What Is the Bible’s View?
How Long Can Man Live?
“MAN, born of woman, is short-lived.” No one will deny the truth of these words of the Biblical patriarch Job. (Job 14:1) Have you ever wondered, though, why humans grow old and die? Is there a way that this process could be reversed? How long could man live under perfect conditions?
Experiments with human cells have shown that they do not now reproduce themselves indefinitely. It is as if a “biological clock” causes them to die out after a certain number of reproductions. But why?
Some suggest that aging occurs when something goes wrong with the chemical activity in the cell’s nucleus; another theory places the problem in the substance that surrounds the nucleus. Still others theorize that the difficulty may originate in a certain part of the brain or when a person’s immunological system breaks down.
But these are just theories. A panel of top authorities on aging recently pointed out: “Despite years of research, no one yet knows why people age. It is one of life’s biggest mysteries.”
The Bible, however, not only explains why humans grow old and die, but also gives a solid hope for a vastly extended human life-span in the near future. How so?
Let us consider first of all why man dies. The first mention of death in the Scriptures is in God’s command to Adam recorded at Genesis 2:16, 17: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.” Thus God did not originally purpose that man should die. Obedience to God would have resulted in his living on earth forever.
But Adam and Eve did not remain obedient. They “sinned” against God, missing the mark of reflecting his perfect standards. This damaged their relationship with God, resulting in harm to their minds, hearts and bodies. How would this affect any offspring they might have?
Note what is recorded at Romans 5:12: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” As the laws of heredity would lead us to expect, Adam and Eve, after becoming sinful, imperfect creatures, could produce only imperfect offspring. (Job 14:4) That is why all of us grow old and die. Is there a way to become free from this process?
Man could never free himself from sin and death. The reason why is explained at Psalm 49:7-9: “Alas! no man can ever ransom himself nor pay God the price of that release; his ransom would cost too much, for ever beyond his power to pay, the ransom that would let him live on always and never see the pit of death.” (The New English Bible) How high a price would be required to “ransom” man from sin and death so that he might “live on always,” eternally?
Adam as a perfect human brought death upon a perfect human race unborn in his loins. According to God’s just standard of “soul for soul,” the ransom price would call for another perfect human life. (Ex. 21:23) That was a price “beyond [man’s] power to pay.” But God could pay it; and he did. How?
By causing a virgin girl to conceive and bear a son without the aid of a human father. The child, named Jesus, was “God’s Son.” (Luke 1:34, 35) As a sinless, perfect man Jesus could “give his soul a ransom in exchange for many,” “a corresponding ransom for all.” (Matt. 20:28; 1 Tim. 2:5, 6) Thus Jesus could say: “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) Where will people be able to enjoy this “everlasting life”?
Keep in mind that the ransom allows for the restoration of what was lost, namely, perfect human life. Humans live on earth. (Ps. 115:16; 1 Cor. 15:50) Jesus, when saying that “the mild-tempered ones . . . will inherit the earth,” drew upon Psalm 37, which also says: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” (Matt. 5:5; Ps. 37:10, 11, 29) The Scriptures also speak symbolically of a “new earth” where “death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.”*—Rev. 21:1-4; 2 Pet. 3:13.
The thought of living forever upon earth need not surprise you. That under perfect conditions human life could be extended indefinitely can be seen from the extremely long life-spans of certain individuals recorded in the Bible. Adam, for example, lived 930 years; Methuselah, 969; Noah, 950.—Gen. 5:5, 27; 9:29.
Would you like to gain eternal life in an earth free from all the woes that presently cause ‘mourning and outcry and pain’? What must you do to attain to that goal?
Note Jesus’ words, as rendered in The Amplified New Testament: “And this is eternal life: [it means] to know (to perceive, recognize, become acquainted with and understand) You, the only true and real God, and [likewise] to know Him, Jesus [as the] Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah, Whom You have sent.”—John 17:3.
Getting to “know” God and Jesus Christ, becoming acquainted with God’s personality, his purpose and dealings with mankind, calls for a careful study of the Bible, which is “inspired of God.” (2 Tim. 3:16) But there is more involved than just Bible study.
The Bible writer James counsels: “Only be sure that you act on the message and do not merely listen; for that would be to mislead yourselves.” (Jas. 1:22, NEB) He adds: “A man is justified by deeds and not by faith in itself. . .. As the body is dead when there is no breath left in it, so faith divorced from deeds is lifeless as a corpse.” (Jas. 2:24, 26, NEB) The “deeds” that make one’s faith alive in God’s eyes are not mere religious ceremonies or “charitable works,” but deeds done in imitation of Jesus and his disciples.—Matt. 28:19, 20; John 14:12; Acts 1:8.
God created man to live forever upon earth. It was through the sin of the first human pair that death invaded the human family. Jesus Christ, by giving up his perfect human life in sacrifice, paid the required ransom price to set mankind free from sin and death. Will you benefit from this loving provision of God? That depends on your willingness to make a careful study of the Word of God and prove by deeds that you really believe it.