Summary: Does God judge on a curve. Do some actually anticipate greater degrees of punishment?
“As all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware of the experts in the law. They like walking around in long robes, and they love elaborate greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ property, and as a show make long prayers. They will receive a more severe punishment [NET BIBLE].’”
“They will receive a more severe punishment.” The question posed is, “Will there be degrees of punishment?” Based on the words Jesus spoke in our text, the obvious answer is “Yes.” Some will receive “greater condemnation,” which implies “greater punishment.” While it is not possible to say definitively on the basis of this brief statement that there will be greater punishment, the obvious implication is that there will assuredly be greater punishment.
WHAT JESUS SAID — The word the Master used was the Greek word kríma. While the word may indeed speak on condemnation, the more common word to be translated “condemnation, would have been katákrima. Kríma speaks of judgement, of a sentence pronounced, of a penalty for wrongdoing. Katákrima unerringly speaks of condemnation. This is clear from the few times the word occurs in Paul’s writings.
In ROMANS 8:1, Paul writes, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The word “condemnation” translates the word katákrima. Likewise, speaking of the salvation we have received in Christ Jesus, Paul writes in ROMANS 5:15-18, “The free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” Again, the word that is translated “condemnation” in verses sixteen and eighteen is this Greek term katákrima. Clearly, Paul means condemnation and not sentence or penalty.
In our text, Jesus used the word kríma. It seems best to understand that He is speaking of punishment and not condemnation. I say this because we are assured that all sin is an affront to Holy God. Those who imagine that God treats sin lightly have never understood the sacrifice of His Beloved Son. According to the Word, “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” [2 CORINTHIANS 5:21].
Again, we need but recall the statement provided in the Letter to Galatian Christians: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” [GALATIANS 3:13]. It was only through taking upon Himself our sinful condition, that God’s holiness could be assuaged. Christ received in Himself the punishment each of us deserved.