You Can Live Forever
THE vast majority of believers in the world’s religions cherish the prospect of eternal life in one form or another. The details may differ from religion to religion, but the hope is basically the same—to live happily in ideal conditions without the threat of death. Is that not what you too desire? How can the pervasiveness of such beliefs be explained? And will the prospect of eternal life ever be realized?
The Scriptures show that the Creator planted the desire for everlasting life deep within the human consciousness right from the very start, from the time he created the first human couple. “Time indefinite [God] has put in their heart,” says the Bible.—Ecclesiastes 3:11.
To fulfill that desire to live forever, however, the first human pair had to accept God’s authority to decide what is right and what is wrong. Had they done so, Jehovah would have judged them to be worthy of life “to time indefinite” in the home that he had prepared for them, the garden of Eden.—Genesis 2:8; 3:22.
Everlasting Life Lost
The Bible record shows that God planted in the garden “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad,” the fruit of which he prohibited Adam and Eve from eating, on pain of death. (Genesis 2:9, 17) Adam and Eve’s abstaining from eating that fruit would show God that they acknowledged his authority. Eating from the tree, on the other hand, would indicate their rejection of God’s authority. Adam and Eve disobeyed Jehovah’s instructions and sided with Satan, a spirit creature who had rebelled against God’s authority. As a result, God rightly determined that Adam and Eve were unfit to live forever.—Genesis 3:1-6.
What God had offered was life or death, existence or nonexistence. The result of disobedience was death and the complete end of their existence. It was not possible for Adam and Eve or any of their progeny to keep on living by virtue of a certain magical potion or an immortal soul.a
All of Adam’s offspring suffered because of his rebellion. The consequences are explained by the apostle Paul. He wrote: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.”—Romans 5:12.
Everlasting Life Regained
The apostle Paul illustrated the condition of Adam’s offspring by likening it to that of a first-century slave. Because of inherited sin, Adam and Eve’s children were inescapably born “slaves of sin,” destined to die. (Romans 5:12; 6:16, 17) Inescapably, that is, were it not for the legal remedy that Jehovah provided in order to purchase the freedom of such slaves. Paul explained: “As through one trespass [that of Adam] the result to men of all sorts was condemnation, likewise also through one act of justification the result to men of all sorts is a declaring of them righteous for life.” That “act of justification” led to Jesus’ sacrifice of his own perfect human life as “a corresponding ransom for all.” Jehovah recognized the ransom’s legal power to release mankind from “the judgment” of “condemnation.”—Romans 5:16, 18, 19; 1 Timothy 2:5, 6.
That is why scientists will never find the key to endless life in man’s genetic code. The key lies elsewhere. According to the Bible, the root cause of mankind’s death is moral and legal, not biological. The means for restoring everlasting life—Jesus’ ransom sacrifice—is likewise legal. The ransom is also a manifestation of God’s righteousness and loving-kindness. Who, then, will benefit from the ransom and receive everlasting life?
The Gift of Immortality
Jehovah God is “from time indefinite to time indefinite.” He is immortal. (Psalm 90:2) The first person to whom Jehovah granted the gift of immortality was Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul explains: “Christ, now that he has been raised up from the dead, dies no more; death is master over him no more.” (Romans 6:9) Indeed, contrasting the resurrected Jesus with earthly rulers, Paul describes him as the only one among them having immortality. Jesus will remain “alive forever.” His life is “indestructible.”—Hebrews 7:15-17, 23-25; 1 Timothy 6:15, 16.
Jesus is not the only one to receive such a gift. Spirit-anointed Christians chosen to rule as kings in heavenly glory receive the same kind of resurrection that Jesus did. (Romans 6:5) The apostle John shows that this privilege is granted to 144,000 individuals. (Revelation 14:1) They too receive immortality. Regarding their resurrection, Paul says: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom . . . The trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised up incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this which is corruptible must put on incorruption, and this which is mortal must put on immortality.” Death has no hold on those who receive such a resurrection.—1 Corinthians 15:50-53; Revelation 20:6.
