Apologetic - Why Temporal Punishment?

When a friend that I am emailing with asked about temporal punishment, I was completely drawing a blank as to how to answer him. It wasn’t a question of what temporal punishment is, but WHY there is temporal punishment in the first place.

He actually answered his own question before I responded, but the follow-up sparked a new blog topic for me, mainly because I really needed to write down my thoughts and take a deeper look at what the Church teaches on this.

So, if any of you have been asked “why is there temporal punishment for sin?” and you didn’t have an answer, maybe this might help you sort your thoughts.

Why is there Temporal Punishment for Sin; Didn’t Jesus Pay Our Debt?


Really liked that.

If I may offer a thought or two from my own understanding…

I think that too often people detach these things too much - making them somehow "external. That they are “punishments” that are applied from the outside when in fact this is not really so.
As you rightly say - what we are talking about is the consequence of sin which can take a number of forms. Repairing the window is of course a good and simple example but I think a much more potent one is our own memory.

Whatever we do creates a memory. When we do something good for another, their thank-you and their smile sticks with us and gives us joy and consolation.
Likewise when we sin, we make a memory that, once we have repented, can repeatedly convict us and cause us sorrow, and yes, suffering. This suffering is - in itself - the punishment for our sin.
Of course such memories - and such sorrow (punishment) - have a benefit which is to strengthen us to resist temptation to sin.
This speaks (I believe) to the purifying aspect of such suffering.

Yet another aspect that touches on memory are the bad habits that we acquire in our lives due to our sinful nature. Our minds develop certain thought patterns and responses to certain stimuli and these can be very difficult to change.
Working to make such changes can be arduous and there can be much emotional and spiritual pain associated with it. But this too is a consequence of our earlier sin…and we suffer out of love in order to overcome such bad habits to the best of our ability.

Does the above make sense???


Thanks to both of you! :clapping:

I often experience the temporal punishment for the sins of my past in the loneliness and struggles of being a single mom. So these posts are very dear and very close to my heart. But as St. Paul says, where sin is present, God’s grace abounds! (Rom. 5:20-21)

Sin has consequences, which are sometimes lifelong – temporal punishment brought on by our own actions. But by accepting God’s grace and uniting our suffering with Christ’s, even the experience of these temporal punishments can be a source of grace for ourselves and others. God is so good :blush::thumbsup:

God bless you!


From my understanding.

Jesus pays the debt for us, but that doesnt mean we don’t have to make compensation for the ‘debt’ in some way… So temporal punishment is making reparations for our sins…

Think of a good parent who forgives their child, yet expects them to ‘make right’ for where they have gone wrong… Like someone who breaks a window playing baseball in an area where they shouldn’t have been playing ball and in turn pays to have the window fixed. It teaches us something about the goodness of God and makes us a better person for correcting things … This is how one grows in holiness and righteousness, through temporal punishment or making things ‘right’ by God. If we are just forgiven what have we learned?

Think of it this way. When a bank pays out a loan, it allows you to buy a house, but yet doesn’t excuse you to pay the debt back. In regards to God. Jesus paid for our Sins on the cross but still we have to give ourselves to Him as an offering for that debt He paid. We offer up our lives in that way… We pay back that debt in order to grow in righteousness because Jesus said be holy as My Father is Holy and be perfect as My Father is perfect… Can we pay God back for all Hes done? No, but we can certainly do what we can to pay back for what we’ve done.

And that explains these scripture.

Matthew 5: 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister,[e] you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult[f] a brother or sister,[g] you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell[h] of fire. 23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister* has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister,[j] and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court[k] with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

And in the end we will be judged by our merits either good or bad while in the body… 2 Corinthians 5:10-11 The temporal punishments being the ‘good’ merits and the offerings we make which offset the bad…:)*

Wow, I had not thought of memories at all, but that’s such a perfect example! Yes, it makes perfect sense to me!

You are welcome, but I have to give that thanks in turn to the folks who helped me understand all this before I wrote that article. This blog post was born out of my own inability to give my friend and answer, because I didn’t understand it myself. :slight_smile:

A big hearty amen to your passage reference: where sin is present, God’s grace abounds!

