The argument goes like this: ‘Eternal punishment for seventy years of sin is excessive.’
But is that the way justice works? Do we actually determine the sentence based upon the duration of the crime?
No, we don’t.
If it takes 13 minutes to rob a bank, we don’t sentence the criminal to 13 minutes in prison, do we?
If it takes 10 seconds to drown a baby, do we sentence the murderer to 10 seconds in prison?
No. So there must be something else to justice.
How We Determine Punishment
Let me ask you a question: How much time would you get if you assaulted me with a knife? In Illinois you might get five years in prison.
But what if you assaulted the President with a knife? Would you get the same sentence as if you assaulted me?
Of course not.
We don’t determine justice strictly by the duration of the crime–but by the heinousness of the crime. That’s not all though.
We also determine justice by the dignity of the person you’ve violated. As the case with assaulting me versus assaulting the President, by virtue of his office, the President is endowed with more dignity than I am, thus a crime against him is considered more heinous than a crime against me.
And it’s the same way with God.
The Most Important Question about Eternal Punishment
An infinite and holy God is endowed with infinite dignity. A crime against a being endowed with infinite dignity is not excessive punishment…especially if we are talking about deliberate rebellion and hard-hardheartedness.
However, you might be surprised to learn that you can reach hell without deliberate rebellion. Indeed, we can drift comfortably into hell.
That means the most important question about hell, as about heaven, is the practical one: What roads lead there?
For when we understand the nature of sin and how one commits sin [whether deliberately or not], we see what must be done to avoid it.
The Value of a Fear of Eternal Punishment
Fear of hell is not an inadequate means to salvation. God doesn’t sweep it aside because it’s the best we can muster.
No, even though a motive such as fear of hell may be considered a base motive, God’s graciousness will nonetheless accept it.
In the end, we need to hear about and teach the doctrine of hell for two reasons: honesty and compassion.
The doctrine of hell is in the Bible, most notably in Jesus’ sermons. So we are dishonest if we shy away from it.
We must teach it out of compassion, too. Peter Kreeft says, “When an abyss looms ahead, the least compassionate thing to tell the traveler is ‘peace, peace, when there is no peace.’”
In other words, out of a love for God and a compassion toward man, we should tell the truth about hell.
And forget that we’ll be labeled vindictive fundamentalists. That, my friends, is a small price to pay for an infinitely precious soul.