Why Do Men Die?
Men have various opinions. But what answer does God’s Word give?
MEN do not want to die. They desire to live and enjoy life. For that reason every effort is made to stamp out sickness and disease, and to extend life. Yet, despite all efforts, throughout the world an estimated 142,000 people die every day, an average of nearly two persons a second. In 1962 a total of 608,082 people died of heart disease in the United States alone, and another 278,562 were cancer victims. But the mere fact that death is such a common experience is little comfort to one that is grieving over the loss of a loved one.
At such times death becomes more than just a cold statistic. It is a ruthless, unmerciful enemy, and O how utterly helpless one feels in the face of it! Almost involuntarily the words spring to the lips, WHY? Why did it have to happen? Why was it that my loved one had to die?
Often, when death strikes, people wonder whether it is God’s will that men die. Strangely enough, the teachings promulgated by most religious organizations of the world have led many to believe that it is God’s will. For example, in December of 1962 the Roman Catholic cardinal, Richard Cushing, commented on why the attractive young girl, Margaret Cadigan, died at the hands of her brother. “I think she received the answer, and the only answer she could receive from Almighty God,” Cushing said. And what was that? “‘Because I love you and I want you home.’”
But is that the reason Thomas Cadigan choked his sister to death? Did God put it into his heart to kill his sister because God wanted her in heaven with Him? Is that really the reason why Margaret Cadigan died a violent death, and why thousands of other persons die a similar death every year? Is that also why people grow old and die? Thoughtful persons are interested in obtaining an authoritative answer.
Science claims to have such an answer, at least insofar as death due to aging is concerned. “When we are young we have far more cells than we really need,” explained Dr. Alastair Ward, science correspondent for Glasgow’s Evening Citizen. But as we grow older and we steadily lose more and more cells, we eventually reach a point where there just aren’t enough cells in a particular organ or group of organs.” So, in time, he said: “We are rapidly caught up in a runaway process and the vast complex organisation of the human body dissolves in death.”
It is interesting that scientists do not view aging and death as inevitable, but rather as a disease they hope to cure. “I can see no reason,” said biochemist William Beck, “why death, in the nature of things, need be inevitable.” World-famous medical scientist Hans Selye pointed out that “aging can be regarded as a disease,” and that, “like any other disease, it is probably preventable or curable.” According to Nobel Prize winner Dr. Linus Pauling: “Theoretically man is quite immortal. His bodily tissues replace themselves. He is a self-repairing machine.” Yet, despite the potential of endless life, men continue to die. Why?
Is it because death is a springboard to heavenly life, and the time has arrived when God wants that person in heaven? Or is it merely because, as man grows older, chemical poisons in the body kill off more cells than are replaced? Is this the answer, or is there a more basic reason why men die? It is only reasonable that we should want to find out what the One who made man has to say on the matter.
THE BIBLE ANSWER
There can be no question that the marvelously designed human organism is the product of a Great Creator who is interested in man’s welfare and happiness. Consider the remarkable functions of the body, especially its ability to multiply one infinitesimally small cell, according to a master plan, until it emerges from its mother’s womb as a multibillion cell, newborn baby. It is absurd for anyone to believe that bodily functions such as this one of reproduction are the result of millions of years of blind, purposeless evolutionary development. Man is not an accident; he is the creation of an intelligent Master Workman.
In harmony with this reasonable conclusion are the teachings of the oldest book on earth, the one that preserves the authentic record of the first man and his creation by God. This famous book, generally known today as the Holy Bible, or simply as the Scriptures, testifies that God created man perfect, capable of living forever. In its first part, called Genesis, it explains: “Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul.” Man was, therefore, created perfect, because the Bible says of God’s creation: “Perfect is his activity.”—Gen. 2:7; Deut. 32:4.
This meant that the opportunity of endless life in an earthly paradise lay before the perfect man and his wife. As long as they continued obedient to their heavenly Father, He would see to it that their bodies functioned properly, as they were designed to. Perfect adjustment would be maintained, so that bodily cells would be continually replaced and poisons thrown off. This would mean vibrant health and vitality for them, with never a day marred by sickness. But obviously something happened to change all this. What was it that caused men to become sick and die?
The answer cannot be found by white-robed scientists searching in their laboratory test tubes. Neither is the truth found in the philosophical teachings of eminent religious leaders, who endeavor to tickle the ears of mourning ones with unscriptural pleasantries. No, but the Bible, God’s Word, gives us the factual information on the matter. It informs us that man’s continued life as a part of God’s great family, which already included countless millions of spirit creatures, was conditioned on obedience to Him as the family head. Willful disobedience would be penalized by death.
Jehovah God instructed the first human pair about this soon after their creation. Among other things, he told 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.” This is plain, understandable language. If man disobeyed he would die.—Gen. 2:16, 17.
Man was so created by God that he not only needed air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat, but also needed to maintain proper relations with his Creator. Failure to do so would have the same detrimental effect as failure to satisfy the body’s need for food and drink. It would eventually lead to death. And so it did. When the first human pair, Adam and Eve, willfully disobeyed and ate the forbidden food, God dismissed them from the paradise garden, sentencing them to a dying existence in the earth outside.
But death did not follow immediately. Since God had created them perfect, their bodies still retained tremendous vitality. Now, however, they were imperfect. God had withdrawn his blessing, and, in time, imperfection manifested itself in their growing old and getting sick. As a precision piece of machinery will develop flaws and deteriorate if it is not operated according to the manufacturer’s specifications, so, because of breaking the laws of their Maker, the first human pair became imperfect, developed flaws in their organism, and began to deteriorate. Sickness and disease set in, and eventually death followed. After using up the tremendous vitality of his once-perfect body, Adam died at the age of 930 years, within the thousand-year-day limit God had set.
Sickness and death are therefore the result of our first parents’ disobedience and dismissal from God’s family. Just as a perfect piece of machinery cannot be produced from an imperfect mold, so Adam and Eve in their imperfection could not produce perfect children free from the inclination toward sin. Therefore, all of their offspring became infected with their liabilities of sickness and death.—Job 14:4.
Yes, this inclination toward sin is what is responsible for the violence that exists, as in the case of the young boy who killed his sister. It is also responsible for the breaking down of the human organism, which eventually leads to death due to aging and sickness. It is just as the Christian apostle Paul explained: “That is why, just as 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.” This is the authoritative Bible answer as to why men today grow old and die.—Rom. 5:12.
HOPE FOR THE UNCONSCIOUS DEAD
So rather than God’s being responsible for the violence that separates loved ones from their families, as many clergymen claim, it is man himself that is to blame. God arranged for man to live and enjoy life, but it was the first human pair that rebelled and brought the condemnation of death upon themselves and all their offspring. This did not mean a one-way ticket to heaven for them, but, according to the Bible, at death man’s active life force goes out, “he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts do perish.”—Ps. 146:4.
It is therefore a deception and a lie for clergymen to say death is merely a transition, a releasing of the soul to enjoy life in some other state of existence. Man is a soul; he “came to be a living soul.” (Gen. 2:7; 1 Cor. 15:45) And repeatedly the Bible speaks of the soul as being subject to death. For instance, at Ezekiel 18:4, where it says: “The soul that is sinning—it itself will die.”
While it is true that when men die, they are unconscious and cannot experience any sensation, the Scriptures offer the grand hope of a resurrection from death. “Do not marvel at this,” Jesus Christ said, “because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out.” Although death is a terrible enemy, how comforting it is to know of God’s wonderful promise of a resurrection to life!—John 5:28, 29.