To answer the basic question posed by this article, let’s 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 followers.
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 from God’s destruction of the city of Sodom and the killing of all its 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 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 furnace because they would not worship a golden idol that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Amazingly, all three of these Hebrew men subsequently emerged from the furnace completely unharmed, in stark contrast with the fate of the men who were in the process of throwing them into the furnace when they were killed by the extraordinarily intense heat immediately outside the entrance to 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 no one in the kingdom pray to anyone other than the king for 30 days. 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 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 viper (i.e., 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 religious beliefs. 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?”] Furthermore, millions of other faithful Christians have died prematurely as a result of diseases or accidents.
Many of these Christians 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. However, for some inexplicable reason(s), God did not protect them from dying at that time, although He may previously have done so in some instances.
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 does not usually intervene to protect His faithful followers from premature death, which raises the question of why this is so.
We believe that the scripture passages we have cited illustrate that when God does intervene, it is for one or both of two primary reasons: (1) To demonstrate that He is Almighty God, who has the power, even under seemingly impossible circumstances, to protect those who are faithful to Him; and/or (2) 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 He should have. 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?”]