We continue to look at the topic of eternity and explicitly meditate on the subject of Hell. Although writing and reading about an afterlife in Hell are difficult, this is a vital topic. I believe that there are different degrees of punishment in Hell. Chuck Swindoll, the Bible teacher, writes about the degrees of retribution, saying, “There will always be some who will not have as much divine input as others. Because that is true, I believe there will be degrees of eternal punishment. Before you pick up stones to stone me, look closely at the words of Jesus:
47That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Luke 12:47-48).
Swindoll continues: “Let’s understand that no one without Christ spends eternity in heaven. But the specifics of how God handles those without Christ because they heard so little might very well be answered by the idea of degrees of punishment. But we know that heaven will not be their home.”
Do you think the degree of influence one has on earth has any bearing on their eternity? I believe so. The greater the influence over others, the greater the accountability and responsibility for that influence. Some people are in the media's spotlight and are role models for our young, yet they live immoral lives. God will judge them more strictly due to their influence over many. Can I advise you to be slow to jump into a position of influence over others? Jesus said that we should be quick to take the plank out of our own eyes so we can take the sliver out of other people's eyes (Matthew 7:3-5). All of us believers in Christ are already in a position of influence, especially if you are known in your neighborhood or workplace as a Christian. People are watching to see how you live your life, and their eternity can often depend on their response to the message of Christ that is read from what you say and do. We all teach to a certain degree, but not all are teachers. For a teacher to indeed be effective, they must also live the kind of life that they teach about:
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly (James 3:1).
Christian leaders will be judged more strictly due to the amount of light they have received and their influential position. For those without Christ, the higher their influence rises, the higher the level of accountability at the judgment. It makes sense that just as there are different levels of reward for the righteous, there will also be different levels of punishment for those in Hell. My prayer for you today is that you reflect upon the kind of life you are living before God and others. Live your life according to the light you have received. To whom much is given, much is expected. Place your trust in the Lord Jesus—do it today! Your eternity and that of others depend on it. Keith Thomas
Charles R. Swindoll, Growing Deep in the Christian Life, Published by Multnomah Press, 1987. Page 324.