(Except otherwise stated, all Bible quotations are from the New International Version).
Most people attribute all deaths to the will of God, even when some people die as a result of direct disobedience to God’s commandments. We understand God has decreed that no man would live forever on earth in the fallen state, and all men must die someday, as a result of the original sin. But, what of those whose lives are terminated by others while in their prime? Are their deaths too the will of God? What of people that die through suicide, through the negligence of others, and while indulging in destructive lifestyles (chronic alcoholism, drug abuse, cigarette smoking, etc)? Is it the will of God for them to die at the time they did? Could they have lived longer if they had avoided doing certain things, or if they had adopted more healthy lifestyles? It’s important to find scriptural answers to these questions, to enable us have a clearer understanding of what the will of God is (concerning death), as well as the place of human responsibility in preserving and prolonging our lives on earth. This article will attempt to answer the aforementioned questions through a careful examination of the Scriptures.
When Cain killed his brother Abel through a fit of rage induced by jealousy, God wasn’t pleased with the act, and revealed his displeasure to Cain in very strong terms. God made it clear to Cain that Abel wasn’t supposed to have died the way he did and when he did. The blood of Abel was crying out for vengeance, because his death wasn’t natural. Abel had been cut short in the prime of his life, and neither he nor God was happy about that, hence God’s outrage at what Cain had done, and Abel’s outcry for vengeance. We can’t say in this circumstance that Abel died according to the will of God, simply because it wasn’t the will of God that Abel should die at the time he did. Abel’s death can only be attributed to the murderous will of his brother Cain, and not to the will of God. For that reason, God pronounced a curse on Cain and declared him a fugitive and a wanderer. Cain was expelled from God’s presence and became a vagabond for prematurely terminating his brother’s life.
Genesis 4:3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD.
Genesis 4:4 And Abel also brought an offering —fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering,
Genesis 4:5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Genesis 4:6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?
Genesis 4:7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
Genesis 4:8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Genesis 4:9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Genesis 4:10 The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.
Genesis 4:11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.
Genesis 4:12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
1 John 3:10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.
1 John 3:11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
1 John 3:12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.
After the flood, we see God giving mankind a definite commandment not to kill one another unlawfully. Murder was declared an offence worthy of capital punishment. Whoever killed another person would be killed himself, for killing someone else (without divine authorisation) is clearly against the will of God. Anyone who dies thus (through homicide) obviously did not die by the will of God, even if God allowed it to happen. Thus, even though God had decreed that all men would ultimately die by reason of the original sin, he did not intend for people to kill one another. Obviously, God intended for people to live to old age and die only when their bodies get frail and are unable to house their souls anymore. That’s when people are supposed to die: at ripe old age, and from natural causes.
Genesis 9:1 God blessed Noah and his sons and told them, “Multiply and fill the earth.
Genesis 9:2 All the wild animals, large and small, and all the birds and fish will be afraid of you. I have placed them in your power.
Genesis 9:3 I have given them to you for food, just as I have given you grain and vegetables.
Genesis 9:4 But you must never eat animals that still have their lifeblood in them.
Genesis 9:5 And murder is forbidden. Animals that kill people must die, and any person who murders must be killed.
Genesis 9:6 Yes, you must execute anyone who murders another person, for to kill a person is to kill a living being made in God’s image.
Genesis 9:7 Now you must have many children and repopulate the earth. Yes, multiply and fill the earth!” (NLT).
St. Matthew 26:47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people.
St. Matthew 26:48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.”
St. Matthew 26:49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
St. Matthew 26:50 Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.
St. Matthew 26:51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
St. Matthew 26:52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.
Revelation 6:9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.
Revelation 6:10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”
Revelation 6:11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.
By extension, people who destroy their bodies (by willfully indulging in dangerous lifestyles) and die as a consequence of such bodily harm, cannot be said to have died according to the will of God. For instance, when people drink alcohol excessively and end up with alcoholic liver disease and liver cancer and die thereby, such deaths cannot be attributed to the will of God. Such people clearly violated God’s commandment which forbids excessive consumption of alcohol and drunkenness, and their deaths, which resulted from the violation of God’s commandment, cannot be said to be the will of God. In the same vein, a man who contracted HIV/AIDS from sexual promiscuity or sodomy, and died thereby, cannot be said to have died by the will of God. Such a man died from the consequences of a disease contracted while disobeying the word of God. His death therefore cannot be said to be the will of God. Similarly, a woman who dies while procuring an abortion cannot be said to have died according to God’s will. It is obviously not the will of God when, out of our own rebellion, we disobey God’s commandment and die as a result. It wasn’t the will of God that Adam and Eve should eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree and die thereby. Those who wilfully destroy their bodies through the violation of God’s word will have God to reckon with at the end of the day, for God has promised to destroy those who destroy their bodies, which is the temple of God. That’s the same fate that awaits people who commit suicide and destroy God’s temple thereby. In the church at Corinth, some believers were partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner, and they were falling sick as a result and dying thereby. Surely, such deaths could not have been ascribed to the will of God?
