Death Without Justice?

Today In Prophecy

“Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later” (1 Timothy 5:24 NKJV).

Death Without Justice

On August 30, Robert Mugabe, former president of Zimbabwe, died a free and rich man at the age of 95 in a luxury hospital in Singapore. Justice suggested that he should have died in prison, serving a lengthy sentence for horrendous crimes against humanity.

When dictatorships spread throughout much of the developing world after World War II, Robert Mugabe led the fight for the removal of white minority rule in what was then known as Rhodesia. During that time, he was celebrated as both a political prisoner and a guerilla leader who brought hope for black Africa. After Mugabe rose to power in 1980, Julius Nyerere, the leader of Tanzania, prophetically cautioned Mugabe: “You have inherited a jewel in Africa. Don’t tarnish it.” Ignoring that counsel, Mugabe brought terror to the country for 37 years.

All political dissension was dealt with harshly. “We will kill those snakes among us,” he proclaimed. And he did, beginning with the Ndebele and Kalanga populations which he considered politically disloyal. He proclaimed Gukurahundi — “People’s Storm” — a campaign that brought mass murder to the northern territory of Matabeleland in 1983. He established the notorious Fifth Brigade, a military group that was trained by the North Koreans. Between 1983 and 1987, Mugabe deployed the brigade into Matabeleland, in the south of Zimbabwe. The brigade oversaw a campaign of beatings, arson, public executions, and massacres.

The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace documented at least 2,000 deaths but claimed the real number to be four times higher. Those in the Ndebele population counted 20,000 murdered. During the campaign, Mugabe made children dance on the burned bodies of their parents while singing his political party’s anthem. Mugabe never submitted to justice for the survivors and victims of Gukurahundi, al though he later acknowledged that “thousands” had been killed and referred to his ordered massacres as “a moment of madness.”

Others Who Got Away

Dictators and warlords have been more likely to die of old age or disease than at the hands of an enraged populace or assassin, according to an analysis by Matthew White, author of The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History’s 100 Worst Atrocities (W. W. Norton & Company, 2011). White’s look back at history found that 60 percent of oppressive warmongering types lived “happily ever after,” never undergoing a time of accountability for their crimes. Among them are:

  • Joseph Stalin, Russia (1878-1953) — Official records suggest at least 3 million people died from execution and in prison camps during his reign. Millions more died in famines caused by his policies. At the age of 73, after a late-night dinner and movie with some of his political colleagues, he went to bed on March 1, 1953, and never came out of his room in the morning.
  • Francisco Franco, Spain (1892-1975) — He ruled Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975. He censored his opponents, created political concentration camps and instituted the death penalty for some who spoke out against him. After lapsing into a coma from complications of Parkinson’s disease on October 30, he passed away at the age of 82.
  • Augusto Pinochet, Chile (1915-2006) — Coming to power by military coup in 1973, his regime killed and imprisoned dissidents and tortured thousands of citizens. On December 3, 2006, less than two months after being charged with 36 counts of kidnapping, 23 counts of torture and one count of murder, Pinochet suffered a final heart attack. He died a week later never having been convicted of his crimes.
  • Idi Amin, Uganda (Approx. 1925-2003) — Hundreds of thousands died in Uganda under his rule, which began with a military coup in 1971. Deposed and exiled in 1979, he settled in Saudi Arabia, living in comfort for years. Amin died of kidney failure in August, 2003, his fifth wife by his side. Amin’s birth year is unknown, but he was likely around 80.

Coming to Justice in the Millennium

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment” (Matthew 12:35-36 NKJV).

Jesus declared that every idle word — every unprofitable utterance — must be accounted for in a day of reckoning. With the Church, the Scriptures teach that this day of reckoning is the Gospel Age. Daily we are to ask our Heavenly Father, “Forgive us our debts (trespasses), as we also have forgiven our debtors (those that trespass against us)” (Matthew 6:12 RVIC). As a pupil daily learns his lessons and prepares himself for the final examinations at the end of the year, so with the pupils in the School of Christ. Learning the lessons from the Master, justified through the blood of Jesus, and consecrating their life to him, their judgment is rendered at the end of their earthly journey: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21 NKJV, Revelation 2:10).

However, Paul tells us that there will be a resurrection of both the just (the faithful consecrated servants) and the unjust (Acts 24:15). Just as those who are rendered “just” secure their character during their earthly sojourn, scriptures indicate that the moral condition of these “unjust” remains with them upon awakening from death. Scripture indicates their condition of mind and moral character will be the same as they possessed at death “there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol (the grave)” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NASB).

Although those individuals practicing evil now are not on trial for life or death, they are not entirely without light and the ability to choose good over evil. In the darkest days of the world’s history, and during the most savage times, there has always been at least a measure of the light of conscience pointing to righteousness and virtue. Paul confronted Felix with this principle of accountability: “And as he was discoursing concerning Justice, self-government, and that judgment about to come, Felix, being terrified, answered, ‘Go for the present; and when I find an opportunity I will call for thee” (Acts 24:25, Wilson Diaglott). Daniel identified this accountability in his vision of future judgment: “many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt” (12:2 NASB).

Jehovah Will Avenge

“For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the LORD, and He watches all his paths. His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin” (Proverbs 5:21, 22 NASB). This scripture suggests that there will be accountability and responsibility in the Millennium for the compromised conscience and evil works of this age, just as scripture indicates there will be reward for the good works done in the beneficial exercise of conscience: “Whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42 NASB).

The age of Christ’s reign will be a time of just judgment. Although it will be an age of great opportunities for all, it will also be a time of severe discipline, trial and punishment for many. That the judgment will be fair and impartial, and with due consideration for the circumstances and the opportunities of each individual, is also assured by the character of the Judge (John 5:22, 1 Corinthians. 6:2). Jesus’ perfect knowledge, his unwavering justice and goodness, his divine power and his great love as shown in his sacrifice to redeem men from death guarantee the privilege of a fair and unbiased individual trial. Additionally, those accounted worthy to have attained the “resurrection of the just” will have had empathetic training to deal with damaged characters.

Psalm 37:17 (ESV) says, “For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous.” A broken arm can be healed. Under Jesus’ reign, justice will prevail. Principles of justice will protect all those who have known only cruelty and injustice. Honor, fairness, and virtue will be based on the principles iterated in the New Covenant. The benevolent object of this judgment will be the permanent establishment of righteousness. Jehovah will make all things right in due time (Philippians 4:7).

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