Years ago, the late Mr. Norman Woodworth, then editor of The Dawn magazine, gave a public address on this subject, in Williamsburg. Pennsylvania.

This is what he said:

“The subject of life and death is one of great interest to all of us. Naturally, we want to live as long as we can, that is, if conditions are favorable. Medical science is assuring us that not too long hence it will be usual for people to live a hundred or one hundred fifty years. But these predictions, optimistic as they may seem, are very conservative when compared with the promises in the Word of God, which assure us that it is God’s provision for man to live forever!”

Why Not Live Forever?

THIS title will not seem startling at all to those who believe in the Bible. It has been the belief and hope of Christians all down through the centuries to enjoy everlasting life. Every friend of the Bible knows it contains countless such promises. Many of these are associated with the hope of enjoying everlasting life in a heavenly realm; but our topic has to do in particular with living forever as human beings right here on this earth.

When God created our first parents, he had that very purpose in mind, and made every provision whereby his plan for everlasting life would be not, only a possibility, but would be carried out perfectly. It was God’s design in the creation of our first parents that they should multiply and fill the earth, and subdue it. He planted a garden, eastward in Eden, for their home. It was to serve as a model, so to speak, of what the entire planet could be, and would be, under the dominion of its king. And man was given that dominion.—Gen. 1:26; 2:8

In that garden was every provision to sustain human life—not for three score years and ten; not until men would be old enough to receive Social Security, and gradually fade away; not the one hundred-fifty years medical scientists predict—but forever! The reason humanity has not yet experienced this divine purpose of the Creator is because our first parents transgressed God’s law.

The provision of everlasting life was dependent upon obedience, and how necessary a provision that was. God told our first parents that if they disobeyed by partaking of the forbidden fruit, they would die. “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) When Adam and his wife both ate of that fruit in disobedience to God, then the sentence fell upon them. God said to them, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Gen. 3:19) And then later, after their expulsion from paradise, we find God issuing an order preventing our first parents from returning to the garden. The purpose for this preventative measure was stated in the words: “Lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.” (vs. 22) This indicates clearly that God had indeed made every provision whereby man could live forever. The only reason he has been deprived of everlasting life is because he has transgressed God’s law.

And no wonder, in view of this, that man fights the very idea of death. Any man or woman in a normal state of mind will do almost anything to keep from dying. God constituted man at his creation so he would have this desire—this determination to live—even under abnormal conditions. With one’s body wracked with pain, and old age making one decrepit and lame, and half-dying, still we want to live. You have heard of the case of the elderly lady who became seriously ill so that she was sure she would die. A physician came and prescribed for her once more, and this time it seemed as though he had hit upon the right medicine. She took it and recovered. A week or so later he came to see how she was getting along, and she was so thankful to be cured. She was still in bed, of course, with no prospect of relief from rheumatism, blindness, or deafness, but still thankful for being alive. She said to the doctor, “My good doctor, if it had not been for you, I would be in heaven now!”

In the minds of the vast majority of even professed Christians, heaven is only an alternative place to go when they cannot possibly stay here on earth any longer. God created man with the will to live, and because he wants to live he has been an easy prey to the deceptions of Satan on this very subject. Satan approached Mother Eve through the Serpent. He asked her about the punishment for sin: “Was it true that God had said they would die if they partook of the forbidden fruit?” She answered, “Yes, that is true. That is just what God said.” And then Satan uttered his lie: “Thou shalt not surely die.” In the Apostle Paul’s letter to Timothy he tells us that Eve was deceived.—I Tim. 2:14

How was Eve deceived? She listened to Satan’s lie because she wanted to believe that even though she sinned, she would not die. She fell an easy victim to that deception. And, likewise, practically the entire human race has fallen prey to that great lie told by Satan when he denied the truth of God. Undoubtedly, Eve thought that she would continue to live as a human being somehow. But when our first parents did die, and the whole human race began to die, in order to make good his lie, Satan began to foist upon the minds of men and women the idea that death is merely a door into another room—a gateway to another experience or phase of life. And that idea has permeated all the heathen religions of the world. It is the basis of the reincarnation theory; it is even the basis of the equally false idea of inherent immortality; it is the basis of all the ‘no-death’ theories. This concept is believed throughout the Christian world, and is very often thus stated: “There is no death.” That is just what Satan said: “Thou shalt not surely die.” And even in this twentieth century, the professed followers of Christ still echo the same philosophy—that there is no death. And why? Because no one wants to die. It is more pleasant to think death is not a reality.

