I sympathize with your desire for justice. However, I think this serves as a good point from which to address some troubling questions.
Let’s say that you, yourself, are God. Perhaps God has retired and appointed you as His replacement; whether by way of recognition of your unique merit as an individual or through random lottery–the exact circumstances are immaterial. Furthermore, say that no one has been resurrected yet; the divine plan is to raise all the dead in one fell swoop at the end of time.
Or say, if it is more plausible to you (not necessarily you in particular, but others who might be reading this), that there is no God. Instead, you exist in a distant future in which the spiritual and technological evolution of humanity has progressed to the point where individuals have the power of gods. It may please you, being one such being, to spend an insignificant fraction of the limitless resources under your command to resurrect all the humans who once lived in this world and right old wrongs to the greatest extent that they can be righted.
In any case, it’s your responsibility to see to the proper reward or punishment for everyone who has ever lived. No external authority will ever punish you for your choices.
What would be the right thing to do in such a situation? If you are human, I am certain that you know, as do I, of many individuals who have clearly escaped fair punishment for their terrible deeds in this life. How should they be punished? Consider why we punish people today.
Punishment is a response to bad acts–to crimes. We punish crimes as prevention, to make it difficult or impossible for a person to commit more crimes for some limited or unlimited period. We do so as a deterrent, to give people an incentive to refrain from committing similar crimes in the future. Finally, we do so for vengeance.
Do we punish people for instruction? That is, do we punish people for their actions in order to teach them that they should not repeat those actions in the future? But this is merely deterrence directed specifically towards the offender rather than towards people in general.
Do we punish people for justice? That simply begs the question: why is it just to punish? Why is it just to return harm for harm and pain for pain? The dictionary definition of “justice” is of little help here. In all the cases I can imagine the motivating force of justice can be fully explained in terms of those above.
In this scenario, there is no need to punish for the mere prevention of future misdeeds. The human world is at an end, and if any existence is to continue in an afterlife, it is well within your power to ascertain that it is impossible for one person to harm another. For the same reason deterrence is pointless, for there is no gain in deterring people from acts they are incapable of committing.
This leaves only vengeance. But, shorn of any need or power to prevent or deter future crimes, what is vengeance? All that remains is the pure emotional satisfaction we derive from the punishment of a wrongful act. This is a powerful motivating force in human affairs, and, I grant, usually a positive one. The human desire for vengeance ensures that people are punished for the bad acts they commit, and if there were no vengeance there would surely be far more bad acts. On the other hand, sometimes our lust for vengeance leads to excessive desire for punishment. Petty disputes can grow into blood feuds that perpetuate violence. Vengeance itself is not an unalloyed good.
If God is a rational being who wishes for people to behave well, it is in His best interest to promise people that they will be punished for their misdeeds. It is rational for Him to do everything in His power to give credence to this promise. Then, when the time for punishment comes, it is rational for Him to break this promise.
I posit that it is wrong, everywhere and always, to hurt another being when no good will come of it. Furthermore, any satisfaction that one derives purely from the infliction of such hurt must not count as good for this purpose, lest all manor of terrible crimes be licensed. I suspect there is general agreement on these matters. In fact, hurting people for one’s own pleasure is exactly sadism as drmark2000 defined it in the OP of this thread.
To the extent that punishing a person for a crime serves no purpose beyond the punishment itself, any vengeance obtained through that punishment is inherently sadistic.
From a God’s-eye-view at the end of history, the human world is a closed book. Whatever harms human cruelty has caused lie in the past, and your ability to remedy the damage to the innocent will not be affected at all by any punishment you inflict upon the guilty. Such punishment would be no more than additional harm that compounds the original wrong. I willingly grant that the expectation, to the extent that it exists today, that a person will be punished in the afterlife for misdeeds committed in this life, does produce some amount of deterrence. I don’t think this can be reasonably disputed. However, I think we can agree that a bad act does not become a good act merely because it is what people expect.
Should people be punished for their crimes? Of course they should, whenever it is possible to do so. But do they deserve punishment? Or is punishment merely a necessary response–a cruel act that is justified on the grounds that we believe it will prevent further cruel acts?
Hard as it is to accept, there may be less reason than you think to believe that a good God will necessarily punish the wicked. Perhaps that isn’t a bad thing.