Sin is primarily against God and all that is good and holy; even before humanity sinned God clearly spelt out the facts, “You are not to eat...if you do...” (Gen 2:17). When God says, ‘don’t’ and we persist in disobeying we must face the consequences of that rebellious decision – “The soul that sins [disobeys] must die” (Ezek 18:4,20; Rom 6:23). God, who must be faithful to His own rules, declared, “You will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you” (Num 14:34). He is a God of love but also of justice, and as all sin is ultimately against Him, He has the right to punish (Ps 7:11; Ps 51:4). David acknowledged that even though God would punish He also showed great mercy (2 Sam 24:14). God doesn’t punish (chastise) out of anger but with the aim of correcting and restoring fellowship with us again, although the bias of sinful man is wickedness continually (Gen 6:5,6; Ps 94:12; Heb 12:5-11). It is important to hear accurately and obey exactly what God says. Rebellion against God and human authority results in undesirable outcomes and we shouldn’t complain when punished for sin (Lam 3:39). We can’t flout Biblical principles or disobey God and not pay the price. Moses was told to speak to the rock; instead, he hit it with his rod. Because he dishonoured God before the people, he was punished by not being allowed to enter Canaan (Num 20:8-12). Through the exile God used the wicked Babylonians as His means to inflict punishment on His people when they had sinned, yet later He would also punish the Babylonians for their evil ways (Jer 25:11-14; Hab 1:13, 2:6-8).
Some punishment is swift and in other cases, it seems to be slow in coming (Ps 73:1-28; Act 5:1-11). Ultimately, there is punishment for sin, if not in this life certainly in eternity. God says, “I will punish the wicked for their sin” (Isa 13:11; Jer 21:40). Everyone will be judged “According to what they have done as recorded in the books” (Rev 20:11-15).
Sin must be punished because God is holy
such an incredible price that technically, we are no longer our own property, we are His (Isa 53:4ff; 2 Cor 5:15; 1 Pet 1:18,19).
When as a believer we have done wrong, acknowledged the sin by truly repenting before God, and live a changed life, He will forgive us and that sin will be removed from our record in heaven, Jesus having paid for our sin. However, we will still suffer the earthly consequences of the wrong doing (Ps 51:1,9; Isa 43:25; Rom 14:12; 2 Cor 5:10; 1 Jn 1:9). Meanwhile the unbelievers who refuse to acknowledge Jesus and receive salvation will suffer eternal punishment (Mt 25:31-46; Jn 3:16-19; 2 Thes 1:8,9). Believers are those who in effect have said to the Lord, ‘your will be done’. In contrast unbelievers are those to whom God says, ‘your will be done – you have rejected my offer of salvation and want nothing to do with me. I will respect that choice of yours and banish you from my presence forever in the only other place there is – the lake of fire’. Maybe there are different levels of punishment in the place of torment, however to be doomed forever to a slightly less hot area of the lake of fire is not much of a consolation (Lk 12:47,48). We should be actively telling the lost about the only way to heaven while warning them of the punishment that awaits them in the lake of fire if they do not repent.
Punishment should result in changed behaviour
anger or frustration. If we receive unjust punishment for something we didn’t do, it is to God’s glory if we take it in the right spirit, for even Jesus was treated this way and entrusted Himself to God’s righteous judgement (1 Pet 2:19-24).
Consequences are the result or effect of previous actions and should bring about positive choices in the future, while punishment is the penalty inflicted as retribution for an offence.