The Bible’s Viewpoint
Can True Christians Expect Divine Protection?
TO DELIVER relief items to fellow worshipers, Christians, after prayer, traveled in a convoy over a war-torn area where they were likely to be killed. They made it through safely, much to the amazement of the warring armies. Did God’s angel protect them?
A Christian couple who had served as ministers for many years were killed when an airplane crashed to the ground where they were evangelizing from house to house. Why didn’t God’s angel direct them or the airplane somewhere else at that particular moment?—Compare Acts 8:26.
Comparing these events, we might ask: Why do some Christians die while doing God’s will, whereas others, often in very dangerous circumstances, live? Can Christians expect divine protection, especially in these critical “last days”?—2 Timothy 3:1.
The Purpose of Divine Protection
Jehovah God has promised to bless and protect his people. (Exodus 19:3-6; Isaiah 54:17) He did so outstandingly in the first century, when the Christian congregation was in its infancy. Miracles of every kind abounded. Jesus multiplied food to feed thousands; he and his followers cured every sort of disease and infirmity, expelled superhuman spirits from the demon-possessed, and even raised the dead. Under divine direction the fledgling congregation grew and was firmly established. Yet, for all of God’s obvious backing, many faithful Christians suffered what might be called untimely death.—Compare Psalm 90:10.
Consider the cases of James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Chosen as apostles, they, along with Peter, were among Christ’s closest friends.* But James was martyred in the year 44 C.E., while his brother John lived to the end of the first century. Both were obviously doing God’s will. Why was James allowed to die, while John lived?
Almighty God certainly had the ability to save James’ life. Indeed, shortly after James’ martyrdom, Peter was rescued from death by Jehovah’s angel. Why hadn’t the angel delivered James?—Acts 12:1-11.
Used in the Outworking of God’s Purpose
To understand why divine protection is given, we must understand that it is given not simply to enable individuals to live longer but to protect something far more important, the outworking of God’s purpose. For example, the survival of the Christian congregation as a whole is guaranteed because it is closely linked with the fulfilling of that purpose. However, Christ plainly told his disciples that they as individuals could face death because of their faith. After stating this, Jesus stressed, not miraculous deliverance, but ‘endurance to the end.’ (Matthew 24:9, 13) The fact that some individuals were protected, while others were not, does not indicate that God is partial. God simply used the person who was in the best position to accomplish his purpose, which ultimately will benefit all mankind.
Since untimely death in God’s service is a real possibility, Christians should have the same balanced attitude as the three faithful Hebrews who were sentenced to death for worshiping God. They told the king of Babylon: “If it is to be, our God whom we are serving is able to rescue us. Out of the burning fiery furnace and out of your hand, O king, he will rescue us. But if not, let it become known to you, O king, that your gods are not the ones we are serving, and the image of gold that you have set up we will not worship.”—Daniel 3:17, 18.
Jehovah preserved the lives of Peter and John because of their key role in the outworking of his purpose. Peter was used to “strengthen” the congregation by doing a shepherding work, which included the writing of two inspired Bible books. (Luke 22:32) John wrote five Bible books and was a ‘pillar’ in the early congregation.—Galatians 2:9; John 21:15-23.
How Jehovah determines just when and in what manner he will intervene in the lives of his servants is impossible to foretell. All that can be stated with certainty is that Christ promised to be with his followers “all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 28:20) In particular, he will be ‘with us’ through the angelic direction of the preaching work. (Matthew 13:36-43; Revelation 14:6) Other than these broad indications, we cannot anticipate exactly how divine help will be manifested or who may receive divine protection. What if a Christian feels that he has had God’s protection and guidance? Since this cannot be conclusively proved or disproved, no one should judge the sincere claims of such a one.
Is God Callous?
Does the fact that God allows the death of Christians show that he is somehow callous? Not at all. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Jehovah is working to preserve our life not just for a few years or even decades but for eternity. From his superior vantage point, he maneuvers events for the everlasting welfare of each individual who loves him or comes to him. (Compare Matthew 18:14.) The fulfillment of his purpose will mean the complete removal of anything we have suffered in this system of things—even death. So intricate and perfect are God’s dealings that the apostle Paul was moved to exclaim: “O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and past tracing out his ways are!”—Romans 11:33.
Since nothing can separate us from God’s love, the question each Christian should ask is not ‘Will I have divine protection?’ but ‘Do I have Jehovah’s blessing?’ If we do, he will give us eternal life—regardless of what happens to us in this system of things. Compared with an eternity of perfect life, any suffering—even death—in this system will seem “momentary and light.”—2 Corinthians 4:17.
Peter, James, and John witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration (Mark 9:2) and the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:22-24, 35-42); they were nearby in the Garden of Gethsemane during Jesus’ personal trial (Mark 14:32-42); and they, along with Andrew, questioned Jesus about Jerusalem’s destruction, his future presence, and the conclusion of the system of things.—Matthew 24:3; Mark 13:1-3.