Man Was Made to Live
GOD made man to live. This is what the Bible indicates by its description of the provisions that God made for our first human parents, Adam and Eve. It informs us that Jehovah God placed them in a beautiful garden home, a paradise, occupying a section of the region called “Eden.” That paradise contained everything needed for them to continue living. Concerning this, Genesis, the first book of the Bible, says: “Jehovah God made to grow out of the ground every tree desirable to one’s sight and good for food and also the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.”—Genesis 2:9.
Note that there was, not a ‘tree of death,’ but a “tree of life” in this lovely paradise. That “tree of life” stood as an unchangeable guarantee of continued life to those entitled to partake of it. There was no reason for Adam and Eve to have a morbid fear of the possibility of dying. As long as they continued to be obedient to their Creator in not eating of the forbidden “tree of the knowledge of good and bad” their life would not end.—Genesis 2:16, 17.
But is what the Bible says about man’s being made to enjoy an endless life-span in agreement with what we can see of life? Do not the facts show that humans have been dying for thousands of years? Yes, but did you know that right in your own makeup is evidence suggesting that you should have a far longer life-span than is customary in our day?
Consider, for example, the human brain. Is it designed for a lifetime of just seventy or eighty years? Interestingly, biochemist Isaac Asimov, in commenting on the brain’s capacity, noted that its filing system 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.”
Is it logical for man’s brain to have a storage capacity for information a thousand million times as great as he is able to use during what is today an average life-span? Rather, does this not indicate that man was made to live a lifetime that would require a brain with an infinite capacity for memory?
This is by no means all.
MAN ALONE HAS A CONCEPT OF ETERNITY
A remarkable point to note here is that the Bible sets only before man—not before any of earth’s other creatures—the prospect of limitless life. In fact, it says that even the concept of past or future time indefinite or eternity is unique to man. Noted the inspired writer of the Bible book of Ecclesiastes: “I have seen the occupation that God has given to the sons of mankind in which to be occupied. Everything he has made pretty in its time. Even time indefinite he has put in their heart.”—Ecclesiastes 3:10, 11.
Now, if what the Bible says about man is true, we should be able to see evidence to this effect. Do we? Does man stand in sharp contrast with the animals? Does man alone think seriously about the future, concern himself with it and work toward it? Does he react to death in a way different from the animals, showing that he alone has appreciation for what life has meant to him in the past and could mean to him in the future?
There is no denying that all living things cling to life. Instinctively animals that are eaten by other animals seek to escape their predators by flight or concealment. Many creatures will struggle against what appear to be impossible odds to protect their young from death. Rabbits have been known to kick so violently as to send raccoons sprawling. In the western part of the United States a female antelope was observed successfully defending her kid from a timber wolf, her sharp hoofs injuring his hindquarters and knocking out his teeth. As he was seeking to get away, she jumped on top of him and trampled him to death.
Such instinctive reaction to the threat of death plays a vital role in the preservation of creature life. But does this mean that animals have an appreciation for the past and future as does man?
As we know, a man can reflect on the past and can plan for the future. In the privacy of his own home, he can think back to his boyhood days—his pranks, disappointments, failures, successes and joys. He can plan future moves—building a new house, purchasing furniture, determining the kind of education he would like for his children to get, and so forth. But can a dog, for example, meditate about its puppyhood, the children that played with it then, its becoming full grown and then mating? In his book Animals Are Quite Different, Hans Bauer shows what research has revealed:
“The dog will always need an actual sense-impression to enable it to conjure up former incidents. He may be taken, let us say, on a certain occasion to an unfamiliar town in which he undergoes some experience or other. After his return home the impressions then received will have been forgotten. But if he goes back to the same spot he will remember them. It is in fact one of the special peculiarities and advantages of the human as compared with the animal psychological structure that the content of human memory is not associated with the needs of every day but embedded in the stream of consciousness as a whole.”
Thus, unlike man, animals cannot at will reconstruct events of the past.
But can they plan ahead for the future? Do not hamsters, certain ants, squirrels and other animals store up or hide food supplies for later use? Is not this a planning ahead for the future so as not to suffer want in winter? “No,” says the above-mentioned author, and he gives these facts in support:
“They do not know what they are doing or why they do it. They simply proceed in accordance with instinct, the proof being that even animals removed from their parents at a very early age and kept in cages begin ‘collecting’ in the autumn. Such animals have never known winter conditions and will not be deprived of nourishment in the coming months. Nevertheless, they ‘hoard’ simply for the sake of ‘hoarding.’”
Summing up the contrast between man and animals, he remarks:
“The world of animals is therefore exclusively that of the present moment in the most literal sense of the word. For they can easily be diverted from even the most fascinating objects by others of more immediate appeal at the time and never afterwards return to the former.”
Truly, then, man alone has a concept of “time indefinite,” the ability to meditate on the past and to look toward the future, planning for it.
It is because animals live only in the present that for them death is clearly not the tragedy it is for humans. Animals seem to react to death as a natural course of events.
Take the case witnessed in Serengeti National Park involving a lioness and her three cubs. While the lioness was away, the cubs lay hidden in a thicket. Then two male lions from another territory appeared. Finding the hidden cubs, they killed all three. They ate one, carried the other off and left the third behind. What did the lioness do when she returned and saw her remaining dead cub? She displayed no grief, no emotion, but merely sniffed at the carcass of her remaining dead cub—and then devoured it.
