Why Must Even Youths Die?
“WHY did my baby die?” the young mother sobbed, grief-stricken at the death of her only child. “He had so many years ahead—so much to live for.”
“Oh pity us!” cries the epitaph on the tombstone of a three-year-old child. British parents marked a grave with the words: “Two lovely babies lie buried here.”
Such parents are not alone in their sorrow. Their pain has been felt by many others. Usually it is a grief known only to a few close friends. At other times the world becomes aware of the loss.
Parents can easily imagine the grief of the families of seventy-one children who, in April 1970, perished when a landslide crushed a tuberculosis hospital at Plateau d’Assy, in the French Alps. They can also sense the sorrow of parents who, in September 1970, sent their joyful children to a festival in India’s South Mysore State, only to hear in horror that their boat had overturned.
In many nations mothers have seen their sons “give their lives” for political issues, or to maintain or extend national boundaries or influence. Student protests, now common throughout the world, have led to further sorrow, as at Kent State University and at Jackson State College in Mississippi in 1970.
Some youths bring on their own deaths—through reckless driving, excesses with alcohol, or from acts that they or others perform under the influence of drugs. Others have their lives snuffed out at an early age by drowning, lightning, fires, storms, firearms, poisons, and so forth. But in each family the sorrow is gradually surmounted. The family adjusts to its loss, and life goes on.
Reason for Untimely Deaths
Yet, heartbroken parents, sorrowing over the loss of a child, often ask why their child was the one that had to die. Wives often raise similar questions at the loss of a loved husband: “Why my Bill? Why did he have to die? He never hurt anyone!”
Rarely do people die because they hurt someone. Instead, they die, at one age or another, because we all were born into a system in which eventually everyone dies. The only book that truly explains this situation is the oldest book in existence, the Holy Bible. Its writers were inspired by God, and so what they wrote merits our interest. One of those inspired penmen wrote almost three thousand years ago: “The living are conscious that they will die.”—Eccl. 9:5.
Specific children (or adults) are not “chosen” for death. Often death results from chance—from being in a particular place at a particular time. It has little to do with whether the person who died was good, young, talented, or had a particularly promising future before him. As wise King Solomon wrote in the inspired Scriptures: “I returned to see under the sun that the swift do not have the race, . . . nor do even those having knowledge have the favor; because time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all.”—Eccl. 9:11.
A child can chase a ball into the street. If at that “time” no car is coming, nothing may happen. But if a speeding car is passing (the “occurrence” the child had not foreseen), the child may be injured or killed. He did not die because his death was “fated” or “foreordained.” No set time had been decided in advance. Rather, he died because he happened to be in the street when the car passed.
Condition of the Dead
This same Bible writer who wrote, “For the living are conscious that they will die,” continued that very sentence with a statement that surprises many persons. He said: “But as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all.”—Eccl. 9:5, 10.
This idea surprises persons who have been taught in their churches that the dead not only are conscious, but are consciously suffering punishments or enjoying rewards. Who has not heard the idea that the dead are suffering in a hellfire or purgatory or are enjoying the blessings of heaven? Yet God’s Word, the Bible, says the dead “are conscious of nothing at all.”
Verify this for yourself. Get your own copy of the Bible, and read these words in the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter nine, verses five and ten.
How Long Should Man Live?
But why do men, who try so hard to hold onto life, die? Why does such a marvelous organism as the human body not continue to rebuild itself? Why does it finally wear out, and why do men make mistakes that cause accidents and bring death?
Logic indicates that man was made to live much longer than we live today.
Consider just the example that is offered by man’s marvelous brain. Your brain alone, according to biochemist Isaac Asimov (quoted in the New York Times Magazine, October 9, 1966), is “perfectly capable” of handling “any load of learning and memory which the human being is likely to put upon it—and a billion times more than that quantity, too.”
Why were you given a brain that could serve a thousand million lifetimes? Such a brain was not needed for existence in prior generations, nor is its capacity being used in your short lifetime today. The evolution theory cannot explain how or why men would “evolve” such a tremendous brain—a thousand million times beyond the creature’s needs. This brain must have been given to man with more than a short life-span in view.
In the Bible’s first book (Genesis, chapter one) the creation is recounted. It is presented in a simple and straightforward manner. During great creative epochs (called “days” in the account) various life-forms were created. Each reproduced after its own “kind,” producing descendants to live on after it had died. (Gen. 1:11, 12, 20-24) Then man was created.
Animals could move about, show affection or anger, band into herds, and exist on a far higher level than the plants had. Man, on the other hand, was far superior to the animals. He could progress, building on what he learned. He could convey thought through speech. He could distinguish between right and wrong. He had a moral sense, and was concerned about justice and rightness.
And, astoundingly, the Genesis account suggests that man was so different from the animals that he might not even die!
Animals were born and later died. But man was different. Nothing in the creation account said that man would die—unless he disobeyed his Creator. To the first man God said that, in the day he disobeyed, he would “positively die.”—Gen. 2:17.
