ARE THERE DIFFERENT DEGREES OF REWARDS IN HEAVEN AND DIFFERENT DEGREES OF PUNISHMENTS IN HELL?
In Luke 19:11-27, we find the master of the household gives ten of his servants a pound each and commissions them to use the money in a way that shows a profit. When the master returns, one multiplied his pound to 10 and was given 10 cities, another 5 pounds and was rewarded with 5 cities. Now, some say that this clearly shows that those in heaven will be honored on different levels according to their works. But, what can really be compared to the glory that we will experience in Heaven (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17-5:2)? Besides, I never really think about what these rewards will be, or even the fact that there will be rewards. I will be content just to reach heaven, where the things that really matter will be shared equally by all. I am confident that “I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop” up in Glory Land!
Now, referring to degrees of punishments, we first have to look at sin and if there are different degrees of sin. In Jn. 19:11, “Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.” Now, this verse does not imply that one sin is worse because sin separates man from God regardless what kind it is (Isa. 59:1-2) and that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Now, there are different consequences for sin: one who makes an illegal u-turn faces different consequences than one who commits murder. This principle is seen in Lev. 24:20-21 where it speaks of an eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Simply put, there are some crimes less consequential than others.
With that said, the Bible does seem to indicate that there will be different levels of punishment in hell. In Luke 12:47, 48 at the conclusion of the parable of the faithful steward, we read, "And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." The principle being taught here is that the person who understands more regarding God's will and yet does not take warning will be held more accountable than the person who does not know. Both are held accountable; both will be separated from God; both will be punished. However, one will be punished more than the other.
Also, in 2 Pet. 2:20-21, we read, "For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them." The Christian who knows what is right and wrong and yet, turns back to the things of the world is going to end up in a worse state than the person who never knew the way of righteousness. Both are still lost. Both are still separated from God, but one will be punished more than the other will.
Now, what just exactly are these punishments, I cannot speculate on. But, we should not think that Hell might be a place that is tolerable if we just don't sin very much. Hell is not going to be a place that you want to be. It is a place where punishment is reserved for the Devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). It is a place of darkness (Matt. 22:13). It is a place where the unrighteous will dwell (Matt. 25:30). It is a place of everlasting agony (Matt. 22:13). And, some will not suffer as much as others due to their sin, but even the least bit of suffering in hell will be bad enough. Merely eternal separation from God himself would be unthinkable. You don't want to miss being with God in eternity.