You’ve heard someone say this before, “If it’s my time to go there’s nothing I can do about it.” It’s usually said just before they participate in some risky activity like, skydiving or free climbing (when a person climbs a mountain without safety equipment). Another way they might say it, after surviving some calamity, “I guess it just wasn’t my time to go.” The question I ask, is it scriptural?
The root of this idea may be found in Job 14:5, “Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.” The popular interpretation is that God has already determined when each individual person is going to die, and it can neither be prevented, nor quickened.
A New Testament passage seems to be making the same assertion in the Lord’s parable of “The Rich Fool.” In this parable, the rich man is found with an abundance of wealth and decides he needs to build bigger barns and take it easy. Then, God says, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” [Luke 12:13-21]
Is this what the scripture is teaching? Has God already decided that some will live to be very old, whereas others are going to die young? If this is true, does this teach us we can live a reckless life?
Isaiah wrote, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD.” [Isa 1:18]. We need to use our heads and examine the scriptures to find out if these things are so.
My grandfather used to answer folks who said these things by asking, “Why don’t you go out and play in traffic? If it’s not your time to go, you’ll be alright.” Or he would ask, “If I bring you a rattlesnake will you play with it?” While certainly not authoritative, these questions do make you reconsider the position.
What’s the Bible say?
When we go back to the beginning in the garden, we discover some interesting things about this subject. The punishment for eating the fruit from the KOGE tree was death. Yet, when they ate of it, they didn’t die immediately. The reason for this is necessarily inferred that Adam & Eve had eternal life prior to eating and lost it afterward. This is confirmed by the passage, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin;” [Romans 5:12a].
In another passage God said, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” [Psalm 90:10]. If we made doctrine based on single passages, why don’t we ever say that people live a minimum of 70 years, or maybe 80? Because observation tells us otherwise.
In the proverbs, one could lengthen life by keeping the commandments of God, “For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.” [Proverbs 3:2]. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote, “…time and chance happeneth to them all.” [vs 9:11b]. When we look at “the whole council of God” we come to a better understanding of these things, so what is it?
The conclusion of the whole matter.
First, mankind does not have an eternity to live on this planet. This is what is meant when scripture says his days are numbered. There’s a finality to this carnal world. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” [2Peter 3:10].
Second, it is true that God knows the end from the beginning, [Isaiah 46:10]. This is foreknowledge, not predestination. He may know how long each of us is going to live, but we don’t.
Third, if you haven’t already figured it out, our lives are short, especially when you compare it to eternity. “whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” [James 4:14]. Since we have no idea how long we’re going to live, nor do we know how long the earth shall remain [Matthew 24:36] …
…We ought to take every day a lot more seriously. In the 2 Peter passage it continues, “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,” [vs 3:11].
We all think we’re going to live a very long time on this planet and we have eternity in our hearts [Ecclesiastes 3:11]. The reality is that we’re going to live a very short time here, and eternity elsewhere. God wants us to live that eternity with Him, I hope you do too.
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” [John 14:2-3]