This divine revelation is remarkable indeed. Despite their spirit nature, not even angels were created immortal. This is shown by the fact that those spirit creatures who joined Satan’s rebellion will be executed. (Matthew 25:41) Jesus’ corulers, on the other hand, receive the gift of immortality, which is proof of Jehovah’s unshakable confidence in their faithfulness.
Does this mean that only 144,000 individuals, a relatively small number when compared with the billions of humankind who have ever lived, will live forever? No. Let us see why.
Everlasting Life on a Paradise Earth
The Bible book of Revelation presents the beautiful scene of an innumerable crowd of people who are granted everlasting life on a paradise earth. Along with them are those who died but who are resurrected and restored to youthful health and vigor. (Revelation 7:9; 20:12, 13; 21:3, 4) They are led to “a river of water of life, clear as crystal, flowing out from the throne of God.” Along its banks are “trees of life . . . , and the leaves of the trees were for the curing of the nations.” Jehovah God’s gracious invitation is: “Let anyone thirsting come; let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.”—Revelation 22:1, 2, 17.
These trees and waters are no elixir of life or fountain of youth, such as those sought after centuries ago by alchemists and explorers. Rather, they represent God’s provisions through Jesus Christ for restoring mankind to the perfect condition that existed originally.
God’s purpose to give eternal life on earth to obedient mankind has not changed. That purpose will be fulfilled, for Jehovah is loyal. Psalm 37:29 states: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” This promise moves us, along with those of mankind who are granted heavenly immortality, to declare: “Great and wonderful are your works, Jehovah God, the Almighty. Righteous and true are your ways, King of eternity. Who will not really fear you, Jehovah, and glorify your name, because you alone are loyal?”—Revelation 15:3, 4.
Do you desire the precious gift of eternal life? If so, you must prove yourself loyal and obedient to the “King of eternity.” You need to learn about Jehovah and the one through whom such life is made possible, Jesus Christ. To all who are willing to accept God’s standards of right and wrong will be granted the gift of “everlasting life.”—John 17:3.
a For a full discussion of the teaching of the immortality of the soul, please see the brochure What Happens to Us When We Die? published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
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An Enduring Dream
The Epic of Gilgamesh, a Mesopotamian saga thought to date back to the second millennium B.C.E., describes a hero’s search for eternal youth. Ancient Egyptians mummified the dead, with the idea that souls, which were believed to be immortal, would be able to use their bodies again. Consequently, some Egyptian tombs were filled with all that the dead might need in the so-called afterlife.
Among Chinese alchemists, belief in physical immortality appears to date back at least to the eighth century B.C.E., and the possibility of attaining it by means of magic potions, to the fourth century B.C.E. Medieval European and Arabic alchemists searched for and tried to concoct their own elixirs of life. Some of their mixtures contained salts of arsenic, mercury, and sulfur. Who knows how many poisoned themselves trying these preparations!
Also widespread at one time were legends about a so-called Fountain of Youth—a spring said to restore vigor to all who drank from it.
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Everlasting Life—A Bore?
Some object that everlasting life would be boring, no more than a frittering away of eternity with meaningless pastimes endlessly repeated. Perhaps the eternity they imagine is an endless extension of present lifestyles and conditions that to many would seem to be boring and meaningless. Yet, in the Paradise that God will restore, he promises man “exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” (Psalm 37:11) Such a life will give mankind the opportunity to acquire knowledge of Jehovah’s creations and to dedicate time to developing any or all of the fascinating skills, studies, and occupations that we can now only dream about.
Dr. Aubrey de Grey, a Cambridge University geneticist engaged in life-extension research, observes: “People with a good education and the time to use it never get bored today and can’t imagine ever running out of new things they’d like to do.” Even so, says God’s inspired Word, “mankind [will] never find out the work that the true God has made from the start to the finish.”—Ecclesiastes 3:11.