In the aftermath of the death of Osama Bin Laden, you, like I, have probably debated in your mind the appropriateness of celebrating the death of an evil man. In all honesty, I was swept up in the celebration of Bin Laden's death. But instead of having my emotions swayed by public opinion, I want to feel God's heart on matters such as these.
As I considered God's Word, I wanted to first ask, "What does God do to terrorists?" Many say we can't answer that because there are not instances of terrorism in the Bible. Actually, there are. Consider the book of Acts:
Speaking of the terroristic murder of Stephen, "And Saul approved of his execution." Acts 8:1. Later, "But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. . ." Acts 9:1
Saul was a terrorist. He was persecuting, imprisoning, and murdering innocent Christians for religious purposes. So what did God do to this terrorist? In His grace, God saved him. Jesus miraculously intervened by meeting Saul on the road to Damascus. Paul would eventually embrace Jesus as his personal Savior and become a champion for Christ.
But Saul was not the only terrorist in the book of Acts. So was Herod. Acts 12:1-3 says, "Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also." Herod was a terrorist in that he killed innocent Christians for the sake of political gain. But what did God do to this terrorist? In His justice, God killed him. God miraculously intervened to execute His wrath. "Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last." Acts 12:23
So what does God do to terrorists? He has victory over terrorism either through His grace by saving terrorists or through His justice by killing them. (Isn't this how God has victory over all sin?)
But let's take it a step further. What does God feel towards terrorists? Consider these verses:
"Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live. . . For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn and live." Ezekiel 18:23-32
"The Lord . . . is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." 2 Peter 3:9
"The Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you." Deuteronomy 28:63
"Rejoice over her [Babylon representative of evil], O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!" Revelation 18:21
There is a tension in Scripture concerning God's heart towards terrorists and we must abide in that tension. On one hand, God takes no pleasure – His heart breaks – over the death of anyone who rejects Him. He loves all and wants all to come to know Him and experience His grace. On the other, God is righteous. He delights in his righteousness being honored through justice and encourages His people to rejoice that He is victorious over evil.
So, back to our question, "Should we celebrate the death of an evil man?" Here is my answer:
We do not celebrate the death of any person! We are broken that there are those who fail to find the hope and grace that God freely offers to all through the death of His Son on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.
But we do celebrate the death of evil! God will be victorious over all evil. Sometimes God's victory will be accomplished primarily through His grace as He redeems people. Sometimes God's victory will be accomplished through His wrath as His justice is executed. But, God will always and ultimately have victory over evil. And in that, we celebrate!
(For those who may question whether people have the right to be God's instrument of wrath and justice, I would simply say as individual Christians we do not. But that a sovereign government does. Compare Matthew 5:44 with Romans 13:3-4)