“How can it be just to damn people to eternal torment for sins committed in a relatively short time on earth?”
“How can it be just to damn people to eternal torment for sins committed in a relatively short time on earth?” This question comes all kinds of different ways, including “how can a loving God send people to an eternal hell?” However, the question itself reveals a lack of understanding of God’s character, and God’s justice. There is not one verse in the bible that says “God is ALL loving”. God is not “all” loving in the sense that that’s the only attribute God has. God is in fact love, but He is also just, holy, righteous, etc. Everything God does is harmony with the whole of His character. He will not exercise one aspect of His character at the expense of another (He won’t show mercy if it means he has to forfeit His justice. He must show mercy in light of His justice, etc.). So the question is “how can it be just to damn people to eternal torment for sins committed in a relatively short time on earth?” There are at least two ways that this can be answered: 1) The length of time it takes to commit a crime has no bearing on the consequence of the crime. For example, imagine a rapist on trial telling the judge “your honor, how can you be just in sentencing me to 20 years in prison when it only took me one hour to rape that woman?” That would be absurd because consequences for crimes aren’t justly dealt with based on the amount of time it took to commit, but on the severity of the crime committed. That’s how it works in judicial law, and similarly that’s how it works with God’s law. The only thing the questioner doesn’t understand is how seemingly “small sins” can merit such a harsh penalty. However, just because one doesn’t understand the gravity of breaking God’s law, it doesn’t take away from its severity. Again, put yourself in the courtroom with the rapist who continues, “judge, I didn’t realize that rape was really that bad”. The criminal’s low standard for justice doesn’t take away from the law’s high standard. The same thing goes with God’s law. Though WE might not think that “small sins” deserve such a harsh punishment as eternal torment, it doesn’t mean that God (whose level of justice is perfectly and supremely high) ought to think that way as well. If He did, then His justice would be compromised, and therefore His character would be compromised. 2) Not only are crimes (and sins) dealt with based on the severity of the crime committed, they are also dealt with according to the dignity of the one who was offended. For example, if I got caught telling a lie to a child, I could get away with it without any consequences. If I got caught telling a lie to my wife, I might end up sleeping on the couch. If I got caught telling a lie to my boss, I might get fired. If I get caught telling a lie in a court of law, I might get arrested and put in jail. You see, the crime is the same in all 4 scenarios; however the consequences varied in severity based on the dignity of the one I have offended. When we sin against God who is eternally dignified it merits a consequence of eternal severity. When we take away from the severity of the punishment for sinning against God, you are attempting to take away from His dignity and worth.