Death of the Young|
Q. I read your articles "Chance?" and "Prayer - Does it Change Things?" and "Man's Responsibility vs. God's Sovereignty." But, I still wonder - why would God take the lives of innocent young people? They had a good future and now it is snuffed out. What's the purpose in that?
This is something we all struggle with at some point in our Christian walk. I don't like the fact that innocent young people lose their lives anymore than you. But, here are some things you might want to consider:
First, we are all terminal. Our probability of death is 100%. That goes for you and it's true for me, too. That doesn't mean we have to like it, though. Death and the process of dying is, without question, the worst problem in the universe. It's a tragedy.
New Agers, cynics, and atheists who try to teach that death is a "natural" part of life are probably delusional in my opinion. They, too, weep real tears and shake their fists angrily at God (or mother earth) when their children die young or they lose a spouse prematurely. Death is a tragedy and everyone knows it. So let's not even try to pretend that it isn't.
The question for each of us is when will we die? Since we cannot know with certainty when we will die, it behooves us to attempt to get our lives squared away with our Maker as soon as possible.
Here's something else to consider. If you think about it, in one sense the Bible is a "magical" book that tells us the end from the beginning and has unusual properties attesting to its unique, supernatural qualities (See resources at end).
So when it says "it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27), I think we should listen. In other words, there are no second chances after death.
Shielding from Future Evil?
The prophet Isaiah mentions a reason good people may die that we don't usually think about. He says:
"The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart. And devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from evil…" (Isa. 57:1).
Here Isaiah is saying that good people may die because God removes them from experiencing future evil. For example, this future evil could be a painful experience with Islamic beheading, biological warfare, a nuclear war, or something we cannot even imagine. We need to remember that this planet is under the rulership of the Evil One (1 John 5:19). There is no point in thinking otherwise. We clearly suffer in hostile territory ruled by alien evil forces:
"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).
This is something akin to Star Wars and the character "Dark Vader," isn't it? Yet, the Bible tells us this is our "reality." Just because we can't see beings around us doesn't mean they aren't there. In fact, we now know from theoretical physics that invisible things can exist around us while "out-of-phase" with our existence.
Signs of Escalating Tribulation
In looking around us it also appears the earth is going through major upheavals that may get worse, too. This could be the beginning of the "birth pangs" Jesus warned us about in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 - things like wars, famines, earthquakes, terrorism (Luke 21:11), wide-spread diseases, and so forth.
Note that these are the escalating signs of the future tribulation spoken of in the book of Revelation. Perhaps God is choosing to spare some people from these horrific events by taking them early. We just can't know for sure.
Away from the Body - at Home with the Lord
For believers "We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord…we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).
This means that for Christians life continues after "seeming" death. We are told it will be better for us after we die. So while we mourn losing cherished Christian family and friends, we also feel grateful that their suffering is over when they die. Sadly, we also mourn eternal loss for those who rejected Christ, too. To lose unbelievers is a tragedy.
Training for Reigning
We must always remember that Christians are in intense boot-camp training while on earth. We clearly exist in hostile territory. Christians are training for reigning with the King of the Universe.
Billheimer calls our earthly suffering "on-the-job training for the Bride elect in overcoming the forces hostile to God as a part of her preparation for the throne. Suffering, which is a consequence of the Fall, shall produce the character and disposition, the compassionate spirit which will be required for future rulership in a government where the law of love is supreme" (2002, 9).
Not just Preparing a Place for us - but Us for that Place
The apostle Paul states, "If we endure, we will also reign with him" (2 Tim. 2:12). Alcorn explains that "God is grooming us for leadership. He's watching to see how we demonstrate our faithfulness. He does that through his apprenticeship program, one that prepares us for Heaven. Christ is not simply preparing a place for us. He is preparing us for that place" (pg. 215).
Alcorn, Randy. 2004. Heaven. Wheaton, ILL: Tyndale.
Billheimer, Paul. 2002 ed. Don't waste your sorrows. Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications.
Lewis, C.S. 1996 ed. The problem of pain. N.Y.: Touchstone.