Life and Immortality—When?

“Our Savior Jesus Christ … hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” —II Timothy 1:10

FROM the beginning of human history man has been preoccupied with learning, if possible, just what will be his destiny after he has drawn his last breath and been felled by the mighty enemy, Death. Job, a friend of God, 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.” He then asked the question that has been on the anxious minds of countless millions since human life began, “If a man die, shall he live again?”—Job 14:1,2,14

The psalmist David wrote, “What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? Shall he deliver his soul [being] from the hand of the grave?” (Ps. 89:48) Even Satan, who was directly responsible for the condemnation to death that came upon the human race, rightly assessed how dearly man cherishes that most precious and incomparable gift and blessing of life. “All that a man hath will he give for his life.”—Job 2:4

Ever since father Adam and mother Eve first looked sorrowfully down upon the lifeless body of their slain son Abel, the sure knowledge that death is waiting implacably to claim each of its countless victims has troubled all mankind in greater or lesser degree. “Every moment of life is a step towards death,” wrote the French dramatist Pierre Cornielle. And the eminent English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote, quite despairingly, it seems:

“First our pleasures die—and then
Our hopes, and then our fears—and when
These are dead, the debt is due;
Dust claims dust—and we die too.”

A modern writer has said, “Deep within us we feel the imminence of death. As we grow older, we become increasingly aware of death about us—beloved pets, our grandparents, and a spiraling assembly of other relatives and friends [are taken from us]. Religions offer the solace of a life after death—for those who can believe. But for those who cannot believe, a chasm of emptiness yawns at the end of life.” (Newsday, 3/16/80) How true it is that for all who are unacquainted with the loving and merciful Heavenly Father’s divine plan for dying man’s salvation and restitution, the prospect of approaching death can be distressing indeed!

On the other hand, some among our fellow human beings become so thoroughly discouraged with what they see going on in the world about them, and with their own lives in particular, that they lose all desire to go on living. This state of mind can afflict, at times, even the very young, and prompted publication several years ago of an article asking, “Why a Surge of Suicides Among the Young?” (U.S. News & World Report, 7/10/78) Writing to the magazine in response to the article, a young reader explained what, in his opinion, had brought about this sad condition, “I view suicide as a reaction of disillusionment,” he said. “The fundamental hopelessness of the human condition is becoming clear to young people. They can no longer hide from it in ideals or causes as previous generations did. … Most of the young cannot find refuge in religion or human relationships. They cannot find a true God.” What a sad commentary is this statement on the failure of society and religion to provide either solutions to the world’s problems, or comfort and counsel to understand and endure them!

In general, however, increasing numbers of people are adopting the device of postponing as far as possible the day of reckoning with impending death by seeking to extend their life expectancy. Perhaps no nation in all the world has become so health-conscious and recreation-bent as the American people. For old and young in this nation there are tennis, basketball, volleyball, and handball courts; spacious baseball fields and football fields; jogging, walking, cycling, and horseback riding trails in and around most cities; health spas and gymnasiums are becoming numerous and well patronized; and of course no middle or upper class home is considered complete today without its swimming pool and barbecue setup.

Obviously, exercise, nutritious food, and more particular attention to health and hygiene do bring beneficial results. “Older Americans … can look forward to longer, more active lives.” (U.S. News & World Report, 9/1/80) “Since 1970, mortality in America has declined nearly two percent a year—about four times the rate of decline in the previous fifteen years.” Political scientist Bruce Jacobs says, “In 1980 more elderly people … enjoy better health … than ever before.” Employers, too, are becoming more willing to keep their older (and now healthier) skilled workers on the payroll longer than in the past.

