Summary: Looking at an important part of God’s plan for a just society
And will you profane Me among My people...killing people who should not die, and keeping people alive who should not live...? (Ezekiel 13:19)
...it can be easily demonstrated that the death penalty strengthens the value of human life. If the penalty for rape were lowered, clearly it would signal a lessened regard for the victims’ suffering...When we lower the penalty for murder, it signals a lessened regard for the for the value of the victim’s life.
Former New York Mayor Ed Koch (1)
Capital punishment has always been, understandably, a very controversial subject. God is the giver of life, and whether done by gun, gas, chair, or needle, the taking of a human life must be approached very somberly and carefully. In light of this, we present Part 2 of our "Issues of Life" series (2). In this article, we will draw a concise, yet thorough overview of capital punishment throughout both Testaments, showing that ever since sin entered the world, God has ordained (and never retracted) the death penalty as a means to protect the innocent by eliminating violent criminals from society.
In the Book of Genesis, we see that God created human beings in His own image. Because of this, He sees murder as a particularly heinous crime. He sees human life as being so sacred that anyone who takes a person’s life must consequentially give up their own. The first civil law that God ever ordained (long before the Law of Moses) was Genesis 9:6: "Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed."
We then go on to God’s establishment of the Law of Moses, which is summarized in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). In verse 13, we see the sixth Commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Kill" (Exodus 20:13). A better translation of this verse is "Thou Shalt Not Murder", murder meaning to willfully take the life of an innocent person. This could not have been a prohibition of the death penalty, since in the very next chapter, God specifically commands the death penalty for a number of different offenses. In fact, Numbers 35:33 tells us that when governments fail to punish murderers by death, God judges that nation guilty of the murder victim’s blood!
Moving on to the New Testament, we will begin by looking at an all important question: It has been asked "Would Jesus throw the switch?" My answer may surprise some, but yes, I believe He would. In Luke 19:12-27, Jesus shares the Parable of the Unjust Servant. Here we see an interesting, yet often overlooked element of Jesus’ teaching. In this parable, Jesus portrays Himself as a nobleman who goes on a journey, entrusting his goods to three stewards. When He returns, two of the stewards have made profits of the money entrusted to them, and He rewards them accordingly. The third one, however, hid his portion of the treasure, and gained nothing. The Nobleman’s somewhat shocking response is to take away the small amount of money from the unjust servant, give it to the servant with the most money, and to order the unjust servant to be slain before him! This is a start contrast to the weak, pacifist image of Jesus often presented by popular religion. In fact, many will be slain at Jesus’ return ( 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 2:8), and capital punishment will continue to be practiced during His Millennial reign as well (Isaiah 11:4-9).