There are different ways to view “punishment” today. I’ve read articles where some use the word to refer to how they discipline their children. However I try to be careful how we use this word when speaking or writing about God’s interaction with His people, at least in light of the New Testament, which leads us to understand that God never “punishes” His people; He judges, disciplines them, corrects them, but punishment is either taken on by Christ or it is dealt only to unbelievers who are all awaiting an eternal punishment if they don’t turn to trust in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. This reasoning is based on the majority of the uses of the word in the NT, (Greek: δίκη and κόλασις) found in Matthew 25:46, 2 Peter 2:9, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, Jude 7, 1 John 4:18. In the Old Testament there are many words with varying meanings that are sometimes translated “punishment.” Typically these are not for God’s people but the surrounding nations. For example in Genesis 19 we read that the city of Sodom received a “punishment.” But for God’s people we often find read that God hasn’t counted their sins against them, because if he did, they couldn’t stand (Psalm 130:3) Even for the rest of the world outside of Israel, Luke records Paul explaining that in the Old Testament, God was overlooking ignorance! (Acts 17:30). If we see “punishment” as the proper and complete justice to fit our crimes, then God, so far, has punished no one except Christ (a punishment sinless Jesus voluntarily received in place of His people). True punishment for the rest of the world is coming. So I think “judgment” today and in our modern vernacular in many cases is a better replacement for what we mean when we’re writing and speaking about what God is doing in His people in the Old Testament and now. He isn’t punishing us. He is judging, as a good Judge, and disciplining us (See all of Hebrews 12). “Judgment” has a different feel, or connotation, and can even include His just judgments of mercy. For those who are not followers of Christ, they very well may be experiencing today punishment and the beginnings of an eternal punishment. For those God is still drawing to Himself, He says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” (Hebrews 3:15) And “Seek the LORD while he may be found.” (Isaiah 55:6)
What do you think? What comes to mind when you read the word punishment?