Sickness and Death—Why?
NO MATTER what people may do to care for their health, they grow older, get sick and finally die. No one can avoid it. Even men devoted to God could not. (1 Kings 1:1; 2:1, 10; 1 Timothy 5:23) Why is it that way?
2 Our body cells seem to have the potential for replacing worn-out ones far longer than they now do, and our brain has more capacity than we could use in many life-spans. Why—if we are not meant to use these capacities? Actually, scientists cannot explain why we grow old, get sick and die. But the Bible does.
THE CAUSE OF SICKNESS AND DEATH
3 The apostle Paul points us in the right direction, saying: “In Adam all are dying.” (1 Corinthians 15:21, 22) Paul here refers to the Bible account of Adam and Eve, which account Jesus Christ confirmed as accurate. (Mark 10:6-8) The Creator had put the first couple in a garden home, with the happy prospect of endless life in harmony with his will. They had ample healthful food from the various trees and other vegetation. Furthermore, Adam and Eve were perfect humans. Their minds and bodies were without defect, and there was no reason for these to deteriorate, as happens with humans now.—Deuteronomy 32:4; Genesis 1:31.
4 Only one restriction was placed on that first human pair. God said: “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) By complying with this limitation, they would show recognition of God’s authority to determine what is good and what is bad for humans. In time, they set their own standards of good and bad. (Genesis 3:6, 7) By disobeying God’s plainly stated command, they committed what the Bible calls “sin.” In both Hebrew and Greek, “to sin” means “to miss [the mark].” Adam and Eve missed the mark or fell short of perfect obedience. They no longer reflected Jehovah’s perfection, and they brought upon themselves God’s just sentence.—Luke 16:10.
5 Adam and Eve’s sin affected both them and us. Why us? Well, God did not execute them immediately. Showing consideration for all that was involved, Jehovah let the first pair bring forth children. But Adam and Eve were no longer perfect; when they sinned they began to deteriorate physically and mentally. So they could not produce perfect children. (Job 14:4) The situation could be likened to that of a couple today who have a genetic defect that they pass on to their children. We inherited the defect of sin, for we all stem from an imperfect first pair. Paul explains: “Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.”—Romans 5:12; Psalm 51:5.
6 Was the situation hopeless? Both history and the Bible confirm that left up to humans it would have been. We are unable to cleanse ourselves of the stain of sin or to release ourselves from God’s condemnation. If there was to be a release, God would provide it. His law was broken, so he would be the One to determine how perfect justice could be met and a release provided. Jehovah God showed his undeserved kindness by making provision for relief to Adam and Eve’s offspring, including us. The Bible explains what the provision is and how we may benefit.
7 These passages offer the basis for understanding the matter:
“God loved the world [of mankind] 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.
“The Son of man [Jesus] came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.”—Mark 10:45.
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and it is as a free gift that they are being declared righteous by his undeserved kindness through the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus. God set him forth as an offering [that covers] through faith in his blood.”—Romans 3:23-25.
WHAT IS “THE RANSOM”?
8 Two of those texts mention a “ransom.” That, basically, is a price paid to set a captive free. (Isaiah 43:3) We often hear the word used with reference to money for releasing a kidnap victim. In our case, the captive is mankind. Adam sold us into bondage to sin, with resulting sickness and death. (Romans 7:14) What valuable thing could redeem mankind and open up for us the prospect of life free from the effects of sin?
9 Recall that the Bible says that Jesus ‘gave his life as a ransom.’ (Mark 10:45) We can see from this that a human life was needed. By sinning, Adam had forfeited perfect human life. To open the way for mankind to regain life in perfection another perfect human life was needed to balance or buy back what Adam had lost. This emphasizes why no imperfect descendant of Adam could provide the ransom. As Psalm 49:7, 8 says: “Man could never redeem himself or pay his ransom to God: it costs so much to redeem his life, it is beyond him.”—Jerusalem Bible.
10 To provide the ransom price, God sent his perfect spirit Son from heaven to be born as a human. An angel explained to the chaste virgin Mary how God would make sure that Jesus would be perfect at birth: “Power of the Most High will overshadow you. For that reason also what is born will be called holy, God’s Son.” (Luke 1:35; Galatians 4:4) Jesus, not having an imperfect human father, was free of inherited sin.—1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 7:26.
11 After living as a human in full accord with God’s will, Christ gave up his perfect human life. It was a life such as Adam had when created, so Jesus became a “corresponding ransom for all.” (1 Timothy 2:5, 6; 1 Corinthians 15:45) Yes, it was “for all” in that he paid the price to purchase the entire human family. Accordingly, the Bible says that we have been “bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:20) God, through Jesus’ death, thus laid the basis for counteracting what Adam did in bringing sin, sickness and death on mankind. This truth can have real meaning in making our lives happy.
HOW CAN OUR SINS BE FORGIVEN?
12 It is fine to know from the Bible that Jesus paid the ransom price. But there still is something that can be a barrier to our having God’s approval and blessing. That is the fact that we personally are sinners. We ‘miss the mark’ many times. Paul wrote: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) What can be done about that? How can we become acceptable to our righteous God, Jehovah?
