‘Admittedly,’ (writes I.H. Marshall in Aspects of the Atonement) ‘the vocabulary of punishment does not figure all that prominently in the New Testament and those who would downplay the term “penal” understood in terms of punishment can point to this fact. A half-dozen is the sum total of references to divine punishment, and they are associated particularly with the day of judgment. In the parabolic teaching of Jesus, wicked servants will be punished when the master returns (Matt. 24:43–51; Luke 12:45–48). The noun is applied once in the Gospels to the eternal punishment of the wicked (Matt. 25:46). Paul describes once how those who disobey and reject the gospel will pay the penalty of eternal destruction (2 Thess. 1:9). A person who rejects the Son of God and the blood of the covenant deserves a greater punishment than somebody who rejected the law of Moses and was put to death (Heb. 10:29). The Lord keeps the unrighteous for punishment at the day of judgment (2 Pet. 2:9).
‘One might well be tempted at this stage to ask whether the comparative rareness of this term should warn us against putting the term “penal” in a central position in our doctrine. But to do so would be premature.’