (Psalm 139:7-10).  If an offense against a finite man (like the President) warrants imprisonment, how much greater of a punishment does a crime against an infinite God deserve?

You may be thinking “but I haven’t done anything against God!” Sin, of any kind, is a direct offense against God.  You could even think of it as metaphorically slapping God in the face.  Sin is so great an offense that it literally separates us from God.  If we commit a crime against an infinite and holy God, then the only fitting punishment has to also be infinite.

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