Some people say that there shouldn’t be any punishment in Christianity, in view of the fact that we are now living in the age of grace, and that if punishment does exist, it will be in heaven, and not on earth. Is this true?. Is punishment incompatible wi
Divine grace cannot be in conflict with divine justice. God’s grace is not at the expense of His justice, nor is it diminished by it!
We should not just imagine God as being loving in the New Testament, and vengeful in the Old. God is the same yesterday, today and for ever… He was loving in the Old Testament, yet punished sin, and He is loving in the New Testament, where He also punishes.
David said about the God who punished in the Old Testament:
“He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us”. (Ps. 103:10-12)
In the New Testament, the love of God was made manifest on the cross, totally blended with His justice, “abounding in love and faithfulness. ” (Ps. 86:5).
God’s justice and His punishing appear in the Bible, in many parables in the New Testament. and have appeared throughout history.
Probably one of the most striking examples of His punishment to men is the story of Ananias and Sapphira.
They received their punishment from God through the mouth of the apostle Peter. Ananias dropped down dead, because he had lied against the Holy Spirit, and when his wife, Sapphira, joined in that lie, Peter said to her: ” How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things. ” (Acts 5:9-10).
The punishment of Ananias and Sapphira took place on earth. It wasn’t confined to the afterlife.
The same goes for the punishment of Elymas the Sorceror, for he opposed Saul and Barnabas, so that Saul was filled with the Holy Spirit and said to him: ” you enemy of all righteousness,… And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time.” And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand.. ” (Acts 13:10-12).
One of the punishments which is famous in Christianity is that of ostracism.
St. Paul rebuked the people of Corinth for not punishing the sinner in their midst, saying to them: ” I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; not even to eat with such a person. ” (1 Cor. 5:11). And he also said to them: ” put away from yourselves the evil person ” (1 Cor. 5:13).
The apostle who spoke most about love, St. John, also spoke about this punishment of ostracism, saying: ” If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds..” (2 John 1:10-11).
One of the hardest punishments of the New Testament was that of the sinner of Corinth. For St. Paul said: ” For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus..” (1 Cor. 5:3-5).
So, here is another instance of punishment taking place on earth.
One of the famous punishments also in Christianity was that with which God punished King Herod for being proud.
When the King approved of the people’s saying to him: ” The voice of a god and not of a man!” Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.. (Acts 12:22-23).
There are many punishments described in the Book of Revelation, such as the punishments which will strike the earth when the seven angels sound their trumpets. John says that after the fourth angel’s trumpet: ” And I looked, and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!” (Rev. 8:13). And there are a lot more punishments described in this Book too!
The Lord Jesus Christ mentioned punishment at the beginning of his Sermon on the Mount,
He said: ” But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. ” (Matt. 5:22) So here is a form of punishment which was to be carried out on earth, which was different from the punishment of ” But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire ” (Matt. 5:22).
Then there is the punishment of excommunication, or eternal condemnation.
According to St. Paul: ” But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:8-9)
I should like to add, though, that punishment can be a sign of love. The Bible says: ” For whom the LORD loves He chastens. ” (Heb. 12:6). Thus punishment is not incompatible with love, and does not contradict the work of heavenly grace, for punishment has often been the reason for souls to come to their senses, to wake up and safeguard their eternal life. This is real love, for if the sinner were to be left on earth without love, he would probably end up in a state of indifference and not caring, and thus perish, which would not accord with God’s love for sinners.
The Church rules are full of punishments for sinners.
These rules have been laid down by the Spirit of God, through the Apostolic Fathers and the holy councils, and the great saintly Fathers. They include lots of penalties, and come within the framework of the belief of the Orthodox Christian.
But they do not differ from the spirit of the Bible, as I have said.
The lowest level of the well-known punishments is that of reprimand.
St. Paul said to his disciple Titus: ” exhort, and rebuke with all authority. ” (Titus 2:15). And in fact he also said: ” Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all… ” (1 Tim. 5:20) As for anyone who dislikes this punishment, the Bible has this to say to him: ” Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. ” (Prov. 9:8).
The work of divine grace is not to pamper or to spoil, but to strengthen, to correct, to refine and to lead the soul to God’s love.
Punishment can be of benefit in doing this, whereas to spoil the soul by being soft on it, might well ruin it.
The Lord’s love which was manifested on the cross, also leads us to the cross.