God’s Sovereignty Over Death

November 2nd 2023

God’s Sovereignty Over Death

Pastor and theologian, R.C. Sproul, once said, “If God is not sovereign, God is not God. If there is one maverick molecule in the universe, one molecule running loose outside the scope of God’s sovereign ordination…there is not the slightest confidence…that any promise God has ever made about the future will come to pass.”[1]

If you ask true believers if they know the meaning of the sovereignty of God, many, if not all will answer yes – it means “He is in control.” But of the many, most can only “define” the meaning of sovereignty. Very rarely can believers apply, much less see, that sovereignty on a personal level. Often when asked how he has been sovereign in their personal lives, in their work, family, home, or even world events, the responses are “I don’t know,” or “God’s got bigger things to take care of than me and what’s happening in my life.” Yet, when death comes knocking, many Christians find themselves at a loss. As their own mortality sinks into grief, they find themselves wondering, “Where is God? Why didn’t he “do” something?” Death is part of our everyday lives, whether we experience it personally or just hear about it from our daily media intake.

In this article, I want to share with you the truth of God’s sovereignty over death. I want you to see that nothing within our control can thwart the number of days God has ordained for every soul that has ever lived– past, present, and future. Let me ask you a question: Did you have any control over your birth? Did you choose to whom you were going to be born? How about when were you going to be born or what period of history you would be born into? The answer to all of these questions is obviously no. The same applies to our death. None of us knows when.

Did God Institute and Ordain Death?

To help answer this question, we must go back to the beginning. We know from Genesis 2:16–17 that God had given Adam and Eve one prohibition, which was not to eat from the tree of good and evil. God was clear on what the consequence would be if they were to break his command.  We see the result in Genesis 3. Sin was born, and death was immediately instituted both physically and spiritually (Gen 3:7). So, we can establish with certainty that death was instituted and ordained by God.

Does Satan Have a Role in Death?

In John 8:44, Jesus calls Satan a murderer from the beginning. What did he mean by this? Jesus of course was referring to the Fall of Adam and Eve. At the moment sin was born, Satan had successfully killed their spiritual life. Their relationship with God was immediately null and void. The Bible presents death as separation, which means that the souls of Adam and Eve were immediately separated from God. Their communion with him was broken.

My friends, this is Satan’s only role in death, and God allowed it! Why? Because our eternal God is the Creator, and he has a plan; a plan that began before the foundation of the world. This plan was revealed in Genesis 3:15, and came into fruition through the resurrection of Jesus. As Ephesians 1:11 says, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” To solidify, the author of Hebrews, in chapter 2, verse 14, shares, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” Jesus, by conquering death, rendered Satan powerless against those whom God saves.

The Bible, beginning with Genesis 1:1, clearly teaches us that only God is sovereign. Satan is not. Here are a few examples:

  • Satan is a creature – created by God (Ezek 28:13–15).

God is the Creator (Gen 1:1).

  • Satan is potent (powerful) (Gen 3, Job 1:12).

God is omnipotent (all-powerful) (Isa 14:27, Isa 43:13).

  • Satan is knowledgeable and cunning (Ezek 12b).

God is omniscient (all-knowing) (Ps 139:1–24).

  • Satan’s presence is localized (Job 1:7).

God is omnipresent (everywhere) (Ps 139: 7–11).

  • Satan is finite (Rev 20:10).

God is infinite (Rev 22:13).

Although it can be hard to wrap our brains around this reality, it is nonetheless true–Satan is God’s devil. He created him. He can do nothing without God’s consent. To help us understand this reality, God reveals this truth to us through the Book of Job.

In chapters 1 and 2 we learn that:

1) Satan cannot tempt without God’s permission (Job 1:12).

2) Satan cannot physically harm without God’s permission (Job 2:2- 6).

3) Satan cannot kill without God’s permission (Job 2:6). Most notably, regarding God’s sovereignty over death, Job 14 speaks to the finality of death, specifically in verse 5, by stating, “Since his days are determined, the number of his months is with You; and his limits You have set so that he cannot pass.”

Here are a few more verses to consider regarding God’s sovereignty over death:

“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them” (Ps 139:16).

“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand” (Deut 32:39).

“The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up” (1 Sam 2:6).

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” (Acts 17:26).

Lastly, in Revelation 1:17–18, Jesus speaks directly to John: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”

My friends, God sovereignly predestined and ordained, from the foundation of the world, the life and death of every human being. Each of us has a certain number of days, months, and years to live, which were established and set before creation. The means of how one dies is only a vehicle by which death eventually comes to us all. Jesus holds the keys to death, and Satan cannot snatch those keys out of his hand. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. That includes all authority over life and death. Jesus is the only passageway from this life to the next.

[1] R.C. Sproul, “No Maverick Molecule.” Ligonier Ministries, January 11, 2023. https://www.ligonier.org/podcasts/ultimately-with-rc-sproul/no-maverick-molecule.

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Author: Dawn Thomas