A remarkable discovery was recently reported in the journal Science which was welcomed by those searching for the secrets of longer life. Gliding through arctic waters was a shark that was about 400 years old!
Scientists found out its age by studying the tissue in the shark’s eyes and matching the known levels of radiocarbon in the marine environment stretching back 500 years. In effect, the shark’s eye lens contained a radiocarbon time-stamp put there on its birthday. Similarly, the eyes of other, younger sharks caught at the same time contained a “bomb pulse”, a distinctive radiocarbon signature resulting from nuclear weapons testing.
What this discovery shows is that there are potentially many longer-lived species than humans. This has raised the question about whether there is any natural bar to humans living for centuries. After all, life expectancy has been rising for decades as some of the ‘natural’ challenges to life are overcome – like malnutrition and disease.
Science has limits
Three centuries ago, a person would be hard pushed to reach 40. But some scientists now think that people born today stand a chance of reaching 150. With that in mind, one bio-tech company has a ‘Mission Statement’ that has been shortened to “curing death”.
It has been found that if the ageing cells in the body of a mouse are removed it can live much longer than normal. So laboratory breakthroughs like that are transforming the quest for immortality.
Even so, death is not simply a temporary, technical problem with an easy solution. Scientists accept that humans are not going to outlive sharks any time soon! And, sadly, the number of lives shortened by warfare remains an unsolved problem.
Is death a curable disease?
Anti-ageing enthusiasts insist that life is merely the absence of the processes that lead to death and that human lifespan could be extended dramatically. Their philosophy is to treat ageing as a disease. Treat the disease, they argue, and life need not end.
Perhaps they have a valid point.
After all, the Bible states quite clearly that the first humans didn’t expect to die. Death was punishment that only came to them after they had disobeyed their Creator. The curse that afflicted them – and us – is described like this:
“In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19 NKJV)
For many centuries afterwards some humans – like Methuselah – are recorded in the Bible as living for hundreds of years. But eventually, they died too. Over subsequent generations the average human life span fell to present day levels. In scientific terms, this ‘disease’ is still incurable.
The cure has been found!
However, at about the time that very old shark was born some brave people made sure that everybody could read the Bible in English. In about 1611 the “good news” the Bible contained became common knowledge.
This “good news” tells us that the curse of death is caused by sin (disobedience to God) but it’s coming to an end:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 NKJV)
“The sting of death is sin…But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57 NKJV)
In God’s eyes the death of Jesus Christ on a cross 2000 years ago made “victory” over sin and death a possibility for us all. Eternal life is a “gift” God want to give us all in his Kingdom. The Bible tells us that death need not be the end; life after death is not impossible:
“We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52 NKJV)
More of the same?!
The life of many people these days is far from pleasant, so they might well ask “why should I hope for ‘more of the same’?”
The “good news” is that God has planned a far better ‘standard of living’ for us all. The Bible not only tells us that our bodies will be “changed” for the better, it also includes this promise:
“God will wipe away every tear from