How should Christians react to the death of evil people?Question: "How should Christians react to the death of evil people?"
Answer: Christians are often left wondering how they ought to feel when an especially evil person dies. For instance, at the death of Kim Jong Il, Osama bin Laden, or even in history at the death of Hitler, are we to rejoice/celebrate? Interestingly, the authors of the Bible seem to have struggled with this issue as well, with different perspectives being presented in different passages.
First, there is Ezekiel 18:23, “’As surely as I live,’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.’” Clearly, God does not take pleasure in the death of evil people. Why is this? Why wouldn’t a holy and righteous God take pleasure in evil people receiving the punishment they deserve? Ultimately, the answer would have to be that God knows the eternal destiny of evil people. God knows how horrible eternity in the lake of fire will be. Similar to Ezekiel 18:23, 2 Peter 3:9 states that God is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” So, in terms of the eternal destiny of evil people, no, we should not rejoice at their eternal demise. Hell is so absolutely horrible that we should never rejoice when someone goes there.
Second, there is Proverbs 11:10, “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.” This seems to be speaking of the death of evil people in an earthly/temporal sense. When there are fewer evil people in the world, the world is a better place. We can rejoice when justice is done, when evil is defeated. A mass murderer being removed from the world is a good thing. God has ordained governments (and the military) as instruments of judgment against evil. When evil people are killed, whether in the judicial system via the death penalty, or whether through military means, it is God’s justice being accomplished (Romans 13:1-7). For justice being done, and for evil people being removed from this world, yes, we can rejoice.
There are many other scriptures that could be discussed (Deuteronomy 32:43; Job 31:29; Psalm 58:10; Proverbs 17:5, 24:17-18; Jeremiah 11:20; Ezekiel 33:11), but Ezekiel 18:23 and Proverbs 11:10 are likely sufficient to help us achieve this difficult biblical balance. Yes, we can rejoice when evil is defeated, even if that includes the death of evil people. Ridding the world of evil people is a good thing. At the same time, we are not to rejoice at the eternal condemnation of evil people. God does not desire that evil people spend eternity in the lake of fire, and He definitely does not rejoice when they go there. Neither should we.
Recommended Resource: If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think about the Question by Norman Geisler
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