As a result of a combination of all these factors a dramatic change in life expectancy has already occurred in this nation. At the beginning of the present century a man could expect to live to be 46 and a woman 48. Today the life expectancy of men and women has climbed to 73 years. But some gerontologists claim this is just the beginning. Dr. Robert N. Butler, director of the National Institute on Aging, was recently interviewed on this subject. “Dr. Butler, can medical science extend the human life span to 100 years?” he was asked. He replied, “There is no inherent reason why not. Most gerontologists feel the natural or inherent genetic, limit for human beings is about 110 years.”—U.S. News & World Report, 8/24/81

But even the prospect of 110 years of life is not enough for some! An article appeared in Newsday on March 16, 1980, under the surprising heading, “Our Children Will Live Forever.” The writer of that article does not accept the idea that death is a natural process (as, indeed, it isn’t). No longer, he says, is it considered ‘natural’ for some women to die in childbirth. “Why should we not challenge [the naturalness of] death itself?” he asks.

The elimination of death for future generations, he says, will be accomplished by the “new science of genetic engineering [through which] we will be able to reprocess the genes and eliminate the portions of nature’s program that prescribe death. … The ultimate conquest of death is inevitable. The only question is when it will come.” But he closes his article on a note that belies his entire argument. He says, “We must some day die—even the stars burn themselves out in time. Thus we will always have a sense of our own mortality.”

One can be but sympathetic toward all who seek by one means or another either to mitigate or delay the inevitable confrontation with death, however unreasonable or futile their efforts or methods may be in the light of fact. It is true, of course, as we have already noted, that in the last one hundred years in many areas of the world life has become healthier and longer, and the research and dedication that have produced these results are commendable. But the inescapable fact is that in spite of all these efforts all men, without exception, continue sooner or later to die and go down into the grave, even as have all their forebears from the beginning of human history. And the mightiest human strivings to change that fact will forever fail, because imperfect man does not have the keys of hell (grave) and death. The only hope for the world of mankind to escape from this sad condition is in the promises of Jehovah God, as these will be brought to fruition by our risen Lord Jesus Christ when his thousand-year kingdom is established in the earth.

Doubtless, it has been the innermost heart’s desire of virtually every normal human being who has ever lived to enjoy healthy, happy, everlasting life on a bountiful, peaceful earth. It is interesting to observe that precisely that arrangement was actually offered to man long ages ago by the great Creator of the universe, the Lord God Almighty himself. After Jehovah God had spent countless eons painstakingly preparing the beautiful planet Earth for man’s eventual habitation, the time came to create man himself. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul [being].”—Gen. 2:7

Having thus created this marvelous new being, who would virtually reign as a king over all the earth, God arranged for his everlasting care, sustenance, and happiness. “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. … And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”—Gen. 2:8,9,15-17

This was a simple proposition. The father of the human race was freely provided with all that was necessary for him and all his progeny to enjoy happy, healthful, everlasting life on earth; the only proviso, and a precise one, was that he should not partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But Adam did not heed the Lord’s instructions. By his disobedience he forfeited the proffered blessing of everlasting life, and was condemned to death. “Unto Adam he said, Because thou hast … eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it … thou [shalt] return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Gen. 3:17,19) In due course of time father Adam did return to the dust from which he had been taken.

This sentence of death on the father of the human race was a just one; the apostle declares he was not deceived, but transgressed of his own free will. (I Tim. 2:14) But, sadly, the same curse of death passed upon all his offspring, for being himself imperfect after he sinned, Adam could produce only imperfect, dying children, unworthy of everlasting life. The psalmist, too, was aware of this situation. “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity,” said David, “and in sin did my mother conceive me.” The Apostle Paul confirms David’s statement, saying “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”—Rom. 3:10-12

Being unrighteous, and under condemnation, all go down into death. And just as long as the sentence of death continues to rest upon the fallen human race, the best-intentioned and most brilliant efforts of men of medicine and science to circumvent that sentence will fail. The only hope of mankind is in the loving purpose of God as centered in Jesus Christ, which purpose he ordained from before the foundation of the world.—Matt. 25:34

This eternal purpose of the great Creator to effect man’s release from the chains of death is indicated in the Bible in various ways—sometimes in more or less direct statements, sometimes in types and shadows. As one who was grievously aware of his own iniquity, but who was also a prophet of the most high God, the psalmist David spoke in muted tones of the salvation to be provided for fallen man whereby his sins would be forgiven, his heart made right, and man restored once more to favor with his Creator. “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness,” wrote David, voicing the unwitting prayer of the entire human race. “According unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me. … Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. … Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. … Deliver me from blood guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.”—Ps. 51

