Church of God, New World Ministries

Does Jesus Christ Believe In Capital Punishment?

Why doesn’t God strike down evil doers and punish them? Is it His will that criminals escape punishment?

Several years ago a discussion of “Crime in America” revealed some shocking facts: “One million American girls had venereal disease; thousands of girls disappear every year into white slavery, a major crime is committed every twenty-two seconds, a murder every 40 minutes.” Crime and violence of every kind are increasing by leaps and bounds in spite of the fact that America is spending millions of dollars for law enforcement.

Why is this? What is wrong with the American system of law enforcement that crime is not discouraged? Instead of ignoring this problem, it’s time to face it. Jesus faced it!

Jesus Christ will stamp out crime when He returns to this earth to rule the nations. He promised His followers, you and me, that if we overcome sin we will rule with Him, we will have authority over the nations (Rev. 2:26-27; 19:14-16). You will be carrying out God’s way of preserving order, of teaching people the right way, of preventing crime.

To understand God’s government, we must first study His way of governing people in the past. We also need to learn how God deals with us now, and what He will do in the future. Remember, you are going to need, and use, this information!

The administration of the civil government in ancient Israel reveals God’s method of dealing directly with unconverted, fleshly, sinning people. The government of Israel had church and state combined. It was a physical, flesh-born church or congregation. The administration of civil and religious statutes and ordinances was combined in Israel.

Bear in mind that ancient Israel was not promised salvation at that time. All the promises under the Old Covenant were material, for this life. (Lev. 26:3-12). Since those Israelites were not converted and did not have the Holy Spirit, they could not understand spiritual things. They were like most people today. God dealt with them in a purely physical manner, punishing them for their crimes.

Almost no one really understands the meaning of “the ministration of death written and engraved in stones” ( II Corth. 3) Let’s study it.

What is this ministration, administering or executing of the death penalty, which was engraved on stones? Was Paul referring to the Ten Commandments? Were the Ten Commandments engraved in whole stones? No! The Ten Commandments were written on two tables of stone, but not in whole stones.

Then what was written in whole stones? Notice Deut. 27:1-6. Moses commanded the children of Israel to set up great whole stones, and plaster them with plaster, and write upon them all the words of the Civil Law which he had just repeated to them. The Administration of these laws embodied the “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” principle (Deut. 19:21). The punishment for breaking many of these civil codes was death. The carrying out of these laws was the “ministration of death.” This was what Paul spoke of, not the Ten Commandments!

The Ten Commandments are an entirely separate and distinct law code. The Ten Commandments are spiritual laws which last forever (Ps. 111:7-8).

Because the principles of the Ten Commandments formed the basis of the civil statutes and judgments, a violation of these principles was punished by civil authority only insofar as they were later repeated in the civil statutes and judgments. The Administration of Death was the civil execution of punishments for violation of this civil law code which Moses spoke to the people.

Perhaps some of these punishments seem rather harsh to us. But a careful study will reveal the all-wise purpose behind them. Such things as murder, kidnapping, and adultery were punishable by death. How well calculated these judgments are. They show evildoers the enormity of sin and crime!

Many people today take such things as divorce and remarriage very lightly. Their human reason sees very little harm in it. So people are rushing to the divorce courts to seek an easy way out of any martial disagreement that may arise. Thus, the home and family, which are the foundations of all decent and really happy societies, are being undermined by millions of thoughtless, selfish, misguided people.

Today, God calls divorce and remarriage adultery (Mark. 10:2-12). In ancient Israel adultery was punishable by immediate death (Deut. 22:22). This same provision to protect the sanctity of the home and parental authority is set forth in the law regarding a rebellious son. If he obstinately refused to obey his parents, his life was forfeited (Deut. 21:20-21). A stern measure? Yes, but this prevented children from growing up with an attitude of contempt and rebellion against everything good and decent. Others would hear and fear. Too many young people in America today don’t respect parental and governmental authority. And too few parents ever bother to exercise authority or to teach or train their children.

