Definition: An active condition that distinguishes plants, animals, humans, and spirit beings from inanimate objects. Physical living things generally have the capabilities of growth, metabolism, response to external stimuli, and reproduction. Vegetation has active life but not life as a sense-possessing soul. In earthly souls, animal and human, there are both active life-force to animate them and breath to sustain that life-force.
Life in the fullest sense, as applied to intelligent persons, is perfect existence with the right to it. The human soul is not immortal. But faithful servants of God have the prospect of everlasting life in perfection—on earth for many, in heaven for a “little flock” as heirs of the Kingdom of God. Upon their resurrection to spirit life, members of the Kingdom class are also granted immortality, a quality of life that does not need to be sustained by any created thing.
What is the purpose of human life?
Basic to having purpose in our lives is recognition of the Source of life. If life were the product of mindless chance, our existence would, of necessity, be without purpose, and there would be no dependable future for which we could plan. But Acts 17:24, 25, 28 informs us: “The God that made the world and all the things in it . . . gives to all persons life and breath and all things. For by him we have life and move and exist.” Revelation 4:11, which is addressed to God, adds: “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.” (See also pages 145-151, under the main heading “God.”)
Frustration results from a life course that conflicts with the Creator’s requirements and his guidelines for happiness. Galatians 6:7, 8 warns: “Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh.”—Also Galatians 5:19-21. (See also the main heading “Independence.”)
The inheritance of sin from Adam prevents humans from having at present full enjoyment of life as God purposed at the beginning. Romans 8:20 states that, as a result of divine judgment following Adam’s sin, “the creation [humankind] was subjected to futility.” Regarding his own situation as a sinful human, the apostle Paul wrote: “I am fleshly, sold under sin. For the good that I wish I do not do, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice. I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members. Miserable man that I am!”—Rom. 7:14, 19, 22-24.
We find the greatest happiness possible now and our lives take on richness of meaning when we apply Bible principles and put first the doing of God’s will. We do not enrich God by serving him; he teaches us ‘to benefit ourselves.’ (Isa. 48:17) The Bible counsels: “Become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.”—1 Cor. 15:58.
The Bible sets before us the prospect of eternal life in perfection if we put faith in Jehovah’s provisions for life and walk in his ways. That hope is solidly based; it will not lead to disappointment; activity in harmony with that hope can fill our lives with real meaning even now.—John 3:16; Titus 1:2; 1 Pet. 2:6.
Were humans made simply to live for a few years and then die?
Gen. 2:15-17: “Jehovah God proceeded to take the man [Adam] and settle him in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and to take care of it. And Jehovah God also laid this command upon the man: ‘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.’” (God here spoke of death, not as an unavoidable circumstance, but as what would result from sin. He was urging Adam to avoid it. Compare Romans 6:23.)
Gen. 2:8, 9: “Jehovah God planted a garden in Eden, toward the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. Thus 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.” (After Adam’s sin the human pair were driven out of Eden so that they would not eat from the tree of life, according to Genesis 3:22, 23. So it seems that if Adam had remained obedient to his Creator, God would in time have permitted him to eat from that tree as a symbol of his having proved worthy to live forever. The presence of the tree of life in Eden pointed to such a prospect.)
Ps. 37:29: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” (This promise makes it clear that God’s basic purpose regarding the earth and mankind has not changed.)
But in our own case today, is a brief existence, often marred by suffering, what life is meant to be?
Rom. 5:12: “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.” (That is what all of us inherited, not because God purposed it, but because of Adam’s sin.) (See also the main heading “Fate.”)
Job 14:1: “Man, born of woman, is short-lived and glutted with agitation.” (To a large extent that characterizes life in this imperfect system of things.)
However, even under these circumstances our lives can be richly rewarding, filled with meaning. See the material on pages 243, 244 on the purpose of human life.
Is life on earth simply a proving ground to determine who will go to heaven?
Do we have an immortal soul that continues to live after death of the fleshly body?
On what basis can anyone hope to have more than his present brief human existence?
Matt. 20:28: “The Son of man [Jesus Christ] came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.”
John 3:16: “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.”
How will the prospects for future life be realized?
Acts 24:15: “I have hope toward God, which hope these men themselves also entertain, that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (This will include persons who faithfully served God in the past as well as the large number who never knew enough about the true God to accept or to reject his ways.)
John 11:25, 26: “Jesus said to her [the sister of a man whom he thereafter restored to life]: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life; and everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all. Do you believe this?’” (So, besides the hope of resurrection, Jesus held out something else for persons living when the present wicked world comes to its end. Those with the hope of being earthly subjects of God’s Kingdom have the prospect of surviving and never dying at all.)
Is there any evidence in the makeup of the human body that it was designed to live forever?
It is widely recognized that the capacity of the human brain far exceeds any use to which we put it during our present lifetime, whether we live to 70 or even 100 years of age. The Encyclopædia Britannica states that the human brain “is endowed with considerably more potential than is realizable in the course of one person’s lifetime.” (1976, Vol. 12, p. 998) Scientist Carl Sagan states that the human brain could hold information that “would fill some twenty million volumes, as many as in the world’s largest libraries.” (Cosmos, 1980, p. 278) Regarding the capacity of the human brain’s “filing system,” biochemist Isaac Asimov wrote that it 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.”—The New York Times Magazine, October 9, 1966, p. 146. (Why was the human brain endowed with such a capacity if it was not to be used? Is it not reasonable that humans, with the capacity for endless learning, were actually designed to live forever?)
Is there life on other planets?
The New York Times reports: “The search for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe . . . began 25 years ago . . . The awesome task, which involves scanning hundreds of billions of stars, has so far yielded no clear evidence that life exists beyond Earth.”—July 2, 1984, p. A1.
The Encyclopedia Americana says: “No other planets [outside our solar system] have definitely been detected. But for each planet that might exist outside the solar system, there is a chance that life began and evolved into an advanced civilization.” (1977, Vol. 22, p. 176) (As reflected in this statement, could it be that a major motivation in the extremely costly search for life in outer space is the desire to find some proof for the theory of evolution, some evidence that man was not created by God and so is not accountable to Him?)
The Bible reveals that life on this earth is not the only life there is. There are spirit beings—God and the angels—that are vastly superior to man in intelligence and power. They have already communicated with humankind, explaining the origin of life and what the solution is to the overwhelming problems that confront the world. (See the main headings “Bible” and “God.”)