Question: Will there be degrees of punishment in the lake of fire acording to a person’s deeds?
Answer: I believe there will be. Here is the line of evidence. When Jesus addressed the unrepentant cities of Korazin and Bethsaida (Matthew 11:20-24), he told them that if the miracles he performed among them had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented. He then says, “It will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you” (v.22). In what way will it be more tolerable? It seems that he is predicting a more severe judgment for the inhabitants of Korazin and Bethsaida because they had a more clear revelation of the truth through the miracles of Jesus.
When we come to Revelation 20 and the Great White Throne Judgment of unbelievers by Christ, we’re told that one of the books out of which they will be judged is the book of life and the other is of “what they had done” (v.12). Then we’re told that “each person was judged according to what he had done” (v.13) and that anyone who’s name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the Lake of Fire. A person’s name will be missing from the book of life because they have not believed in Jesus. But their degree of punishment will be determined by what they have done.
This seems quite reasonable. We would not expect that a mass murderer who never repented and trusted in Christ should have the same punishment as a young boy who was kind and generous but who never received Christ as savior. Granted, each of them rejected the truth about Christ and was in rebellion against God. But the one did much more harm to others and damage to his own soul. Hitler or Idi Amin should receive a more severe penalty in the lake of fire than Ghandi. Each provided either an outright evil form of leadership or a peaceful form of leadership. The examples could go on and on.
This also fits with the idea that believers will receive different rewards in heaven based on their faithfulness to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). Each one gets there only on the merit of Christ and on the basis of His sacrifice in their place, but each is also treated according to his or her level of obedience. This is why Paul can say in Romans 2:6-8,
God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.
I cannot say how to describe the difference in punishment in the lake of fire. But God knows how to justly punish and reward all people based on His infinite knowledge of all their thoughts and behavior. He will do what is right.