1 Corinthians 3:16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?
1 Corinthians 3:17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
1 Corinthians 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!
1 Corinthians 6:16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”
1 Corinthians 6:17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.
1 Corinthians 6:19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
1 Corinthians 6:20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians 11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,
1 Corinthians 11:24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
1 Corinthians 11:25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
1 Corinthians 11:26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 11:28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.
1 Corinthians 11:29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.
1 Corinthians 11:30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 11:31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment.
1 Corinthians 11:32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.
Romans 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
Romans 1:19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities —his eternal power and divine nature —have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Romans 1:22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools
Romans 1:23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Romans 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
Romans 1:25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator —who is forever praised. Amen.
Romans 1:26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.
Romans 1:27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Romans 1:28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.
Romans 1:29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,
Romans 1:30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;
Romans 1:31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.
Romans 1:32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
What of people who die as a result of the negligence of others, or the incompetence and carelessness of other people? That would include manslaughter and deaths resulting from professional incompetence and negligence. Are such deaths the will of God? If a doctor neglects to perform his duties to a patient, or carries out the wrong procedure and the patient dies thereby, is such a death the will of God? From the Scriptures, we understand that deaths resulting from negligence are not considered the will of God, for those responsible for the negligence are commanded to be punished by God. God will not prescribe punishment for a man who helped to execute his will! Similarly, accidentally causing another’s death (manslaughter) is also a punishable offence in the Scriptures, and cannot therefore be the will of God. Thus, we can see from Scriptures that any death that cannot be attributed to natural causes, or which does not proceed directly from a divine proclamation, even if permitted by God to happen, cannot be the will of God.
Deuteronomy 22:8 When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.
Exodus 21:20 “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result,
Exodus 21:21 but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.
Exodus 21:22 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows.
Exodus 21:23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life,
Exodus 21:24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
Exodus 21:25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
Exodus 21:28 “If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible.
Exodus 21:29 If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull is to be stoned and its owner also is to be put to death.
Exodus 21:30 However, if payment is demanded, the owner may redeem his life by the payment of whatever is demanded.
Exodus 21:31 This law also applies if the bull gores a son or daughter.
Finally, when people die without coming to the knowledge of God and without making peace with him, God is not pleased. God does not take pleasure in the death of a sinner, but wishes that all men would repent and come to the knowledge of the truth. Thus, if a wicked person dies in his wickedness without making peace with God, such death is obviously not pleasing to God, and cannot therefore be his will. When we therefore pray for our enemies who have not known God (be they witches or wizards) to die, it is certainly not the will of God. Our prayers for sinners should therefore be for God to convert them, so that they would come to his knowledge and make peace with him. No wonder Jesus prayed for God to have mercy on those who crucified him, and pleaded for their sins not to be laid to their charge. No wonder Stephen prayed for those stoning him to death to be forgiven and to be granted the privilege of experiencing the grace of God in salvation. Through his prayers, Saul, one of his killers, became converted to Paul, the greatest apostle in the history of the church. That certainly was well-pleasing to God!
Ezekiel 33:11 Say to them, ’As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’
1 Timothy 2:1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people —
1 Timothy 2:2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
1 Timothy 2:3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior,
1 Timothy 2:4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Timothy 2:23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.
2 Timothy 2:24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
2 Timothy 2:25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,
2 Timothy 2:26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
St. Luke 23:33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals —one on his right, the other on his left.
St. Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
The Acts 7:54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.
The Acts 7:55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
The Acts 7:56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
The Acts 7:57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him,
The Acts 7:58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
The Acts 7:59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
The Acts 7:60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
The Acts 8:1 And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
In conclusion, even though death has been decreed upon every man as a consequence of the fall, God’s perfect will is that people would live long on earth and attain old age before dying. Thus, some people dying before reaching old age may not be the will of God. Such premature and unnatural deaths from homicide, suicide, illnesses precipitated by sinful lifestyles and rebellion to God’s word cannot be from the will of God. Thus, some people can die from their own carelessness and self-harm, as well as from the carelessness and wickedness of others. To attribute to God such preventable deaths arising from human failings is erroneous and a gross misunderstanding of the will of God. A change in lifestyle to shun health-destroying habits, living in harmony with God and his word, showing more love towards our neighbours and being more diligent in performing our duties and responsibilities towards others can reduce the incidence of certain premature and unnatural deaths and prolong life on earth. It is therefore wrong to attribute every death to the will of God, as some deaths are obviously not the will of God, and can be prevented by aligning ourselves more with God’s word and by living in obedience to his commandments.
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