Taking the life of one reprobate often saved the lives of many decent people. People today take sin, crime, too lightly, but God warns us to fear to do wrong! Remember that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10). We must first learn to reverence and fear God, our Creator and His Laws. Then, when we come to know God as our Father, love will cast out that kind of fear which would separate us from God.

God gave Israel these penalties to teach them the awfulness of sin, and to show them that they must reap what they sowed. The judges were to administer death, not life. It was a purely physical matter. Those Israelites did not understand spiritual things, and there was no opportunity of eternal life for them at that time.

The laws in ancient Israel were not to be carried out in accordance with human reason and influenced by unjustified anger. They were “of God.” In (II Chron. 19:4-7), Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, made the judges realize they were not judging for men, but for God. They were responsible to God alone! God promised to be “with them,” guiding them in their decisions when they were executing His Laws.

So we see that the judgments in Israel were not a matter of men judging one another according to human reason. Rather, they were determined by the laws from God. And in carrying them out, the judges were to be guided and inspired by God, were acting under His authority, and were responsible to Him alone!

These judgments were also given as an example to other nations of the blessing of a law abiding society under God. This was God’s way of showing the unconverted world the type of civil laws it needs to have. It was a witness to the heathen nations of the wisdom and justice of God of Israel (Deut. 4:5-8). Do you see the vast difference between this and mere human governments?

How quick and efficient was the punishment of evildoers! The administration of death was instituted to show Israel the result of wrong conduct. It was part of the law code which was “added because of transgression” (Gal. 3:19). Yes, this law was “added” to God’s immutable, spiritual law, the Ten Commandments. But it was only to last “till the seed (Christ) should come.”

The Ten Commandments were never added because of transgressions. If the Ten Commandments were not already in existence there would have been no transgression - “Where no law is, there is no transgression” (Rom. 4:15). Abraham obeyed them long before Moses was born (Gen. 26:5). They stand fast “forever and ever” (Ps. 111:8).

Sacrificial laws for sins committed in ignorance and this civil administration were “added” because carnal minded Israel didn’t understand and was not able to keep the spiritual principles of the Ten Commandments. Without immediate physical punishment for willful wrong-doing, crime and anarchy might have resulted! These fleshly people needed physical judgments with “teeth” in them. And that’s just what God gave them!

Remember that these Israelites were unconverted and had no promise of the Holy Spirit or eternal life under the Old Covenant. They could not earn salvation by works, any more than we can today! All their promises were only material promises for this life. The judges administered death, not life, to the people. As long as the nation as a whole obeyed God, there were no long drawn out trials, no newspaper publicity, but the speedy operation of JUSTICE.

Two witnesses were required to convict a man of any crime. (Deut. 19:15-21). The punishment for false witnesses was made so severe as to effectively discourage that practice.

Israelites did not pay taxes to keep convicts alive in association with other hardened criminals. How much our nation could learn from the wisdom and justice set forth in these laws! America’s complicated, bungling system of law enforcement seems rather pitiful when we compare its actual effectiveness to that of Israel. God’s laws when enforced put a stop to crime and made men fear to do wrong!

God warned Israel that if they refused to practice His laws, they would be scattered among the heathen (Lev. 26:33) After Judah and Israel separated into two nations, every one of the nineteen kings of Israel refused to enforce God’s laws.

Lawlessness increased. Human reason supplanted strict enforcement of God’s laws. The nation was suffering terribly from its refusal to obey God when it finally went into prophesied captivity in 721 B.C.

Israel and Judah were never again united. Even after a partial restoration of Judah under the government of Ezra and Nehemiah, those Jews began to apostatize. Once again, “human reason” tried to circumvent God’s laws! This was the era in which the Talmud was written by Jewish scribes. They began to add and “improve” upon the laws of God. They did what seemed right to human reason. When Christ came, He had to do away with the “traditions of the elders.”

