I recently attended a relative’s burial. At the end of the preaching, the minister, who had made dismal attempts to point people to Christ and his goodness, started making interesting declarations upon the bereaved family. He began casting out the spirit of premature death that, according to him, had attacked the family. He plucked it out, bound it, and sput fire upon it. He kept repeating the phrase, “Fire! Fire!” and the gathering crowd eagerly repeated after him. After the rigorous exercise, the preacher would sigh and pronounce the spirit gone. The bereaved family was then declared free, and all the people clapped.
This has become commonplace, especially in burials of young people. For such, it is assumed that their lives were unfairly cut short by some kind of familiar spirit. Therefore, because of this assumption, the bereaved family then sees it necessary to either call a powerful minister of God to cast out the spirit or call for special prayers to do the same. So, today, we examine this practice through a biblical lens and ask: do Christians need to cast out the spirit of premature death from their lives?
God is Sovereign Over Death
Understanding God’s sovereignty is crucial in helping us know where God stands in all the matters of our lives, even death. God’s sovereignty can be defined as the exercise of his supremacy, His infinite rule, his authority, and power. It means that God is the supreme ruler who immanently and personally rules over all the affairs of the universe, which includes death (Matthew 10:29, Deuteronomy 32:39, Revelation 1:18, 1 Samuel 2:6, 2 Kings 5:7, Ezekiel 37:3). With this in mind, we can safely conclude that our hour of death does not, by any means, catch God by surprise. Since he rules over all the affairs of the universe, it means he is not just a passive observer of our ongoings. Rather, he is actively engaged in all things (Colossians 1:16–17; Psalm 90:2; 1 Chronicles 29:11–12). Psalm 139:16 backs up our claim: “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
Since God already planned out how our lives would pan out (Psalm 139:16, Job 14:1-6, Jeremiah 29:11), it would be borderline blasphemous to assert that one has died prematurely, even for that baby that only lasted a few minutes after birth. God ordained every last second of that seemingly short life for his own good purposes (Romans 8:28). We can say this with confidence because we also know, like Job, that God can do all things, and that no purpose of his can be thwarted (Job 42:2). This argument then thrashes the interpretation of John 10:10 (The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy.) that the praying-against-premature-death proponents often use to deceive many. This verse, when applied in this regard, is actually being misused. We will see why in the following segment.
Jesus came to Bring Abundant Life
When we read John 10:1-18, we are awakened to Jesus’ goal even as he warned his listeners of the thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. In this portion of the chapter, Christ wanted to educate his listeners on the qualities of a good shepherd (John 10:1-5). Christ wanted his listeners to be able to identify a good shepherd on their own so that they are not deceived by ‘thieves’ and ‘robbers’ of souls. Christ then creates a contrast between himself and the thieves and robbers. He says that the thieves come to steal, kill, and destroy, yet for him, being the good shepherd (John 10:14), he comes so that his sheep may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).
We know very well that our life in this world is only temporal. That God himself has numbered our days (Psalm 139:16). Therefore, the life that Christ is talking about in John 10:10 would not be life here in this world. John 3:16 reminds us why Christ came into the world: he came so that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
Shouldn’t we be grateful that our days in God’s Kingdom will be infinite rather than be anxious about having a short life here in this treacherous world?
Christ Conquered Death
If we are up to speed with what Christ did for us on the cross, we must realize how crucial his resurrection is to the validity of the Gospel and, hence, our salvation (1 Corinthians 15:17). When a Christian fully grasps this reality, their fear of death consequently dissipates. In Revelation 1:18, Christ himself explains what his resurrection meant: “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” In summary, Christ was saying that he had conquered death (1 Corinthians 15:54-56, Hebrews 2:14-15). Hence, all who believe in him do not remain dead but resurrect, just like he did, to have eternal life (John 3:16)
Death came into the world as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin (Genesis 2:17, 3:19). They disobeyed God’s command, and that opened the Pandora’s box of all troubles, even death (1 Corinthians 15:22). Despite Adam and Eve’s defiance, God did not leave them to themselves. He sent his Son. That is why Christ’s death and, best of all, resurrection are so crucial to our faith. If these had not happened, as Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 15:17, our faith would be futile, and we would still be in our sins.
Shouldn’t our hearts be glad that the guilt of our sins is taken away (Romans 8:1) rather than be bent on living long lives in this sinful, dying world?
To Die is Gain
In light of all these truths we have unraveled, at the core of it our Savior’s resurrection, what should our heart posture be? In Philippians 1:19-25, Paul shows us how to think through this matter. From Paul’s words, we see an incredibly wise, clear, and concise heart posture towards our God-given lives here on earth and the reality of death. Paul starts by introducing us to the unashamed and courageous heart he acquired in Christ (Philippians 1:19-20). His hope is that Christ will be honored in his body whether he lives or dies. Here, Paul shows us what it really means when someone leaves their life in the hands of Christ. He depicts a life of true surrender, even unto death.
He continues explaining his position from Philippians 1:21. For Paul, staying alive, which is what he calls living in the flesh, meant serving the Lord, bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God. However, he goes on to point out that at the top of his heart’s desires is departing, or dying, in order for him to go and be with Christ. He desired that more than being alive here in this world. Nevertheless, he appreciated the need for him to be alive, even on the account of his fellow brethren. He knew that was why the Lord had allowed him more days on this side of eternity; therefore, he sought to do just that. He chose to honor Christ with his body by spurring brethren to glory in Christ, his Savior (Philippians 1:26).
Shouldn’t we, like Paul, courageously and unashamedly preach Christ rather than peddle falsehoods that make much of fragile life in a passing world?
Who Has Authority?
One last thing to consider is the pastor that claims he can remove the spirit of premature death is assuming power that only Christ has. It was prophesied that Jesus, the Messiah, would overcome death (Psalm 16:10). Saints in the Old Testament also had the hope that one day, the sting of death would be abolished (Isaiah 25:8, Hosea 13:14). This hope was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, according to 1 Corinthians 15:54-56. Further, the writer of Hebrews states that Christ became flesh so that he might destroy the devil who has the power of death and delivered us from the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15). Christians will experience earthly death, just as all do, but we will not experience the “second death”, (Revelation 2:11) as stated in Revelation 20:6, 14. Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). He alone has the authority to give life (John 11:25-26).
Dear saints! Far be it from us to have our hope in Christ for this life, here on earth, only (1 Corinthians 15:19). Therefore, instead of binding and casting out spirits, may we hold on tightly to our hope in Jesus Christ: the hope for everlasting life. A hope that none can ever snatch from us.