|The Death Sentence - Destiner Press Topics|
"Whoever sheds mans blood,By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man." (Genesis 9:6)
"You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also." (Matthew 5:38,39)
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled...Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away." (Matthew 5: 17,18; 24:35)
The Death Sentence
It has often been asked how the death sentence in the Word of God can be reconciled with the forgiveness taught by Jesus Christ, or how any clemency can be offered if the law must be satisfied Quite simply, one does not need to reconcile friends. Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. But in this fallen world it does not appear so simple, especially in the present mess, mired with the gospels of the media that bombard people with sexual immorality and gratuitous violence as if an individual life was a small thing, and all twisted up with legal connivings that have so clouded the issues (to the delight of lawyers looking for work). So here is a brief outline of the essence of the matter, starting at the beginning, the origin of the law, the real Law.
The Law demands death for a number of sins, not just for taking another person's life. It is very specific, and it was given to the children of Israel to set them apart from the nations around them, to be a witness to the absolute morality of the LORD, the God who is not only Love but also Light, hating the darkness of sin. Today, very few people understand the sinfulness of sin, of how repulsive it is to God, because they have a lovey-dovey image of the LORD fed to them by the church. Some even believe God is fickle in character and has changed his mind about sin. But he most certainly has not. Indeed, his law so demanded to be satisfied that, in order to redeem anyone at all, he did not even spare his only Son, sending him to fulfill everything to the letter on behalf of his elect, those whose names are written in the Book of Life from before the foundation of the world. (see the topic, King's Ransom) The sheep, who know this, realize that it is not an excuse to relax the law. There is nothing wrong with the law; the problem is with man not abiding by it and delighting in it. (Romans 6:15; 7:7,12,22) Goats, on the other hand, love to relax the law, especially in the name of love.
Today, we have "ministers" parading outside jails to protest the death sentence for totally unrepentant murderers. Other "pastors" are willing to marry adulterers and homosexuals. But that is not the law that the LORD delivered to his chosen people, or the law that Christ fulfilled. The law that God spelled out to Israel demands death for adultery, incest and sex with animals. (Leviticus 20:10-12,19) Make no mistake about how God regards such sins. The death sentence includes such offenses as homosexuality. "If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death." (Leviticus 20:13) It includes rape. (Deuteronomy 22:25) Yes, rape is a death sentence sin in the eyes of God. So is kidnapping or hostage-taking. "He who kidnaps (literally 'steals') a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death." (Exodus 21:16) And the death sentence most certainly includes murder.
The commandment is, "You shall not murder." (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17) Killing in self-defense or in war is a different matter. There are many provisions for other ways is which a death may be caused, such as manslaughter, but none for murder. (Numbers, chapter 35) The fancy plea-bargaining practiced by lawyers on behalf of murderers is not an option in the Word of God. They cannot buy their way out from this sin with any money, information or trade their lives for spilling the beans on others. "Moreover you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death." (Numbers 35:.31) He who murders another human being in this world has completely extinguished that person's future prospects, voice, hopes, fellowship with family and friends, permanently put the lights out in somebody made in the image of God. And that is why the Word says, "Whoever sheds mans blood, by man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man." (Genesis 9:6) The sinfulness of some sins demands "an eye for an eye." (Exodus 21, Leviticus 24, Deuteronomy 19)
So when Jesus said, "turn the other cheek," what was he talking about? Think about this carefully for a moment. If you indiscriminately apply this to any and all sins then you should lobby to have every serial-killer and child-molester released from prison right now. You cannot incarcerate or punish them in any way if you believe that turning the other cheek applies to every sin. It does not. For a start, when Jesus spoke those words he was addressing his disciples, not the Roman governor nor even the temple priests. He was describing a method of response and behaviour that would set his disciples apart from others without abolishing the law. That is exactly what he did with the woman caught in adultery, about to be stoned. Jesus himself had the right to cast that first stone, being without sin, but he did not throw anything. He forgave, or rather deferred condemnation, for we do not know what became of her thereafter, whether she cleaned up her act or not. He certainly told her to clean it up, to "go and sin no more" (John 8:11), an ending to that incident usually omitted by adulterers, sodomites and other sexual reprobates seeking to excuse themselves and continue in sin.
Note too, that famous event was not about a serial-killer or child-molester. Indeed, Jesus said it would be better for a person who led a single child astray to give himself the death sentence. (Matthew 18:6) As sin increases in severity, and as it increases in its destructiveness to others, a very different response may be required, especially when women and children are involved. God's prophets in Scripture were often incensed at the treatment of widows and orphans. They called for action to defend them, not to stand idly by, watching them suffer. And here is one of the most important aspects of turning the other cheek. It is your cheek, not that of someone else. You may submit to injury to yourself, and it may even cost you all the teeth in your mouth, but you should not consent to injury to others, otherwise it is the law that becomes toothless.
Here is a simple example. Suppose you are in a shopping mall when a man bumps into you and then hits you for it. There is no one else involved. Only you are on the receiving end. You can absorb the insult, discipline yourself to forgive it, walk away and press no charges. But what if it is a man with a weapon hurting everyone in sight? Perhaps you have the grit to take your licks, but are you going to stand by while others get hit? Are you going to tell the security guard or police officer not to do his job, to stand back and forgive? No, no more than you should ignore the intruder threatening your family or the robber breaking into your neighbour's house. Turning the other cheek as an individual does not throw the law out of the window for the family, community, neighbours or society as a whole.