But death is a reality. The Bible tells us that “the wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) Death is the absence of life. We read, “The living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything.” (Eccles. 9:5) This applies to the wicked dead; and this applies to the righteous dead. The dead know not anything. The great hope of everlasting life held out to us in the Bible is based only on the promises of God to restore life by raising the dead. The Apostle Paul emphasized the importance of this as the only hope of life after death, when he said, “If there be no resurrection of the dead … then [even] they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.”—I Cor. 15:12-18

Now, all who study the Word of God believe the hope of life set forth in the Scriptures is based on the redemptive work of Jesus. And that is indeed true! It is through Jesus that the hope of life becomes a reality. Paul tells us, “Jesus Christ … hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” (II Tim. 1:10) Why did the apostle use these two words, ‘life’ and ‘immortality’? Adam and his progeny could have lived forever, but they were not given immortality. The life Adam and his progeny could have enjoyed forever (and for which another opportunity to enjoy will yet be given) is based upon a provision which continues life. As an example, we think back to Adam as the starting point where provision for everlasting human life was made, by his partaking of the trees of the Garden. If Adam could have continued to eat from the trees of the Garden of Eden, he could have lived as long as he fed on them. But he would not have had immortality.

When Jesus came, he brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. Now, what does that mean? What is the Gospel? These are questions which seem very simple to answer, but I dare say, if you went out on the streets of any city, or into the churches, and asked people what is their understanding of the Gospel of Christ, you would get as many different answers as the number of people you asked. Some would say, “I do not really know.”

The word gospel simply means ‘good news’, or ‘glad tidings’. One use of this word was when the angels proclaimed the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, saying, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings [good news, the Gospel) of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!” (Luke 2:10,11) That was, indeed, good news, glad tidings! But it was not the first time the glad tidings concerning a savior had been announced. Paul tells us that God “preached before the Gospel unto Abraham” (Gal. 3:8), nearly 4,000 years before the angels announced it to the shepherds! And what was that Gospel preached to Abraham? Paul tells us it was the wonderful promise God made to him that “in thee shall all nations be blessed.” That was the original, clear statement of the Gospel—the Gospel of Christ. The seed promised to Abraham was Christ.

Throughout the Old Testament we find a restatement of that same glorious theme of the Gospel. It was repeated in one form or another by every one of God’s holy prophets. And always associated with it was the fact that all the families of the earth will be blessed! As the theme developed throughout the Old Testament it became associated with the idea of a kingdom or government that God would establish upon the earth as an agency by which these blessings would be dispensed to the people. For instance, we read of Christ’s kingdom in Isaiah 9:7, where we are told that “of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” It will continue to operate until all the families of the earth are reached and blessed.

These blessings will come through the seed of Abraham. This is the Gospel. The wideness of that Gospel was reiterated and reemphasized again when Jesus was born. In all the centuries of the past, the message had not narrowed in its scope. So when the time came for the seed to be born, the angel said, “Unto you is born this day!” The only difference between the messages of the prophets and the angels was that the prophets had said he would come; and the angels said he had come—now he was born! A great step forward had been taken in the plan of God. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!” Surely glad tidings of great joy shall be unto all people, even as the original promise pertained to the blessing of all the families of the earth!

Luke, in Acts, chapter three, again brings to our attention the wonderful Gospel as it was preached to Abraham. Here we are told of a miracle performed by Peter and John shortly after Pentecost. A man who had never been able to walk was healed. Those Pharisees and others antagonistic to the apostles at that time were very curious about this miracle, and wanted to know just how this healing came about. Peter was glad to explain to them that this man had been healed because of his faith in Jesus of Nazareth, whom they had crucified.

