First of all, we know that God knows when everyone will die, for He is ALL-KNOWING. In Psalm 139:13, 15-16 we read, “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb….My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret…Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written THE DAYS THAT WERE ORDAINED FOR ME, when as yet there was not one of them” (NASB). The Psalmist David speaks throughout this wonderful Psalm of how God KNOWS ALL THINGS and in this passage, we are taught that God knew the DAY OF HIS BIRTH (as David’s Creator) and the DAY OF HIS DEATH (as David’s all-knowing and sovereign God). Of course, these verses apply to ALL PEOPLE, for God is the Creator and all-knowing God of everyone.

But this does NOT mean He “planned how each person would die.” It’s one thing to “know what will happen” and it’s quite another to “determine what will happen.” Having said that, in some cases God does indeed determine the way a person will die. For example, in John 21:18 the Lord Jesus told Peter, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” The next verse says, “Now this He said, signifying by WHAT KIND OF DEATH HE WOULD GLORIFY GOD.” Jesus was telling Peter he was going to be martyred for his faith (by being crucified) and that he would bring glory to God in his death. Yet we must notice that even though God determined the way Peter would die He did not cause it. Peter’s death was at the hands of sinners who hated God and who hated Peter for his love for God.

At times, God also warns sinners to turn from their wicked ways or they will die as a result of their sin. We have a clear example of this when God told the prophet Ezekiel to tell the wicked in Israel, “As I live, declares the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel” (Ezekiel 33:11). Those who refused to “turn from their evil ways” did die when God allowed the Babylonians to invade Israel. In this case, THEIR DEATH WAS AN ACT OF JUDGMENT for refusing to repent of their sins, so even though God “takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked” He often determines when and how they will die. Perhaps two of the most well-known cases of God’s judgment of the wicked are 1) the flood in Noah’s day (see Genesis chapters 6 & 7 and 2nd Peter 2:5) and 2) the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (see Genesis 19:1-26 and 2nd Peter 2:6). But there are other “wicked sinners” who die as a result of their wicked lifestyle and their death is not caused by God. For example, many a drunkard has died in a car crash because he was drunk. God surely “allowed his death to happen,” but we would be wrong to say God “caused it to happen.” The same holds true for those who commit suicide. In many suicides God doesn’t intervene to prevent their death, but we could not say He caused it. They took their own life by an act of their own will.

We will end our meditation with another solemn example. In the church at Corinth there were true believers in Christ who were living in unjudged sin and then participating in the Lord’s Supper (see 1st Corinthians 11:17-27). Because of this the Apostle Paul said, “But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For THIS REASON many among you are weak and sick, and A NUMBER SLEEP. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged, But when we are judged, we are DISCIPLINED BY THE LORD so that we will not be condemned along with the world” (verses 28-32). Here is a case where the Lord DETERMINED to judge the sins of believers who refused to “turn from their evil ways” by PUTTING THEM TO SLEEP (DEATH). In this case they are taken home to glory, but their death DOES NOT GLORIFY GOD AS IN THE CASE OF PETER, for their death was the result of SIN, and not the result of their FAITHFULNESS TO GOD. This does not mean they lost their salvation, for the moment they died they went to be with the Lord (see 2nd Corinthians 5:8), but it was a “premature death,” for had they repented of their sin God would have allowed them to live and continue to be a witness for Him here on earth.  (469.1)  (DO)