V. Why do some bad believers die young?
A. Overmuch Wickedness – Ecclesiastes 7:17 – “Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?” Solomon sufficiently warns us here that a person who is overmuch wicked can die before his time. There is a divinely appointed time for each of us to die: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” (Hebrews 9:27) An unrepentant believer can move up that date on God’s calendar. Remember that “Christians” are still sinners, but sinners saved by Grace. A Christian has the capacity to commit just as horrendous sin as a lost person, especially when we are not walking closely with the Lord by staying in His Word and growing according to His plan. God’s merciful nature is to give people “space to repent” (Revelation 2:21) If one of His children persists in disobedience, He will remove that person so they cannot sin anymore. Any good parent “pulls their children in” when they are being bad. We call it being “grounded.”
B. No Fruit – If a tree in an orchard does not bear fruit, it is removed and another tree is put in its place. Bearing fruit can save your life. Consider the parable of the barren fig tree: “He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.” (Luke 13:6-9)
God demands results. If we do not produce, He will replace us with someone who will. Jesus said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: …” (John 15:16)
C. Chastisement – The ultimate chastisement of a believer is death. ” For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” (1 Corinthians 11:30-32) In the Bible, the word “sleep” is often used synonymously with death. Here, chastisement refers to a father’s correction of his children. This is why some believers are weak, some are sickly, and some sleep (die prematurely).
The Lord chastens His children, but thankfully He does not condemn them. This is referring to the sleep of the body, not the sleep of the soul or spirit. As we have already seen, the spirit and soul never sleep. They go immediately upward to God or downward to hell. The body “sleeps” in the grave until the resurrection: “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51)
” But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-15)
D. Defiling the Temple of God – 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” The word “defile” means “to ruin by immoral influence, to deprave.” The body is holy. It is the temple of God. It is not to be defiled. The believer needs to stay away from all vices: alcohol, illegal drugs, junk food, gluttony, sexual sins, cigarettes, etc. What could be more clear?
E. Sin Unto Death – 1 John 5:16-17 “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.” Some sins are greater than others – John 19:11 “Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.” Our position in Christ is eternally secure, but a great sin can lead to a person’s premature physical death. There are sins unto death. There are sins not unto death.
Some examples of sins unto death:
1. For Achan, it was covetousness – Joshua 7:20-21, 25-26 “And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it. And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.”
2. For Korah, it was the sin of rebellion against those in authority – “Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men: And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown. And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them: And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods.” (Numbers 16:1-2, 31-32)
3. For Ananias and Sapphira, it was lying to the Holy Spirit – “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things… And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.” (Acts 5:1-5, 7-10)
There are other examples in Scripture where people came under immediate judgment from God because of a sin unto death. I believe what is presented here is sufficient to make God’s point from His Word.