Soulbook: Will the Soul Be Punished for Sin?
What if we were not punished for sin? Would the world be a better place or a worse place? Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, in The Brothers Karamazov (1880), had one of his characters (Ivan) say that in the absence of God, everything is allowed. But, is that what we see in the world? Is sin punishable and how does the Soul relate and react to this punishment? Some people look at sin in the same way they see the eastern concept of karma. Karma basically goes by the adage of “what goes around, comes around.” In other words, if you wrong someone or commit a crime and are not caught or punished for it immediately, you will eventually suffer for it because karma is going to get you! But, is this an accurate picture of punishment? Is there basically just some great equalizer that ensures that people receive justice or is there something more?
The first question you have to get past before discovering if sin is punishable is: Does sin exist? French existential philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre, wrote: “Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself…. Nor, on the other hand, if God does not exist, are we provided with any values or commands that could legitimize our behavior.” If God does not exist, then neither does sin. Bertrand Russell wrote: “We feel that the man who brings widespread happiness at the expense of misery to himself is a better man than the man who brings unhappiness to others and happiness to himself. I do not know of any rational ground for this view, or, perhaps, for the somewhat more rational view that whatever the majority desires (called utilitarian hedonism) is preferable to what the minority desires. These are truly ethical problems, but I do not know of any way in which they can be solved, except by politics or war. All that I can find to say on this subject is that an ethical opinion can only be defended by an ethical axiom, but, if the axiom is not accepted, there is no way of reaching a rational conclusion.” There must be objective morality in order to call something “right” or “wrong”. In his book, Does God Exist?, A.E. Taylor wrote: “But it is an undeniable fact that men do not merely love and procreate, they also hold that there is a difference between right and wrong; there are things which they ought to do and other things which they ought not to do. Different groups of men, living under different conditions and in different ages, may disagree widely on the question whether a certain thing belongs to the first or the second of these classes. They may draw the line between right and wrong in a different place, but at least they all agree that there is such a line to be drawn.” Basically, everyone agrees that some things (murder, rape, child abuse) are objectively, morally wrong. Even the Gentiles, who had no written law, understood this. Paul wrote, in Romans 2:14-15: “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another.” The natural order of our world and universe makes right and wrong obvious. There is no rational world in which sin/evil does not exist. As a result, one must conclude that sin will affect the soul adversely. But, what is this affect and how does it relate to the soul?
All of the answers to sin and punishment really culminate in Who makes the rules. Because of Who He is as Creator and because of what He has done by saving the souls of all people who accept the free gift of grace, God has the right to establish the moral/ethical laws that people are to follow, and to establish the punishment for any violation of those laws that might occur. Punishment for disobedience of this moral code, however, can take one of three forms—preventative, remedial, or retributive. Preventative punishment is a penalty to keep others from breaking God’s law (e.g., soldiers who refused to obey a lawful order from a superior officer being court-martialed). Preventative punishment was evident in the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira after they lied about their donation to the church (Acts 5; note verse 11: “And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard these things”). Remedial punishment is
intended as a penalty to incite improvement in the person being punished (e.g., a school child being forced to accomplish remedial work or summer school in order to be promoted to the next grade). Remedial punishment can be seen in passages like Hebrews 12:6-7, where the writer told the church: “For whom the Lord loves He punishes, and scourges every son whom He receives. It is for chastening that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not punish?” Retributive punishment is a penalty that is deserved (e.g., a person being jailed for stealing or otherwise breaking the law). Paul, in referring to Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 32:35, reminded the first-century Christians who were undergoing severe persecution: “‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). The soul will receive punishment if the sin remains. Again, sin can only be removed by washing with Christ and can never be scrubbed away, wished away, prayed away, or burned away. The soul will notice preventative punishment from the experiences of others and will not wish to experience the same guilt and suffering. Our souls will occasionally go through remedial suffering while on Earth. This type of punishment, as most punishment, is an expression of God’s love for us. Parents use remedial and preventative punishment often to correct their children. This ensures that their children learn from their mistakes and grow up to be law abiding citizens. Of course, retributive punishment can be momentary on Earth or eternal. As souls of God, we must take this type of punishment very seriously.
God’s love is eternal and His judgments are just. Charles H. Spurgeon once said: “When men talk of a little hell, it is because they think they have only a little sin, and they believe in a little Savior. But when you get a great sense of sin, you want a great Savior, and feel that if you do not have Him, you will fall into a great destruction, and suffer a great punishment at the hands of the great God.” God’s love and justice are both infinite. Paul stated in Romans 5:10: “But God commends His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.” This is an expression of awesome, infinite, and almost incomprehensible love. It’s a love we may never fully understand until we see Him face to face. A great look into this love is seen on the cross, when Jesus said: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). God could not look upon His son due to sin. Jesus’ own soul was obscured by our sin and He took this burden for us. Christ suffered the wrath of God so that mankind would not have to endure that wrath. In the Garden of Gethsemane, as Peter drew his sword to defend his Lord, Jesus turned to him and asked: “The cup which the Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11). The cup Jesus took for us will be poured out on our souls, obscuring us and separating us from God if we do not obey the Gospel. Ultimately, the soul who dies in sin suffers what we see in Hebrews 10:28-29: “Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?” I don’t know about you, but outraging the Spirit of grace sounds like a really bad idea. Why would someone want to do that and reject Jesus? What does the soul that does this look like, and how would it survive?
There is such a thing as evil, and sin obscures the soul from God. Like a window that is dirty, we cannot see God and He will not look upon us when we are in sin. There is a division there that causes us to be out of right standing with Him. It’s a division that only has one Cure. God makes the rules as Creator. Our image/soul is guided by these laws. Without the moral law by which we abide, the world and even the universe could not continue. Nothing would make sense. As there is law and order in us, there is law and order that God has established throughout His whole creation that makes right, right and wrong, wrong. His love and justice are infinite. Our souls are eternal in the context of His love. If we lose the connection between ourselves and God by living outside of Jesus, we are simply allowing ourselves to be disconnected from the Power that gives our souls life. Without this sustainment, we will lose our souls to eternal death. In the context of God’s love and Who He is, the word “punishment” really is not the word we should look for, since it indicates that God wants to make us hurt. God doesn’t want anyone to be punished or to hurt, especially eternally. But, God lets us have the choice to place ourselves in that position. It is an amazing expression of love, but it leaves us with a choice. God loves us and desires to be near us. We separate ourselves from Him by our sin. Jesus’ sacrifice makes our souls whole. If we make the choice to be near to God, we can be; and He will not let anything or anyone take that away. If we make the other choice, we must accept the consequences.