Have You Ever Wondered—
Is There a Set Time for You to Die?
HOW often have you heard the remark: “When your time comes, you just have to go”? Or have you, perhaps after a narrow escape from death, said: “I guess my time was not up yet”? Such expressions reflect belief in what is called “fate,” the feeling that one’s life pattern and time of death are predestined and nothing can be done to change them.
CAN BELIEF IN FATE AFFECT THE WAY PEOPLE LIVE?
It surely can. For instance, many soldiers sincerely believe what military commander Napoleon Bonaparte once wrote: “Our hour is marked, and no one can claim a moment of life beyond what fate has predestined.” Such men were eager to enter into battle, even taking unnecessary risks, because they felt that they would not meet death one moment sooner than if they had stayed at home. But do you really think the battlefield is as safe as home?
Or a car driver may drive overly fast, reasoning that he will not be killed until his time is up. In fact, the European director of the World Health Organization said that many car accidents are “motivated by fatalism, namely, the idea that in reality they cannot be avoided.”
So such belief can affect how we live. It can make us take unnecessary risks, by our thinking that the day of our death is set and that nothing can alter it.
DOES BELIEF IN FATE MAKE SENSE?
Some persons feel that it does not. They reason, for instance, that any safety precautions would be quite unnecessary if everything that happens to a person were predestined. And yet safety measures, such as the wearing of seat belts and the reducing of speed limits, have cut down road deaths.
It is estimated that three of every four car accidents were avoidable if proper care had been taken by the drivers; so such accidents did not “have” to happen. Much depends on how a person drives. It is often just as the Bible says: “Whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.”—Gal. 6:7.
Some things, such as prayer, would lose their meaning if everything were predestined. For instance, a seriously ill man was visited by a neighbor who firmly believed in predestination. The visitor offered to pray so that the ailing man would not die. But the sick man asked: “Do you believe that I have a fixed time to die?” “Oh, yes,” came the positive reply. “Well, then, if my time is up, it would be of no use to pray, and if my time is not up, surely there is no need to pray.” Do you agree?
DOES THE BIBLE ENCOURAGE BELIEF IN FATE?
No, it does not. Rather than indicate that each person has a predestined day of death, the Bible says that “time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all.” (Eccl. 9:11) Yes, an “unforeseen occurrence” can happen to anyone. If a person happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, he may meet a fatal accident. It was not that this was his predestined “time,” but something occurred “unforeseen” or by chance.
But what about the Bible’s statement at Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2? Doesn’t it prove that there is a set time for a man to die? It reads: “For everything there is an appointed time, even a time for every affair under the heavens: a time for birth and a time to die.” Does this mean that the time of birth and the time of death are fixed for each individual? Remember, it was this same Bible writer who said that ‘time and unforeseen occurrences befall all persons.’ What, then, does the writer mean?
He is merely commenting on the continuous cycle of life and its activities. You have seen for yourself that there is a time when people build and a time when they break down; there is a “time to weep and a time to laugh,” and so on. (Eccl. 3:1-8) So, also, a woman gets pregnant, and when the time comes she gives birth. Then again, the time comes when old age, sickness, or the like, bring death. No, not predestination—just the well-known cycle of life.
Though God has the power to know when a person will die, he does not predestine the specific time. Otherwise, why would the Bible say: “The very fear of Jehovah will add days, but the years themselves of the wicked ones will be cut short,” and that wicked men “will not live out half their days”?—Prov. 10:27; Ps. 55:23.
Our way of life can often affect how long we live. The Bible shows that our fate, to a large extent, is in our own hands.
HOW, THEN, SHOULD WE LIVE?
We should live in a manner that shows we value our life. Conscientiously we ought to try to stop habits and careless ways that can definitely shorten life.
In addition, by learning to show the proper “fear of Jehovah” we may add years to our life. How? Well, the God-given guidelines in the Bible can help us to live a moral life. This enables us to avoid self-centered, uncontrolled pursuit of pleasure, which can shorten life. It is as the wise Bible writer stated: “Do not be wicked overmuch, nor become foolish. Why should you die when it is not your time?” How we live can affect how long we will live.—Eccl. 7:17.
Soon God will “cut short” the years of all those who are wicked. At his set time, his “day of judgment,” he will bring a “destruction of the ungodly men.” Those who ‘fear God’ and obey him will be delivered into a cleansed “new heavens and a new earth.” Even those who met an untimely death, along with all asleep in the graves, will be resurrected to life so that they too will enjoy an earth free of wickedness. God will make provisions for these to live endlessly, never having a time to die.—2 Pet. 3:7, 13; Acts 24:15.
However, you may wonder: Just how near are such blessings? Will they occur during my lifetime? Jehovah’s Witnesses will gladly show you the Bible’s encouraging answers to these questions and many others.