Here at The Constant Battle, we have a contact page where anyone can send us prayer requests and ask questions. I recently received the following question, which I have pasted below, and because technology, like us, is not without fault, my response would not send, so I have pasted it below as well.
I am puzzled by psalm 91 to fully understand the promises of protection and long life, His angels will protect us. Paul, peter john the baptist, Stephen they all died they trusted and looked to and loved God??
Thank you so much for your question. Yes, they all died, as everyone must. Paul, Peter, John the Baptist, and Stephen did not die of natural causes, however, and a great deal of the promises made in Psalm 91 are protection against disease. Some of the language could also be interpreted as war-like and thus mean protection in battle, and none of these men died in a battle either. However, I do believe all of these men, and all Christians really, found rest, refuge, and safety in the shadow of the Almighty as Psalm 91 promises. Notice also in verse 15, the Lord says, "When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them." God's promise is that He will be with us in trouble, which of course means we will face trouble. It's not a promise of an easy life or no trouble at all, but that God will be with us when we face trouble, and these men certainly faced trouble. Monday's blog post addressed this as we looked at Jesus' words in Matthew 10. As quoted in the post, Jesus does not promise an easy life in following Him—in fact, it's the exact opposite. In these verses (Matthew 10:16-23) Jesus promises that we will be arrested, tried, and flogged, that families will turn against one another, betray one another, and we will be hated, all because we follow Jesus. But He also promises that God will give us the right words at the right time, that the Holy Spirit will speak through us. We certainly see this, again, with the men you have listed, especially in Stephen's case during his death. And God's rescue in the midst of trouble like that may very well be to take your spirit up to heaven as He did with Stephen.
The idea of a long life is also a relative term. In Psalm 91, God is speaking saying that He "will reward them with long life" but we also know from 2 Peter 3:8, "But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, a thousand years is like a day." So it's really not for us to question what God would define as a long life. This is also a culturally relative term. The life expectancy of a man in the first century was only around 30 years of age. (We know this from census data, here are some links that might help: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt/age/roman.html & https://ourworldindata.org/life-expectancy.) Paul and Peter both lived to be around 60-68 years of age; John the Baptist was in his early 30s (but this was his second life on Earth, more about that below); and Stephen was 29 years old when he was killed. Paul and Peter lived well beyond the life expectancy of the day, and John and Stephen were right there at the average life expectancy.
And who's to say when we are to go home to the Lord? Only the Lord! And one could certainly argue that, for the Christian, there is no death, only moving from this life to the next. And we know that through the blood of Jesus Christ we receive salvation and eternal life. Life doesn't get any longer than eternity, so the promises of Psalm 91 are made greater with the promise of eternal life.
Personally, I know I receive the promises made in Psalm 91 daily. Protection under God's promises, shelter under His wing. After having lived a life where I followed the whims of my sinful nature, I can tell you on the other side of it, that nature still calls to me and I turn to the Lord as my shelter and protection from it.
Now, a bit about John the Baptist. This is for those, as Jesus put it, who are "willing to accept it." In Matthew 11:13-15, Jesus spoke to His followers about John the Baptist: "For before John came, all the prophets and the law of Moses looked forward to this present time. And if you are willing to accept what I say, he is Elijah, the one the prophets said would come. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!" I think Jesus was being very clear: John the Baptist was Elijah come again. The lives of Elijah and John the Baptist had a few striking similarities: both were prophets from God and both had kings who disliked them whose wives wanted them dead. John being Elijah come again also explains a lot of John's behavior—from when he leapt in Elizabeth's womb when Mary, while pregnant with Jesus, was near, to him living in the desert and eating bugs; after all, he'd been in heaven for an immeasurable amount of time, so how could this world compare? So, John had lived two lifetimes on Earth before he was beheaded.
Just because we die or are killed for spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ, it does not negate the promises made in Psalm 91, it actually fulfills Jesus' promises throughout the Gospels, including those in Matthew 11. We can hold to the Truth of God's Word, always, and know that He is with us, He can send angels to protect us when He sees fit, and we can always find shelter and rest in Him, even in the midst of persecution and death.
If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask. I hope I have helped and provided an adequate answer. May God bless you and may you hold firmly to the Truth of God's word, always.
As always, if you have any questions or prayer requests, please feel free to contact us through our contact page. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.