I believe all humans have a sense of justice. It started with God. Then the sense of justice was passed from generation to generation through thought and experience. What form it takes and how it is applied has changed over the centuries. Without justice, man would not have survived on this earth for very long. Justice has been distorted, neglected and misapplied countless times, but the fact that we are still here testifies that it’s still at work.
One of the fundamental aspects of justice is that punishment should be applied so it is as close to fitting the crime as possible. If there is an imbalance, it’s not justice.
In the old testament of the bible, it says, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” That was the definition of justice for a long time. Justice requires that payment be made for an offense that costs the offender close to what the offended has lost.
I have been thinking about heaven. Heaven is the dwelling place of God. Heaven is a place of untold joy and love.
When God decided to create this universe and man, Satan had already rebelled and had already been thrown out of heaven. God made the universe perfect, but Satan had access and the ability to influence what God had made.
Satan lost little time before he interfered with God’s perfect universe. He used as his instrument of interference God’s perfect man. Satan convinced the man that God was holding out on him. There was something he would want that God was keeping from him. All he had to do to receive this thing was to reach out and take it. Man listened to Satan and did what God had told him not to do.
Satan had already committed a crime against God. Justice was required. Justice required punishment. The punishment was throwing him out of heaven.
Now Satan had committed another crime. Justice had to be served again. Not only on Satan and his fallen angels, but also on man.
Because of man’s disobedience, all of mankind was now subject to every pain, perversion, violation, sickness, disease, atrocity, genocide, humiliation, and depravity that man and Satan could conjure up. For this crime, Satan and his followers, including man, would be punished.
Punishment fits the crime? Justice?
As far as Satan and his demons are concerned, the punishment is described as being thrown into a lake of fire and burning for eternity. This feels like justice to me… Justice for everyone we have lost to sickness, disease or accident… every child we have lost… everyone that has been the victim of someone else’s cruelty… every victim of a crime.
Everything in this world that is bad can be traced back to Satan. Eternal torture and writhing in a lake of fire forever probably describes a punishment that fits the crime.
What about man? His crime was disobeying God by taking a bite from a piece of fruit God told him not to touch. By that simple act, man became aware of the difference between good and evil. Before man disobeyed God, evil did not exist in the perfect universe. After he disobeyed, evil became a reality. Evil entered the universe and was free to spread death and destruction.
One man committed a crime that would subject all future men to evil. This crime required justice. The punishment the man received for his crime was that now he would die. All his family after him would die. After he and all those that came after him died, they would be sent to a place of fire and torture to share in Satan’s punishment forever.
A punishment that fits the crime?
Because of Gods grace and love for man, He provided man a way to escape the punishment justice demanded. This escape is not available to Satan and his fallen angels. Justice could be satisfied by the sacrifice of a man…a son of man…without any evil in him…a son of God. This sacrifice would not only restore man to a place of perfection, but every man that accepted this sacrifice of God’s son would be released from the eternal punishment and fire that was going to be their future. When they died, they would go to be with God in heaven.
By the act of one man, every man is subject to punishment. By the act of one Man, every man can avoid punishment.
Punishment to fit the crime?
The act of one man caused all men to be punished, no
matter how bad or good they were. The act of another one Man has provided a way for some men to avoid being punished. Is justice still served?
When Adam sinned, every man that came after him would be punished.
When Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross and rose from the dead, some men could avoid being punished. Those that accepted Jesus would not be punished.
After Adam, just being a member of humanity meant that, when you died, you would go to punishment.
After Jesus, if you accepted what He did, when you died, you would go to heaven. If you didn’t accept Him, either by choice or lack of knowledge, you would go to punishment.
Is justice served by punishing people that don’t know God?
The bible seems to indicate that God can be known by everyone.
In the bible, Romans 1: 18 says this;
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
The punishment fitting the crime.
The punishment that awaits Satan and all his followers is called hell.
Hell is described as a lake of fire. That sounds terrible. Hard to imagine. Your body burning for eternity. That fate sounds appropriate for Satan and his entourage. But for people that made the choice to ignore God and His Son to suffer that kind of fate seems inappropriate and extreme. It doesn’t seem like the punishment fits the crime.
As I thought about that, some lines from a play came to my mind. The play is called,” Doctor Faustus.”
In the play, Doctor Faustus is a man that has reached the summit of knowledge. He has spent his entire life on the pursuit of knowledge and now he is very old. He decides he will now abandon the search of knowledge and pursue the pleasures of life. He makes the choice to expose himself to the dark arts. Soon he discovers a way to conjure up Satan. He says some strange words and before him appears Mephistopheles, the agent of Satan. After some conversation, Faustus tells the demon he desires a few things. He wants to be 24 years old again and live another 24 years. He wants money and power. After a few more requests, Mephistopheles agrees to give Faustus what he has asked for. There is just one condition. It will cost Doctor Faustus his soul.
Faustus thinks about it and decides the price is worth it. After signing a contract in blood, Faustus finds all his wishes have come true. He is young again. Everything he asked for is there. He soon discovers that the pleasures of life do not satisfy for very long. He begins to question his decision. He finds he has made a terrible mistake. He wrestles with himself, going back and forth. One minute trying to justify what he has done, the next minute trying to find a way out.
At one point, he questions the demon about hell. The demon responds with some hollow answers. Faustus pursues the question further. Faustus reasons, “Hell cannot be so bad. Here we are, talking and reasoning together. You are free to leave hell and come here as you will.”
Suddenly, Faustus notices tears begin to roll down Mephistopheles face. He looks at Faustus with an expression of despair and utter hopelessness. He tells him,
“This is hell, nor am I out of it.
Do you think that I, who saw the face of God
And tasted the eternal joys of heaven,
Am not tormented with ten thousand hells
In being deprived of everlasting bliss?”
It may be that this punishment that he describes is more terrible than an eternal lake of fire.
I believe that every person will meet God, both good and bad. The ones that accepted the free gift of Jesus will be ushered into heaven and be with God forever. Those that did not receive Jesus will see the truth about who He is and what He is. They will get a glimpse of the true love and joy that they will be separated from for eternity. They will realize all that God has done to pursue them and save them from an eternal hell. They will realize that they turned their back on Him and ignored Him. They will get a taste of just how much God loves them and how close they came to an eternal paradise with Him and disregarded it as carelessly as if they were throwing away trash. After seeing and feeling all that they could have enjoyed, to then be ushered out of God’s presence, with no possible way to see and feel the joy of heaven again forever sounds like hell to me.
I don’t know about the punishment fitting the crime. I just know that God loves us all and either we will realize it and embrace what He has done for us and discover all He has in store for us, or we will ignore Him and suffer the consequences forever. Whatever the consequences for ignoring Him are, it will be hell.