There’s a whole theology which I want to learn more about called ‘redemptive suffering’. It’s offering up our sufferings to God and it helps us deal with our sufferings by binding them to Christs sufferings.And our sufferings are the cross that we bear, like St. Pauls thorn in his side. Here’s a little article on it.


I try to remember to find peace with Jesus Christ by remembering that He helps us carry our heavy burdens by being on the other side of our yoke.

Jesus did not suffer so we don’t have to suffer.

The soul is immortal. Since the powers of the soul are memory, intellect and will, those also are immortal. Sin is a disorder. Therefore it disorders those powers of the soul. There’s a line used in the beginning of the movie Gladiator, that really addresses this issue

“What we do in life echoes in eternity”

So God transforms what we’ve done, and those powers of our soul so that only good echoes in eternity.

Romans 8:17 , [Hebrews 12:6](“https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews 12:6&version=RSVCE”)

Steve, I’m a little confused by your response… ‘Jesus did not suffer so we don’t have to suffer’. Am I missing something? Is confused about what you said because Jesus did suffer and so do we…

So why do people suffer? Because the consequences of sin is evil and evil affects us all… We try to get away from it, but suffering is a fact of life and the effects of sin can and do follow us into the grave… But Jesus Christ helps us in our suffering… Jesus Christ purges that suffering out of us when finally perfected when we are in heaven, and so to make us pure and holy, so there will be no more pain and no more crying… Sin can follow us into the grave, but Jesus pulls us out of of purgatory so we can finally be in the peace of Christ.


From that link:

All who die in God’s grace, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven (1030). CCC

I think he meant it like this: The reason for Jesus’ suffering was not to prevent us from suffering…

Karen, I could be wrong but I think we’re saying the same thing just a bit differently.

I was responding to

“why is there temporal punishment for sin?”

Besides these which I posted
Romans 8:17 , [Hebrews 12:6](“https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews 12:6&version=RSVCE”)

Did Jesus take any of that away? No

I would further add

1 Cor 3:11 For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble— 13 each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day**(“https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1 Corinthians+3&version=RSVCE#fen-RSVCE-32582b”)] will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Does purgatory sound like a pleasant experience? Not to me.

As I said previously, Jesus made it so that, what echoes in eternity is good not bad.

Just look at the links I provided.

Have temporal punishments due to sin still been applied?

Yes and Thanks. :thumbsup:

You mean this? It is by Gods mercy that we don’t suffer forever in eternity for our sins…

Matthew 8:17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”

First, he needs to know what Temporal Punishment is.

The why is transparently obvious once you know what it is.

If one person takes up the suffering of another, does that necessarily cause that other to not suffer?
Does Jesus “suffering for us” necessarily equate to us not suffering - or not needing to suffer?

Just something to think about…


First, he needs to know what Temporal Punishment is.

So, what do you think temporal punishment is?

Why is transparently obvious once you know what it is.

My problem is that I am having a hard time stating what temporal punishment is without diving into a 2,000 word treatise.

Here’s an attempt: Temporal punishment is our duty of reparation for sins we’ve committed. For example, my responsibility to fix the window I broke; or apologize to the person I hit; or retract that lie I told so that it doesn’t spread and further harm someone’s reputation.

A few follow-up questions and points from my friend. I’ll put his in black, and my pre-responses in blue. Ihave not sent this back to him yet. Some of these I’m not 100% sure about.

  1. It seems to me that 1 Colossians 1:24 is about Paul suffering for the betterment of the Church and spreading the Church, not as a result of someone’s sin?

I would not doubt that he suffered exactly for the betterment and spreading of the Church. In fact, the entire chapter seems to read that way. But is that the whole of it? What does Paul say in that sentence? He says, “*Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church *…” Paul framed that statement with “the afflictions of Christ” and “in my flesh *”.

**-Why was Christ afflicted?
-What was lacking in Christ’s afflictions?
-And why is Paul “suffering for [our] sake”, in regards to “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” if Christ paid the debt for our sins?