The psalmist, of course, is still in his grave. But how he would have rejoiced to have heard Paul’s beautiful confirmation of his prophetic theme of salvation as the apostle later explained it in his letter to the church at Rome! David lived in the age when life was offered to those who could keep the terms of the Law. He knew he could not thus gain life, for he, like all the rest of mankind, was a sinner, and the Law was the measure of the ability of a perfect man to keep it. But now, says Paul, since our Lord Jesus has given his own perfect life as a ransom, those who demonstrate faith in the efficacy of that sacrifice may have their sins covered, “even as David [long before prophesied of the] … blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”—Rom. 4:6-8,20-25

When Job asked the question, “If a man die, shall he live again?” he did not do so in ignorance. Job knew by inspiration of the forthcoming resurrection of mankind, and therefore answered his own question in the affirmative. “All the days of my appointed time [in the grave] will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.” (Job 14:14,15; Dan. 12:2; John 5:25) This foretold resurrection from the grave for all mankind, Paul tells us, will be because “our Savior Jesus Christ … hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.”—II Tim. 1:10

The apostle here calls our attention to the glorious, all-embracing results of our Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation for the fallen human race through Christ. It was to redeem them from the grave that he gave his only begotten Son, so that they might be purged and made clean, and washed and made whiter than snow; that he might create in each a clean heart, and renew within each one a right spirit, to the end that they might inherit the glorious kingdom of love, joy, and righteousness prepared for them from the foundation of the world by a wise and just and loving Creator.—John 3:16; Ps. 51:9,10; Matt. 25:34

But for the risen world of mankind to lay hold fully on these promised blessings, obedience to the just and loving laws of the kingdom then in power will be required. (Acts 3:20-23) All who then learn to love, obey, and reverence Jehovah God, and their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and who love their neighbor as themselves, will be once more accepted into the bosom of God’s family as his children.—Rev. 21:1-4

And how long will they live? Will it be for 73 years, the present life-span of those in the more favored areas of this world? Will it, perhaps, even be for 110 years, considered by a few medical experts of the present day as a possible attainment in the distant future? It will be neither of these! Indeed, it will infinitely outstrip even the 900 years and more of those ancients who lived in the early days of human creation such as Adam, and Noah, and even Methuselah—for they will live forever on this glorious, restored planet Earth! “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16

And the little flock? The promise is that all who follow faithfully in the sacrificial steps of their Lord and Master during this present Gospel Age, suffering with him that they might be glorified with him, will be even more highly favored, for they will gain the matchless prize of immortality. These shall dwell forever in the very presence of their Heavenly Father. They “shall be like him [God] for … they shall see him as he is.” (II Pet. 1:14; I John 3:2; Ps. 17:15) And when Christ’s long-promised kingdom is established in the earth they shall live and reign with him a thousand years for the purpose of blessing all the families of the earth. What greater joy could ever be experienced in all the universe for all time than that of restoring fallen man to the happiness and perfection of everlasting life and fellowship with God that was Adam’s before he fell!

But when will all these blessings come to pass? We would recall the opinion expressed earlier regarding “the hopelessness as to the human condition” that has taken hold of so many thoughtful young people today—a despair so deep as to drive some to take their very lives. This despair, this feeling of utter futility, is not confined to the young. As world leaders struggle with the various problems of hunger, pollution, racism, inflation, incipient wars, expanding populations and diminishing resources, it is evident that they, too, know not where to turn.

We believe these perplexing conditions are signs of the foretold “time of trouble” that will shortly bring this present evil world to an end, even as Jesus prophesied, preparatory to the establishment of Christ’s millennial kingdom for the blessing of all the families of the earth. Then it will be that all mankind, including some greatly surprised gerontologists who had believed man might one day attain to 110 years of life on this earth, will see and experience and rejoice in the evident truth that our Savior Jesus Christ has, indeed, abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.—Matt. 24:3,21; II Pet. 3:10-13; Rev. 21:4

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |