God doesn't treat us as our sins deserve if we strive to maintain our relationship with him as his children (Psalm 103:8-13; 1 John 1:7-9; 3:1-3; 5:1-5).
That was the theme of my recent article (Quay County Sun, April 17, 2013), which was based on an incident during which I promised a reward after one of our children had occupied his siblings with a movie so I could complete an article without distraction.
You may recall that he backslid after his fleeting moment of goodness and I considered rescinding the reward. I decided against the rescission. So, he was still allowed to watch a movie alone.
During the days of the old covenant defined by Mosaic Law, which was before Jesus' resurrection, it was understood that if you injured someone, you had to suffer the same injury (Exodus 21:22-35; Leviticus 24:17-22; Deuteronomy 19:15-21; Matthew 5:38-48).
In the case described above, the reward also was directly associated with the good deed, but when it comes to the way God punishes us for sin or rewards us for good deeds, they aren't necessarily related under the new covenant, but they can be (for example, a drunken driver who bears the reminder of injury to self and others for the rest of his life; more about the reward for good deeds in a future article).
The actual physical punishment for sin is the same for all sin and all people – death (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:17-24; Romans 6:23; James 1:15). This doesn't mean physical death will happen as soon as the sin is committed, and that's good. Adam and Eve didn't die as soon as the judgment was made. They were simply banished from access to the tree of life so they could face natural death.
On the other hand, there are multiple accounts in the Bible of people dying immediately for their sins and that can still happen (for example, the drunken driver who actually dies as rare as that might be)(Leviticus 10:1-2; 2 Samuel 6:1-7; Acts 5:1-11; 1 Timothy 5:24).
At any rate, death will come to all people until Jesus returns and the time of each person's death is set, although God's mind can be changed (Acts 17:26-27; Hebrews 9:27-28; Ecclesiastes 3:1-2; 2 Kings 20:1-11; Jonah 3:1-10).
The spiritual death of eternal separation from God is actually the ultimate punishment for unforgiven sin and God doesn't want that for anyone (2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:32; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10; Psalm 116:15; 149:4).
Under the old covenant, punishment by God was withheld as sins were rolled forward until the perfect payment was made through Jesus' death (1 Corinthians 15:21-23; Romans 3:20-26). Under the new covenant, we can be united with Jesus in his death through baptism so that we can enter back into God's presence, symbolized by the Garden of Eden, where we can partake of the tree of life (Romans 6:3-7; Genesis 2:8-17; 3:17-24; Revelation 22:1-5, 12-14).
Will you have a right to the tree of life when Jesus comes back (Acts 22:16)?
Leonard Lauriault is a member of the Church of Christ in Logan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org