First, the duration of a crime shouldn’t equal the duration of the punishment. If it only takes 60 seconds to strangle someone to death, the punishment for that crime should not be 60 seconds long! A man might commit murder in the heat of the moment, but this could land him in prison for 50 years.
Second, we shouldn’t look primarily at the violation; instead, we should look at the Person whom we’re violating. The greater the Person we are violating; the greater the punishment. We see this principle in our legal system. Consider stealing twenty dollars from a gas station’s register compared to stealing the same amount of money from a federal bank teller’s drawer. It’s the same violation, but the punishment increases as we consider the institution that we’re violating.
Consider another example. When I was a kid, I used to burn the legs of ants with a magnifying glass under the hot sun. Was this wrong? Maybe. Maybe not. But, consider if it wasn’t ants that I was torturing, but instead, it was dogs. Surely, the punishment would be worse! Now, let’s up the ante. What if it wasn’t ants or dogs that I was torturing? What if it was kids? What would you think then? You probably wouldn’t think too much. You’d probably just tackle me, call the cops, and hope for the best!
Hopefully, you see the point. In each case, the violation was the same, but the object of that violation was different. The greater the being; the greater the punishment. Well, what happens if we sin against the greatest conceivable Being? What should the punishment be then? The Bible says that the punishment for that should be an eternal punishment.
Third, all of us have sinned against God, because we have sinned against people made in his image. Repeatedly, the Bible states that sinning against people is the same as sinning against God himself (Prov. 14:31; Ps. 51:4; Gen. 39:9; Acts 9:4; Mt. 25:31-46; Mk. 2:1-13). To illustrate this principle, imagine going to the park with your son. As you push him on a swing, a bully from the neighborhood walks up and pushes your kid off the swing onto the ground. He then proceeds to kick dirt in his face. As you go to defend your son, the bully turns to you and says, “Whoa mister! This isn’t between me and you. It’s between me and the boy. Back off!” What would you say? Would you respect the bully’s argument?
I doubt it.
In the same way, God views all people on Earth like his children. When we violate people, we cannot say that this is only between us and them. Sinning against them is sinning against God himself. Some people say that they have never sinned against God, but the Bible teaches that God is going to veto this argument, when we stand before him (Mt. 25:31-46).
Fourth, as humans, we don’t understand the punishment for sin, because we don’t understand the severity of sin. Have you ever been saturated in a foul smell for a long amount of time? I used to bus tables in a restaurant, and I would smell like filth for hours on end. After a while, I kind of got used to it. But, as soon as I got around someone outside of work, I would be met with disgusted faces: “Dude! Take a shower! Jeez…”
The same is true with God and man. We are stuck here on Earth, saturated in the filth of sin. We’re lip deep in the muck and mire of sin; we’ve never known anything different. In fact, we’re used to it! Once in a while, something will really gross us out (maybe a rape or murder or something), but usually, we laugh or even joke at most of the sin around us. Is it any wonder why we don’t understand the punishment for sin? Isn’t it obvious? We don’t understand the severity of sin.
Return to original article: “Is Hell Divine Overkill?”