But What About Punishment?

(First, see my previous article, “Christianese Substitutions Part 3 - “Hell” which reviews the actual Hebrew and Greek words that “hell” is substituted for throughout the Bible, and their meanings.)

I understand the need or want for punishment for people who hurt people; what about murderers, torturers, rapists and thieves (and those of us who allowed people we voted for to do those things? 😐 ) Paul of Tarsus might add other things such as his list in Romans 1:28:

“God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

Which shows of course that we are ALL sinners (which God gave us over to, actually his letter is written specifically to Romans who returned to pagan practices: 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.”). Paul continues in Romans 2 and 3, expanding his arc that spans the whole letter:

1 “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”....

3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and ALL are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

So it’s obviously not up to us.  But there are two main issues with even God punishing people in a “hell” of eternal torture:

1) For anyone who believes in “substitutionary atonement,” or the basic Christian concept that Jesus paid for all sins on the cross, what is God going to condemn anyone for?  If he would punish someone for murder, Jesus already paid for that! And for lies and torture and everything else! Oh, it’s not about that? So hell is for people who don’t believe that he did that? It’s true that if we don’t believe that we’ve been saved from sin, we’re still living IN it. But who totally believes it, every minute of every day? Unbelief is also a flaw, a shortcoming, a sin, and Jesus paid for that too! I don’t see how we avoid the conclusion that if he died to pay for our sins, the sins are paid for, there is no sin left and we are all free. Which is, of course, the WHOLE POINT OF THE GOOD NEWS!  (Literally “whole” because we are one with God NOW!)

Note that another word for judgment is “assessment.” The purpose of judges is not mainly to punish (although it may be necessary, given lack of other recourse); they are to make things right and fair, such as getting restitution, and i think we’d all agree that rehabilitation is a goal, in order that harm doesn’t continue to occur. What is the proper punishment for spilling milk? Clean it up, wash and dry anything that got milk on it, and replace the spilt milk. NOT an eternal fire.

2) Sin AND BELIEF, are a matter of degree. Would it be fair to punish a mass murderer the same as someone who just told a few lies and had some selfish thoughts? Torturing them both for eternity is definitely NOT justice. Even if Adolf Hitler had to pay for all of his sins, feel every bit of pain of every victim, along with their extended families and friends, and all those he coerced to hurt others; how long would that take?  Even if it took a gazillion years of mass pain and despair, that is nowhere close to eternity. Keeping him in “hell” longer than that would NOT BE FAIR. (You're right if you say “let God be the judge,” but you know this is also right!).

(Let’s also note that, if you are mad at someone for killing a friend or relative, and want them punished - from the instant that God created the universe, there never has been any reality in which they didn’t get killed by that person at that instant. The main reason it hurts is because we didn’t know, or didn’t think it would happen, and we didn’t have time to prepare emotionally. This gets into omnipotence, foreknowledge and free will, which is a topic for a whole set of encyclopedias, but not here.)

In another article i’ll get to the oneness of opposites, but briefly the concept, represented by yin/yang as well as the ”tree of the experience of function and dysfunction” in Genesis, shows that tall/short. light/dark, good/bad as well as belief/unbelief and all such pairs, exist as two ends of each shoelace, and they can’t be cut in “half.” To demonstrate this take a piece of paper, noticing that it has a left half and a right half. Rip off the left half and throw it away. Notice that the remaining piece still has a left half! Not that Dr. Phil is so wise, but he makes sense when he says “no matter how flat you make a pancake, it still has two sides.” For another comparable, if you got rid of all “short” people, meaning they are in the short half of all height measurements, note that of everyone remaining, half of them are still short, given the new range. Even if only two people existed, one of them will be the short one. If they are exactly the same height, there is no such thing as tall or short for people.

Knowing the facts about God, Jesus, etc. doesn’t help us since the demons know the facts and it doesn’t save them. But for humans in 3-D land, believing in Jesus is not a yes or no proposition. I can commit my life to Jesus at one point, but if ten minutes later i flip someone off on the freeway, in that moment i have decided not to follow Jesus; and that battle, that learning curve continues throughout our lives. If we really believe IN Jesus (who he is, what he says and does) it means we act the way he did and according to what he told us, and love our neighbors as ourselves 100% of every day exactly according to what he says.  If i really believed IN it, i would do it. But nobody can, "down here" in 3-D. It is why we see both actions (works) and beliefs being specified as what we are assessed by in the Bible.

The following applies whether we (or God) are judging actions, or beliefs:
In the mix of all the people who ever lived, suppose a trillion, and suppose we each have a trillion thoughts and actions during our lives, then by math/chance at least a few somewhere in existence either acted, or believed, half good/correct and half bad/wrong, or committed themselves half to Jesus and acted selfishly the other half of the time. So they’d be rated at 50% good and 50% bad. What about the next guy, who had one more bad thought during his life, or believed one less iota of correct doctrine, or said a slightly less nice thing to the barrista at Starbucks that one day, or believed one iota less that Jesus loves him and died for his sins, so his rating is 49.99999999999999% good, or committed, or doctrinally correct. Would it be fair to send one to an eternal hell and the other to eternal bliss? Absolutely NOT, and you know it!

And if it could be as simple as “accepting Jesus as your Lord and savior” or even “giving your life to him” one time, what about people who just don’t get it during their 80 years of life? My grandfather was a good person, to a fault, in every way possible, although yeah he had some ways about him, for instance being obsessively organized, that could make it hard for others sometimes, i’m just saying that of course he wasn’t perfect. But as an engineer his mind just didn’t seem to be able to grasp the existence of a supreme being that he couldn’t see or touch. How is that his fault?

Some have heard about Jesus as they grew up in churches and had plenty of opportunities to hear about Him in different ways. Some have heard about Jesus from a religious parent(s) who beat and abused them. Or, from a Christian on the freeway who flipped them off. Others, maybe natives living far from “civilization,” may have heard about Jesus once, possibly from some less-than-empathetic missionaries, or agape missionaries. People say that those who haven’t heard about Jesus in life will hear about Him during their death before it all comes down. I’m not sure about that, is Jesus going to hold a seminar in Hades? But in no way does everyone hear about Jesus or God equally, with an equal chance of “getting it.” How is that fair? Sure, God would take that into consideration, but once again it’s a matter of degree (of opportunity in this case).

The only conclusion for me, is that it has to be a matter of degree - the more we know God, the more we are in ITs presence, the more we are in eternal bliss - and the less we know IT, the more we are in despair, emptiness, separated from eternal Love.  I’m not sure how our bodies would be recreated, for example how “old” we’d be, after we’ve already rotted in the ground or been cremated. So it could be our souls in this condition, in the Spirit world/afterlife.

I have to believe that if we exist beyond our physical death, we will all see the truth of everything we’ve ever done, and feel accordingly. The worse we’ve been, the worse we’ll feel when we all know it, that is we would by definition suffer for what we’ve done. But how long would that last in the presence of almighty Love? i find it hard to believe that any soul could be in the presence of YHWH and not immediately give in to the overwhelming presence mind-blowing, soul-fulfilling pure and absolute LOVE, and not drop right to the ground and scream at the top of their lungs YOU ARE AWESOME!

As it says in Romans 14:11:

“It is written: "'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.'"”
Verse 11 is sandwiched between
10 For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. and
12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
But then we’re back to: what is God going to judge us on, and how will IT make it fair?

I didn’t necessarily set out to make a case for universalism, but here is another great article, noting how often the Bible says ALL!

God bless you ALL, and live in Love!

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