How can God exact infinite punishment for a finite sin?


If our sins are finite, than why do we need to suffer infinity for a finite sin?


Thankfully, Christ has bore an infinite amount of suffering for his elect upon the Cross of Calvary. The price of their infinite sins have been paid in full. However, what about the unsaved, or reprobate?

First, let's begin with an illustration. If you drop a rock into a pool of water you would see that the rock creates ripples from its point of entry outward to the surrounding waters. We call this the ripple effect. Sin is more evil than we may have ever considered. Sin - that is, "rebellion" (Lev 26:27-28), "abominations" (Prov 15:9), "ungodliness" (Isa 32:6), "wickedness" (Ezek 18:27), "trespass" (Eph 2:1), and "lawlessness" (1 John 3:4), etc. - has a cascading effect; a ripple effect - the surrounding waters being God's entire Creation. Adam's sin in the Garden effected all mankind (Rom 5:12-21; cf. Josh 7:1-5). His sin made both Christ's sacrifice for the elect and Hell for the reprobate a necessity. Every sin effects not only the sinner and the one(s) sinned against, but produces a chain of events that ripples throughout eternity; even reaching Heaven itself (Gen 6:5; Rev 18:5 cf. Jer 18:23; Ezek 33:11). Such infinite sins (plural) demand an infinite punishment.

Second, sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God (WSC, A-14). So, all sin is a violation of our obligation and duty before Holy God. All our obligations to God are infinite in nature (Psa 119:89, 142, 152, 160; Isa 40:8; Rom 7:12; 1 Pet 1:25). Therefore, any violation of these obligations is an infinite evil. An infinite evil deserves an infinite punishment. Moreover, no matter what day it is in eternity, the unrepentant sinner will only have paid a finite amount of their infinite penalty due. Therefore, logically they will never pay it in full. Therefore, Hell and the punishments therein are eternal.

Third, we must consider the Person being sinned against. As Anselm in Cur Deus Homo essentially states, 'guilt is not merely relative to the offense, but also to the status of the offended party.' All sin is an offense against God (Psa 51:4; cf. Exod 10:16; Josh 7:20; Judg 10:10), who is eternal (Exod 3:14; Deut 33:27; Psa 48:14; 90:2; 102:12; Isa 40:28, etc.). An offense against an eternal Being, necessitates a sentence worthy of the crime; that being eternal punishment. An example may help:

In our society, a crime against a higher authority figure demands a greater punishment. Imagine the consequences of "you" punching a man on the street. You would be arrested for simple assault and go to a county jail. However, if you punch a police officer, you would be arrested for obstruction and go to jail for much longer. If you punch the President of the United States, you're going to Federal prison. In each case, the punishment escalates based on the one the crime was committed against. If we punch (sin against) God, logically we understand that crimes against an infinite Being necessarily escalate to an infinite punishment.

So, there is no such thing as a finite offense against an infinite God. A finite man, when he sins against the infinite God, creates an infinite sin which demands infinite punishment. God being infinitely holy, just, and good must necessarily judge sin with eternal punishment. We can be assured that the sentence is just. As Jonathan Edwards wrote in, The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners:

If God should for ever cast you off, it would be exactly agreeable to your treatment of him ... If you should for ever be cast off by God, it would be agreeable to your treatment of Jesus Christ.

Fourth, those condemned to Hell will go on sinning for eternity. There is no repentance in Hell. Sinners desire nothing to do with God; they denied him upon earth by word (Matt 10:33; 2 Tim 2:12) and deed (Matt 25:41-46; Tit 1:16) and are eternally separated from him in Hell (2 Thess. 1:8-9).

Romans 8:7-8 informs us that the unrepentant are: (1) hostile to God; (2) do not submit to God's law; (3) cannot submit to God's law; and (4) cannot please God. So the punishment must necessarily continue as long as the sinning does. As the article, "An Eternal Hell is for Real - The Heresy of Annihilationism?" (see below) states:

Annihilationism when it speaks about the judgment of sin, fails to recognize that sinners won't stop sinning in Hell; and their sins in Hell may even grow worse, if God lifts his restraint(s) (Gen 20:6; 1 Sam 25:14, 26, 34; cf. Psa 81:11-12; Rom 1:28). Moreover, the "gnashing of teeth" in Hell (Matt 8:12; 13:42; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30) while possibly referring to pain and suffering, definitely represents anger and seething hatred (Job 16:9; Psa 35:16; 37:12; 112:10; Lam 2:16; Mark 9:18; Acts 7:54-55). Since wicked anger and hatred are sins, then there is perpetual sin in Hell requiring perpetual punishment. Therefore, sinners in Hell will always be paying for their ongoing perpetual eternal sins in an eternal perpetual Hell. So, Hell is forever. It is eternal. It is an everlasting state.

Fifth, and only remotely relevant to the question asked, even if God bailed the unrepentant sinner out of the eternal jail of Hell (which he won't), the sinner would keep on committing evil. And since his soul and new body are imperishable (1 Cor 15:42, 44), he would necessarily need to be thrown right back into Hell. As Isaiah says, "If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the LORD" (Isa 26:10; cf. Job 14:4; 15:14; Psa 58:3; Jer 13:23; 17:9).

The soul sins (Ezek 18:20; cf. Prov 4:23; Matt 15:11, 18-20) and lives forever (Matt 10:28; cf. Psa 49:7-9; Ecc 12:7; Dan 12:2). Even the sinful rebellious soul lives forever. In the Last Day, there will only be two places for a soul to live, Heaven or Hell. Where does the unrepentant soul live? In Hell.

All sin is against an infinite God and demands an infinite payment. Hell and its punishment(s) are just and eternal.

Related Topics:

When was Hell created?
An Eternal Hell is for Real - The Heresy of Annihilationism?
Is God’s judgment present in hell or not?
Annihilationism Error: Hebrew Word Definition Charts
Annihilationism Error: Greek Word Definition Charts
Is Purgatory Biblical?
What is Reprobation?
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
A Gospel Summary

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).