Has God Predetermined Our Death Day?

If someone died because I passed coronavirus along to them, was that all a part of God’s plan? I had a neighbor who seemed to frame things that way once. My guess is that he would quote two particular passages in his defense:

  • ….his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass… (Job 14:5)
  • ….in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Ps 139:16)

These passages are certainly a strong defense, but they both come from poetry. Do these passages truly mean to communicate that our death-day has been predetermined by God since our birthday, or does it mean that the totality of our lives are in His hands?

To that question I think the answer can vary. After all, there are plenty of Bible stories where God determines that people have reached their last day. In 1 Kings 22 for instance, the prophet Micaiah was told in a vision that the evil King Ahab would die through a plan that God had set in place with other heavenly beings. That plan led Ahab into a battle that he did not return from when “a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate” (1 Ki 22:34)—the Biblical irony being that the arrow was not so random. Ahab’s death had been predetermined by God (though we might wonder if God would have predetermined this particular last day if he had been a good king). Likewise, when an audience claimed Herod to be a god in Acts, an angel struck him down (Ac 12:23). So by all means, God—and only God I might add—can choose to end someone’s life. These are only two examples of a long list.

But are we to believe that everyone gets to use their free will to write their own journey so long as their story ends by a predetermined last page? I don’t feel the Bible communicates that and King Hezekiah is a perfect example to make my point. When God sent a prophet to him and told him he was about to die, Hezekiah wept and prayed to God for more time. God granted him fifteen more years (Is 38:1-6). That’s quite a few books to add to His library that were not there before.

Our other problem with treating death as a predetermined end time is a moral issue. People die in all kinds of horrific ways and if we attribute all of those deaths to God, He gets painted as a monster. Under this mindset, every suicide and car crash and all of the effects such morbid scenarios have on the people around them are attributed to God.

The person who died from texting and driving did so because their time was up. The person who died from decades of bad health only had bad health in the first place so that they could reach their end date on time. But again, we know such things to be the works of the enemy, for he comes to steal, kill, and destroy.

Some might push back and say, “Well they could have died some other way had they been doing something else in that moment”—but that only proves you believe in free will, and it makes your thinking look a lot like the 2002 science fiction movie, The Time Machine, in which, no matter what a man did to go back in time and save the love of his life, she always managed to die on the same day. Is that really the same way we think of God and his death-dates for us all?

I’ve heard before that “bad theology kills,” but it took covid for me to finally understand that. Claiming that my negligence of a worldwide pandemic has no effect on others because God is ultimately in charge of who lives and who dies, ignores a dense Biblical worldview of free will and all of the ways in which it and God intersect.

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