Does eternal punishment deny God's justice?


Some of the proponents of Universalism maintain that eternal punishment cannot be true because if God eternally damned someone, it would mean that the punishment would never be complete.  Therefore, God is not satisfied, His judgment is not realized, and justice is never accomplished.

The first problem with this objection is the idea that God's eternal judgment necessarily must have an end.  If it is eternal punishment, then it wouldn't end. "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life," (Matt. 25:46).  Not all judgments and punishments end.  Consider a person who is executed for a capital crime.  His punishment is death.  In effect, it is a judgment that is eternal.  The judgment is completed by the accomplishment of a sentence: execution.  The sentence has an eternal duration which will not end, and at the same time, the judgment has been accomplished.  The judgment, in and of itself, is eternal by definition and this does not mean that it is not satisfied or realized.  The eternal sentence of death has been accomplished and is still in effect.  Therefore, we can see that a valid punishment with an eternal result can be a reality.

Second, it is not logically necessary that an eternal punishment upon a sinner be an insufficient or non-accomplished judgment.   It is just as logical to say that God's infinite justice is properly accomplished with an infinite punishment.  After all, an offense of infinite value would require an infinite punishment.

Third, it would be an injustice to God's infinite righteousness and holiness to have the sinner's punishment be terminated.  Of course, I am not here speaking of discipline, where the Lord chastises a person and welcomes him back into fellowship.  I am speaking here of damnation, that pronouncement upon a sinner who is not covered in the blood of Christ.  As I said above, it follows that if God is infinite and the sinner has offended God, then that is an infinite offense.  If judgment upon the sinner regarding his sinfulness were temporal, then it means that a sinner's suffering is sufficient to appease an infinite God.  That would be unjust since, Gal. 2:21 says, "I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly." Paul is saying that if we could please God by what we do (suffer), then Christ died needlessly.

Fourth, the Universalists have stated that though the unrepentant sinners are truly forgiven in Christ, they must be "punished," "purified," "corrected," for a period of time in the after life before they are ready to be admitted into the eternal life of realized forgiveness.  This is a very dangerous teaching because it strikes at the very heart of the atonement of Christ.  For a person to suffer the judgment of God because of his sin until he is found worthy to be with God is to state that the atonement is insufficient and must be completed through the suffering of the sinner. This is blasphemous and must be avoided at all costs.

It should be plain to see that the universalist position is incorrect.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.