DEAR FATHER PAUL: Growing up I often heard a lot of my elders say when someone (a believer) we knew died, something like this, “well, it must have been her ‘time’ and the Lord took her home to be with him.” So, my question … do each of us have an exact day, time and method of our death that is predetermined by God when we are born?
And does God himself “take us” in death? B. T.
DEAR B. T.: Thank you for your great question.
The Bible book of Job 14:5 (New International Version) says this … “ A person’s days are determined; you (God) have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” And Psalm 139:16 (New International Version) says this … “your (God’s) eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
So do these scriptures mean that our final day and hour of life on earth is predetermined, that our fate is sealed, and there is nothing what-so-ever we can do about it?
Well, “yes and no.”
Here’s what I mean by “yes and no.” It has everything to do with “perspective,” … GOD’S perspective, and OUR perspective. And our two perspectives are vastly different. Why? Because God is omniscient, i.e. “all knowing,” and we are not. So for God the answer is that he DOES indeed “know” precisely the day, hour and minute that each of us will die. And there is nothing that we can do to change or alter the time and circumstances that God “knows” concerning our death.
And while he might change his mind and grant us more time, only he will still “know.” Or, we might decide to commit suicide, but only he will still “know.”
On the other hand, WE HUMANS only know the fact that physical death is absolutely certain for each and every one of us at some time in the future.
In Genesis 6:3 … God limited mankind’s span of life to no more than 120 years. That remains true today eons later, even with our huge advances in medical science. The media recently reported that the then “oldest person on earth” had died … at age 117. Today in America the average lifespan is 78.6. Denmark leads the world with 80.7. But ALL die !
But your question is also “DOES GOD EVER DIRECTLY CAUSE A PERSON TO DIE?” Does God ever “take a persons life?” The Biblical answer is “Yes,” but that is today rare and very hard to verify. God today seems fine with letting nature take its course, that is a human lifetime of 120 years or less. However, the Bible does have many examples of God himself “taking” human lives in Biblical times. Here are just two. In Ezekiel 16 God destroyed the entire cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their inhabitants for unrepentant sexual sins. In Acts 5 is found the tragic story of Ananias and Sopphira, a husband and wife, who were members of the early church in Jerusalem under the Apostle Peter. They secretly held back a portion of the proceeds from a gift they had promised for the church’s donation to the poor then lied about it to Peter. God struck them both dead on the spot.
Hebrews 9:27 is also an interesting scripture. It says (King James Version) “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Many translations translate the word “appointed” as “destined.” Bottom Line … Death of the physical body is everyone’s destiny regardless of when, how or by whose hand we die.
We, all of us, have an unavoidable future appointment with physical death. After our death we must then stand before God and give an account of our lives in relation to God and his commands. I Peter 1:17 says this, (New Living Translation) “And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as temporary residents.”
Do you reverence and love God?
DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to answer your question in the paper.
[Father Paul Massey is Canon to the Bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South of the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church. He resides in Peachtree City, Georgia and is assigned to Christ The King Charismatic Episcopal Church in Sharpsburg, Georgia. He serves as a volunteer Chaplain to the Peachtree City Police Department.]