One thing is clear about Jeffrey Epstein: the New York billionaire believed he could run his expansive child sex-trafficking network without ever facing consequences. His wealth and power were cushions that he thought could dissociate him from the real world, one where child trafficking is met with a search for justice.
When you have the friends Epstein did, it’s not hard to believe you can get away with anything. Inside his “black book” of personal contacts and phone numbers is inscribed a chilling number of familiar names. Former British prime minister Tony Blair. Stephen Hawking. Michael Jackson. Rupert Murdoch. Kevin Spacey. Donald Trump. Prince Andrew. Bill Clinton.
In 2002, Donald Trump claimed that Epstein was a “terrific guy”, and “it is said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side”. In an infamous November 2019 BBC interview, Prince Andrew stated that “as far as my association with him was concerned, it had some seriously beneficial outcomes”. But Bill Clinton, who was logged flying on Epstein’s private plane, the “Lolita Express”, 26 times in a three-year period, denied any knowledge of Epstein’s sex-trafficking ring. “President Clinton knows nothing about the terrible crimes Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to in Florida some years ago,” his statement reads.
It was in 2005 when the Palm Beach Police department began investigating a sex-trafficking ring run by the financier out of his Florida mansion. With sufficient evidence to go to trial, Epstein was instead handed a non-prosecution plea deal in 2007 by Judge Alexander Acosta. Agreeing to plead guilty to only two counts of soliciting prostitution from a minor, the case ended with what many described as a “sweetheart deal”. Judge Acosta later described his reasoning while being confirmed as the twenty-seventh United States secretary of labour: “I was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone”, he said, adding that Epstein was above his pay-grade.
Epstein’s apparent suicide on August 10, 2019, before he was due to appear before a second trial, again robbed his victims of a voice and the justice they sought. Adding further insult to his escape from the judge’s hammer, two days before his death he signed his final will and testament, moving his massive estate to a trust in the Virgin Islands. It’s now impossible for his victims to receive any financial compensation.
Attention has turned to Epstein’s alleged right-hand woman, Ghislaine Maxwell. A charismatic socialite, she is the founder of ocean advocacy group TerraMar Project, and daughter of media mogul and alleged fraudster Robert Maxwell. Ghislaine Maxwell will stand trial in July 2021, accused of recruiting underage girls for Epstein and running what is likely to be revealed as a large-scale trafficking ring, including participating in sexual abuse of his victims.
How is it possible that immoral acts can go unpunished? The same question has been asked for thousands of years. King David once cried out to God— “How long, O Lord? How long will the wicked be allowed to gloat?” (Psalm 94:3, NLT*) The same question rings true now: what justice will Epstein face, despite his untimely death? And despite his years of repeated and remorseless abuse against those now seeking justice? Footage from Epstein’s depositions between 2007 and 2010 show Epstein coolly responding to allegations of child trafficking, underage prostitution and his sexual activity—all which he deflected with his fifth and sixth amendment rights. Asked about one of his victims, Virginia Roberts, he calmly responded with his own questions about the spelling of her name, denying any knowledge of her existence. Narcissistic? A sociopath? Was he even capable of experiencing emotion, while his victims will be grappling with trauma for the rest of their lives?
Epstein envisioned his private island in the US Virgin Islands—dubbed “Paedophile Island” by some—to be a private paradise without consequences or the influence of “outsider” morals. Inspired by the classic 1954 novel Lord of the Flies, Epstein’s dreams of power allowed him to do whatever he wanted, free from scrutiny or outside judgement. A similar idea has been explored recently in the HBO sci-fi series Westworld, where wealthy citizens travel to a Western-movie themed island inhabited by intelligent humanoid robots. Visitors are free to interact with the robots however they wish, to the extent of rape and murder. But the concept is more fact than science fiction, and Epstein isn’t the first power-hungry narcissist in history. And unlike the Epstein case, there are accounts of real-life justice.
Real-life Lord of the Flies
When the ship Batavia set sail from the Netherlands on June 4, 1629, en route for what is now Jakarta, none of the 340 people onboard could have predicted what would transpire. Tensions amongst the fleet’s commanders almost resulted in mutiny before the ship struck Morning Reef off Australia’s west coast. With 100 deaths in the immediate aftermath, chaos ensued amongst the survivors now marooned on the Houtman Abrolhos islands. The commander, Francisco Pelsaert, left with the rest of the fleet and Jeronimus Cornelisz, his deputy, assumed control and began demanding loyalty. Resistance to his authority was met with murder, weapons were stockpiled and many women were sexually assaulted. Thousands of kilometres away from any restraint, Cornelisz ruled with fear and without exhibiting any thought of consequences.
It was only when Pelsaert returned with help and supplies that Cornelisz and his mutineers were brought to justice. With both hands severed, he was hanged from gallows on October 2, 1629. His victims saw the end of a tyrant who had spent months claiming power for himself without restraint and oppressing anyone who dared to oppose him.
In a world where wicked people can seemingly practise immorality without fear of consequences, there is hope for a just future. While we can’t always rely on justice to be delivered in a coutroom—for perpetrators to face their victims and answer for their actions—the Bible promises of a time when that will happen.
After King David’s agonising about wicked people enjoying prosperity, he finds answers and comfort in God’s justice. “He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness; the Lord our God will destroy them” (Psalm 94:23). The Bible tells of a time after Jesus’ return when everyone—whether they faced justice on earth for their misdeeds or not—will be held accountable. One of Jesus’ disciples, John, received visions of this event while in exile on the island of Patmos: “I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.” Everyone who had existed in history or been alive at the time of Jesus’ return, would now answer for their sins according to God’s Law. “The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books” (Revelation 20:12). It wasn’t their immorality, however, that was the deciding factor in God’s judgement, but rather their acceptance of His love.
And the fate of those who were found unwilling? “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” (verse 15). But their punishment wouldn’t be eternal damnation, as is commonly believed. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)—the punishment will be quick, but also irreversible.
Renowned Christian writer Ellen White paints a vivid picture of the fate of those who lead evil lives without remorse for the hurt their actions cause: “With pale and quivering lips they acknowledged that they had been traitors to their holy trust. They had had warnings and privileges, but they had not heeded nor improved them. . . . This class had made themselves supreme, labouring only for selfish interests. They were not rich toward God, not having responded to his claims upon them.”
As the world grapples for answers around injustice—in regards to Jeffrey Epstein, but also the countless victims of trafficking, abuse and neglect—the search for closure can seem hopeless. The Bible does promise that although some will face a lifetime without seeing their abusers face a sentence, there is hope of a fair trial at the end for everyone, including the wicked. Though many suffer in the world, there is also hope for salvation to be on the right side—God’s side—in the end. That’s the ultimate justice.
Daniel Kuberek is a keen observer of contemporary culture and human nature. He is assistant editor for Signs of the Times and lives in Sydney.
Bible verses marked NLT are taken from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission.