Victory over Death
THE majority of men fight death with the wrong weapons. The first human pair blundered, for they sought to retain life by disobeying God. Rejecting Jehovah’s warning that disobedience to him would mean death, Eve listened to Satan’s prescription that godlike living safe from death would come to her by eating forbidden fruit. Adam, though not deceived, foolishly followed his wife’s diet that she supposed would lead to an enlightened existence as gods. But instead it opened the door to death, not only for Adam and Eve but for all their descendants.—Gen. 2:17; 3:3-6, 19; 5:5; Rom. 5:12.
Satan had said to Eve “Ye shall not surely die” and “Ye shall be as gods”; and since false religion’s beginning till now it has taken up these satanic lies as its chief assurance against death. Religious teachings of reincarnation and of immortality of the human soul are as false as their foundation laid by Satan the Devil. The following Bible texts prove them so: “What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?” “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” “That which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.” “The living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” “The wages sin pays is death.”—Ps. 89:48; 146:4; Eccl. 3:19, 20; 9:5, 10; Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 6:23, NW.
VICTORY EFFORTS OF FALSE RELIGION
But false religion in ancient times had more to offer than Satan’s lie that death was just the doorway to spirit immortality. It sought to heal through the practice of medicine, and from ancient times the priests of pagan religions were the doctors and physicians, and claimed to possess supernatural powers to cure both body and soul. They believed sickness the work of an evil spirit or visitation from a deity, and the prescription involved sorcery or occult divination. If the ailment was from a demon, the patient was subjected to horrible treatment in the belief that if the demon’s abode, the patient’s body, was made miserable enough the demon could not stand it and would flee. So the medicine men made deafening noises and terrifying faces, while the sick one underwent heat or other pain and inhaled nauseating odors. Quite a bedside manner, those religious doctors had.
Some of the Jews that fell away from God’s worship used as medicines such items as fish gall, saliva, cowdung, urine, and bat’s blood. Chinese medicine men brewed superstitious prescriptions with quackery and black magic. Powdered turtle shells were to give long life, tiger bones soaked in wine were to give the tiger’s strength, gorilla blood for feminine ailments, powdered snakeskin for rheumatism, and powdered lizardskin for stomach trouble and hiccups. Herbs were used to a degree, especially by the Hebrews and Egyptians, and the latter gained a meager knowledge of anatomy and produced a few surgical instruments. The Greeks combined the superstitions of Babylon and Persia with the medical learning of the Egyptians, and medical schools sprang up, one of which is attributed to Hippocrates, who is called the father of medicine.
Medical knowledge with which to fight death was on the advance, but with the rise of papal dictatorship by a religious organization during the Dark Ages this advance was halted and turned back. The prevailing religion of that time was opposed to the invasion of the field of healing by scholarly doctors, was against the spoiling of pastures long dominated by the priests. Surgery and bodily cleanliness and other health measures were opposed, and in their stead were practiced such superstitions as carrying horse chestnuts in your pocket to cure rheumatism, placing a catfish on your brow to cure epilepsy, wearing amulets and religious medals to cure anything and everything, and even eating pages of the Bible that told of miracles was practiced to gain miraculous cures. But during all this time priestly medicine men of these false religions gained no victory over death.
MODERN MEDICINE SEEKS VICTORY
After the Reformation medical knowledge surged ahead, and in this atomic age its discoveries rocket along at supersonic speed. The attacks on the enemy death come from many battle fronts—from physicians, surgeons, herbalists, dieticians, chiropractors, osteopaths, etc., and even from some religionists who say that your ruptured appendix or your gallstones are only in your head. But, despite it all, the enemy death continues laying low patient and healer alike. Against the penalty of death is directed the full force of what men hail as science’s brilliant accomplishments, as different brands of doctors massage muscles, manipulate bones, jab with their needles, inject their serums, pepper you with pills, reduce you, fatten you, fast you, feed you, exercise you, and even slit you with the surgeon’s blade to cast as a peace offering to the enemy death an appendix, a tonsil, a kidney, a leg or an arm—but even this desperate retreat before disease soon comes to a stone wall as some vital organ is cornered and death collects its prey.
Do not misunderstand. Doctors today relieve much suffering, prolong many lives, render praiseworthy service to humanity, and deserve credit for the good they do. But the point being made is that their battle against death is only a delaying action, not a final victory. Any deliverance from disease they effect only hands the patient over to the clutches of old age. The delaying action is but brief postponement, and death is so patient, the grave can wait. And it never has to wait long, even if man reaches the Biblical life span of “threescore years and ten” or “fourscore years”. (Ps. 90:10) At best, man’s present life on this earth is fleeting. As Job said: “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.”—Job 14:1, 2; Ps. 102:11; 144:4; Isa. 40:6, 7.
Today’s doctors may not lay a fish on your head to cure epilepsy or give you powdered lizardskin for hiccups, but for all their scientific advances they are no nearer to a real victory over death than the witch doctor of antiquity. What if science has brought a torrent of brilliant medical weapons up to the front to fight death? Death continues to stalk through the fields of humanity and leaves in its wake windrow upon windrow of felled corpses. Several causes might be cited as contributors to death’s rising toll, but the two vital ones are man’s continuing degeneration and Satan’s foretold woes of wars and calamities, famines and pestilences, for these last days of this evil world.—Matt. 24:3, 7; Rev. 12:12.
HOW VICTORY COMES
Yet this flood of death-dealing woes is no cause for being disheartened or downcast, for after predicting such things Christ Jesus said: “But as these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.” (Luke 21:28, NW) Deliverance from suffering, sickness and death by this world’s end and a righteous new world’s beginning. But by whose hand does deliverance from death come? From men? Psalm 49:7, 14, 15 answers no: “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him. Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling. But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave.”
Jehovah God redeems men by meeting the law requirement of a ransom, by sending Jesus to earth “to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many”. (Lev. 17:11; Deut. 19:21; Matt. 20:28, NW) And how in a practical way does this victory over death come through Christ Jesus? By a resurrection of the dead! By opening the graves, emptying them, releasing from them the numberless human dead that the death penalty has stored up for the past thousands of years! Scriptural testimony abounds on this point. “Since death is through a man, resurrection of the dead is also through a man. For just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive.” “There is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” “The hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.” (1 Cor. 15:21, 22; Acts 24:15; John 5:28, 29, NW) Those who then obey will live forever, for it is concerning that resurrection time that Jesus said, “Everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all.”—John 11:23-26, NW.
Proverbs 30:15, 16 discloses that the grave is one of those things that never says, It is enough. For centuries it has gorged and stuffed itself, but the gluttonous grave will be emptied by the resurrection of the dead and the “second death” in Gehenna will be avoided by the eternal obedience of those who attain to Jehovah’s new world. And why will the Armageddon survivors and the resurrected ones that prove faithful not eventually die again? Because the sin and degeneration inherited from Adam will be erased by the ransom, and because the Devil that possesses the power of death will be destroyed. (Heb. 2:14; Rev. 20:10) At Jehovah’s battle of Armageddon it is Satan that will be laid low, and he will not be revived for a thousand years, and then only a little season elapses till he has the tables turned on him forever, being destroyed by Christ Jesus. As Satan has sown, so shall he reap. He has sown sin, he will reap destruction for himself. At his annihilation there will be no funeral, no mourners, no tears, only joy and happiness.
ETERNAL LIFE IN A NEW WORLD
In that new world, with earth’s inhabitants freed of the overlord Satan and properly organized under the Kingdom reign of Christ Jesus, the death that has for so long ravaged mankind will have been defeated, swallowed up in victory. No more will war take a toll of human life. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isa. 2:4) No famine, for “then shall the earth yield her increase” so abundantly that “the plowman shall overtake the reaper”, who because of heavy yields will still be gathering in produce when it is time for the plowman to prepare the ground for next season’s crops. (Ps. 67:6; Amos 9:13) Disease then? Jehovah promises to heal all diseases, to bring in health and cure, and that no more will man say, I am sick. (Ps. 103:3; Isa. 33:24; Jer. 33:6) Old age? No, for Job 33:24, 25 says: “Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom. His flesh shall be fresher than a child’s: he shall return to the days of his youth.” In short, nothing shall hurt or destroy in that new world without end.—Isa. 11:9; Eph. 3:21.
Now you may be surprised to hear this, but it is true that when some persons are told about a new world of righteousness wherein joy and happiness reign to the exclusion of all adversity and suffering, they say that they would not care to live in such a world, that it would become boresome and monotonous. Doubtless you have heard persons say that they were so tired, so sick, so sad, or so miserable that they wished they were dead. But have you ever heard anyone say that he was so happy that he wished he were dead? Did any suicide ever leave a note stating that he was having such a good time that he could stand it no longer? Of course not. And none will ever tire of living in a new world where no sorrow nor sickness nor death will mar happy existence, but all will long enjoy the work given into their hands at that time by their Creator.—Isa. 65:22; Rev. 21:1-5.
To sum up, death has been having its day for nearly 6,000 years. Soon life will have its day forever. Death has won many battles, but in the end it will lose the war. It is not men who thrash it. It is not whipped by religious doctrines of immortal souls. Reincarnation can take no victory bows. Neither penicillin nor pills nor powdered lizards can pose with a foot on the corpse of the enemy death and give vent to a victory cry. Death is vanquished only by Jehovah God through the kingdom of Christ. The way to share in the fruits of that victory over death is to now follow the way of life. Would you care to share in the spoils of victory, namely, eternal life? Then heed the divine prescription for life: “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, NW.