Punishment has the element of something deserved because of breaking a law, an agreement, or covenant. The rule of Cause and Effect comes into play. Payment is due by a wrong-doer. Divine punishment is the Holy, wrathful outcome or consequence executed due to a divine judgment [Chadwick Dictionary/Concordance ;)]. Punishment itself brings with it an air of finality. In Scripture, there are some places that mention no reprise or appeal that is given in association with punishment (Zechariah 14:19). Some punishments last for a certain period of time, like a year (Jeremiah 11:23), other punishments can last for eternity according to Matthew 25:46.
Discipline is a variable term. When, where, and what the discipline is - is up to the giver and usually a corrective measure, not a damning one. I found many more positives on Discipline than I did on Punishment. Although correction within Discipline is uncomfortable and may seem like "punishment" at times, the outcome is a desired behavioral change - "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:11). And when you are disciplined by God, the desired behavioral change creates you more in His image than you were before - "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Job (Job 5:17), David (Psalms 94:12), and Solomon (Proverbs 3:11-12) all said it was a blessing to be disciplined by God. The imagery of Psalm 23, The Shepherd with a rod and staff, lends itself to the understanding that one instrument is for protecting the sheep (rod), the other for disciplining or guiding the sheep (staff). David even went a step further and prayed/sang - "O LORD, do not...discipline me in your wrath (or while you are angry)". David was so concerned about this he sang, prayed, or mentioned it at least twice - Psalm 6:1 and Psalm 38:1.
David's son, Solomon and the Disciple John continue the Godly Discipline theme by saying those who favor Discipline in their life...
- "shows the way to life" (Proverbs 10:17)
- "loves knowledge" (Proverbs 12:1)
- are "honored" (Proverbs 13:18)
- "loves his son" (Proverbs 13:24)
- "shows prudence" (Proverbs 15:5)
- "gains understanding" (Proverbs 15:32)
- are "earnest and repent" (Revelation 3:19)
Hebrews 10:31 says - It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. The living God is not only Merciful and full of Grace and Love, but He is Just and Righteous in all His ways. He is perfectly balanced. There is no error, fault, or darkness found in Him. He has never said, "My bad!" Trust His identity. Entrust your life to Him. All the Punishment that was due us for eternity has been paid for by Jesus - on the cross - "the punishment that brought us peace was upon him" (Isaiah 53:5). AND "The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm." (Zephaniah 3:15) When choosing between punishment and discipline...I'll take Christ's sacrificial punishment in my place and God's discipline throughout my life over doing this life on my own and in my own power and an eternal punishment for those who reject the full expression of Love.
It is good to know the difference and who makes the difference when it comes to Punishment vs. Discipline.