How Long Can People Live?

ON March 3, 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León embarked on a noteworthy expedition. He set sail from Puerto Rico in hopes of reaching the island of Bimini. Legend has it that he sought a miraculous spring​—the Fountain of Youth. But he landed in what is now the state of Florida, U.S.A. Of course, he never found the nonexistent fountain.

Today, humans in general do not live much longer than 70 or 80 years. Although the Bible lists people with far greater life spans, the 2002 Guinness Book of World Records says that the age of the oldest person who ever lived was 122 years and 164 days. (Genesis 5:3-32) However, bioethicist John Harris said: “New research now allows a glimpse into a world in which aging​—and even death—​may no longer be inevitable.” A number of 21st-century researchers speak of “practical immortality,” “no limit to the life span of human beings by 2099,” “a capacity to have an immortal propagation of cells,” and the like.

In his book The Dream of Eternal Life, Mark Benecke notes: “Nearly all of the body is renewed several times during the course of a life. . . . After about seven years, we are new people in the truest sense of the word.” However, this does not go on indefinitely because cells stop multiplying after a predetermined number of divisions. If that was not the case, though, says Benecke, “the human body could regenerate itself for a very long time​—even eternally.”

Consider, too, the astounding capacity of the human brain, which greatly exceeds any use we might make of it during our rather short life. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, the human brain “is endowed with considerably more potential than is realizable in the course of  one person’s lifetime.” (1976 Edition, Volume 12, page 998) The book How the Brain Learns, by David A. Sousa, states: “For all practical purposes, the capacity of the brain to store information is unlimited.”​—Page 78, Second Edition, copyright 2001.

Why can researchers find no physiological reason why we die? And why does the human brain have such tremendous capacity? Is it possible that we were designed to keep on taking in knowledge forever? Why are we able to conceive of everlasting life at all?

The Bible states: “Even time indefinite [God] has put in their heart, that mankind may never find out the work that the true God has made from the start to the finish.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) These words indicate that God implanted in us the idea of living forever. For that matter, we would always have something to learn about God and his works. If we lived for untold billions of years​—yes, forever—​we would always be able to learn more about the marvels of God’s creative works.

The words of Jesus Christ also show that eternal human life is possible. He said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) What about you? Do you want to live forever?

[Pictures on page 3]

Juan Ponce de León sought a fountain of youth

[Credit Line]

Ponce de León: Harper’s Encyclopædia of United States History