By Irvin Himmel
It is asserted sometimes that God punished the wicked in Old Testament days, but that He is shown to be loving. and compassionate in the New Testament; therefore, the Old Testament concept of punishment for sin is thought to differ from the New Testament concept.
What Jesus Said:
Let us begin by noting what Jesus Christ said on this important subject. “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). The word for “destroy” that Jesus used here means “to devote or give over to eternal misery” (Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon). “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matt. 23:33). This was the question which our Lord put to the Pharisees and scribes. Depicting the final judgment of the wicked, Jesus said, “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels . . . And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matt. 25:46)_ Our Lord made three points clear in this passage: (1) The wicked will be given “punishment.” (2) It will be “everlasting” punishment. (3) It will be in the “ire” prepared for the devil and his angels.
What Peter Taught:
Now notice what the apostle Peter had to say on this subject. “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly . . . The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (2 Pet. 2:4-9). Peter here gave three arguments to show that God will reserve the unjust to be punished. First, God did not allow sinful angels to escape judgment. Second, He spared not the wicked world of Noah’s day. Third, God condemned Sodom and Gomorrah.
What Paul Wrote:
No writer in the New Testament spoke more clearly on the subject at hand than Paul. “. . . The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 These. 1:7-9). Paul taught that in the judgment God will render to every man according to his deeds. “To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality,” God will render “eternal life.” “But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness,” God will render “indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile” (Rom. 2:6-9).
What John Stated:
We often think of John as the apostle of love because he had so much to say about love, but John, like the Lord and the other apostles, understood that the wicked will be punished in the lake of fire. Hear John’s testimony. “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Rev. 20:10). “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15). “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: Which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8).
All that any of us can know about the punishment which the wicked will receive is what God has disclosed in the Scriptures. If we cannot believe what the Bible says about hell, why believe what it says about heaven, or anything else?
God is loving and kind But at the same time, His divine law demands that there be some penalty for violation. Justice could not be served in the absence of punishment for the wicked: It is for God, not man, to decide on the penalty for sin. Let us not presume to be wiser than God.
Truth Magazine XIX: 11, p. 162
January 23, 1975