Why Do We Grow Old and Die?
1. What have scientists been unable to explain about human life?
SCIENTISTS do not know why humans grow old and die. It seems that our cells should keep on being renewed and that we should live forever. The book Hyojun Soshikigaku (Standard Histology) says: “It is a great mystery how the aging of cells is related to the aging and death of an individual.” Many scientists believe that there is a “natural, inherent” limit to life. Do you think they are right?
2. What have some done because of life’s fleeting nature?
2 Humans have always yearned for longevity and have even tried to attain immortality. Since the fourth century B.C.E., drugs supposedly designed to make immortality possible attracted the attention of Chinese nobles. Some later Chinese emperors tried so-called elixirs of life—made from mercury—and died! Around the globe, people believe that death is not the end of their existence. Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and others all have bright hopes of a life after death. In Christendom, many envisage an afterlife of heavenly bliss.
3. (a) Why do humans long for eternal life? (b) What questions about death need to be answered?
3 Concepts of happiness after death reflect a longing for eternal life. “Even time indefinite he has put in their heart,” says the Bible concerning the idea of eternity that God implanted in us. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) He created the first humans with the prospect that they could live forever on earth. (Genesis 2:16, 17) Why, then, do humans die? How was death introduced into the world? The knowledge of God sheds light on these questions.—Psalm 119:105.
A SINISTER PLOT
4. How did Jesus identify the criminal responsible for human death?
4 A criminal tries to cover his tracks. This has also been true of the one responsible for a crime that has resulted in the death of billions. He has maneuvered things to shroud human death in mystery. Jesus Christ identified this criminal when He told those seeking to kill Him: “You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father. That one was a manslayer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him.”—John 8:31, 40, 44.
5. (a) What was the origin of the one who became Satan the Devil? (b) What do the words “Satan” and “Devil” mean?
5 Yes, the Devil is a malicious “manslayer.” The Bible reveals that he is a real person, not just the evil in someone’s heart. (Matthew 4:1-11) Although created as a righteous angel, “he did not stand fast in the truth.” How fitting it is that he is named Satan the Devil! (Revelation 12:9) He is called “Satan,” or “resister,” because he has opposed and resisted Jehovah. This criminal is also called “Devil,” meaning “slanderer,” for he has blasphemously misrepresented God.
6. Why did Satan rebel against God?
6 What motivated Satan to rebel against God? Greed. He greedily coveted the worship Jehovah received from humans. The Devil did not reject the desire to receive such worship, which rightly belonged only to the Creator. (Compare Ezekiel 28:12-19.) Instead, the angel who became Satan nurtured this greedy desire until it became fertile and gave birth to sin.—James 1:14, 15.
7. (a) What causes human death? (b) What is sin?
7 We have identified the culprit whose criminal act has led to the death of humans. But what is the specific cause of human death? The Bible says: “The sting producing death is sin.” (1 Corinthians 15:56) And what is sin? To understand this word, let us consider the meaning it carried in the original languages of the Bible. The Hebrew and Greek verbs commonly translated “to sin” mean “to miss” in the sense of missing a mark or not reaching a goal. What mark do all of us miss? The mark of perfect obedience to God. How, though, was sin introduced into the world?
HOW THE PLOT WAS CARRIED OUT
8. How did Satan try to gain the worship of humans?
8 Satan carefully laid out a plot that he thought would lead to his ruling all humans and receiving their worship. He decided to induce the first human couple, Adam and Eve, to sin against God. Jehovah had given our first parents knowledge that would have led to life everlasting. They knew that their Creator was good because he had placed them in the beautiful garden of Eden. Adam especially felt the goodness of his heavenly Father when God gave him a beautiful and helpful wife. (Genesis 1:26, 29; 2:7-9, 18-23) The continued life of the first human pair depended on obedience to God.
9. What command did God give the first human, and why was this reasonable?
9 God commanded Adam: “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.” (Genesis 2:16, 17) As the Creator, Jehovah God had the right to set moral standards and to define what was good and what was bad for his creatures. His command was reasonable because Adam and Eve were free to eat fruit from all the other trees in the garden. They could show their appreciation for Jehovah’s rightful rulership by obeying this law instead of proudly setting their own moral standards.
10. (a) How did Satan approach humans to draw them to his side? (b) What motives did Satan impute to Jehovah? (c) What do you think about Satan’s attack on God?
10 The Devil schemed to draw the first humans away from God. To lure them into taking his side, Satan lied. Using a serpent, much as a ventriloquist uses a dummy, the Devil asked Eve: “Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?” When Eve cited God’s command, Satan declared: “You positively will not die.” He then imputed bad motives to Jehovah by saying: “God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.” (Genesis 3:1-5) The Devil thus suggested that God was withholding something good. What a slanderous assault on the truthful, loving heavenly Father, Jehovah!
11. How did Adam and Eve become Satan’s accomplices?
11 Eve looked at the tree again, and its fruit now seemed especially desirable. So she took the fruit and ate it. Later, her husband willfully joined her in this sinful act of disobedience to God. (Genesis 3:6) Although Eve was deceived, both she and Adam supported Satan’s scheme to rule the human race. In effect, they became his accomplices.—Romans 6:16; 1 Timothy 2:14.
