Thinking Cap #8 - The Question: Are Some Sins Worse Than Others

Ever ponder the final justice awaiting the Hitler's, Stalin's, Manson's, and Dahlmer's of this world. Assuming that each is not saved and each will end up in the lake of fire, have you ever wondered to yourself whether their punishment will be greater than that nice little old lady next door who just never saw the need to place her trust in Christ? Doesn't your human mind (created by God) wonder if some sins might just be worse than others. Mind you, all it takes is one sin, regardless of degree to keep you out of heaven. But, wouldn't you think that a person committing mass murder is just a little more out of line than someone telling a little white lie? Coming to the point, your question is: are there degrees of sin and thus are there degree of punishment in hell? Your thoughts, should you wish to jump in are due to me by midnight on Friday, March 10.

For what it is worth, here is how I would approach the topic:

  • God has a variety of unique words that He uses to describe "sin" in our life.
  • *Chata* means to miss the mark, *asham* means to trespass, *aven* connotes perverseness, *avon* is the bentness, or fallen human nature, *amal* depicts the burden or trouble caused by sin, *aval* epitomizes the unfairness, deceitfulness, innate dishonesty and unrighteousness of sin. *Abar* means going beyond the limits, *raa* means wicked, *pasha* speaks of sin as an act of rebellion against lawful authority, *rasha* is wickedness, *maal* is the thought of treachery, and *shagag* is imprudence or rashness. There we have twelve Hebrew words to describe all shades and varieties of sin. Each shows up in our English Bible in a variety of ways. Read Gen. 4:7, 1 Chron. 21:3, Lev. 7:18, Lev. 18:22, 1 Sam. 12:23, Ps. 17:3, Ps. 51:1 and Zech. 8:17 to see some examples.
  • To save space and time, I will not identify the sixteen Greek words used in the Greek New Testament which are an equally rich and versatile vocabulary for human wrongdoing. They range from missing the mark, moral depravity, vicious desire, contempt, deliberate assault on all divine restraints, impious, obstinate, neglect, defiance, deviant to giving less than full measure. Look at Rom. 3:23 and Lu. 16:15 for just two examples.
  • Get out your copy of Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary and look up the word "abomination" and "sin" to see the range and variety of the use of these words in God's Word.
  • Thus, in a variety of passages in the Bible, God communicates human behavior as falling short, missing the mark, less than desirable, detestable, abhorrent, fetid and disgusting.
  • If according to Prov. 30:5, "every word of God is pure," then one would have to ask himself, why did God chose such a wide range of words to describe something that is supposedly the same.
  • It would be logical to conclude that the words for "sin" in the Bible indicate that there are degrees of "missing the mark" in God's eyes.
  • A reading of Romans 2:6 ("Who will render to every man according to his deeds:"), Gal. 6:7 ("Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."), and Rev. 20:12 ("And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.") would give one the feeling that there is a day of reckoning for not just our "sin nature" but also our specific sins. For those who do not have their "sins" covered by the Blood of Jesus, that reckoning will be in the "lake of fire."
  • There appears to be ample evidence and precedence for degree of punishment.
  • Luke 20:45-47 tells us that some "shall receive greater damnation."
  • Matt. 11:20-24 tells us that it will "be more tolerable... at the day of judgment..." for some than for others.
  • Luke 12:47-48 indicate that he who willingly violated his lord's will "shall be beaten with many stripes," and he that unknowingly violates his lord's will "shall be beaten with few stripes."
  • Dt. 32:15-22 speaks of a judgement which will consume some with fire which will burn to the lowest hell. David was thankful that he was delivered from going to the lowest hell (Ps. 86:13)
  • My Bible tells me that I (as a Christian going to Heaven) can lay up for myself rewards in Heaven (Mat. 6:20), that I will "appear before the judgment seat of Christ" that I may receive my rewards (2 Cor. 5:8-10) and that I can actually earn five different crowns in Heaven based on work that I perform here on the earth (joy, righteousness, life, glory and incorruptible --- but that's another neat study in itself). Would it not be logical to assume that the God of order (1 Cor. 14:40) would have a parallel order in the place of judgment for the lost?
  • 5. While the Bible does not come right out and say there are degrees of Hell, it does indicate degrees of sin. I would not argue for degrees of punishment in Hell with the same fervency as I would the blood atonement. But, it does satisfy the human (God-given) sense of justice and I feel there is more than ample Scriptural support for such a case.
  • Pleasant Thinking
    Kent Haralson


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