A lot of people may be troubled when a “good” (i.e., righteous) person dies at a relatively young age, whereas many “bad” (i.e., unrighteous) people live to an old age. And, at least some people may question why God allows this to occur.
It is our hope that the following biblical account of the life and death of King Josiah will provide helpful insight regarding such matters. [Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible.]
In chapters 22 and 23 of 2 Kings, we learn much about the righteousness of King Josiah, including the following:
- He “did that what was right in the sight of the Lord” (verse 22:2)
- He “humbled [himself] before the Lord” (verse 22:19)
- He “made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul” (verse 23:3)
- He commanded that all the articles in the temple of the Lord that were made for other gods be brought out and burned (verse 23:4)
- He “removed the idolatrous priests” from the temple (verse 23:5)He “tore down the ritual booths of the perverted persons that were in the house of the Lord” (verse 23:7)
- He “took away all the shrines of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the Lord to anger” (verse 23:19)
- He “executed all the priests of the high places” (verse 23:20)
- He “commanded all the people, saying, ‘Keep the Passover to the Lord your God’” (verse 23:21)
- He “put away those who consulted mediums and spiritists, the household gods and idols, all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem” (verse 23:24)“
- [T]here was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor after him did any arise like him” (verse 23:25)
Although Josiah was an extraordinarily righteous man, his reign as king lasted only until he died at the relatively young age of 39. Why did God not bless him with a longer life?
The answer to this question is found in 2 Kings 22:18-20a, which says that God told the prophetess Huldah to tell Josiah the following:
“Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Concerning the words which you have heard – because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,’ says the Lord. ‘Surely, therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place.’”
This scripture passage indicates that, because King Josiah’s righteous life included both openness to the Word of God and humility before God, God wanted to spare him from the suffering that Josiah would endure if he remained alive on the earth and had to witness God’s impending judgment on the nation of Judah.
The biblical account of the life and death of King Josiah suggests that it is reasonable to assume that there are other instances in which God decides it is better for a person whom He regards as righteous to die at a relatively young age so that person will be able to enjoy sooner than otherwise the blessings of being with Jesus Christ in heaven (i.e., experiencing eternal salvation), rather than suffering from grievous experiences which God knows that person would need to endure if he (or she) continued their life on the earth. This may also be true with regard to the early death of some, if not many, young children, as well as older children and young adults who do not have the ability to adequately comprehend the basic moral concepts of right and wrong,.
Although it is generally difficult to deal with the death of anyone we love, but especially someone who has died at a relatively young age, we can take comfort in the belief that any person who has trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior will be with Him in a place where there is no suffering of any kind. Furthermore, if we have likewise trusted in Jesus Christ as our Savior, we can look forward to someday being with that person again – forever!
Lest there be any misunderstanding of our aforementioned conclusions, we want to briefly state our beliefs regarding two related matters: (1) We do not think that the death of most righteous people who die relatively young is because God wants to spare them from some terrible experience(s) that they would otherwise need to endure if they continued their life on earth. However, regardless of the reason for their premature death, they will sooner than otherwise begin to enjoy the blessings of being with Jesus Christ. (2) Certainly, many people who are not regarded as righteous by God also die prematurely, but the Bible offers no hope that they will experience the blessings of eternal salvation, because they have not trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Therefore, it is imperative that every person who desires eternal salvation place their trust in Jesus.
[To read a related article, click on “Will God Protect Us from Premature Death If We Are Faithful to Him?” And, if you would like to know what God’s criteria are for a person to receive eternal salvation, click on “What Must a Person Do to Be Assured of Eternal Salvation?” and “Does God Make Exceptions for People Who Don’t Have Opportunity to Trust in Christ?”]