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FIRST-PERSON: The death of death

AUGUSTA, Ga. (BP)–I have been reading an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the possibility that people could live a thousand years or even longer if the findings and research of Aubrey de Grey prove true. De Grey is an English biogerontologist who is making some profound observations concerning our ability to live longer.

He is, of course, talking about using medical procedures of various kinds to reverse some of the things which cause aging. He is also talking about growing new organs in the lab from stem cells in order to replace worn-out ones. He is being heralded as the man who will “murder” death. I don’t want to throw water on Mr. de Grey’s fire, but “murdering” death just won’t happen. God said along ago that “it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this, the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Mr. de Grey is simply trying to do something that is impossible — he is trying to solve a spiritual problem through medical and “mechanical” means. He is trying to do what man has been trying for thousands of years to do — and that is to get back into the “garden of Eden” relationship with God. All of human history attests to this desire of man. Once he was put out of the garden because of sin, man has been struggling to find a way to get back in. Immortality was one of the things man experienced in Eden. Adam and Eve were created to live forever and have an unending and blissful relationship with God day to day. Mr. de Grey is trying to restore the eternal life characteristic to man without so much as dealing with the spiritual nature of the problem we now face with death.

Initially, man lived longer than he does now. There are biblical characters, including Methuselah, who lived for hundreds of years. Methuselah lived for 969 years. Lamech, the father of Noah, lived 777 years. Noah himself lived 950 years. The longer man has been on the earth, the shorter the time he has lived. Why is this true? The reason is found in the fact that man’s perfect genetic code, which allowed unending life, was corrupted by this thing God calls sin. The longer man has lived on earth, the more the code has been corrupted, resulting in a decrease in the life span of mankind. Death is not a natural state for man as far as God is concerned. He “engineered” man to live forever with Him in the garden of Eden. But man corrupted himself with sin, and death entered the world.

In these modern days we have been able to increase man’s lifespan somewhat, but only because we have made living conditions better. We have invented medicines and procedures which help us live longer. We have found better ways to eat and exercise. In general, we have improved our lives greatly. But remember this: Death is still universal. Everyone dies physically, eventually. Mr. de Grey can postulate all he desires, but he is not going to solve the problem of physical death.

I have posed this question to a lot of people: Would you like to live to be say, 300 years old? You might be surprised to learn that even though people in general fear death, I have not found a single person who answers “yes.” Nearly universally, they say they would tire of life at extreme ages. They can’t imagine dealing with the growing problems in the world, which surely will get worse. To them, the thought of outliving everyone they know is depressing. Most people say they want to live a normal lifetime and then die peacefully.

Mr. de Grey is trying to solve a problem the world almost universally wants to reject, and that is the problem of judgment. But judgment is no problem to those who WILL live forever, and those are the people who have trusted in God’s way of solving the problem of death and separation. Those are the ones who have eternal life given to them as a gift when they trust their life to Jesus Christ, God’s only way of solving our sin and death problem. So, Mr. de Grey and all others who might hold to his views are coming at the problem of death and eternal life from the wrong direction. They want life to continue by solving the medical and physical side of aging. They should be looking at it from a spiritual perspective. The solution to death is found when one comes at the issue from God’s perspective, and that perspective is focused on the person of Jesus Christ, who gives us the eternal life man that Adam and Eve lost in the Garden of Eden.

Want to live forever? You can, when you go at it from God’s pathway, which leads to eternal life through Jesus Christ. And, by the way, the death of death has already taken place. It happened when Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, thereby defeating death and making eternal life possible for anyone who will come to God by Him.
William F. Harrell serves as pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga.

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  • William F. Harrell