Had the first man and woman continued obedient to God, they would not have died. They would have multiplied till the earth was filled. (Gen. 1:28) Their bodies would have continued to rebuild themselves, and men and women could have made use of their brains that are capable of a thousand million times the learning load that is likely to be put on them today.
But this is not the way it happened. The first couple did disobey. They lost out on eternal life for themselves, and so could not pass on such a prospect to their children. The Christian apostle Paul recognized this as being, not myth, but actual fact. He wrote: “Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin.”—Rom. 5:12.
Sin has been passed from generation to generation, and men die. So, the apostle continued: “And thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) Some die as children, others die in old age from illness, or as a result of accidents.
Other persons, because of the activities in which they engage, hasten their death. Fast and reckless drivers risk their own and other persons’ lives. Cigarette smokers risk dying from agonizing lung cancer. Today’s selfish system of things has goaded men into political, nationalistic or even commercial practices that have cost many lives. Yet the Scriptures hold hope even for those who have died.
A Thrilling Resurrection!
The Bible teaches that Jesus’ ransom sacrifice opened the way for a magnificent hope for mankind. By laying down his human life, Jesus was offering as a sacrifice the exact equivalent of what Adam had lost—perfect human life on earth. He paid a “ransom” for dying mankind. Now the prospect of eternal life was again open. Thus it was proper for the apostle Peter to call Jesus God’s “Chief Agent of life.” (Acts 3:15) It is by means of this One that God will raise the dead to life in a thrilling resurrection. Concerning this, the Christian apostle Paul said: “There is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.”—Acts 24:15.
But when dead ones come back in the resurrection, how long will they live? That depends on the course of action they take and whether they are obedient to God’s “Chief Agent of life,” Jesus. By exercising faith and obedience such ones can keep on living forever.
Even now there are persons who are exercising faith in God’s Son, and they have a wonderful hope ahead of them, even as Jesus said: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16.
Many persons can quote that Bible passage, but few have thought about what it actually says. It does not say that Jesus gave his life that people might “become angels” or so that “all good people might go to heaven.” It says he did so that they might have “everlasting life.”
Righteous New Conditions
This everlasting life will be possible in God’s righteous new system of things, after the “great tribulation,” during which the earth will be wiped clean of its present wicked system. (Matt. 24:21) This righteous new system, now near at hand, is one for which all Christians have prayed. They have asked God to intervene in earth’s affairs, and to make a drastic change in the way things are done.
Perhaps you say: “I have never prayed for that.”
But almost everyone who claims to be Christian has prayed for it. Stop a moment and think of how you learned to say the model prayer that Jesus gave—perhaps you call it the “Lord’s Prayer,” or the “Our Father.” After asking for God’s name to be sanctified, you may have prayed: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”—Matt. 6:10, Douay translation.
Few persons have realized what a change it will make for that prayer to be answered—for God’s will to be done throughout the earth the way it is done in heaven. In fact, it will require that God replace this present system of things, with its wars, corruption and greed. In its place will be a new system that will assure the conditions of peace and life that God originally created in Eden. Into such new conditions, now near at hand, the earthly resurrection will occur.
This helps us to understand the promise made at Revelation 21:2-4 of magnificent blessings that will come down out of heaven from God. What changes will those blessings bring as respects earth? Listen to what a loud voice from God’s heavenly throne told the apostle John: “And [God] will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”
As if this astounding restoration of everlasting life on earth would be too magnificent for men to believe, the apostle John records the special assurance that was given from heaven itself. He writes: “And the One seated on the throne said: ‘Look! I am making all things new.’ Also, he says: ‘Write, because these words are faithful and true.’”—Rev. 21:5.
The Coming “Great Tribulation”
But will you benefit from the grand hope that the Bible offers of everlasting life in righteous new conditions? That is something for you to consider seriously, because we are living at the time when Almighty God will soon bring an end to this system of things in the “great tribulation.”
Failure on the part of the larger portion of earth’s inhabitants to heed the divine warning given in the Scriptures will cause many to lose their lives. Earth’s Creator will not forever tolerate the wanton violation of his laws, so evident today. God’s prophet Jeremiah wrote: “And those slain by Jehovah will certainly come to be in that day from one end of the earth clear to the other end of the earth.” (Jer. 25:33) The Scriptures indicate that those slain by Jehovah will not come back in the resurrection, but will “undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction.”—2 Thess. 1:7-9.
Parents who fail to choose a godly course will be responsible for the loss of, not only their own lives, but also those of their infant offspring in this coming “great tribulation” that will cleanse the earth of present troublemakers, and will see the establishment of a new order, with righteousness and peace.
Though at present people, young and old, die because of the sin inherited from Adam, it is possible to benefit from Christ’s ransom, and to conform to God’s instructions. We can take a course of obedience that will permit us either to survive through the coming “great tribulation” or to be resurrected afterward, into a righteous and cleansed earth, now near at hand. What a blessing to be on hand when dead loved ones, perhaps your children, return from the dead! Great will be the joy. What a marvelous hope the Bible gives to those who have lost their loved ones!