Why Do the Innocent Die Prematurely?


This past month (December of ‘88) a plane came down in Scotland causing the death of many innocent persons. Just before that a terrible earthquake occurred in Armenia causing the death of thousands. How can God let it happen? The plane was carrying many students who hadn’t had a chance at life. What is the answer to this?


Your question is one which has been asked countless times. Why do innocent persons die? Why do the young die prematurely?

God is the Supreme Creator. “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). The entire earth and everything in it and upon it exist by His design and creative power. In the words of the ancient Prophet, “You alone are the Lord; You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and everything on it, the seas and all that is in them, and You preserve them all. The host of heaven worships you” (Neh. 9:6).

God has designed the laws by which the human race is perpetuated, and by which each of us came into existence. But God has not guaranteed any certain duration of life to anyone. Nor has He guaranteed any fixed conditions for one’s existence. In the words of Ecclesiastes, “Time and chance happen to them all” (Eccl. 9:11). He has provided resources which the human race can use to survive (food, shelter, clothing, fuel, etc.), and minds and bodies capable of using these resources. But responsibility for their use or misuse lies with man, not God.

God’s thoughts are not the same as those of human beings. God has not said that every human being that comes into existence is His special concern. Contrary to popular belief, God does not place a high premium on every life irrespective of its character. All are not His children. We read: “Those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God” (Rom. 9:8). In His almighty perspective, whole nations are as “less than nothing, and vanity” and are “counted as the small dust on the scales” (Isa. 40:17, 15). “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers” (Isa. 40:22). On the opposite side of the scale is the intrinsic value He places upon those who know and faithfully serve Him. They are His prized possession (Ex. 19:5-6). They are loved and protected as the apple of His eye (Deut. 32:10). He is said to draw near to them (Ps. 145:18), to preserve them (Ps. 145:20), to watch that no evil befalls them or any plague (Ps. 91:10). He sends His angels to protect and keep them (Ps. 91:11), even to deliver them out of danger (2 Pet. 2:9). He even promises them riches, and honor, and endless life (Prov. 3:15-18, Ps. 91:15-16). He promises them prosperity and pleasure (Job 36:10-11), “fullness of joy” and “pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11).

What makes the difference? The difference lies in the attitude which His human creatures take toward God. We become valuable in the sight of our Creator only when we show a serious interest in His interests and an eagerness to comply with His requirements.

How does all this answer our question?

God created the world and the laws that govern it (laws of growth and reproduction, laws of heat, motion, gravitation, etc.). In accordance with these laws He provides all that is necessary for the sustenance of the race. How His human creatures use or abuse those provisions is wholly their responsibility. As long as they were content to use the means He provided to travel (by foot, by animal), there was a very limited danger to life. When they use their intellect and resources to design and build complex equipment by which they navigate through the sky, they multiply the risk to life in the event of a malfunction or some other interference, and indirectly cause much destruction of life. But God is not to blame, even though He has decreed that bodies heavier than air fall. Man is simply suffering the consequences of his own design, and the laws God has set in motion are continuing to operate.

When an earthquake strikes, or a tornado, or a typhoon, or any natural disaster which claims many lives, again God is not to blame. Though no human devises or designs are at fault, still the laws God set in motion are operating, and God does not see fit to interfere with those laws. His only concern is with those who are serving Him, and those who will serve Him in the future. To these He promises protection and deliverance so that no harm befalls them until they have completed their work for Him (Ps. 34:7; 1 Tim. 4:8).

Life is a gift, which we have done nothing to earn, which God has simply given, free and clear. But this life, rightly invested, can become the means by which we can merit a better, even eternal life.

God has not promised that the present world would be perfect, or that all in it will live in happiness and prosperity. He has only promised that the next world will be different, and that this world can be used as the preparation for the next. When God’s will is done on earth as it is now done in heaven, everything will be different. Everyone who lives then will be upright, glorified, and beyond the reach of any calamity or suffering. The present is our opportunity to prepare to live in that better world. For it we work, and watch, and wait. It shall be, in God’s appointed time, just as He has promised: “But truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord” (Num. 14:21).