13 Certainly we would not expect God to look with approval on us if we continued in a course that we knew to be contrary to his will. We must repent sincerely of our wrong desires, speech and conduct, and then endeavor to conform to his standards set out in the Bible. (Acts 17:30) Still our sins—past and present—need to be covered over. Jesus’ ransom sacrifice serves us here. Paul gives an indication of this, writing that God ‘set forth Jesus as an offering that covers through faith in his blood.’—Romans 3:24, 25.
14 The apostle was here referring to something that God arranged long before and that was to picture or to point forward to Christ. In ancient Israel animal sacrifices for sins were regularly offered on behalf of the people. And individuals themselves could make guilt offerings for special cases of wrongdoing. (Leviticus 16:1-34; 5:1-6, 17-19) God accepted these blood sacrifices as atoning for or canceling out human sins. But this did not bring lasting relief, for the Bible says that “it is not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take sins away.” (Hebrews 10:3, 4) However, these features of worship involving priests, temples, altars and offerings were “an illustration” or “a shadow of the good things to come” involving Jesus’ sacrifice.—Hebrews 9:6-9, 11, 12; 10:1.
15 The Bible shows how important this is to our obtaining forgiveness, saying: “By means of him we have the release by ransom through the blood of that one [Jesus], yes, the forgiveness of our trespasses.” (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 2:24) So, in addition to his death’s providing the ransom, it can cover our sins; we can have our sins forgiven. But something is required of us. Since we have been purchased, yes, “bought with a price” by Christ’s ransom, we must be willing to accept Jesus as our Lord or Owner and obey him. (1 Corinthians 6:11, 20; Hebrews 5:9) Consequently, we need to repent of our sins and to couple this with faith in the sacrifice of Jesus our Lord.
16 If we do so, we do not have to wait for forgiveness until God relieves mankind of all the effects of sin, putting an end to sickness and death. The Scriptures speak of this forgiveness as something that we can enjoy right now, resulting in a clean conscience before God.—1 John 2:12.
17 Jesus’ sacrifice should, therefore, have very personal meaning for us each day. By means of it God can forgive the wrongs we commit. The apostle John explains: “I am writing you these things that you may not commit a sin. And yet, if anyone does commit a sin, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one.” (1 John 2:1; Luke 11:2-4) This is a primary Bible teaching and is vital to our lasting happiness.—1 Corinthians 15:3.
WHAT WILL YOU DO?
18 How do you react to what the Bible says about the cause of sickness and death, the ransom and the provision for forgiveness through Jesus Christ? A person might take in these details mentally without its touching his heart and life. But more is required of us.
19 Do we appreciate God’s love in providing the ransom? The apostle John wrote: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son.” (John 3:16) Remember that the humans involved were sinners, alienated from God. (Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21) Would you give up your dearest one in behalf of persons most of whom showed little or no interest in you? Yet Jehovah had his pure and faithful Son, his beloved Firstborn, come to earth to face contempt, shame and death in order to provide relief for humankind. That moved Paul to write: “God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”—Romans 5:8.
20 The Son showed his love, too. When the time came, he willingly lowered himself to become a man. He slaved for imperfect humans, teaching and healing them. And, though innocent, he accepted ridicule, torture and a shameful death at the hands of enemies of the truth. As an aid to appreciating this, take the time to read the account of Jesus’ betrayal, trial, abuse and execution, as recorded in Luke 22:47 through 23:47.
21 How will you respond to all of this? Certainly a person should not let his acceptance of the loving provision of the ransom become an excuse for wrong conduct. That would be missing its purpose, and it could even result in sin that is beyond forgiveness. (Hebrews 10:26, 29; Numbers 15:30) Instead, we ought to endeavor to live in a way that will bring honor to our Creator. And faith in the grand provision made through his Son should move us to talk to others about it, helping them to appreciate how they too can benefit.—Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9, 10; James 2:26; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15.
22 When Jesus Christ was on earth he said that he could extend God’s forgiveness of sins. Some enemies criticized him for that. So Jesus proved it by healing a paralyzed man. (Luke 5:17-26) Hence, just as sin produced physical effects on mankind, the forgiveness of sins can result in benefits. It is important to know that. What Jesus did on earth shows that God can bring an end to sickness and dying. That is in accord with what Jesus Christ himself said, namely, that Jehovah God gave his Son so that persons with faith might have “everlasting life.” (John 3:16) But how? When? And what about our loved ones who have already died?
Why are sickness and death a puzzle? (1, 2)
How did sickness and death come to affect us? (3-5)
Why is the solution to sickness and death up to God? (6, 7)
How has a ransom been provided? (8-11)
What basis is there for our sins to be forgiven? (12-17)
How do you respond to what God and Jesus have done? (1 John 4:9-11) (18-21)
Forgiveness of our sins can involve what prospect? (22)
[Box on page 103]
Science writer Isaac Asimov explained that the RNA molecules in the human brain provide “a filing system 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.”—The New York “Times Magazine.”
[Picture on page 108]
The sacrifices in Israel pointed forward to Jesus’ ransom sacrifice