Why did God create us mortal—why do we have to die? And especially, why does God allow the death of Christians who pray to Him for protection and healing? What does God say about death?
Each day on average 7,452 people die in the United States alone. That’s 1 about every 12 seconds. Every year many Christians die. Deep sorrows and afflictions often touch the lives of Christians during their sojourn on the earth—and death is one of the major ones.
But why should this be? According to the Bible, isn’t God a loving Heavenly Father who hears our cries and who promises protection, deliverance and healing when we’re sick? The answer is yes, He is.
Peter plainly states, “For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers” (1 Peter 3:12). And the psalmist adds, “Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling” (Psalm 91:9-10). And didn’t God say in Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”?
How, then, in the face of these promises, can we explain the suffering and the death that faithful Christians experience? There is an answer.
Why do we all die?
Let’s notice one vital point before we get down to specifics. This important point is one that is easy to overlook if we aren’t careful.
God never intended that physical life go on forever in this temporary, fleshly human form. God tells us that sooner or later all must die.
Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”
In Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 Solomon said, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die.”
Human life even at its best is mortal and temporary—it’s here today and gone tomorrow. When compared to eternity, 70 years—or even 100 years or more—is as nothing to God.
Notice also what the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:17: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
This life is a training ground for the life God wants to give us. As mortal, physical beings, we can learn from our mistakes and grow to become more like God. God made us mortal so we can freely choose to develop godly character and avoid the path that Lucifer (the angel who became Satan) took in rebelling against God (Isaiah 14:12-15). Lucifer set his character in opposition to God.
As mortals, we can—and must—change. Death is a necessary part of this plan.
Thankfully, God has power over death, and His plan can’t be thwarted by death. He will make sure every single person has a full, complete chance to repent and really understand His truth (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4). See our article “Is God Fair?” to examine important scriptures about this much-misunderstood subject.
Jesus was willing to die so we can have eternal life!
God has given life to all of us, and for Christians who have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our lives have been redeemed by His life. Our lives really belong to God. We have been bought and paid for by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, who never sinned. He was not worthy of death, but was willing to die for your sins and mine, as well as the sins of the entire world! These are the things we need to focus our minds on, especially in times of sorrow.
God is interested not only in our earthly welfare, but even more so in our eternal destiny.
God will allow only what is best for each of us according to His wisdom and eternal plan. If God allows tragedy, such as illness or death, to occur, we can absolutely trust in Him that it will serve a good purpose in His plan.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
John tells us in 1 John 3:20 that God “knows all things.” He is intimately acquainted with our pains and sorrows. David said in Psalm 103:14 that God “knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” So when illness strikes, God can completely cleanse the human body of any kind of disease if He chooses to. Nothing is too hard for God!
Yet many dedicated and faithful Christians have died—some in anguish—because God did not choose to intervene and heal them. Why?
Four reasons God allows Christians to die
Let’s consider four reasons God allows death, especially for His people.
- God allows some to die when their purpose in this life has been fulfilled.
Many zealous Christians have walked faithfully with God and have been tremendous examples of love and service to others. In their own way, they may have preached the gospel more powerfully than a thousand sermons. In such cases, when they have fulfilled their great purpose and their life’s work is done, God chooses to preserve the character they have built, and He allows them to die.
Only God knows when a person’s purpose in this life is completed. We humans place so much emphasis on this fleeting existence, which is only natural since it’s all we have experienced. But the great God, who inhabits eternity, focuses on something far more permanent—the spiritual character we are building for His Kingdom.
Once our spiritual lives have been molded for God’s purpose, and we are fully prepared to become His sons and daughters, our purpose for this human life is complete. God, in His wisdom, looks down from His throne in heaven and determines when it is time to preserve our character intact.
Of course, the hurt and sorrow from the loss of a loved one can be traumatic. But God, in His infallible wisdom, knows what is best for each one of us. Out of deep love and mercy, He allows those who have reached a certain degree of spiritual maturity to be spared from the problems that some of us may have to live through during this life.
“The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men [and women] are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil” (Isaiah 57:1).
- God allows some to die to serve as a test for the living.
When Job’s family was taken from him by Satan (Job 1), did he give up and quit? No! Even though Job did not understand why God allowed it, he remained true to the end. Though stricken with the natural sorrow and grief of losing all 10 of his children in one day, he confessed his allegiance to God and his confidence in the ultimate outcome of God’s wisdom.
When we see loyal Christians die from diseases, accidents or whatever causes, will we doubt the great wisdom of God and forsake Him? Or will we remain loyal and steadfast? This is a test some of us may face. Remember, God does not pervert judgment, nor does He make mistakes. He is always in control, but He will test those He loves to make them perfect.
God looks at things differently. “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).
