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The New Testament and The Death Sentence

  • Category(s): Religion Essays
  • Created on : 12 October 2014
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  • Author: Richard Michael Lamb


The Biblical extrapolation from Christ crucified between the two robbers with reference to the Death Sentence principle.

I start with the firmly entrenched New Testament thinking that the unrepentant wrongdoer is condemned and the genuinely repentant sinner goes to Heaven.

Thus, the two robbers crucified either side of Jesus: one says to Jesus remember me when you enter your Kingdom today. The other robber remonstrates with him to condemn him for sympathising with Jesus, who he implies has rightly been crucified by the Governor of Palestine – Pilate under Caesar’s authority. The second robber says Jesus cannot save Himself. Jesus promises salvation to the first robber who has recognised His super-natural grace. The first robber without any prompting silences his compatriot: we deserved our crucifixions – Jesus has done nothing wrong to deserve His. Jesus does not save Himself however despite the second robber’s taunts.

All three die on their Crosses that day.

The moral of the story: We must be prepared to suffer death for Jesus as the first robber did on his Cross. Was it that the second robber paid heed to the first robber’s reprimand and rebuke? We will never know if he was equally contrite to the first. It is never too late to be sorrowful but it did not save the lives of these two robbers. The first robber’s insight was crystallised by his crucifixion and imminent death close to Christ: He grasped the opportunity.

The immediate prospect of death is humbling and saving – thus the death penalty brings out the best in the condemned man convicted of murder and sentenced to death. So imminent is the next world and Judgement by God. Even the first robber did not ask to be saved – only that Jesus would remember him as he entered His Kingdom. That robber was prepared to die for his sin and did so die, yet Jesus promised him a place in His Paradise for his humility and clarity of vision – such generosity beyond that robber’s hopes.

Such visibility and the power of the unseen drives me to believe the death penalty is not cathartic but truly transfiguring. That transfiguration and transcending presence of Christ is of far greater value than run of the mill life. This story of these two robbers leads me to believe in the precious and inestimable value of the ultimate penalty – no other punishment we may impose or devise comes anywhere near the purity and sincerity and grace of the death sentence properly passed and executed for pre-meditated murder. If we desire proof, read Christ’s words of compassion from His Cross to the first robber. He was not letting that robber off the death sentence, but truly offering him the greatest absolution He would ever offer in His lifetime pre-Resurrection and on the point of His own death. I desire the same for each condemned man and woman under the Death Sentence regime we seek to bring about in this 21st Century.

I believe in Contrition and Christ. We do not punish to punish as sadists. We bring back the death sentence to restore justice and mercy in truth to our world and its peoples.