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Deuteronomy 17:13 And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously.
One of the chapters in my daily Bible reading for today was Deuteronomy 17 which led to my thinking about capital punishment. In the O.T. there are at least 11different categories of sin calling for the death punishment. In this chapter among other things were two actions mentioned that God said deserved punishment by death! These were idolatry, and refusing to follow the judgment given by the priest. But along with the death sentence, God gave some rules to follow in determining if the death punishment should be administered.
There was to be a diligent enquiry as to whether the accusation was true. (Deau. 17.4)
There had to be certainty of guilt. (Deau. 17.4)
Guilt was determined by witnesses (Deau. 17.6)
There had to be a minimum of two witnesses and preferably three or more. (Deau. 17.6)
One witness was insufficient to condemn one to death. (Deau. 17.6)
As the text closes in dealing with these sins we come to our text verse which caught my attention. It seemed to me to be making some spiritual implications that many would disagree with!
It was to be known by the people that the death penalty had been administered. In fact, God’s plan was for it to be public! In other words, it was administered where others could observe what was going on!
The death penalty brought fear upon the people! Fear of what? They had no need to fear, they were innocent. What were they afraid of? Maybe they were afraid to commit the same sins that the accused had committed that resulted in his death? We may disagree on what they feared, but we cannot disagree on the fact that the death penalty brought fear upon the people.
This fear kept them from repeating the same sins, which implies the death penalty was effective in deterring wickedness!!!!
I know what you are thinking and I agree, that was O.T. and we live in the N.T. economy, the day of grace. Does the N.T. have anything to say about this controversial matter?
We know the Roman government, the High Priest, the Pharisees, and the Sanhedrin believed in the death penalty, because they condemned and publicly crucified Jesus. Even the young men were allowed to observe Stephen’s death. (Acts 7.58);
Romans 13:4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. It seems safe to assume that the sword is to be considered an instrument of death, and that Paul is teaching the government’s responsibility to administer the death penalty.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Revelation 20:13-15 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
It seems we can conclude from the above two passages that the Lord believes in the death penalty.