12. What resulted from the human rebellion against God?
12 Adam and Eve had to face the consequences of their actions. They did not become like God, with special knowledge. Instead, they felt ashamed and hid themselves. Jehovah called Adam to account and pronounced this sentence: “In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19) “In the day” that our first parents ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, they were sentenced by God and died from his standpoint. Then they were expelled from Paradise and began their descent into physical death.
HOW SIN AND DEATH SPREAD
13. How did sin spread to all the human race?
13 Satan had apparently succeeded in his scheme to receive human veneration. Yet, he could not keep his worshipers alive. When sin started to work in the first human couple, they could no longer pass on perfection to their offspring. Like an inscription carved in stone, sin was deeply engraved into the genes of our first parents. Thus, they could produce only imperfect offspring. Since all their children were conceived after Adam and Eve sinned, their offspring inherited sin and death.—Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12.
14. (a) To whom might we liken those who deny their sin? (b) How were the Israelites made aware of their sinfulness?
14 Today, however, many do not think that they are sinners. In some parts of the world, the concept of inherited sin is generally unknown. But that is no proof that sin does not exist. A boy with a dirty face may claim that he is clean, and may be convinced otherwise only after he looks into a mirror. The ancient Israelites were like such a boy when they received God’s Law through His prophet Moses. The Law made it plain that sin existed. “Really I would not have come to know sin if it had not been for the Law,” explains the apostle Paul. (Romans 7:7-12) Like the boy looking into a mirror, by using the Law to look at themselves, the Israelites could see that they were unclean in Jehovah’s eyes.
15. What is revealed by looking into the mirror of God’s Word?
15 By looking into the mirror of God’s Word and noting its standards, we can see that we are imperfect. (James 1:23-25) For example, consider what Jesus Christ told his disciples about loving God and their neighbor, as recorded at Matthew 22:37-40. How often humans miss the mark in these areas! Many do not feel even a twinge of conscience over failing to show love for God or for their neighbors.—Luke 10:29-37.
BEWARE OF SATAN’S TACTICS!
16. What can we do to avoid becoming a victim of Satan’s schemes, and why is this difficult?
16 Satan seeks to cause us to practice sin willfully. (1 John 3:8) Is there any way to avoid being a victim of his schemes? Yes, but this requires that we fight inclinations toward willful sin. This is not easy because our inborn tendency to sin is very strong. (Ephesians 2:3) Paul had to put up a real struggle. Why? Because sin resided in him. If we want God’s approval, we too must fight the sinful tendencies within us.—Romans 7:14-24; 2 Corinthians 5:10.
17. What makes the fight against our sinful tendencies more difficult?
17 Since Satan constantly looks for opportunities to lure us into breaking God’s laws, our fight against sin is not easy. (1 Peter 5:8) Showing concern for fellow Christians, Paul said: “I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent seduced Eve by its cunning, your minds might be corrupted away from the sincerity and the chastity that are due the Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3) Satan uses similar tactics today. He tries to sow seeds of doubt about Jehovah’s goodness and the benefits of obeying God’s commands. The Devil tries to take advantage of our inherited sinful tendencies and have us pursue a course of pride, greed, hatred, and prejudice.
18. How does Satan use the world to promote sin?
18 One of the devices the Devil uses against us is the world, which is lying in his power. (1 John 5:19) If we are not careful, corrupt and dishonest people in the world around us will pressure us into a sinful course that violates God’s moral standards. (1 Peter 4:3-5) Many ignore God’s laws and even brush aside the proddings of their conscience, eventually rendering it insensitive. (Romans 2:14, 15; 1 Timothy 4:1, 2) Some gradually adopt a course that even their imperfect conscience formerly did not permit them to take.—Romans 1:24-32; Ephesians 4:17-19.
19. Why is it not enough just to live a clean life?
19 Living a clean life is an achievement in this world. To please our Creator, however, more is required. We must also have faith in God and feel a responsibility toward him. (Hebrews 11:6) “If one knows how to do what is right and yet does not do it, it is a sin for him,” wrote the disciple James. (James 4:17) Yes, deliberately ignoring God and his commandments is itself a form of sin.
20. How might Satan try to prevent you from doing what is right, but what will help you to resist such pressures?
20 Satan is very likely to stimulate opposition to your pursuit of the knowledge of God through your study of the Bible. It is sincerely hoped that you will not let such pressures prevent you from practicing what is right. (John 16:2) Though many rulers put faith in Jesus during his ministry, they did not confess him because they were fearful of being shunned in their community. (John 12:42, 43) Satan ruthlessly tries to intimidate anyone seeking the knowledge of God. However, you should always remember and appreciate the wonderful things Jehovah has done. You may even be able to help opposers to gain the same appreciation.
21. How may we conquer the world and our own sinful tendencies?
21 As long as we are imperfect, we will sin. (1 John 1:8) Nevertheless, we have help in fighting this battle. Yes, it is possible to come off victorious in our fight against the wicked one, Satan the Devil. (Romans 5:21) At the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth, he encouraged his followers with these words: “In the world you are having tribulation, but take courage! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33) Even for imperfect humans, it is possible to conquer the world with God’s help. Satan has no hold on those who oppose him and ‘subject themselves to God.’ (James 4:7; 1 John 5:18) As we shall see, God has provided a way out of bondage to sin and death.
TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE
Who is Satan the Devil?
Why do humans grow old and die?
What is sin?
How does Satan draw people into willful sin against God?
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