-But more to the point, does this passage being applied to anything other than ‘suffering as a result of sin’ take away the fact that there are consequences for sin? Is that window still broken after I was forgiven for breaking it? And who is responsible for fixing it [and why]? ***

  1. In Hebrews 12, I think this is a good example for the point of Catholics, but am wondering is there anything in that chapter that says punishment from God is a direct result of sin?

-What else would God be punishing us for?
-What need is there for discipline

  1. In your points about the OT, do you mean that there are many examples in the OT of people making reparations to God for evil doings and that yes, Christ is the once-sacrifice for sins that removed the need for us to sacrifice continually but that does not mean He took away the other parts of the OT process like reparation? Remember He came to fulfill the OT law, not abolish it.

That’s what I’m saying, and it’s what Scripture shows us. Nowhere does Christ say that we no longer have a need to repent. Nowhere does Scripture say that we should no longer fast, give alms, or any other act of penance…in fact Christ tells us how to do it the right way! (When you fast, do it like this…)

-If Jesus paid the price for our sins, and forgave sins of people in the Bible, why is He teaching us to make reparations? (Lk 12:58-59; Mt 5:25-26; Lk 19:1-9)
-Why is Zaccheus still going to recompense his victims if “salvation has come to [his] house
-Do I, or do I not, need to settle accounts with those I’ve sinned against before approaching the Judge, despite the fact that I am a saved Christian? Will I, or will I not, be held in prison until I have paid the last penny? WHY? (Mt 5:23-26)

  1. The point of Paul shaving his head in Acts 18:18, isn’t this in relation to the Nazarite vow in Numbers 6:18 which is about making a dedication to God, not a punishment for a sin? Isn’t the point in Acts 21 about helping someone to participate in a vow so as to not create stumbling blocks for the local church? Isn’t 1 Corinthians 9:14 a metaphor about overcoming the bodies desire for sin? I do not see how these examples relate to punishment for sin.

I have no doubt that Paul was taking the Nazirite Vow of Numbers 6 (did you read the whole chapter 6?). Yes, he’s helping someone to avoid stumbling blocks and yes about desires of the body (that’s my whole point). But aren’t you only looking at the surface?

Again, temporal punishment is a *consequence *of sin. Did your sin bring you sorrow? Do you feel sorrowful every time you even remember your sin…or does that memory of your sin make you want to avoid it in the future? Did your sin hurt someone else? Do you need to repair the damage you’ve caused? Those are consequences of sin. Our responsibility to repair the damage we inflicted, settle with our accuser, or fix the broken window, is called “temporal punishment”.

-WHY was there a Nazirite Vow, and why would people take this vow which involved a Purification Offering at its end?
-Why would Paul, a saved Christian, no longer under the old law, who was ALREADY set apart by Christ Himself, as an Apostle to the Gentiles, be taking this vow again? Why would ANY Christian subject themselves to this discipline?
-Why would a saved Christian need to buffet his body in order to "exercise self-control in all things
" for an imperishable wreath, and be concerned to “punish [his] body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others [he himself] should not be disqualified”? (1Cor 9:25-27)
-Doesn’t Paul know that Christ paid the debt for his sin? Why is Paul doing these acts?

But more to the point: Does my sin, even as a saved Christian, cause suffering to others or myself? Is that window broken or not, and whose responsibility it is to fix it? WHY?

True, because sins CAN be forgiven now, as a result of the life death resurrection and ascension back to heaven of Jesus.

But that doesn’t mean if we aren’t sorry for our sins, i/e/ mortal sins, that our mortal sins are automatically forgiven us anyway. Nor does it mean no one ever goes to hell.

Temporal Punishment can also include the natural consequences of what we do. If a person drinks two quarts of Whiskey every day, in a few years he will develop Cirrhosis of the liver. That is one temporal consequence of that lifestyle.

A Biblical example, When King David had Uriah the Hittite killed so he wouldn’t be disgraced for committing Adultery with his wife, Nathan the Prophet knew. When he was confronted, David repented. Then God forgave him, but told him through the prophet that the he would suffer the death of his child as the temporal punishment for his sin.

There is another purpose of Purgatory, if we die and still have some impurity or affection for some sin (which is a natural consequence of attachment to sin), that must be purged from us because nothing impure can enter heaven.

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