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Disease and Death in the Bible

Death began because Adam and Eve sinned. When our first parents disobeyed God, the Lord drove them out of the Garden of Eden so that they would not be able to “take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” (Gen. 3:22). We have frail bodies that are vulnerable to injury and suspect to all kinds of diseases. Eventually something takes our physical life. The famous words “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19) apply today.

God made our body to resist disease and repair itself. David said, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psa. 139:14). Part of this divine design is our incredible immune system. This is our first natural line of defense and it works remarkably well. Of course it is not a bulletproof vest against all diseases; if it were we could never die from any illness. It is also true that different people have weaknesses and glitches in their immune systems. But none of this negates the amazing protection that it gives us every day. Are children being taught about this today? Are they learning about the “killer cells” in their bodies? Very little is said in the media or among politicians about the power of our God-given immune system. Even the medical community seldom mentions it. Why? Because everything today is about drugs and treatments that cost money. The immune system is free. It is a gift from God. Politicians cannot hold it over peoples’ heads and pharmaceutical companies are unable to sell it.

The Bible recognizes the need for doctors. Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Matt. 9:12). Luke is called “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14). Even in the days when Jesus and the apostles healed many with great miracles, there was still a need for medical help. The Bible is certainly not against medical intervention. Some preachers say that if a person has enough faith he will not get sick. That is not true. Paul had a thorn in the flesh (II Cor. 12:7-10). Did he not have enough faith? Elisha the prophet died of sickness (II Kings 13:14). Was his faith lacking? Of course not. At the same time, a person can put too much confidence in doctors. King Asa was “diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians” (II Chron. 16:12). We must not go to an extreme in either direction.

There is a spiritual dimension to disease, suffering, and recovery that medical science can never analyze and explain. Sometimes doctors have to admit that no one knows why there are certain illnesses. God always knows why. God has purposes for many physical evils that befall us. In the Bible we find God sending sickness to punish certain people; the plagues in Egypt in Exodus 7-13 are an example. The Lord allowed Satan to torment Job with a terrible skin disease (Job 2). God did not explain to Job why this happened. Paul’s malady was given to him to prevent others from exalting him more than they should because of all the visions and revelations he received (II Cor. 12:6-10). There are forces at work in the human body that no scan or x-ray can see. God can use the hands of doctors to heal people or He can heal them without or in spite of their hands. This does not happen by miracles. Healing miracles and other signs ended when the New Testament was completed and confirmed (I Cor. 13:8-10). But God does answer prayer behind the scenes in ways no man can understand. In an age when many are terrified of disease and death, let us accept and remember these truths.



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