True faith is knowing that God will not allow death to occur to His saints before they accomplish His purpose in their pilgrimage on earth.
- God allows some to die as a living testimony, or so that God’s work may increase and grow.
This reason may sound strange at first, but let’s consider. In ancient Israel, God often removed kings and leaders (both good and bad) through death, so that His purpose could be fulfilled.
As an example, even the dedicated Moses was not permitted to go into the Promised Land. The mantle of authority was placed on Joshua to lead God’s chosen people, showing that some are taken when their work is completed, to open up the way for others to carry on God’s work. Their death often remains a living testament of faith and endurance to those Christians who remain.
The Bible is a chronicle of history, recording the appearance and the passing of great spiritual leaders. The same happens to all of us as individual Christians. We should not doubt or question the integrity of God in such matters. He certainly knows what He’s doing.
Hebrews 11 speaks of people who died in the faith being beaten, whipped and slaughtered for the cause of God. But their lives helped shape the destiny of others.
Read through the examples of faithful people in Hebrews 11:35-40. These people were a dramatic testimony—as was Christ before His persecutors—of faith and courage and perfect trust in God. It showed a belief in something far greater than anything this world has to offer!
The flames of God’s martyrs have seared the pages of history and stand as a perpetual witness to the world. These people have it made and will shine forth with great glory in the Kingdom of God (Daniel 12:3)!
Remember also the example of those who were willing to give their lives, but were not required to at the time—men like Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego in Daniel 3. They had great faith in God and gave a great witness to those of their day.
Daniel’s friends knew that God could save them from death, but they did not know if God would choose to save them that day. Their faith was absolute, however, in God’s ultimate salvation. They told the king that God “will deliver us from your hand, O king” (Daniel 3:17).
Not all Christians are called to be martyrs—God does not require that all die or come face-to-face with death before deliverance in this remarkable and dramatic way. He promises that He will not allow us to be tempted above what we are able to bear, or endure (1 Corinthians 10:13).
- God sometimes allows us to die as a supreme, final test.
When one is willing to forgo his or her life in whatever way God chooses, or for whatever purpose in serving in His work, he or she has passed the greatest earthly test!Of all the reasons God allows the death of His saints, this is probably the most significant of all. When one is willing to forgo his or her life in whatever way God chooses, or for whatever purpose in serving in His work, he or she has passed the greatest earthly test! Jesus Christ said, “Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
Before baptism, Christians should count the cost and resolve to covenant with God to be loyal until death.
Sometimes God will use the forge and fire of tragedy to fashion us into tools fitting for the eternal purpose He has ahead for us.
In the face of death, God’s sons and daughters realize their lives are only a flicker—and their true hope lies only in God. All of the inconsequential trappings of this life suddenly melt away. Death dissolves man’s emphasis on the fleeting, material aspects of this world.
When a Christian dies in the faith, obeying God, he or she is indeed passing the greatest test that can ever confront a person, thus guaranteeing his or her eternal reward.
What about God’s promises?
Do all of these points contradict the many promises in the Bible concerning healing, protection from harm, and the watchfulness of God’s angels over Christians’ lives? Absolutely not!
Can we still trust God even though we realize that He might at some point allow you or me to die? Yes, of course, we can and must!
You can be sure that God will keep His promises to heal and deliver and protect faithful Christians until we have fulfilled our earthly purpose. Death cannot overrule the power of God or upset His plan. It cannot somehow snatch us from God before He decides it’s time.
David was exposed to death on numerous occasions, but he was spared until God determined it was his time to die.
The three friends of Daniel who were cast into the fiery furnace were not consumed. God decided to save them for His purpose that day—to prove to King Nebuchadnezzar that He was the Most High God—much more powerful than all of the gods Nebuchadnezzar served.
The apostle Paul speaks of his many sufferings and the persecutions he endured. He was exposed to death many times, but he did not die until God allowed it.
Over and over in the life of Jesus Himself we read of how He escaped from murderers. Why? Because His hour had not yet come.
God’s promises of protection and healing are only a part of God’s promises. They are wonderful but can’t be compared to the promises of the wonderful Kingdom of God that will bring peace to the world and an eternal life of joy to the saints.
God’s great plan offers hope, not only to His servants in times of loss, but to the entire world!
Why you shouldn’t fear death
The righteous do not need to fear death because they have the absolute assurance and confidence that they will live as long as it takes to fulfill God’s purpose.
As long as you’re walking with God, no one can take you from His love and care. Satan the devil has no authority, on his own, to harm or hurt faithful Christians (John 10:28-29).
But when God does determine to allow you or me to die—because He knows we are ready and His purpose for us in this physical life is fulfilled—we will never have to fear death! Beyond death He offers glorious everlasting life!
It’s a wonderful thing to know that we are in God’s hands for eternity!