Will modern medicine succeed in prolonging life?

Throughout history, people have desired to live long and prosper. Most people do not want to get old. Some people want to live forever. Over the centuries, many explorers have sought for a fountain of youth.

In recent decades, modern medicine has made great strides in eradicating diseases and curing health problems. Life expectancy has been increasing. Does this mean that the fountain of youth is finally within our grasp?

As with many topics, the Bible has something to say about life expectancy. The verses below do not discourage us from doing medical research, but they do help us be realistic about what medicine can and cannot accomplish. Furthermore, like many topics, this topic ultimately demonstrates to us that God is in control.

The Bible teaches us about life expectancy in Genesis 6. The previous chapter, Genesis 5, tells us that life expectancy between Adam and Noah was between 700 and 1,000 years. As we start reading Genesis 6, we read a pronouncement from Yahweh that changed life expectancy. Pay attention to the last sentence of verse 3. What is the change that Yahweh initiated?

Gen. 6:1-3 ¶ Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”

Life expectancy in Genesis 5 and Genesis 11The last phrase tells us that man’s days will be one hundred twenty years. In other words, Yahweh decreed that life expectancy would shorten to 120 years. We are not told why, we are simply told what Yahweh said.

As we read the rest of Genesis, we see that life expectancy gradually shortened. After the flood it went to 400 years, and then to 200 years. Once you get past the book of Genesis, the longest recorded life expectancy in the Bible is 120 years. In modern times, the world record for the oldest person is around 120 years.

What does this tell us? Again, it does not discourage us from doing medical research and trying to improve health; however, we need to be realistic and realize that life expectancy will never exceed 120 years. No matter what medical advancements are made, 120 years will be the limit because Yahweh said that will be the limit.

This illustrates to us that God is in control. In the beginning of time, life expectancy was almost 1,000 years. Then Yahweh decided to shorten it, and no matter what humanity has done over the last 6 millennia, life expectancy has not exceeded 120 years. Furthermore, no matter what humanity tries to do in the future, 120 years will be the limit to human life because God said that is the limit.


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“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”