To answer the basic question posed by this article, we will first consider several instances reported in the Bible that pertain to God’s protection of His faithful followers in situations that otherwise probably would have resulted in premature death for those people.
[Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible.]
Genesis 6:9 – 8:18 provides an account of God’s protection of a righteous man named Noah and his family by having Noah build a huge ark to survive a great flood that killed every other person on the earth. (According to our calculations, Noah and his family remained in the ark for approximately 13 months before they safely emerged.)
Genesis 19:1-29 pertains to God’s sending two angels to rescue Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family before God’s destruction of the city of Sodom. This included God’s killing of all of that city’s other inhabitants, because of their wickedness. Although the Bible does not specifically state that Lot was a righteous man, the early verses of the referenced scripture passage indicate that he probably was.
Daniel 3:1-27 tells how an angel of God protected three Hebrew men (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), who were thrown into a fiery furnace because they would not worship a golden idol that had been set up according to the instructions of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. Amazingly, all three of these men subsequently emerged from the furnace completely unharmed, in stark contrast with the fate of the guards who were killed by the extraordinarily intense heat of the furnace while they were in the process of throwing the three Hebrews into the furnace.
Daniel 6:1-23 describes how God protected the Hebrew prophet Daniel, who continued to pray to God rather than to King Darius, despite a decree by the king that, for 30 days, no one in the kingdom was to pray to anyone other than the king. For not obeying the decree, Daniel was thrown into a lion’s den. However, an angel of God shut the mouths of the lions and Daniel emerged the next day without having been harmed. Anyone who thinks the lions were relatively contented and, therefore, not aggressive, should read the next verse (i.e., verse 24), which definitely indicates otherwise.
Acts 27:1 – 28:6 mentions two incidents involving the Apostle Paul. In the first incident, Paul and 275 others who were in a boat with him were shipwrecked by a storm, but all of them survived, as an angel of God had told Paul before the shipwreck occurred. In the second incident, Paul was bitten by a venomous snake and was expected to die as a result, but Paul suffered no ill effects from the bite.
In contrast with these incidents in which God protected people who were seeking to be faithful to Him, many thousands – perhaps, millions – of Christians throughout the centuries have been martyred, despite the fact that they remained faithful to God rather than compromise their faith in Him and in Jesus Christ. These martyrs include most of Jesus Christ’s inner circle of disciples. [For a discussion in this regard, click on “Were Most of Jesus Christ’s Inner Circle of Disciples Really Martyred?”]
Also, many other faithful Christians have died prematurely as a result of diseases or accidents when, seemingly, God could have prevented them from having the disease or the accident or, at least, prevented them from dying. These people include many who died when they were relatively young, so it is probable that they would have lived significantly longer if they had been spared from premature death.
Why God did not prevent these people from dying when they did is imponderable, but there are a number of things that God does – or does not do– that we as mortal beings do not understand. A scripture that addresses this matter is Isaiah 55:8, in which God declares, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways. . . .”
The Bible and anecdotal evidence both indicate that sometimes there are incidents in which God intervenes to protect His faithful followers from adversities that could cause them to die. However, it is obvious that God frequently does not intervene to protect His faithful followers from premature death, which raises the question of why this is so.
We believe that the scriptures we have cited illustrate that when God does intervene, it is for one or both of two primary reasons. One of these reasons is to demonstrate that He is Almighty God, who has the power, even under seemingly impossible circumstances, to protect those who are faithful to Him. The other reason is to ensure that His ultimate objectives regarding the earthly realm are achieved.
Regardless of whether or not God intervenes to protect us from premature death, He wants us to trust Him (see Proverbs 3:5-6; Isaiah 41:10a; Hebrews 11:6). Sadly, impending death often causes people to lose their trust in God, because they think He has not protected them – or perhaps someone they love – to the extent that they believe He should. However, if we genuinely desire to trust God in such circumstances, it can result in strengthening both our relationship with Him and our ability to persevere during similar circumstances in the future.
[To read a related article, click on “Why Do Righteous People Sometimes Die Young?”]