There seems to be much confusion these days over the death penalty, and particularly what the Bible has to say about it. Emotion aside, a balanced approach to the subject based solely on the Scripture yields but one conclusion.
God was clear in the Old Testament Law about capital punishment: "He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death." Exod. 21:12. Under the Law this was also to be the fate of anyone guilty of kidnapping, cursing their parents, bestiality, defiling the Sabbath, sacrificing children, adultery, rape, incest, sexual perversion, occultism, and blasphemy (Ex.21:9,16-17; 22:19; 31:14; Lev.20:2, 10-11,13, 27; 24:16).
The penalty of death was not to be sentenced carelessly: "Anyone who kills a person is to be put to death as a murderer only on the testimony of witnesses (2 or more). But no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness." Num. 35:30. God Himself said that the death penalty would be a deterrent: "And you shalt stone him with stones, that he dies... and all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you." Deut. 13:10-11.
This was not a principle confined to the Old Testament period. In Romans we read: "For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer." Rom.13:3-4.
In the last book of the Bible we are warned again: "He that leads into captivity shall go into captivity: he that kills with the sword must be killed with the sword..." Rev. 13:10.
The reason that the modern "death penalty" is criticized for not being a deterrent is because it is long delayed (often by years) as well as arbitrary, rather than mandatory, for many offenses. The Bible teaches that "When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do evil." Eccl. 8:11
The verses in the Scripture that teach forgiveness and returning good for evil are admonitions to INDIVIDUALS in our relationship to others. It is clear from even a cursory look at the Bible that God has commanded a different approach to crime for those in government and authority. If the death penalty were justly executed, swift and certain; the vast number of those who are now bold to commit murder would drop significantly, and many future victims would have their lives spared.
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Hebrews 11:6 Romans 10:9 Acts 3:19 John 1:12
Don't Die Guilty!