You may be commended for turning the other cheek in the right situation, and may God give you the wisdom to know when. It still does not excuse the offender's behaviour. And if the offence affects society as a whole, then a person may have to be restrained. Depending on the severity of the sin, the restraint may include a long time in prison or the ultimate banishment from society, the death sentence. This does not negate Jesus' teachings on individual forgiveness. Take a close look at what Christ told his apostles. "Then Peter came to Him and said, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'" (Matthew 18:21,22) "If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, I repent, you shall forgive him. (Luke 17:3,4) Firstly, in case you have not already noticed it, this passage is about God's children; brothers. It is about sheep, not goats. Secondly, it is obviously not about a death penalty sin like murder or abuse of a child, it is about the way to deal those less serious offenses that we flawed human beings deliver and receive in our interactions every day of our imperfect lives. Thirdly, and very importantly, Jesus says if your brother repents, forgive him. That little word "if" is critical. This is not an unconditional forgiveness for the unrepentant offender who willfully continues in the offenses without remorse. Fourthly, this is about injuries that you may personally receive and suffer, not about damage to others.
Love does not negate the law, it fulfills it. It fulfills (or at least seriously and continuously attempts to fulfill) the Ten Commandments, if it is real love and not the mush of the church or world. According to Christ, love fulfills the first Two Commandments, and thereby satisfies all the rest. "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:30,31) "On these two commandments rest all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:40) "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Galatians 5:14) If everybody lived like this then there would be no need for any lawyers, courtrooms or judges. That Day is coming, because the Commandments are not merely legal requirements but also promises. The kingdom is coming in which there shall be no murder, abuse, cheating, stealing, sodomy, adultery, covetousness, idolatry or any trace of religion, and that kingdom will not contain those who were unrepentant and continued in their unacceptable ways. They will be excluded, shut outside with adulterers, murderers, sorcerers and every kind of religious evildoer you can imagine. (1 Corinthians 6:8-10; Ephesians 5:5; Revelation 21:8; 22:15)
There is a time coming when forgiveness will not not extended. There is a time now when forgiveness is not extended. You cannot empty the prisons in the name of love or forgiveness. You cannot undo God's law. Many church goats are trying their best to do this, because they fail to see that some sins must be punished, even with death, not just in times past but today. One such offense is murder. A good case can be made for raping women, child-molesting, sodomy and other sordid sins that pollute society, but murder is at the top of the list because there is no hope of recovery for the victim or any recompense that can be offered the victim. He who murders man, made in God's image, has forfeited his own life. He has no "inalienable rights" any more than his victim does. For such a person, the law of God does not prescribe a roof and lifetime of meals at society's expense; the sentence is death. The sentence, note, not the penalty, because the ending of life by lethal injection or other means is not the penalty. It is merely the meeting of God's demand to put such a person out of society permanently and send him to the ultimate Court. That is what the death sentence accomplishes; the penalty comes afterwards.
There are sins for which there can be no reprieve. There are people for whom there is no forgiveness precisely because they continue in such sin despite knowing better. Jesus said of the soldiers who were ordered to execute him like a common criminal, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:32-34) The churchmen, who knew the Scriptures, who saw Jesus fulfill them and personally heard Christ declare who he was (Mark 14:61,62) knew what they were doing when they delivered him to that terrible fate...and mocked. (Matthew 27:41-43) There is nothing to indicate they were forgiven this sin; quite the opposite, according to the Word. (Matthew 21:38-41; Acts 7:51-53) They also remained unrepentant in their quest to destroy Christ's disciples.
One may have a forgiving spirit, turning the ultimate cheek, like Stephen, praying for the churchmen who stoned him to death for telling them the hard truth about themselves (Acts 7:60) but the Scriptures do not say that they were forgiven for this act of murder. Nor did they display any remorse; they went after the other disciples. (Acts 8) There are sins that do not necessarily lead to death, and there are sins that are most certainly fatal and final. John, (the "apostle of love," so-called by the church, as though the others were less loving) actually takes the strongest stand against sin of all the apostles in his letters to God's elect, and does not even recommend praying for those who commit such deadly transgressions. (1 John 5:16)
In case you are sitting too comfortably, being free of the obvious wrongdoings mentioned above, then consider this: you don't have to murder someone and die unremorseful to commit an unforgivable sin. You can even take part in the crucifixion of the Lord himself from the comfort of your own church altar or table. The "abomination that makes desolate" may well be a "sin against the Holy Spirit," the kind that Jesus says "will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." (Matthew 12:31) Millions of Christians partake in this rite every week, in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, quite literally "re-crucifying the Son of God," in a church-invented "sacrament" and very likely making themselves "impossible to renew to repentance." (Hebrews 6:6) If they do this in ignorance, deceived by their clergy, of course there may be some leeway. But if they commit this abomination in full knowledge, having been told what they are doing, then they have probably become "dead men walking" (the term for those on death row being escorted to their end, convicted without further chance of pardon but not yet executed). "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries." (Hebrews 10:26)