How Long Can We Live?
“MANY PEOPLE alive today will have the opportunity for a greatly prolonged life span. Even immortality now seems possible.”
“Millions Now Living May Never Die.”
What is the difference between these two statements? The first is a statement by Dr. Lawrence E. Lamb, medical columnist and professor, in his book Get Ready for Immortality, published in 1975. The second is the title of a public address and subsequent book by J. F. Rutherford, the second president of the Watch Tower Society. The public address was first delivered in Los Angeles, California, in 1918.
The two apparently similar statements, however, differed widely in the reasoning and research that led up to them. Dr. Lamb’s words are typical of the many so-called immortalists. These persons feel that advances in medical science, including research on aging, will soon solve the mystery of why we grow old and will eventually conquer death itself. Yet, despite the achievements of modern science in lengthening the average life expectancy and in helping many to enjoy better lives, predictions of immortality remain just that—optimistic prognostications.
J. F. Rutherford, on the other hand, was not making forecasts based on science or medicine. His discussion was based on the Bible. He demonstrated by means of fulfilled Bible prophecies that the world of mankind had entered into its “time of the end.” (Daniel 12:4) He then pointed to the Bible-based hope that just as Noah and his family survived the end of the world in their day, millions will survive the destruction of this world and live on into a righteous new world to enjoy everlasting life in a paradise earth.—Matthew 24:37-39; Revelation 21:3, 4.
To many of those in his audience, Rutherford’s speech was startling. Even today, many people find such talk about living forever on earth under the rule of God’s Kingdom unrealistic and hard to believe. (Psalm 37:10, 11, 29) But is what the Bible says about why we grow old and die really so unbelievable? What, in fact, does it say on the subject?
Made to Live, Not to Die
Logically, the Bible opens with the account of the beginning of human life. In the first chapter of Genesis, we read that after creating the first human pair, “God blessed them and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving upon the earth.’”—Genesis 1:28.
For the first human pair, Adam and Eve, to carry out that assignment, it would necessarily mean that they would have to live a very long time, and so would their offspring. But for how long? Reading on in the Bible book of Genesis, we find no mention of any specific life span prescribed for Adam and Eve. Nevertheless, there was one condition that they would have to meet if they were to continue living. God said to Adam: “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.”—Genesis 2:17.
Thus, death would come upon them only if they disobeyed God’s command. Otherwise, they had the prospect of living on indefinitely in that earthly Paradise called Eden. Clearly, humans were made to live, not to die.
The Genesis account goes on to relate, however, that the first human pair chose to ignore God’s clearly stated command and thereby sinned. Their course of disobedience brought upon them, and subsequently upon their descendants, the condemnation of death. Centuries later, the apostle Paul explained: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.”—Romans 5:12.
The law of inheritance is such that Adam and Eve could only pass on to their offspring what they themselves had. As created, they were capable of passing on perfect, unending life to future generations. But now that their own lives had become marred by sin and death, they could no longer bequeath that grand heritage. Sin, imperfection, and death have become the lot of all mankind ever since, in spite of the efforts to extend the human life span.
In a sense, this can be likened to a computer program in which there is a flaw, or bug. Unless the bug is isolated and corrected, the program will not work properly, and the results may be disastrous. Man has not been able to isolate, much less correct, the inherent flaw that results in the malfunctioning of our human bodies, resulting in aging and death. However, man’s Creator, Jehovah God, has made arrangements to correct it. What is his solution?
God has provided the perfect human life of his Son, Jesus Christ, “the last Adam,” who thus replaces, in effect, the original Adam as our father and life-giver. Therefore, instead of being condemned to die as children of the sinner Adam, obedient humans may be reckoned worthy to receive everlasting life as children of their “Eternal Father,” Jesus Christ. Jesus himself explained: “This is the will of my Father, that everyone that beholds the Son and exercises faith in him should have everlasting life.”—1 Corinthians 15:45; Isaiah 9:6; John 3:16; 6:40.
At the conclusion of his earthly ministry, in prayer to his heavenly Father, Jesus Christ declared the basic requirement for attaining this grand reward of life by saying: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3.
“Like the Days of a Tree”
Think of planting a sequoia seed and watching it grow hundreds of feet into the air, enjoying its growth throughout its lifetime. Then imagine surviving it and planting another one thousands of years later and again enjoying its growth and beauty.
Is such a notion realistic? Indeed it is, for it is based on the promise of man’s Creator, Jehovah God, who says: “Like the days of a tree will the days of my people be.” (Isaiah 65:22) This promise helps answer the question, How long can man live? The answer is: on into the indefinite future, yes, actually forever.—Psalm 133:3.
An invitation is being extended now, namely: “‘Come!’ And let anyone hearing say: ‘Come!’ And let anyone thirsting come; let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.” (Revelation 22:17) This is an invitation that Jehovah God is having extended to all honesthearted ones. The invitation is to take advantage of God’s spiritual provisions for everlasting life on a paradise earth.
Will you choose to accept this invitation? Your prospects for longer life, everlasting life, depend on your choice now!
[Box on page 7]
Someone born at the end of the 18th century in North America or Western Europe could expect to live to be 35 or 40 years of age. Today, men and women in the United States can expect to live to about 71 and 78 respectively, and similar improvements have been made in other countries. We are realizing more of our potential as far as longevity is concerned. But is there a limit to how far life expectancy can be extended?
There is no one in recent history who has lived or has expected to live 500, 300, or even 200 years. In spite of advances in medical science, life expectancy today is still under 80. Yet there are reports of individuals living to 140 or even 150 years of age. And in Bible times, people lived to be hundreds of years old. Is that mere myth or legend?
Interestingly, The New Encyclopædia Britannica states that “the exact duration of human life is unknown.” As the article explains, assuming that some individual did live to be 150, “there is no valid reason for rejecting the possibility that some other individual may live 150 years and one minute. And if 150 years and one minute is accepted, why not 150 years and two minutes, and so on?” The article continues: “Based on existing knowledge of longevity, a precise figure for the span of human life cannot be given.”
What can we conclude from this? Simply that what medical science has learned about aging and death is based on the human condition as we see it today. The crucial question is whether the human condition has always been the same or whether it will always remain the same. God’s promise is: “Look! I am making all things new.” In the fast-approaching new world, “he 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.”—Revelation 21:4, 5.
[Picture on page 8, 9]
‘A river of water of life, clear as crystal, was flowing out from the throne of God.’—Revelation 22:1