Degrees of Punishment
Of Course There is Hell, but Do Punishments
In the Next Life Vary According to Accountability?
1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each man will get his praise from God.
2 Corinthians 5:8,10-11 We are courageous, I say, and are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord. . . . For we must all be revealed before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord . . .
Scripture is clear that even those who are truly born again will be held accountable for their actions. The existence of heaven and hell does not mean there is just a single uniform reward and a single punishment in the next life. The Bible is clear that rewards and punishments vary considerably according the wide variations in faithfulness and accountability that exist in the human race. In this page, we will focus on varying punishments and in a link at the end you will a discussion of varying positive rewards.
Punishment varying according to accountability is alluded to in the words of Jesus:
Luke 12:47-48 That servant, who knew his lordís will, and didnít prepare, nor do what he wanted, will be beaten with many stripes, but he who didnít know, and did things worthy of stripes, will be beaten with few stripes. To whomever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked.
Jesus again also alluded to greater exposure to Godís grace leaving one open to greater judgment if ignored when he said:
John 15:22,24 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have had sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. . . . If I hadnít done among them the works which no one else did, they wouldnít have had sin. But now have they seen and also hated both me and my Father.
Matthew 11:23-24 You, Capernaum . . . you will go down to Hades. For if the mighty works had been done in Sodom which were done in you, it would have remained until today. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom, on the day of judgment, than for you.
Having witnessed Jesusí miracles made Capernaum even more accountable than the sinful city of Sodom that had not been blessed with a personal visit from Jesus. This greater demonstration of Godís power and kindness (healings and teaching) exposed the inhabitants of Capernaum to greater punishment when they did not change. Hence, ďit will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgmentĒ than for these people. Our kindness to the undeserving similarly increases the stakes for them.
Again, the book of Hebrews suggests degrees of punishment:
Hebrews 10:28-29 A man who disregards Mosesí law dies without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think he will be judged worthy of who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant with which he was sanctified an unholy thing, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
Punishment might sometimes mean reduced rewards rather than torment and this is possibly what the following refers to. Nevertheless, it implies there is more than just one punishment and one reward:
James 3:1 Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment.
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Varying Heavenly Rewards
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