Why We Grow Old and Die
Every normal person desires life with good health. We seek relief from the pain and suffering that disease brings and we long for some way to escape from the weakening effect old age has on our bodies. It hurts us, too, when we see those we love afflicted by these things. Because of this, many persons ask, “Was all this part of God’s original purpose? When God created man, was it his purpose that man should grow old, and become deaf or blind? Did he mean for man’s skin to wrinkle with age, his heart to become diseased and his other organs to break down? Really, did God make man to die?”
No, Jehovah God did not create man for such a miserable future. The Bible tells us that Jehovah provided a lovely garden home for the first human pair, and he blessed them. Reviewing his creative work, God rightly declared it “very good.” (Gen. 1:28, 31) This means that Adam and Eve were created perfect, without a defect in mind or body. (Deut. 32:4; Prov. 10:22) They had the prospect of living forever.
Interestingly, modern scientists know that the human body continually renews itself by replacing its cells. And they say that, under the right conditions, it is capable of living forever. A Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Linus Pauling, explained that man’s bodily tissues replace themselves and, theoretically, should continue to do so forever. Biochemist William Beck also observed: “I can see no reason why death, in the nature of things, need be inevitable.” Yet, in spite of being so made, men continue to grow old and die. Why? God’s Word the Bible gives us the satisfying answer.
RESULTS OF DISOBEDIENCE
When Jehovah created Adam and Eve, they became the earthly part of God’s great family, which already included a great number of spirit creatures in the heavens. God was the Father of the human pair, since he had given them life. The gift of life, however, was conditional; that is, it would continue to be theirs only as long as they met the condition of loving obedience to their heavenly Father. Obedience to law is necessary to continued peace and good order, so they had to recognize God as their Supreme Ruler. Did they know this? Yes, because Jehovah placed upon them a test that emphasized the seriousness of obedience. He said to 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.”—Gen. 2:16, 17.
This test of obedience was not a difficult one. They were not deprived of needed food, nor were they tested beyond their ability. However, their obedience would show that they appreciated their relationship with God. (1 John 5:3) Although some persons have the idea that the ‘forbidden fruit’ had to do with sex relations between the man and woman, this was not the case. God himself had already told them to “be fruitful and become many and fill the earth.” (Gen. 1:28) When God commanded them not to eat the fruit of a certain tree it merely meant that God singled out one of the many fruit trees of Eden and commanded the human pair not to eat of its fruit.
Why was the tree called “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad”? Because, as a result of God’s command, its fruit symbolized knowledge, even apart from the express commands of God, of what is “good” and what is “bad” for them. So, for the human pair to take of this fruit would mean that they were turning their backs on their heavenly Father and rejecting his divine guidance and perfect will. While simple, the test involved much. It involved man’s dependence on his Creator and man’s recognition of divine authority. Remember, too, that Jesus Christ applied to imperfect humans the rule that “the person faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and the person unrighteous in what is least is unrighteous also in much.” (Luke 16:10) How much more did this apply to perfect creatures!
Why did Eve break God’s law and eat of the fruit? The idea did not begin with her but was presented to her by a spirit creature using a lowly serpent through which to speak. That spirit creature, identified in the Bible as Satan the Devil, is therefore called “the original serpent.” (Rev. 12:9) The invisible creature speaking through the serpent openly denied the truth of God’s command that Eve quoted. He represented the tree’s fruit as being able to cause her to be like God, deciding for herself what was “good” and what was “bad.” Eve then began to view the fruit as very desirable and she disobeyed God by eating of it. Adam, her husband and head, upon finding out what she had done, did not oppose her course but joined her in it.—Gen. 3:1-6; Jas. 1:14, 15; 1 Cor. 11:3.
By this lawless act they became guilty of sin, and so they brought upon themselves the penalty of sin. (1 John 3:4) In considering the rightness of God’s decision we should not make the mistake of judging the seriousness of what Adam and Eve did by the way many people view things in our time. Today disobedience to parents is common, often going unpunished. Stealing also is common, and many think that, if what is stolen is small, the theft does not matter much. Rebellion and speaking against authority are likewise frequent today. But that does not make these things right! Much of the rotten fruitage we see today in the form of growing delinquency and crime is due to failure of parents and others in authority to correct matters at the start.—Prov. 13:24; Eccl. 8:11.
God was not going to encourage wrongdoing by a failure to enforce his own law. By their disobedience Adam and Eve showed a great lack of love for the One who had provided so wonderfully for them. They were guilty of stealing, because they took what their Creator said was not theirs. Still worse, they joined with God’s enemy and, by their actions, called God a liar. Jehovah owed it to himself and to all his universal family to uphold the law. This he did. As a result of their deliberate sin the lawless couple were driven out of Eden to die.—Gen. 3:22-24.
The effect of sin upon them might be illustrated by what happens to a piece of fine machinery when it is not used properly, according to the maker’s instructions. The machine will develop weaknesses and, in time, break down. Similarly, as a result of ignoring the instructions of their Maker, Adam and Eve lost their perfection. Their minds and bodies began to break down, and finally ceased to function, in death. That is what disobedience and removal from God’s favor meant for them. (Gen. 3:16-19) After Adam had used up the tremendous vitality of his once-perfect body, he died at the age of 930 years. This was within the symbolic “day” of one thousand years that God had set.—Gen. 5:5; 2 Pet. 3:8.
EFFECT UPON OFFSPRING
But, since we today did not disobey that law in Eden, why is it that we also get sick and die? It is for this reason: All of Adam’s offspring were born after his disobedience and after he had been expelled from God’s family. Thus his offspring inherited sin and death from him. All men inherit imperfection, because all come from Adam and Eve. As the Bible book of Job tells us: “Who can produce someone clean out of someone unclean? There is not one.” (Job 14:4) Also, at Romans 5:12 the Bible explains: “Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men.” Just as a perfect piece of machinery cannot be produced from an imperfect mold, so Adam in his imperfection could not produce perfect children, free from sin.—Ps. 51:5.
The effect of Adam and Eve’s sin upon their offspring can be compared with what often happens when people who ignore God’s law and live immorally bring forth children. Such people may get diseased in the sex organ that God gave them to bring forth their children. The children of such “unclean” parents may be born physically or mentally damaged because of the sin of their parents. So, too, our first parents became “unclean,” imperfect, subject to sickness, and finally death. They could pass on to their offspring only what they themselves had: imperfection, sickness and death. That is why we all grow old and die, and why we so easily do what is wrong.
However, it is one thing to make unintentional mistakes because of inherited sin, but entirely another matter deliberately to practice what one knows to be wrong. (1 John 5:16) If one is truly repentant over mistakes he makes because of inherited weaknesses, he can expect merciful forgiveness from God. (Prov. 28:13) But he must be careful that, once he knows what is right, he does not deliberately choose to follow a course contrary to God’s will. To do so would mean loss of God’s favor and of life itself.—Deut. 30:15-20; Heb. 10:26, 27.
Happily, Jehovah has made loving provision to save repentant ones from the bad effects of inherited sin and death. This grand relief will come through the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Concerning this provision the Bible says: “God sent forth his only-begotten Son into the world that we might gain life through him.” (1 John 4:9) So, in God’s due time, under the Kingdom rule of his Son, inherited human imperfection will gradually be taken away, and mankind will no longer feel the effects of Adam’s sin. Why, even the death we inherited from Adam will no longer have power over us! (Rev. 21:3, 4; 1 Cor. 15:26) You can be one who will enjoy such blessings. How? By taking advantage of the provisions that Jehovah has made and proving your love for him by keeping his commandments.—Jer. 7:23; Eccl. 12:13.