Jesus Christ is our one great teacher and authority on the subject of future punishment. "The most uncompromising revelation of this awful truth, which no rationalizing sophistry can effectually obscure, issued from the lips of the Incarnate Word himself." If it is the Lamb of God who is represented as inflicting men with his wrath in the great day of his wrath, let us remember that it is this same Lamb of God—he who bore our frame, he who took little children up into his arms and blessed them, he from whose lips fell the imperishable sentences of mercy and pity, he who sighed over the dumb boy and poured out his tears at the grave of Lazarus and wept over the doom of Jerusalem. It is he, the Lamb of God, who is our one great teacher on this solemn theme of future retribution.
It would seem almost that he anticipated the difficulties this doctrine would occasion, the stumbling block it would be, and the objections which would be brought against it, and therefore made it forever clear that he whose word is truth is our authority for the teaching. You can pick and choose what you like or do not like in the gospels, but no one who takes Jesus as a teacher of truth can deny that he taught future punishment and warned men to flee from the wrath to come.
The great dramas and novels all have running through them the strain of punishment, not disciplinary and reformatory punishment, but burning and consuming penal and vindicatory punishments, punishments to satisfy the law, to avenge the spirit of justice, and not to reform the evildoer. Would it be possible to have a great book in which this note had not been struck?
Take George Eliot's Romola. The great tale reaches its climax when the wronged and betrayed and disowned old father and guardian, Baldasarre, wanders by the river, waiting, waiting, all the light of reason quenched by his wrongs and sufferings, save the one elemental instinct of justice and revenge. The body of Tito, escaping from the mob on the bridge, is cast up on the bank at the old man's feet. Like a panther he leaps upon the half-conscious man, fiercely clutching his throat. Thus they die together. Justice had brought Tito to the bar. The reader heaves a sigh of satisfaction, for he realizes that what something deep down in his heart demanded as the proper sequel to the tale had come to pass. The chapter concludes with these words: "Who shall put his finger on the work of justice and say, 'It is not there'? Justice is like the Kingdom of God—it is not without us as a fact; it is within us as a great yearning."
In Confessions of an English Opium Eater De Quincey tells of a relative of his who almost drowned in a river, and how her whole life in its minutest incidents appeared arrayed before her simultaneously, as in a mirror. De Quincey says he feels assured from his opium experiences that no such thing as forgetting is possible to the mind. Accidents will rend away the veil which other accidents and incidents have interposed between us and the past.