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Degrees of Punishment in Hell?

The glory of God and the pride of man will collide at one of two crash sites: hell or the cross.

As we wrap-up Revelation this week, someone asked:

Are there degrees of punishment in hell?

Great question! Here's a short stab at it:


Jesus frequently spoke about hell as a place where rebellious and lawbreaking people face righteous judgment. In several passages (like Matt 5:22; 8:12; 10:28; 13:42; 24:51; 23:33; 25:30; Mark 9:43–48; Luke 13:28), Jesus uses strong language of wrath, retribution, and punishment, emphasizing that God, as a just sovereign, must judge sinners.

In one of his parables (Luke 16) about a rich man and Lazarus, Jesus vividly illustrates divine judgment in hell. The rich man, immediately after death, finds himself in the flames of hell, pleading for relief from his torment. Meanwhile, Lazarus is depicted as being in comfort in the presence of Abraham. This parable highlights the severity of divine judgment.

Throughout his teachings, Jesus employs vivid imagery to emphasize the severity of hell:

1. Fire: Jesus often speaks of the punishment awaiting the unrepentant as "eternal fire" (Matt 25:41).

2. Outer Darkness: This term symbolizes separation from God's presence and the despair of eternal punishment (Matt 8:12).

3. Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth: Descriptive language showing the anguish and regret of those facing judgment (Matt 13:42).

Jesus also teaches that hell's severity varies for different individuals, based on their knowledge and actions. He warns that those who reject him despite witnessing his miracles will face harsher judgment (Matt 11:20-24).

In Hebrews 10:29-31, the severity of punishment for those who reject God's grace is clearly taught, highlighting God's righteous judgment.

Other New Testament passages, like Matthew 12:36-37, Luke 12:47-48, and Romans 2:5, reinforce this idea of varying degrees of punishment based on individual actions and knowledge.

John Piper draws five conclusions based on these passages:

"1. The more light you have, the more knowledge you have, the more truth you have, the worse your sin and punishment at rejecting it. That’s right there in the texts.

2. The more kindness God shows you, not just in giving you light in truth but in, for example, giving you many undeserved pleasures in this life, the more grievous will be your unbelief and sin, and the worse will be your punishment in hell.

3. If rejection of more and more light and kindness makes suffering worse in hell, then I infer that the more days you do this, the worse it will be. In other words, time comes into the picture. Day after day after day, you keep on rejecting light after light after light, kindness after kindness after kindness. The longer this goes on, the worse things are going to be.

4. There are kinds of sins that are more heinous, more destructive, more blasphemous than others, so that not only the amount of sinning over time makes things worse, but also the degree of ugliness and horror, heinousness, and blasphemy also increases the suffering.

5. In all of this, there’s a greater or lesser degree of high-handedness, arrogance — greater arrogance, greater conscious defiance and insolence, and therefore a consequent greater degree of punishment."

Source: https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/is-everyone-punished-the-same-in-hell 

While the concept of hell may not be popular today, it's crucial to uphold Jesus' teachings and those of the New Testament. We must remind those delaying coming to Christ that every day of sin accumulates more judgment. The warning echoes through history, like in Jonathan Edwards' famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." (Listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtHijgqceXo)

In short, in Matthew 10:28, Jesus urges us to fear God, who has the power to destroy both body and soul in hell.