"I am somewhat confused about the concept of the LORD's forgiveness and punishment for the same sins, especially as described in Numbers 14, when the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron after the spies returned from the land of Canaan. In verse 18 Moses says the LORD is abundant in forgiving iniquity...'but He will by no means clear the guilty' (NASB). In verse 20, the LORD responds, 'I have pardoned them...but...' and goes on to describe their punishment, culminating in their death (vs. 27). I understand that punishment and forgiveness aren't mutually exclusive, but where is the forgiveness here? Or does it not come until the afterlife?" -- Steve

Actually, Steve, I think forgiveness and consequences characterize just about any sin we commit. Can you think of any sins without consequences? Similarly, earthly fathers forgive their children when they do wrong, yet the clean slate doesn't necessarily mean there's no punishment (being grounded, for example). We tend to disassociate forgiveness and punishment (one consequence of wrongdoing), yet the two are often connected. For more on the consequences of sin, please see the article in the 3 June 2015 newsletter.

I don’t think the afterlife has anything directly to do with this passage. Yet even there our sins will have had consequence. Consider what Jesus said about “treasure in heaven" (Matt 6:20; 19:21; Mark 10:21; Luke 12:33; 18:22). In some way we reap what we sow even in the next world. The simplest understanding of this truth is that we'll all have different experiences of heaven. Perhaps the more we have invested ourselves in following Christ in this world, the more we will appreciate (enjoy?) heaven. Of course everyone who makes it will be joyful -- but some may be more joyful than others.