In the recent news we have heard of the untimely deaths of famous persons such as Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Billy Mays, and others. Death is the expected outcome for everyone, but it is especially tragic when people die before they had lived out their full life span. In the news also, commentators are also debating whether Michael made a good decision to leave custody of his children to his 79 year-old mother, since her age would be a limiting factor as to how much time she would have left on earth, before she dies. They also question his decision to choose Diana Ross as the secondary guardian of his children, in case his mother dies, as Diana Ross is 65 years old, and thus has an age-limited life expectancy. In light of all the news about untimely deaths and life expectancy, I would like to speak Biblically about the God-ordained life span of man and how it has changed over the centuries.
We have all heard on the news that people are living longer, and that the life expectancy of man has increased. Many people now live well into their 90's, and with the aging of the baby-boomers, that number is expected to increase significantly in the coming years. The reason for the longer life expectancy is usually credited to better health care and the availability of pharmaceuticals and surgery to treat chronic, otherwise life-threatening diseases. Many have hailed these modern "miracle cures" as the reason why man is living longer: But is this really so? Is it really possible for man to extend his life through medical intervention? What I am going to say next may be controversial to some, but my whole purpose of writing this piece is to put everything in its proper perspective, so that we can truly understand what is, and who is truly at work here.
Let me first say, that no amount surgery, drugs, or medical intervention is able to extend the life span of man. The life span of man is a fixed age-related time, determined by God, and is out of our control. On the other hand, we do have some control over our life expectancy, which is an individual's expectation of how long he/she should live, based upon one's health, lifestyle, and access to medical care. What many people fail to understand however is that medical care and healthy living DOES NOT increase our life span; instead, medical care and healthy living PREVENTS US FROM DYING before we live out our life span. Let's say for example that the life span of man is 70 years, and one suffers a heart attack at age 35. Without medical care, one might die at age 35 from the heart attack. With medical care and healthy living however, one can survive a heart attack and live on for a long time after that, even up to the full 70 years. You see, medical care and healthy living allows someone to fulfill his/her years and not die before that time. If we however neglect to take care of our health and seek proper medical care for illness, then we can be sure that our life expectancy will be much less than if we take care our selves; therefore, we do have some control over our life expectancy.
As was said before, we do have some control over our life expectancy, but little to no control over our life span. Our life span is a God-ordained age-fixed time for the human life. Just as how God ordained that flies should live only for a few days, or pets for a few years, so He has ordained how long man should live. In the Old Testament, we see that pre-flood man lived to just under 1,000 years old. Methuselah was the oldest man in recorded history and he lived to be 969 years old (Genesis 5:27). No one has ever lived past that age since then, and after the flood, the life span of man began to gradually diminish over the years, as God had ordained that man should live to be no more than 120 years old (Genesis 6:3). We see the fulfillment of that in the life of Moses, as he lived to be 120 years old (Deuteronomy 34:7). Curiously though, Moses prophesied that the life span of man would be reduced yet again to 70 years, and "if by reason of strength" 80 years (Psalm 90:10). This we have seen over the years. Even the social security system, which when it was set up, assumed a life span of no more than 70 years. Well things have changed now, and the elderly are living way past 70. As a matter of fact, age 70 is the beginning of new life for many people, as we find many 70 year-olds to be active adults, well engaged in living and enjoying life. Go to many of these "Adult communities" and see how active and vibrant our grandmas and grandpas are. They have great social lives, and have much more fun than many young people at times. Age 70 is the new 60, and many expect to live decades, and yes I mean decades, after that.
All this has not gone by unnoticed by insurance companies, the medical community, and the government. Insurance companies are now offering policies that will cover a person up to age 100, and new medical procedures make it safe for persons over age 70 to have major surgery. Even the government is scratching its head trying to come up with a solution to keep Medicare and Social Security solvent for the exploding aging population. What therefore is the real cause in the increased number of very elderly people? The answer is an increase in the life span of man. The Bible predicted a coming time when people would live to be 100 years old. In the book of Isaiah we read:
"Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed" (Isaiah 65:20, NIV).
In the above verse, what is being described is a coming time when even 100 year-old people will still have vigor and life. Recently on TV, on CNN, only a few weeks ago, they feature a 100 year-old man who still played tennis, and who was extremely healthy. He was on no medications, and toured the world with other seniors playing in tennis tournaments!
We are definitely living in a time when man's life span is extended, but we should not be satisfied with a mere extension. We should reach instead for the abundant life of eternity, which is promised to all believers. In eternity, we will not see death, and life will never cease.