One should not say that it is impossible to reach a virtuous life; but one should say that it is not easy. Nor do those who have reached it find it easy to maintain. Those who are devout and whose intellect enjoys the love of God participate in the life of virtue; the ordinary intellect, however, is worldly and vacillating, producing both good and evil thoughts, because it is changeful by nature and directed towards material things. But the intellect that enjoys the love of God punishes the evil which arises spontaneously because of man’s indolence.
Before turning Antony the Great’s use of the word “punishment” onto all of those supposed spiritual, theological, social and political idiots surrounding you and me, I would challenge you to read the rest of “On the Character of Men and on the Virtuous Life“. You see, part of the reason monasticism has had an ugly hue, in most of our eyes, is its’ seeming refusal to take part in life’s struggles. In the healthiest of monks’ eyes, though, we are the ones’ refusing to deal with the root of our problems.
So then, let’s swing back around to the word I first pointed at. St. Antony the Great’s idea of punishment is not focused on the wrongs of others, but only those originating within you and me. He was not decrying legal and political efforts in dealing with those wrongs surrounding us, but rather those wrongs we keep our eyes off of. By not living out repentance we have effectively made everyone else the problem and so are, progressively, creating hell.