Eternal Punishment for Sins Committed in Life?

The Tuesday feature of the Worldly Saints blog references something I have been reading lately. The post is meant to share some of my reflections from the latest book, magazine article or blog post I have or am reading.


If you are looking for one book to read on the subject of hell, it should be Hell on Trial by Robert Peterson. I remember picking this book up when I was going to school at The Masters Seminary. This is my 3rd time through the book in the last fifteen years and each time I am more and more struck by how much the Bible speaks about hell in contrast to heaven. There are many details about hell in so many different passages of Scripture, and Peterson’s book seems to touch on all of them.

One particular question that has bothered me often about hell and heaven is this: why would God punish or reward for eternity those who reject or believe in a lifetime? In other words, it is “fair” for God to punish those in hell for eternity if they only lived seventy years of rejection? And on the other side, it is right for God to reward those in heaven for eternity for possessing faith in Him for only a small portion of their lives? For example, why does the thief on the cross get to spend eternity in heaven for living 99% of his life for evil and 1% of his life for Christ?

This is a question I am not quite ready to give a real detailed answer to … for this reason: I don’t know if I can understand it quite yet.

It could be that one who rejects or believes or doing so against an eternal God; thus, he will be rewarded or punished eternally for His response to an eternal God.

Or it could be, as one of my friends and fellow elders shared with me this morning, we all choose where we go. People in hell go there knowing the consequences. It’s not a matter of asking “Is it fair?” but concluding, “You knew better than to end up there.”

So I pose the question to you today: how would you deal with this important question?

Feel free to answer in the comment section at the end of this blog or you can email me with your thoughts at If you are reading this on Facebook, feel free to react to it there. I thought I might open up a theological dialogue with any readers who are interested in coming to come definitive answers.



  1. The question you pose creates a problem for me. It presupposes that I am able to understand something at the same level that God understands it. This is not true, in my case at least. God has set it up so that those who believe on His son get to spend eternity with Him in heaven. Those who deny His son get to spend eternity without Him in hell. Since God set this up, it must be fair. To say that I understand how or why it is fair is putting me in a position that I cannot occupy.


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