I see that the world's oldest person has died in Indiana. Edna Parker, died on Wednesday in a nursing home in Shelbyville, Indiana. She was 115 years, 220 days old. Coincidentally it was the same nursing home where the world's tallest woman died last year. Maria de Jesus of Portugal, who was born on September 10, 1893, is now the world's oldest living person.
I noticed that at the Cenotaph memorial service in London on November 11th the oldest survivor of the First World War laid a wreath. He was 114.
People are living longer. I saw in a news item that scientist reckon that they will be able to reverse aging. So I thought to myself, 'Would I want to live for ever?' The answer, of course, was, 'Not if I have to put up with this backache.'
When we see these very old people we pity them. Their bodies have become shrunken and feeble. The man at the Cenotaph wanted to lay the wreath himself, but in the end he was unable to rise from his wheelchair. Our bodies betray us. If we escape disease, the wear and tear of normal living destroys the cartilage in our joints, enfeebles our muscles and dims our senses. We accumulate more and more bits of plastic and stainless steel. Teeth, lenses, joints, heart valves; the replacement industry is one to buy shares in.
The Bible tells us that 'there is a time to be born and a time to die'. Yet Christians expect eternal life. I pose the question, "If scientists really did solve the aging question; if they reversed the wear and tear and left us with the bodies we had when we were 25 and our minds continued to work well and accumulate knowledge, would they still want the eternal life the Bible offers or would they want more of this present world, albeit with new super resilient bodies?"
Paul calls the situation of the dead Christian 'better by far'. Why is that? In the first place, we won't be stuck with these mortal bodies. Here is what Paul writes in I Corinthians Ch 15 "We will all be changed." and "We shall bear the likeness of the man from heaven." and "The perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable."
In Romans 8:29 he writes that we are destined to be 'conformed to the likeness of his Son' and in Philippians 3:21, "we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."
Second, we will be with Christ. Paul writes in II Corinthians 5:6 that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. He would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. Whenever I go away to a meeting I miss my wife. I am so pleased that this year at ASH we will be going together. We will be able to share the experience of visiting San Francisco. Normally after just a few days away I am longing to be back home. This feeling of longing is multiplied a hundred times for the Christian. To be at home with Christ must be bliss.
Third, it is all about where we will be with Christ. The disciples knew Jesus face to face and that must have been a wonderful experience, but it was detracted from by the fact that they were living under Roman oppression, in a place of poverty and hardship. People around them were crooks and charlatans, pompous and proud, bombastic and overbearing. They encountered disease and sickness every day. There were beggars and blind men on most street corners. Persecution was the way of the world. When we die we go where there is no sin. No more crying then. He will wipe away all tears from our eyes.
So we have no need to cling to this crippled frame. Anything the scientists come up with will be definitely second best - and were we to live 'forever', the world will end someday. He is coming again.