But he was quick to add that the crucifixion of Jesus was not in any sense a miscarriage of the divine plan, but was, indeed, a part of the divine plan for the blessing of all the families of the earth. Jesus had died as the Redeemer and the Savior of the entire world. Then Peter told the people that God had raised his Son from the dead, and that it was through his name, and through the power of his name, that this man had been healed. This same Jesus, he added, had gone away into heaven, and was to return. The heavens would retain him “until the times of restitution of all things.” Notice the harmony of expression with the other wonderful promises in the Bible’s testimony. The angel said “all people;” Peter said “all things.” (Acts 3:19-21) What did he mean?

The miracle he had just performed partially illustrated his lesson. Similarly one of the many prophets who testified concerning the times of restitution had written: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing!” (Isa. 35:5,6) The healing of the lame man was merely an example of how this prophecy was to be fulfilled when Jesus returned to set up his wonderful kingdom.

Peter continues: “Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days [the coming times of restitution]. Ye [the Jewish people] are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.” In other words, Peter is saying, “If you want to know what God meant when he preached the Gospel to Abraham, saying, In thee and thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed, Jesus, whom God raised from the dead, is to return, and there is to be a time of restitution of all things.” He explained that this was what God meant when he made his promise to Abraham.

The account in Acts goes on to say, “They spoke unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the Temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection of the dead.” (Acts 4:1,2) What made them most angry was his insistence that the resurrection of the dead would come through Jesus, whom they had crucified. They had rejected Jesus, the promised seed of Abraham through whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed.

Paul confirmed that Jesus was the promised seed. He said, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” (Gal. 3:16) Toward the end of the chapter, Paul revealed another mystery of the Gospel. He said, “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ, … and if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”—vss. 27,29

What was the promise? It was that through the seed of Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed. And Paul stated that if you are a true Christian, you are part of that seed through which all the families of the earth will be blessed. Why did Paul say the seed was only “one,” if all the followers of Jesus are to be part of that seed? It is because the Scriptures show this seed is looked upon by God as one. Paul uses the illustration of a human body to clarify this idea. The head of the body represents Jesus, and the other parts of the body represent his followers, those who have been baptized into him. He said, “As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.” (I Cor. 12:12) Christ is the head; the church is his body; and this constitutes the one seed through which all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

And that explains why the blessing of all the families of the earth could not begin at Jesus’ first advent. The work of this Gospel Age is the selection from the world of those who would be associated with Jesus in the work of blessing. In order to share in that extraordinary privilege, each and every one of these must be thoroughly tested and proven. They must be willing, as Jesus was, to lay down their lives faithfully. Indeed, Jesus invited them to take up their cross and follow him into death.

Paul speaks of this as being ‘baptized’ into his death. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (Rom. 6:3) The Scriptures also represent these followers of Jesus as being “beheaded” in order to become a part of his body, accepting his headship. They are described as following the Lamb who was led to the slaughter. They must die with Jesus proving their worthiness to live and reign with him.—Rev. 20:4; Isa. 53:7; I Cor. 11:1; Rev. 2:10

Remember the wonderful promise Jesus made to his disciples the night before he was crucified? He said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:2,3) The Bible reveals that in the Father’s house there are many mansions, many dwelling places, many planes of life. On the earth there are many forms of life, beginning with the lowly shellfish on up to man, the king upon the earth. And the Bible tells us about other heavenly, spiritual spheres of life which are above man. The Scriptures say that man was made “a little lower than the angels” (Ps. 8:5), which implies that angels were created a little higher than man. Beyond that, the Bible speaks of principalities and powers. Yes, there are many mansions or planes of beings.

But Jesus said he was going away to prepare a special place for his faithful footstep followers. None of the mansions already in existence were adequate for his church, for those who will become his “bride.” (Rev. 22:17) He promised us, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also!”

When Jesus was raised from the dead, he was indeed highly exalted “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” (Eph. 1:20-23) The promise is that we shall be like him, and see him as he is, and be with him where he is! Paul admonishes us to, “by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.” (Rom. 2:7) Remember how it was said that Jesus brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel? It was through his interpretation and carrying out of the Gospel arrangement planned by God that he brought to light the glorious hope of immortality for the church. And, as well, he brought to light the hope that is held out in the Word of God for the whole world of mankind to be restored to life here upon the earth during the times of restitution of all things.

