Is Capital Punishment a Biblical Option for Terrorists?

In the latest online edition of “Israel Today” it was reported that a fierce debate was going on in Israel concerning the execution of terrorists. The headline read “Death Penalty for Terrorists Sparks Fierce Debate in Israel.” On Wednesday Israel’s Knesset voted 52-49 in favour of a bill that would enable both military and state courts to sentence convicted terrorists to death. Technically, Israeli courts can already sentence convicts to death, but only via the unanimous decision of multiple judges. Such a sentence has not been handed down since Israel executed Nazi Holocaust front man Adolf Eichmann in 1962. The new bill would enable courts to hand down the death penalty with just a simple majority decision.

Is Capital Punishment an option?

As I read the article it made me reconsider capital punishment as an option to life in prison. All of us are painfully aware today of the indiscriminate murder and maiming of innocent civilians by Islamic terrorists. Should stabbings, shootings and bombings go unpunished? Should people be allowed to murder indiscriminately and without remorse and escape the hangman’s noose or the electric chair? Even on our own streets here in Melbourne certain men have indiscriminately with motor vehicles run down innocent civilians in our city streets. This seems to be one of the latest techniques practiced by Islamic terrorists. Some would disagree with capital punishment of course and there are arguments for it and against it, but what does the Bible say about the law enforcement that God has established?

Who has ordained Law Enforcement?

In God’s Word we are commanded by the LORD to respect lawful authority in matters of Law and order and law enforcement. The Apostle Paul writes… “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behaviour, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” (Romans 13:1-4)

Several things to consider in this matter…

God’s perfect set of laws

The most perfect set of commandments are the 10 commandments which God gave us through Moses to show us how far short we fall of God’s standard of righteousness and to be our schoolmaster to lead us to the Lord Jesus and to the righteousness that comes from God through faith in Him. The Law was also given to provide fair and just laws for the benefit of man.

God has ordained Law Enforcement

God has ordained Law enforcement for the well-being and protection of people in society in general. Resisting lawful authority is resisting God. We are “to render unto Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is Gods.” We are to pay taxes and keep the law because it is ordained by God. The only exception is when the laws of men go contrary to the laws of God. For conscience sake as believers we follow God’s Word first and foremost. Not all rulers are just and fair. God raises up kings and expects they rule wisely but He also dethrones them when they do not do what is right. (Daniel 2:21)

The Minister of God

“The minister of God does not bear the sword for nothing, for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” In other words when the sword is needed they have lawful authority under God to wield that sword to maintain justice and to protect the lives of innocent and vulnerable people as an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.

The Preferred Option

Prison is a preferred option but those who indiscriminately kill and murder without remorse or repentance for their crimes should be executed. This is the Law of God. (Exodus 20:13; 21:12-14) The text in Exodus 20:13 can be translated “You shall not murder.” Capital punishment of course is the last resort. Scripture is clear; “For judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13)

Justice yet mercy

God would rather have mercy on sinners than punish them and He Himself says; “Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23) In the Bible we are told about King Manasseh who filled Jerusalem from one end to the other with innocent blood but who, later in exile in a dungeon, repented and was spiritually restored. Having said this, men were put to death in the Bible for wickedness. If we did not have laws in place to protect man from himself then men could kill, steal, rape and murder without any penalty for their actions. The result would be chaos to say the least. God Himself has ordained courts of law. There is a difference between revenge and justice.

Prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks

We should always pray for our nation’s leaders and law enforcement officials as it is in their best interests and in ours as well as citizens. The apostle Paul gave us some very sound advice to us as believers when he wrote; “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.” (1Timothy 2:1-3)