The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.

Isaiah 57:1 (NIV)

Today was one of those days when scriptures just seemed to pop off the page to me. In the 57th chapter of Isaiah, we open up with, what I see, would be the origin for the idiom that “only the good die young.” If you’re a fan of Billy Joel, I’m sorry to inform you that he didn’t coin this phrase. Although the credit for this expression goes to the Greek historian, Herodotus (445 B.C.), we know that Isaiah was written between 740 – 700 B.C., which predates Herodotus, so Isaiah wins. Why did Isaiah originally write this and what might it really mean?

Most people look at death as the end. As the final enemy that no one can defeat. As Christians, we know that the sting of death was defeated by Jesus on the cross. One might think, for this reason alone, to be spared from the finality of death and to live an eternal life in Heaven, would be enough for most people to rejoice in the gift of salvation that He offers to all who accept it and believe. However, as we know, that’s not the case. We do know, as it’s written in 2 Peter 3:9 that God doesn’t want “anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance” (NIV). Is there a relationship here, between God’s desire that no one perishes and the idea that only the good die young?

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

In this chapter, of the second letter from the Apostle Peter, he’s addressing the fact that there will be people who scoff at the promise that the Lord is soon to come. While Peter points out that this will happen in the “last days,” I’ve come to a conclusion that the “last days” have always been upon us. Some look to that time and say that’s when the Lord is coming back. However, when we look at certain facts, like the average human life span was 72.6 years in 2019, it really shouldn’t matter that much if the Lord returns 100 years from now. Very few people who are alive right now will be alive then. What’s more important is how we live today because we might just enter into judgment tomorrow. Few people know when they are going to die. Now that I’ve said that, let’s look back at what Peter is telling us today.

We think that Jesus died between 30-36 A.D. and Peter died between 65-68 A.D. (he died during the reign of Nero which ended in 68 A.D.) If we take 30 and 68 A.D. respectively, as the dates of their deaths then we’re looking at 30 years, at least, since the time that Jesus said that He would return “soon” (Revelation 22:20). In Peter’s time, people were already questioning when the Lord would return and scoffed at the notion of Him returning soon since so many years had already passed. Imagine what they would have thought if they were around today, almost 2,000 years later! Peter admonishes them to remember “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8 NIV). God’s perspective on time and our perspective on time are different. His eternal view versus our linear. In verse 9, Peter tells us why it seems to be taking so long for His return. Some people are yet to be saved but they need to come to repentance before God executes His wrath upon the world.

The idea that God waits before He brings the wrath of His judgment isn’t new. We see it throughout the Old Testament. The Promised Land, which was promised to Israel, didn’t go to them until after the sin of the Amorites “had reached its full measure” (Genesis 15:16). When Jonah was sent to the people of Nineveh to warn them that God was going to destroy them if they didn’t repent. Jonah fled from the Lord because the Assyrians were enemies of the Jews and he didn’t want to see God’s mercy upon his enemies (Jonah 4:1-2). When the Ninevites repented, got relented His plan to destroy them in 40 days.

Does it mean, therefore, that we who live longer lives are wicked and God’s giving us time to repent? Well, that’s not what the people thought in Isaiah’s time. In those days the people believed that a sign of righteousness was a long life. Hence, Isaiah pointing out one reason righteous people might die younger was “to be spared from evil.” This is where I believe, we get the notion that those who die young are good. It’s universal recognition of the evil in this world. I also believe it’s one way of the world coping with, what we might see, as a life cut short.

What it comes down to, in the end, is who you’ve lived for, and how you lived your life. People die when it’s their time to die, some are righteous and some are not. God has a job for each one of us. A job that only we can do. The World has already been judged, we know that it will end in a fire with the very elements melting (2 Peter 3:10-13). The question then, is do you repent today, and be saved, entering into His Kingdom when you are judged or do you keep on sinning, walking away from repentance, risking His wrath, tomorrow?

My prayer is that you would repent and be saved. Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.