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Q: Are there different punishments in hell and different rewards in heaven?

A: All that we know about heaven and hell comes to us through the Words of the Holy Scriptures, so we turn, for the answer to this question, to the Scriptures.

First, concerning degrees of punishment in hell, Jesus teaches the following: “That servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few.” [St Luke 12:47-48] This indicates that there will be more severe punishments for those who knowingly disobeyed the Lord's Word. The same thing is taught again by Jesus as He rebukes the cities that did not receive Him: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.” [St Matthew 11:21-22] While the suffering of hell is absolute, there are degrees within that absoluteness. The worst sin is rejecting and despising the gift of God in Christ, and this, it seems, will be punished with more severity. [See also Mt 23:15]

Second, concerning degrees of reward in heaven, the old theologians distinguish between degrees of bliss and degrees of glory. “While there are no degrees of bliss, since all the saints of Christ shall see God and so will be completely blessed, Scripture teaches that there are degrees of glory, commensurate with the faithfulness and sufferings of Christian believers in this life.” [Theodore Mueller, Christian Dogmatics, 642] The Scriptures to support this position are 2 Corinthians 9:6; 1 Corinthians 15:41-42; Daniel 12:3.

Here's a little Luther on the topic:

It is true, there will be a difference in yonder life, according as they have labored and lived here. For example, St Paul was an Apostle, Samuel or Isaiah a Prophet, etc. One will have greater brightness that the other because he worked or suffered more in his office.... Thus everyone will have his distinction and glory according to his office, and still one God and Lord will be in all, and one and the same joy and bliss.... In short, all are to be alike before God in faith and grace and celestial bliss, but they are to differ in their works and honor.

Martin Luther, St. L. VIII:1223f.
Quoted from F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics. III.553

We rejoice that the Lord has created heaven for us and, in His Son, has created us for heaven and eternal life with Him, and that even in eternal life He has for us gift upon gift.

For further study concerning the bliss of heaven:
St John 14:1-4; Revelation 7:9-17; 21:9-27

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  Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller, Pastor
1345 Macon St.
Aurora, CO 80010
  Phone: (303) 364-7416
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