I would like to communicate a few thoughts about what the word PUNISHMENT might entail, when referring to God's dealings with mankind. As it has been pointed out, its main meaning has to do with "correction" and not an act of retribution. Everyone will be corrected before they are fully restored, which is a process of rehabilitating us from our carnal ways and thinking into the ways of the nature of God. Most of the doctrines of the religious systems today concerning the judgment and punishment of God toward sinners is the result of an act of the highest treason, whereby men have created God in their own image and their own likeness. By projecting our own limitations and emotional pitfalls on to God, we have made God into us, with all of our hurts, anger, frustrations, bitterness, vengeance, etc. by which we have assassinated God's character and nature, giving Him the ability to be eternally hurt and angry over the rejection He has experienced from His creation. This is the kind of God that is presented to the world by the institutions of religion.
However, we who have been introduced to Him as the Happy God, the Author of the Good News of Christ, have met Him as He is! He IS Love. He doesn't just love, as you and I might love someone or something through an emotion of love, but Love is what God is made of, so He does not FEEL that love, which then would open Him up to hurt and anger from a rejection of that Love, but because He IS Love, He never ceases Loving, because He will always be. So, we must find an agreement with what His corrective process is and with the very nature of Love that He is. The correction of the Lord is to be sought after, not avoided. Correction in this sense is an instruction, not a mere incarceration or act of correcting. In this sense, it is NOT as we would correct our own children, simply because in this world of ours, our children are only expected to be obedient to their parents for a space of time, at least until they leave our house and launch out on their own. But, while under my roof, you will do what I say, or else. That is our correction to our children for the most part. Don't embarrass me and I will try not to embarrass you. The church has relegated itself this kind of behavior modification program to keep their members living the "Christian Life". As long as you don't chew, cuss, smoke, drink or sleep around, then the church can't expect too much more from you, as that is about as far as the behavior modification program will go toward living a righteous life. What never changes in this scenario is the root of unrighteousness, which can only be done away with through Christ. The corrections of God are not 12 steps of behavior modification, as they are not limited to being instructional, for they are essentially transformational in nature.
When Isaiah wrote of the wolf and the lamb and the lion and the lamb lying together, it is the classic image of God's transformational correction from our earthy nature into our original nature in Christ. Our wolf in Isaiah has undergone a startling change. Notice, the wold and the lion are not chained to a stake, drooling and snapping at the lamb next to them, but are unfettered, free from all restraints. No behavior modification here, as the story specifically relates as to how their very carnivorous constitution has been changed, noted in their strange love for grass instead of flesh. Peace abides, love reigns, as the Lamb has remarkably infused these natural enemies with its own Lambness, so that the Wolf and the Lion are living in union with their previous victim. Now, they have become the victims of the Lamb! So, we see they still have the original form of the Wolf and the Lion, but their nature has been transformed. Even so, we are humans and God is not trying to change us into something that is not human, like the angels for instance, but in our human form, we are experiencing a metamorphosis through the transformational correction of the spirit of God, being presented by God as a New Species of God-man, a compound of spirit and flesh, God and humanity, which none of the angels can lay claim to, only those that have been born of a woman and are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, which is the Life and Nature of the Lamb.
In this sense, we are all being judged today, which in the Greek means we are being discerned, taking on a contrast of one thing from another thing, which corresponds to the "re-membering" of our being, which has been chaotically out of alignment, with the elements of our carnal self being in the position of rule and governing, but now there is a great upheaval taking place, as God shakes the earth AND the heavens, and keeps shaking until only those things that can remain will remain. Until our whole man is put into right alignment and those heavenly things are ruling and those earthy things are subjected, which produces the New Creature in its full development and functionality.
Robert D Torango