I’m wondering how I could best respond to the above mentioned question which a Muslim friend of mine raised to me.
His idea of punishment for sin is that if he commits a sin, then depending on how severe that sin was, he could (and should) suffer in hell as a result, but only until he learns that it was a sin and he would never do it again. Once he’s learnt that, he would be free to enter paradise, because he would never do it again. Can you shed some light on this? Maybe the question would need the to be qualified first. I understand that the concept of God’s holiness can be introduced to the discussion, as in God is holy and we’re not, and even though we may “pay” for our sins we will never become holy to enter God’s presence. Also, as I was thinking about this I realized that the whole concept of paying for sins may be foreign to the Bible. I mean that the idea of a sacrifice was to cover the sins of someone, not to pay for them. We talk about Jesus paying for our sins all the time but is that actually Biblical or is it just a metaphor that we’ve been using for so long that we accept it as Biblical fact.
So I guess it ends up being two questions:
1.) Why is the punishment for sins eternal (when they have temporary effects)?
2.) Is the idea of paying for sins Biblically warranted?
The first question is more pressing, but the second may be an underlying question.