Wherever in scripture punishment for human sin is quantified, it is typically specified at double the offence. This principle is applied quite literally in the Law of Moses for all manner of theft (e.g. Ex22:4,7,9). Likewise in the Prophets, God’s rebellious people are said to pay double for their sins (Is40:2, Jer16:18) as at the universal level do the wicked (Jer17:18, Rev18:6). “Double” need not be taken literally in the latter cases but it is indicating that punishment in God’s eyes is proportional and finite, for nX≠∞ (where n is the multiple and X is the offence). Confusion has arisen in view of how references to post-mortem punishment in the New Testament are usually translated from the Greek (“aeonian” referring to an age or a prolonged period of time, not usually eternity). Even so, thinking back through human history and applying such a principle it is no surprise that Jesus said of a few: “it had been better for them if they had never been born”, especially those who through megalomania or merciless psychopathy have brought untold misery to numerous lives, for they will pay a heavy price.
Such souls will not suffer because of any deficiency or “limit” to Christ’s atonement; nor is final punishment presented in the gospels in terms of offences against God but against humanity (Mt25:41-46). Why? – because God makes full allowance for ignorance – man’s knowledge of the Divine Glory is at the very best incomplete, especially for the majority who have not received a faithful account of the Gospel. But there is less excuse with regard to dealings with our fellow man, for the requirement to be caring and compassionate is intuitive (Mt25 again), being discerned through the faculty of conscience. To the astonishment of some Christians Paul asserts that many without the Law do, however feebly, the one thing required to fulfil its purpose – namely, LOVE:
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Gal5:14)
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law (Rom13:8)
Love does no harm to a neighbour therefore love is the fulfilment of the law (Rom13:10)
And one can take it from Jesus Christ that human sin will be punished in accordance with the criteria stipulated by Himself, applying standards that are perfectly intelligible (Mt6:14; 7:2). Thankfully for us there will also be forgiveness a plenty, but retributive post-mortem punishment resulting in exclusion from the blessings of God’s future Kingdom for some is a biblically inescapable reality. It will be seen to be right and just and indeed necessary once a new heaven and earth is established under Christ with His saints, in which righteousness shall dwell (2Pet3:13).
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