Capital Punishment - Death Penalty

The Death Penalty is Moral and Just

Judicial death for the purpose of maintaining justice and righteousness is well established in human history.  However, the rise of death penalty executions in the United States against a backdrop of liberalism has triggered protests from various anti-capital punishment factions.  Often shouting the loudest are liberal religionists and clergy[1] who erroneously claim to speak for God.  These folks are grossly confused and seriously wrong.  Here's why...

doc.gif (4007 bytes) FACT -- As recorded in the Book of Genesis, the inhabitants of Earth had grown corrupt, wicked, and full of violence.  God sent a global Flood to destroy mankind, but in His grace saved Noah, his three sons, their four wives, and a host of creatures from the animal kingdom.  Following the Flood, God initiated a formal agreement (covenant) with all mankind, the animals, as well as the planet.  Noah was selected as the agent or 'representative head' on behalf of Earth and its inhabitants.  The detailed account of this is found in Genesis chapter 8, verse 21 through chapter 9, verse 17.

FACT -- This 'Noahic' covenant mandates the death penalty for the crime of murder and was to serve as a multi-faceted deterrent to future violence and corruption.  God, who is Justice personified, demands from each of us "an accounting for the life of his fellow man."  This accounting requires that "Whoever sheds the blood of [innocent] man, by man [mankind/society] shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God [viceroy] has God made man." Genesis 9:5-6.   Because mankind was created in the image of God, murder is a offense against God's image bearer.  God demands a present-tense accounting for this crime.


rainguill.gif (5633 bytes) FACT -- God gave the covenant duration--"As long as the earth endures" (8:22) as well as ratified the covenant by placing the rainbow in the sky (9:12,13).  With this covenant, the rainbow is similar to the signature line on a contract.  When the rainbow appears, God remembers His universal agreement (9:14-17).  

FACT -- The Noahic covenant remains binding even today [2].  When you see a rainbow, you should remember that the ratified agreement is still in place and binding upon YOU.  Those who oppose the death penalty have, in one way or another, repudiated (breached) this agreement either through ignorance or willful rejection.


The effectiveness of capital punishment is multi-faceted.  God has already decided that murders "should not live" so no ultimate decision is necessary.  God by the lips of the prophet said:

"You have profaned Me among my people...By lying to my people, who listen to lies, you [false prophets] have killed those who should not have died and have spared those who should not live."  Ezekiel 13:19.

Similar are the false voices of today.  They either 1) advocate the murder of the innocent, or 2) spare the guilty from the death penalty, or both.  Contrary to what some religionists think, God's intention to establish strict justice in response to murder is meant to protect the truth of the vestigial SACRED nature of human life.  Ignore this principal, and the value assigned to human life in society's collective consciousness deteriorates (becomes cheap).  Thus, we experience this cheapening with the rise of abortion, euthanasia, etc.

The Founding Fathers of the American Republic rightly understood that the 'right to life' is an imputed right, not an inherent one, when they wrote in the Declaration, "…they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life…".   These "Rights" are "unalienable" only in the sense that they cannot be taken away by other men, either individually or collectively, without a just basis.

However, the Creator who originally endowed mankind with "life" can legally withdraw or rescind it.   Pursuant to the authority delegated by God (Gen. 9:6), government has a moral and just basis to withdraw or rescind "life" from those guilty of murder.  Those who oppose government's execution of murderers, including those who argue that judicial "mistakes" are a possibility, are in fact rebelling against what God has commanded through His universal and global covenant.

The fact that a large percent of the population reject the above, reminds me of a scene from Tim Allen's HOME IMPROVEMENT sitcom.  Jill, Tim's wife, asks Tim why he didn't read the manufacturer's instructions before assembling and operating the equipment that is now malfunctioning.  Tim responds, "That booklet is just the manufacturer's interpretation!"

[1]  At the forefront are Roman Catholics and their leaders.  As a rule, Catholic ethical teachings are built upon humanistic rationalizations (e.g., the writings of Thomas Aquinas) and tradition rather than anchored in Scripture.  But Scripture commands,

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is..."   Romans 12:2

On the subject of the death penalty (and many others as well), Catholic leaders conform to the world's view of things.  The supernatural transformed thinking mentioned above is totally missing, and thus they fail to understand God's will.  Their views are 'humanistic' rather than 'super-naturalistic', and the word of Roman Catholic tradition is substituted for the Word of God. There are identical to the Pharisees of Jesus' day.

