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Is there a set time for someone to die? You often hear people say, "It was just their time to go."


It is a fact that living means each of us will eventually die, barring those who will see our Lord's return. "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). In speaking of King Saul and why David did not want to raise a hand against him, David said, "As the LORD lives, the LORD shall strike him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall go out to battle and perish" (I Samuel 26:10). The question though is whether the day of one's death a predetermined day, or one that is determined by God based on various factors.

David once asked, "LORD, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor" (Psalm 39:4-5). By this, David is not asking to know when he would die, but that he would be able to keep in mind that life is short. We have all heard of people who drastically changed behavior after they had a close brush with death. We all need that attitude because our choices would greatly change if we knew how little time we have left. Job realized that it is God, not man, who ultimately determines the length of our lives. "In whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?" (Job 12:10). We don't get as much time as we might desire.

God has placed limits on the life span of mankind. "The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away" (Psalm 90:10). Notice that an individual's health will impact his life, but not greatly. The limit of 70 or 80 years is not hard fast, but a general rule of thumb. Even now, with all our medical capabilities, the average life span is still near 80. Thus Job said, "Since his days are determined, the number of his months is with You; You have appointed his limits, so that he cannot pass" (Job 14:15). Again, Job is not discussing a set number of days for each individual, but that God has placed general limits on how long men can live on this earth.

We know the length of our lives are not fixed because the Bible tells us that a person's behavior will affect his life span. "But You, O God, shall bring them down to the pit of destruction; bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in You" (Psalm 55:23). In other words, men could have lived longer, but because of their wicked ways they are unable to live out even half of their potential. "The fear of the LORD prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened" (Proverbs 10:27). In speaking about the selfishness of the wicked, Job said, "For what does he care about his household after him, when the number of his months is cut in half?" (Job 21:21). Once again, we see that some because of their behavior are unable to reach the potential life span that God has granted men during their stay on earth. Thus we find Solomon's warning: "Do not be overly wicked, nor be foolish: why should you die before your time?" (Ecclesiastes 7:17).

But eventually there will come a time to leave this earth; just as there was a time for us to arrive. "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted" (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2). We don't know precisely when it will be our time, but we can be certain that it will eventually come. Just as one day it will be time for this world to end. "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?" (II Peter 3:10-11). Just as we never know in advance when a thief might target us, we never know when our life will end or when our Lord will come. However, we are assured that eventually that time will come. Knowing the certainty of it, how should a person behave?


See also:

Questions and Answers regarding Death