5 Things the Bible Says about the Punishment of God

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5 Things the Bible Says about the Punishment of God

Nestled in fiery colored flames, the bold, uppercase words on the highway's billboard, "TURN BEFORE YOU BURN," caught my attention. I understood the intent—to provoke an intense sense of urgency to accept Christ or spend eternity in hell.

Although the message was sincere, the approach didn't sit well with me. Shouldn't God's love, not His judgment, cause sinners to repent and believe? What about grace and mercy? Hadn't most modern evangelicals decided that the "fire and brimstone" approach was outdated and ineffective?

The truth: God is love, mercy, and grace, and He is also a consuming fire whose anger burns because of sin. God hates sin. In today's politically correct, easily-offended culture, the subject of judgment and hell is taboo, even among believers.

No, we can't "scare people into Heaven;” only genuine repentance and belief in Jesus Christ saves one from eternal separation from God. By ignoring the reality that we are sinners who deserve God's wrath, we cheapen the cost of God's gift, His son, who purchased our redemption by sacrificing His spotless, sinless life so we can stand blameless before God the Father. To accept this great gift, we must see our need to be saved.

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<strong>1. We Deserve God's Punishment</strong>

1. We Deserve God's Punishment

"For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24 NIV)

Upon accepting Jesus, I knew that I was a sinner in need of salvation, which is only possible through a right relationship with God through Christ. I went to God filled with remorse and regret. However, in time, I climbed my spiritual "high horse," convincing myself that now justified, my everyday sins weren't all "that bad," especially when compared to others. I even believed that because I served in church, took meals to the sick and controlled my temper, I deserved more of God's favor. Wrong. Romans 3 says that every human being falls short of God's glory, even on our "best" days. We all deserve God's punishment because we sin, but the penalty for our sin was transferred from us to Christ by the atoning and finished work of His Son on the cross. Thereby, believers are spared (“saved”) from damnation, cast out for eternity, separated from God. 

2. God Is a Righteous Judge

"God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.” (Psalms 7:11 ESV)

When skimming news headlines, scrolling through social media or simply reading over the needs at my church, I fail to see God's "righteousness"  and "indignation" at work. It appears that the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer (Psalm 73), making it easy to believe that life's not fair and God should simply "set things right." However, because we are finite, bound by time and space, we only glimpse small pieces of the eternal picture. God is eternal, limitless and long-suffering. He knows the beginning, the end and all things in-between. Everything—good and bad—is working for His glory and our good.

Unlike His creation, God alone is holy and righteous, completely without sin. Therefore, He alone can rightly judge both the wicked and the righteous. He promises that one day those who do not repent and turn to Christ as Lord and Savior will be judged and will pay for their sins and unbelief. Indignation is anger provoked by something unjust, and the psalmist says that this is a daily occurrence for God. Although God's aversion to and hatred for sin is constant, His wrath does not burn against the redeemed, those washed in the blood of the Lamb. In God's time, when Christ returns, He will pour out His righteous anger and judge all who denied Him and rejected His Son as Savior.

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<strong>3. God's Punishment Is Both Temporary and Everlasting</strong>

3. God's Punishment Is Both Temporary and Everlasting

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2 NIV)

Christ's death saves those who trust in Him from the eternal consequences of sin, but it doesn't free us from the consequences of sinful choices. The names of men and women recorded in the "Hall of Faith'' chapter (Hebrews 11), provides a clear reminder that although spiritual "giants," their sins caused them much heartache and suffering throughout their lives. Notwithstanding, their faith was counted as righteousness; therefore, they escaped the eternal consequences of their rebellion against God. No longer condemned and bound by sin, they are set free in Christ, the Messiah.

Albeit, some people seem to completely dodge punishment for wicked deeds committed while living out their lives on earth. Nonetheless, the Bible makes it plain: unless they repent and turn to God, they will not escape eternal punishment, no matter how heinous or "palpable" their sins. "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words, you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37 NIV).

4. God Disciplines Those He Loves

My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:11-12 NIV)

As a child, I despised hearing my parents state that they didn't enjoy punishing me. But now, as a parent, I understand the truth in those words. Our heavenly Father is no different. He's no monster waiting for His children to mess up so He can dole out punishment. He doesn't delight in our disobedience, but out of love, He “chastens” us, allowing us to suffer the consequences of our rebellion. Why?

Discipline is for our good; it’s meant to correct wrong behavior and attitudes. Nothing restores disobedient children to their parents like the application of proper discipline. The subsequent fellowship is sweet and tender. We often turn to God when at our lowest, when we find ourselves drowning in a pit of despair of our own making. Not until we reach the point of utter desperation do we acknowledge our need for a Savior and accept the consequences of our sin. What a fellowship and joy divine when restored to a right relationship with our Heavenly Father! When Christ returns, our bodies and souls will be made fully new, and we will sin no more. Ever.

5. All Who Accept Christ Will Escape Eternal Punishment and Have Eternal Life

"Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16 ESV)

Although the subject of hell makes people uncomfortable, it is real, and those who refuse to believe the testimony of Jesus Christ will be condemned to spend eternity in hell.

Only God knows whose name is written in the Book of Life, who will repent and receive the gift of eternal life through faith in Christ. Therefore, let us be the blessed feet that take the Good News to others (Romans 10:15), lest anyone should perish. The gospel is straightforward: God's son died on the cross for our sins; He was dead, buried and rose to life on the third day (I Corinthians 15:3-4). Salvation comes to all who believe this to be true.

The enemy walks the earth to destroy God’s creation by countering and confusing the gospel message (John 10:10), for Satan knows that one day, God will cast Him down into the lake of fire forever. But take heart, "If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).

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Laura Bailey headshotLaura Bailey is deeply burdened for Christian women who, like herself, juggle marriage, motherhood, careers, church, and community. She candidly shares her daily struggles and lessons learned to encourage them to live fully and abundantly in Christ. She and her husband live in Gaffney, South Carolina with their three young girls. Connect with Laura on her blog, www.LauraRBailey.com or on Facebook and Instagram: @LauraBaileyWrites