And so, those who are faithful unto death shall receive a crown of life. “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” (Rev. 3:21) Yes, the hope of the church is to be exalted to immortality with Jesus in the resurrection. The difference between everlasting life, sustained continuously, and immortality, is that immortality is indestructible life. It does not depend upon any outward provision to sustain it. This kind of life is possessed by the great Creator himself, and originally only by him. It was given to Jesus at his resurrection, and is promised to all his body members at their resurrection.

From Jesus’ first advent until today, it has been the work of God through the proclamation of the Gospel, to search out those from the various nations (Rev. 5:9) who would be willing to walk in the narrow way. Only a few have been willing. “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt. 7:14) It has already taken more than nineteen centuries to find that “little flock” (Luke 12:32), to whom it would be the Father’s good pleasure to give the kingdom.

Eventually this work will be accomplished, and following its completion the blessings of everlasting life will be made available for all the families of the earth. This is brought to our attention in a very wonderful way in I Corinthians 15. It is in this chapter that Paul wrote about the resurrection of the dead. That work will be so complete that Christ “must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (vss. 25,26) First Paul tells about the resurrection of the church—those who will experience a change of nature in the resurrection. He says, “As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”—vs. 49

Then he gives us the time sequence in the outworking of this glorious plan of God. “When this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality [after all this class has experienced this remarkable change in the resurrection, and the church or kingdom class is complete in glory, honor, and immortality], then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” When the church is exalted to immortality, when the work of this age in the plan of God is complete, then will follow the time when God will bring to pass all his other promises—those awe-inspiring promises, the meaning of which are summed up in that one expression, “Death is swallowed up in victory!”

That Scripture is a quotation from Isaiah 25:8. These Messianic promises, hope-inspiring Gospel promises of the Old Testament, are associated with the thought of a kingdom or government that will be established in the hands of Jesus and his church, who received the promise of living and reigning with Christ in the kingdom. In the Old Testament this kingdom is beautifully illustrated by a mountain—the mountain of the Lord. (vss. 6,7) It is the Lord’s kingdom.

Beginning with King David, the seat of the divinely appointed government of Israel was in Mount Zion in Jerusalem. The term ‘mountain of the Lord’ instantly conjures up in our minds the idea of a divine government. And so the prophecies show this future kingdom of the Lord, illustrated by Mount Zion, is to hold sway over the whole earth. “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” (Ps. 72:8) It is written that “in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.” And he will, in this mountain, swallow up death in victory!—Isa. 25:6-8

When the times of restitution get under way, there are so many things that will need to be changed! Even words in our languages will become obsolete. Run down the column of a dictionary under just one letter, and notice how many words are associated directly or indirectly with sickness, death, and dying. Nearly half the dictionary will be gone when the times of restitution have completed their work! The Prophet Isaiah says, “The inhabitant shall not say, I am sick.” Isn’t that wonderful! When you meet a friend on the street, that is just about the first thing you ask them: “Well, how are you today?” Ill health, and the death of relatives and friends are major interests in the lives of everyone. But the Prophet Isaiah says that in the day of Christ’s kingdom, such concerns will vanish away. Eventually it will be needless to ask someone how they are, because all will be abundantly alive and well!

The very last book of the Bible gives us various pictures of the kingdom, summing up just what that kingdom will do for the people. In the twenty-first chapter the kingdom is illustrated as a new heaven and a new earth, under which “the tabernacle of God” will be with men, thus indicating that God’s favor will once more be upon the people. (vs. 3) “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (vs. 4) The whole human race will be offered the wonderful provisions made for living forever! Then, one of the most significant statements in the entire Word of God is made: “He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.”—vs. 5

Most of the messages in the Book of Revelation were communicated to John by angels. But when we come to this final statement, God did not entrust that important message to an angel—he delivered it himself! We read, “He that sat upon the throne said …” We have to go back to the fourth chapter of Revelation to discover who is the one sitting upon the throne. And there we find a most sublime picture of the Creator of the universe sitting upon his throne, surrounded with glory. It was he who said, “Write: for these words are true and faithful.” And the words were: there shall be no more death! that God will wipe away tears from their eyes; there shall be no more pain, for the former things shall pass away!

Why not live forever? Thank God, the whole world will be given just such an opportunity!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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