The Jews made a pretense of carrying out some of God’s civil laws. But Christ showed that they perverted these laws even while they claimed to follow Moses (Mark 7:5-13). They replaced God’s spiritual and civil laws with the “traditions of men.” They freed the guilty and punished the innocent.

In Christ’s time the Jews were living in a state of subjection to the occupying Roman armies. Henceforth, they, and converted Christians, have lived in subjection to the worldly governments and rendered “tribute” to Caesar (Luke 20:25).

Why the administration of the Spirit? It was God’s purpose to replace the “administration of death.” It was only to last “till the seed should come.” After Israel and Judah were scattered and driven into captivity, the administration of Israel’s civil government was impossible. There was no organized civil government in Israel, no law enforcement machinery. In Christ’s time, the Jews were living under a Roman governor and had no authority to administer God’s civil laws.

At this time God sent Christ to introduce a new administration, the Administration of the Spirit. Why? Because the first administration gave only death for disobedience. Human judges could not impart eternal life, they could only minister death. What was needed was a new administration which could give pardon and eternal life to those who repented and wanted to obey.

The promise of the Holy Spirit, the only hope of eternal life, was given to all believers for the first time. (Acts 2:37). Instead of administering the death penalty for sins, Christ, the Apostles, and his ministers today teach the people the way to eternal life. Christ’s ministers “administer” life to mortal man.

All men are born mortal subject to sin. We are in need of the Holy Spirit, the begettal of eternal life. We also need to quit sinning, breaking God’s law. We need the love that fulfills the law. (I John 5:3; Rom. 5:5; 13:10). Unless we have that love which only the Holy Spirit can give, we sin, and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). But what is sin? “Sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4). The law here spoken of is not the administration of death that was written in whole stones. The ministration of death lasted only as long as the civil government of Israel. This Law which John mentions is the Ten Commandments which were written on two tables of hewn stone. These are the commandments which “stand fast forever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness” ( Ps. 111:8). This law will last longer than heaven and earth. (Matt. 5:18).

If you are a Christian you are being judged by this perfect and just law! “So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty” (James 2:12). This is the law which liberates us from sin, but if we break one point of it, we are guilty of all (v. 10).

Notice that Christians are to have God’s spiritual law, the Ten Commandments written in their hearts, not on tables of stone as under the old covenant! Paul shows right here that God’s law is not abolished, that it is “written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God: not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart? ( II Corth. 3:3).

God’s law is to be in our hearts, we are to live by the power of God’s Spirit. The Ten Commandments were not written on stones, nor abolished. Paul says that they were on “tables of stone,” but the laws for the administration of the death penalty by civil judges were engraven on whole stones.

Since we, by nature, violate the Ten Commandments we certainly need pardon, GRACE, and the supernatural power of the Spirit of God in us to fulfill them. Christ died to pay for our sins. He made it possible to receive the Holy Spirit from the Father. His ministers are to teach the people how to quit sinning and to gain eternal life, by administering or teaching the people how to be reconciled to the Father and receive the Holy Spirit.

Now do you see the difference? Ancient Israel under the Old Covenant only understood the letter of the law. Being unconverted, most of them didn’t even obey that. So God gave them civil laws and prescribed punishments, or judgments, based upon the principles of His Spiritual law. Israel judges punished transgressors of this civil law code by fines and death. Thus, it was called the “administration of death.” It was necessary because Israel was a nation of unconverted people. However, it was only to last till Christ should come, who would introduce the spiritual administration to reconcile us to God.

Today, Christians are to forgive men of their trespasses (Matt. 6:14-15). We are not to avenge ourselves, but to rely on God’s righteous judgment to punish those who violate His laws, or harm us (Rom. 12:18-21). Not knowing another’s thoughts or intentions, it would be impossible to judge or condemn another (Matt. 7:1-2).

God is permitting the worldly governments to rule this world now to keep order so we can live in peace. We are to be subject to the civil rulers, and to realize that they hold their authority from God to carry out the enforcement of law and order (Rom. 13:1-8).

No nation is carrying out the righteous judgments of God, but it is His will that they administer civil government to maintain law and order. Christians are to pray that they will so rule that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives (I Tim. 2:1-2).

The Bible teaches that God has turned over the task of civil government to the unconverted people of this world, until they learn that human government can’t bring peace and happiness, until Christ returns to rule, with us, over all nations with a rod of iron. We who overcome this world will help rule. We will carry out God’s government and His laws.

As Christians, we can have no part in these worldly civil governments. Rather, we are commanded not to be yoked together in association with unbelievers ( II Corth. 6:14). Christ said in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now my kingdom is not from hence.”

But are the civil authorities sinning when they condemn a criminal to death? The Bible answer is that these men are responsible to God for the way they use their office. The apostle Paul said of civil authorities, “he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Rom. 13:4).

Being human, civil officers sometimes execute a man who is not guilty. But it is God’s responsibility to judge their misconduct. Even if they have misused their office, they may be forgiven if they repent when God opens their minds to His truth. But they will be held accountable if they willfully abuse the authority God permits them to wield. Theirs is a most serious responsibility!

The penalty of death is still in effect for those who break God’s law! It is time for professing Christians everywhere to wake up and realize that God means business!

Hebrews 10:26-31 teaches us clearly and unmistakably that a far worse punishment will befall those who willfully trample on God’s law than that which was visited on the fleshly Israelites. That punishment is eternal everlasting death.

The “ministration of death” in Israel was only a lesser, physical type of the eternal punishment (eternal death) for refusing to obey God’s law, once the knowledge has come.

Now we can see plainly revealed how Christ, as the World-Ruler, will stamp out crime and lawlessness in all nations. God says “I change not.” Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He was the God of Israel who enforced Capital Punishment in national, fleshly Israel. The nations of this world will become the kingdom of Christ. They will still be human, carnal, ruled over by Christ and the saints then made immortal, divine members of the Kingdom or Family of God. There will be strict law-enforcement! It will be swift and certain! Judgments will be rendered by Divine Ones, able to read human minds and hearts. There will be no escape for the guilty. There will be no miscarriage of justice. Men will have such fear to do wrong that crime will disappear! No one will fear thieves, murders, gangsters. There will be peace and safety, and the only fear will be the fear to break the law! Humanity will come to realize the enormity of sin, and will live the way of God’s Laws of Love.

But we, whom God now calls to salvation, are to teach God’s laws then and enforce them. Our life now is the training ground to educate and prepare us for that grave responsibility and wonderful opportunity

Let us learn the lesson from these examples that God intended, and quit trying to use human reason to justify our wrong deeds. Then we will reap the blessing of keeping God’s laws, and live the abundant lives that He intended (John 10:10).

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Gal. 6:7). Do you believe God’s Word? Many of you have been trying to hide your eyes from God’s law. You spend much time and effort in a vain attempt to excuse or justify breaking one of the commandments (Matt. 5:17-20). Remember, that even the least commandment is still very much in force!

Have you been postponing obedience to God? If so why? Do you think that reason will stand up in the judgment? God’s word says that your reward for sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Yes, in this case the Bible teaches capital punishment. Remember that this time God himself will carry out that punishment if you don’t repent!

If you haven’t done so already, you’d better take the advice of the apostle Peter to “repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remissions of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

You will have to repent of breaking God’s law. You will need to be baptized as an outward symbol of your willingness to bury your old disobedient self. Then God will give you the Holy Spirit, through which you will receive the love to keep His law. God loves you. He wants to give you eternal life!

But, in His wisdom, God has decreed that you must first learn to live the right, the sensible, and the happy kind of life. God’s eternal, spiritual law, the Ten Commandments is the basis of that way of life. It is the “ministration of life.”

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