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What Does The Bible Say About The Death Penalty And Capital Punishment?

The death penalty has been around since the beginning of time.  It was instituted by God in the Bible in the books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers). In order to prevent people from killing, stealing, or abusing people, the death penalty is a deterrent.  If your neighbor does something to you that angers you so much you may desire to seek vengeance, there is a cost to pay.  If there is a penalty for that vengeance, normal people will think twice before hurting, damaging, or taking another’s life in fear of the consequences.

The Old Testament Start

In the Bible’s Old Testament, people are punished with death for various evil offenses.   The death penalty goes to homosexuals (Leviticus 20:13), those in human trafficking such as prostitution and rape (Deuteronomy 22:24), sex with a married person or adultery (Leviticus 20:10), sex with animals or bestiality (Exodus 22:19), kidnapping (Exodus 21:16), murder (Exodus 21:12), as well as actively lying or ‘bearing false witness’ and being a false prophet or tool of the forces of hell (Deuteronomy 13:5).  Of course, the Bible says ‘thou shall not murder’ but it doesn’t speak against defending your land or killing attackers to protect yourself. Some Bible translations read Exodus 20:13 as ‘thou shall not kill’.  When in fact the original Hebrew word ‘râṣaḥ’ here means ‘to dash in pieces’, to ‘murder’.  The New King James Bible translation sticks to the original languages well and says, “You shall not murder”.


Jesus Christ is born and brings redemption to all of mankind that will accept Him.  Those who accept Him, God the Father has given the right to be the children of God (John 1:12).  Contrary to the best wishes of humanity, those who don’t accept Him are not a child of God.  Therefore, some we are all children of God types will be disappointed to hear that without Jesus, they are dead in their sin but with Him they will be with God forever!

Jesus Is Lord, Not Guru

Further, many highlight the Lord Jesus’ messages on love and forget about His stern and very direct teaching style.  Yes, Jesus did indeed redeem us from the law of Moses that required us to sacrifice animals to cover our sins before God.  The blood of Jesus cleanses us completely from our sins.  That doesn’t throw out everything else.  Jesus was no peace guru. Contrary to popular Christmas songs, Jesus didn’t come to bring peace to all on earth.  He said things like of the violent person, those who live by the sword will die by the sword (Matthew 26:52).  In Luke 12:51, Jesus said the Gospel would divide those who love God from those who don’t.  That’s not exactly the guru gospel that so many preach.  Of course, we all want peace on earth and should work towards that, but peace only comes to those who trust and actively know God.

What About The Death Penalty?

The Bible is quite clear on sin and the death penalty.  If you take someone else’s life in murder, you will give up your own.   The death penalty also has applied to sexual sins as we see from above.  The Biblical stance is that when you shed blood, the blood of that victim is on your hands and head.  You have taken the life of God’s creation, a person created in His image and likeness.   The reason the Bible is against sexual sins is if someone rapes someone else, they will likely do it again.  God wants no sin among His people that’s why capital crimes required capital punishments.

The Death Penalty In The New Testament

Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law, He came to fulfill it in Matthew 5:17-20.  Jesus taught that love is our guide.  We are to love God with all we’ve got, and love others.  If you love others you will not steal, kill, or destroy them or their things.  If you do, you must pay the price.  Capital punishment is not a glamorous topic to discuss, but then again murdering, sexually violating, or maiming someone else are things that people without God sometimes do.  From Revelations 21:8, we know that none of these people will be in Heaven with God in the end.

God’s Take On Capital Punishment

It is hard for anyone to stand against the death penalty when God has established the standard in the Word of God.  Is there a better way?  The death penalty is a difficult area because no normal person wants to see others die.  However, without punishment for confirmed guilty perpetrators, societies will unravel and violence will increase if not kept in check by this important function of governments maintaining justice and freedom.

The biggest area of concern around capital punishment is making sure that those to be executed are truly guilty of their crimes.  This cannot be taken lightly.  The death penalty abused can bring injustice just as doing nothing can.  However, if professed criminals are let free or just imprisoned because somehow taking their life would somehow be inhumane this is a problem.  By letting guilty murderers and others live in society, the blood of their victims cries out for justice and the count-down clock for the end of that society starts ticking.

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