John Paul regularly asks for clemency for death row inmates whose time is running out.  In speeches, he has made several pronouncements against the death penalty.  "I hope still that we reach the point where capital punishment is renounced, given that nations today have other means of efficiently repressing crime without definitely taking away the possibility of self-redemption," he said in a 2001 speech.  Roman Catholicism rejects the Bible's testimony.  It substitutes its own erroneous teachings, asserts "self-redemption", and disobeys God's clear covenant command.

Being non-dispensational and amillennial in their eschatology, they attempt to apply select portions of Jesus' Synoptic-based, Kingdom Gospel to present-day society via governmental means thus opposing the genuine role of government--that of punishing evil (Romans 13:4).  Their success amounts to a miscarriage of Biblical justice.

As a further example, the Pope states "the new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life."  This is an example of more Catholic dogma, not what the Bible teaches.  Having obscured and rejected the facts of the Genesis covenant, the Pope states "Modern society has the means of protecting itself [build more and bigger prisons?], without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform."  According to the Pope, never mind what God says, he advocates humanistic "reform" for murderers.  Such "reform" has never and will never work.

[2]  In contrast to the Mosaic covenant, neither the teachings of Jesus nor any of the Apostles set aside the Noahic covenant and its mandate for the death penalty in response to the crime of murder.  Most often, social liberals will attempt to dismiss or twist Jesus' teachings about accountability and justice by claiming that His teachings about forgiveness don't allow for the death penalty.

However, under the Mosaic covenant later given exclusively to Israel, children who cursed their parents committed a crime worthy of death.  Read Exodus. 21:17 and Leviticus 20:9.  During Jesus' earthly ministry to Israel, as recorded in the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus reproved the Pharisees for setting aside Israel's strict [theonomic] application of the death penalty.  Read Matthew 15:3-9 and Mark 7:8-13.

In theonomic Israel, the death penalty was mandated for several other crimes as well.  At the other end of the anti-dispensational spectrum are those (theonomists) who claim that Israel's theonomic order applies to the entire world during this age.  Further, the teachings of the Apostle Paul, as found in other books of the New Testament, also suggest the death penalty -- e.g., Romans 13:4.  But what about biblical forgiveness?   <-- Click here.

Dan R. Smedra, 10/11/97, updated 1/30/99 & 7/12/99

Response from Catholic #1

Before to begin talking about what I believe in, let me say that my English is not very good, I hope that you'll excuse me for that. Only for that, I still think you are very, very wrong. Do you know what the New Testament is? It's the time of reconciliation and forgiveness. Do you know who Jesus is? Dieing Jesus didn't ask for vengeance for His blood, he asked to the Lord "Father, forgive them as they don't know what they're doing." Yes, it's not too much, but I think it's a good example. What I can bear of what you wrote is not that you have a different opinion about death penalty, but that you're using the Bible and God to substain what you say. This is what makes me so sad.

Alessandra, 7/5/99
From Italy

Response from Catholic #2

Thank you for your Old Testament recitation. Perhaps, You should look to the new Testament and the trachings of Jesus Christ who taught us that we must forgive the trespasses of thers before ours alone can be forgiven. (You know, Our Father....) Also, Perhaps you have forgotten Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Because the law proscribes a particular penalty does not make the penalty right in the eyes of God. The Death Penalty is an area of the law that I have struggled with for the past nine years that I have been a practicing lawyer. You make it too simple.

Valerie Goudie, 7/12/99
For the Defense

Response from Catholic #3

Your sin of ommission is mighty, my friend.  You have heard it said, eye for eye and tooth for tooth but I say to you, if a man strikes on the right cheek, offer him your left.  Also, the Catholic Church doesn't teach that the death penalty is immoral.  The Church teaches that the mercy of Christ must overcome the death penalty.  The NT nowhere tells us that we must apply the death penalty.   But it does tell us to love our enemy at all times.

