Proverbs 11:21

ESV Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished, but the offspring of the righteous will be delivered.
NIV Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free.
NASB Be assured, the evil person will not go unpunished, But the descendants of the righteous will be rescued.
CSB Be assured that a wicked person will not go unpunished, but the offspring of the righteous will escape.
NLT Evil people will surely be punished, but the children of the godly will go free.
KJV Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.
NKJV Though they join forces, the wicked will not go unpunished; But the posterity of the righteous will be delivered.

What does Proverbs 11:21 mean?

A common assumption for those who do evil is that no one will know, or that no consequences will be met (Psalm 10:3–6; 94:7). A common theme of the book of Proverbs is that consequences for sin are guaranteed for those who ignore God (Proverbs 10:16, 28). In most cases, that means the natural effects of cruelty, greed, and depravity (Proverbs 6:27–28; 11:8). Scripture acknowledges that godliness in earthly life does not come with an absolute promise of health and prosperity (Psalm 4:1–3; 73:1–3). However, the result of honoring God typically leads to more earthly safety, and absolutely brings eternal life (Psalm 112:2; John 3:16–18; 6:29).

An evil person may continue in his wicked ways, thinking he will not be punished, but this verse promises he will be punished. In the garden of Eden God told Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Disobedience would incur the death penalty (Genesis 2:17). Sadly, Adam and Eve disobeyed and later died. First, they died spiritually, and eventually they died physically. Genesis 5 records the deaths of Adam's descendants. Despite longevity, they all died. Hebrews 9:27 promises that every person will die and face judgment. Someday, every unbeliever will be judged at the Great White Throne and be consigned to eternal punishment (Revelation 20:10–15), but as this verse teaches, those who follow righteousness and godliness will go unpunished. Romans 8:1 assures us, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
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