It is also noteworthy that animals on which lions prey do not react with terror at seeing a lion some distance away. Once a lion has gotten its meal, herds of animals soon resume their usual routine. In fact, prey animals may come within one hundred and twenty feet of a visible lion.
MAN REACTS TO DEATH AS SOMETHING UNNATURAL
How differently humans react to death! For the majority, the death of a wife, husband or child is the most upsetting experience of a lifetime. Man’s entire emotional makeup is jarred for a long time after the death of a person whom he dearly loves.
Even those persons who claim that ‘death is natural to humans’ find it hard to accept the idea that their own death will mean the end of everything. Observes The Journal of Legal Medicine: “Psychiatrists are generally agreed that there is an unconscious denial of death, even when it seems to be imminent.” A young avowed atheist, for example, stated before his execution that, from a rational point of view, his death would mean ‘nothing more than the definitive termination of a life that had been brief but very intense.’ But then he noted that it was difficult, indeed impossible, for him to ‘admit that everything would be reduced to nothingness.’
So strong is man’s desire to share in future activity that a number of people have arranged to have their bodies frozen at death. The initial cost for this may run as high as $8,500, with an additional $1,000 being paid each year to keep the body frozen. Bodies have been frozen in the hope that scientists will eventually be able to bring them back to life. Of course, at the present time scientists are nowhere even near accomplishing such a thing. Yet the very thought that this might be possible has been enough to move some persons to have their bodies preserved at great cost.
Because humans find it hard to accept death as ending everything, men everywhere have a desire to perpetuate the memory of the dead and to dispose of them ceremoniously. Notes the book Funeral Customs the World Over:
“There is no group, however primitive at the one extreme or civilized at the other, which left freely to itself and within its means does not dispose of the bodies of its members with ceremony. So true is this universal fact of ceremonial funeralization that it seems reasonable to conclude that it flows out of human nature. It is ‘natural,’ normal, reasonable. It satisfies deep universal urges. To carry it out seems ‘right,’ and not to carry it out, particularly for those who are closely connected by family, feeling, shared living, common experience or other ties, seems ‘wrong,’ an unnatural omission, a matter to be apologized for or ashamed of.”
What does this work conclude from the universal custom of funerals? It continues:
“So true is this that to the various definitions of man there might be added another. He is a being that buries his dead with ceremony.”
Yet, despite all of this, eventually, as generations come and go, the deceased are totally forgotten. Even those who made a notable name in history centuries ago have, as actual persons, faded from the everyday memory of the living. Their influence on others is gone. For example, such powerful rulers of ancient times as Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar do not affect our daily lives now even though they affected the lives of millions of their contemporaries. The hard fact that the dead are in time forgotten was acknowledged by the discerning writer of the Bible book of Ecclesiastes: “There is no remembrance of people of former times, nor will there be of those also who will come to be later. There will prove to be no remembrance even of them among those who will come to be still later on.” (Ecclesiastes 1:11) The very fact that man tries everything within his power to be remembered despite his knowing that he will eventually be forgotten shows that his desire to live, if but in memory, is inherent.
MAN’S DEATH DOES NOT SEEM TO MAKE SENSE
In view of man’s general reaction to death, his amazing potential as to memory and learning ability, and his inward realization of eternity, is it not clear that he was made to live? Only when we accept the Bible’s explanation that man’s present dying state was never a part of God’s original purpose can we make sense out of things that would otherwise be very puzzling. Take as an example the life-spans of certain plants and animals that far surpass that of man.
A tree may live for hundreds of years; some, such as sequoias and bristlecone pines, for thousands of years. It is not unusual for a giant tortoise to get to be more than 150 years old. Why should this be? Why should mindless trees and unreasoning tortoises outlive intelligent man?
Then, too, is not man’s death a terrible waste? While a fraction of a man’s knowledge and experience may have been passed on to others, for the most part these things are lost to posterity. To illustrate, a man may be an outstanding scientist, a fine architect or an accomplished musician, painter or sculptor. He may have trained others. But at his death no one has the sum total of his talents and experience. He may even have been in the process of developing something new after having solved many problems. Those who could have benefited from the knowledge and experience he gained may now have to learn through trial and error—and then have their own work cut short by death. Since the field of knowledge is very great, why should man have to labor under the handicap of being deprived of experienced people as they fall victim to death?
Additionally, to say that man was to live just a few years on earth and then to die cannot be reconciled with belief in a loving Creator. Why not? Because this would mean that the Creator cares more about certain unintelligent plants and dumb animals than he does about humans, who can express love and appreciation. It would also mean that he has little compassion for humans, who, of all earthly forms of life, are hurt most deeply by death.
Truly, if this life were all there is, and if God had indeed purposed it this way, how could we really love him? Yes, how could we be drawn to One who made it impossible for us to come to the full realization of our potential? Would it not be an unkindness to be given tremendous potential for gaining knowledge and then to be stifled in one’s use of it?
However, if humans were made to continue to live, then they need an answer to the question, Why is it that man dies? And a satisfying answer is needed to help them to understand why God has allowed death to go on claiming human victims for thousands of years. This may well remove a serious obstacle standing in the way of one’s coming into a fine relationship with the Creator and finding real meaning and enjoyment in life now.
But how can we be sure about the reason for death?
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DOES MAN’S SHORT LIFE-SPAN MAKE SENSE?
Despite their amazing potential for learning, humans live just 70 or 80 years
Even swans are known to live over 80 years
Though unintelligent, tortoises live more than 150 years
Some trees live thousands of years