Brian Harnak, 7/13/99

Notice the common thread found in the three responses above.  Each fails to understand the divine origin and mandate for the death penalty.  Each lacks an understanding of the role of government according to Scripture.  Like the Pharisees of Jesus' day, each substitutes Catholic dogma for the Word of God.  Each has been falsely led to believe that the teachings of Christ and the New Testament are contrary to the death penalty.  This bifurcation* of justice and mercy and lack of biblical accountability is common amongst the Anglo-Catholic denominations of Christendom.  Tragically, it has contributed to creating families (and thus societies) in which immorality and licentiousness rule under the pretense of following the teachings (so-called) of Jesus.  Such has been the case in my experience (40+ years) in relating to Catholic and Methodist family members.  Rather than their so-called Christian "forgiveness" producing gentle and contrite hearts, it has produced a multiplied crop of impenitent and pride-filled sinners who react indignantly when their outrageous behavior is called into question.  [PS: Please do not send me any rationalization about my family and people I've met and known not being "real" Catholics.  I've already heard that absurd nonsense time and again.]

* - to divide or separate into two parts or branches

Dan S, 7/14/99

Dan S:

I noticed in your rebuttal to the Catholic argument about   "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone"  you don't really address the issue.  The woman did indeed deserve, according to the law, to be killed.   Certainly Jesus knew the law as well as any and was more capable of keeping it.   Yet, he chose to forgive her?  What have you to say on this?

Larry B


Much of this confusion is the result of non-dispensational views of Scripture.  With a basic dispensational orientation, many so-called contradictions are eliminated.  Further, it is critically important to recognize the vast differences between the Noahic and Mosaic covenants, which I touched upon in my introductory article above.

The account found in the Gospel of John chapter 8 pertains to the application of the Mosaic covenant (vs. 5), NOT the Noahic.   Key to grasping how and why forgiveness was extended is understanding the purpose of the Mosaic covenant, in contrast to the Noahic.

Four hundred and thirty years before God introduced the Law (Mosaic covenant), He gave Abraham the covenant of promise.  This covenant had to do with faith, and with Christ.  The Mosaic covenant was not meant to replace the principles of promise, grace, and faith, but was brought in alongside.  Its purpose was to: 1) establish accountability, 2) increase mankind's awareness of sin, and, 3) bring the Jew to the Lord Jesus Christ via the principles of promise, grace, and faith (Galatians 3:21-25).  [For a detailed explanation, see The Law and The Apostle Paul's Teaching on the Law.]  It was never God's intention to engineer a workable theonomic society at that point in time, due to the Law's inability to impart (new) life. 

The Law having done its work, the adulterous and repentant woman was in the presence of the Living Christ!  Christ knew her heart perfectly, as well as the hearts of the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees (Romans 2:17-24).   Acting as Savior, Jesus was free to extend redemption to her, while also evading the nefarious Jewish leaders' trap to force Him to violate Roman law *.  He was NOT acting as a government official nor was He establishing principles to be followed by earthly governments.

*   This is the context in which the Jews sought to "lay a trap" for Christ.  Genesis 49:10 is one of many prophecies regarding the birth of Jesus Christ.  This verse makes reference to the "scepter...from Judah".  A scepter is a staff held by a sovereign on ceremonial occasions as an emblem of authority.

"The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until He comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is His."

Dave Hunt writes:

This [theonomic] scepter departed from Judah about A.D. 7, when the rabbis lost the right to exact the death penalty.  This right was crucial to the practice of their [theonomic] religion because death was the penalty for certain religious offenses.  When Pilate told the rabbis he wanted nothing to do with Jesus [because Jesus had done nothing under Roman law that warranted death--Luke 23:15,22] and for them to judge Him themselves, they replied, 'It is not lawful for us to put any man to death' (John 18:31).  The Messiah had to be born before that [Jewish] power [of the death penalty] was lost [under Gentile domination], and He had to be put to death afterward, for He was not to die by stoning, the Jews' manner of execution, but by Roman crucifixion."

Since the Roman authority had forbidden the enforcement of the theonomic Mosaic death penalties, it was impossible for any Jew to simultaneously be loyal to BOTH the civil authority and the Mosaic mandate for the death penalty.  Had this women been guilty of MURDER, like Barabbas (Luke 23:19), the Romans would have settled the matter long before.  Had Jesus been against the death penalty (as some maintain), we should have some record of his objection to the matter.  But we don't.

Dan R. Smedra, 7/25/99

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