Science imagines a future where disease, suffering and death are a thing of the past. But can advancements in technology help us grapple with the existential problems of mortality?


Imagine a world where technology has advanced to the point that it can reverse or “cure” ageing, a world in which people have merged with robots to create a new kind of human that doesn’t die and a world where computers have made it possible to bring the dead back to life.

It may sound like a science fiction novel but according to a 2018 report by The Guardian, this world is being actively researched and pursued by movements that aim, through the use of science and technology, to turn human beings into “a near embodiment of gods”. Ageing, once thought of as the natural course of life, is now seen as a disease that we can cure. The physical body, which eventually breaks down as we get old, is now being blended with technology that hopes to eventually make us immortal. Even the dead can have their life’s data put into a digital program that makes resurrecting them to a virtual world possible.

True, this all sounds a bit far-fetched, and perhaps it is. But these are not mere fantasies dreamed up by a group of nerds in their local high school’s science lab. These are movements, goals and pursuits being researched and explored by billionaires, corporations and highly influential thought leaders in our world today. Whether they achieve their goals or not is beside the point. The fact that such world-shaping minds have a drive to end death, and even reverse it, speaks volumes to humanity’s resistance toward death.

(Credit: Antonika Chanel, Unsplash)

The truth is, none of this is new. Humans have craved immortality from the dawn of civilisation. The Egyptians are famous for their burial sites filled with preparative rituals for the afterlife. The Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans as well as the Aztecs, Native American and Indigenous Australian, Oriental and Northern European tribes (to name a few) all developed ceremonies that capture our longing for things eternal. Even atheists have not escaped the longing. The philosopher Simone de Beauvoir once wrote, “I am incapable of conceiving infinity, and yet I do not accept finity. I want this adventure that is the context of my life to go on without end.” She penned these words as an adult, despite having abandoned her faith as a teen and remaining an atheist to her death.

Over the centuries, certain philosophies have attempted to reframe our resistance toward death. Through sophisticated arguments and bizarre practices, many have tried to reimagine death as something beautiful, something worth celebrating, and something we as humans should embrace. The NBC comedy series The Good Place ended (spoiler alert) with all its characters, whom viewers had come to love over four seasons, wilfully choosing to end their existence by walking through a mysterious portal that deleted their existence, reabsorbing it into the energy of the universe. These ideas, of course, come from certain Buddhist and Hindu sects. But no matter how hard they tried, no matter how poetically the producers framed the eternal deletion of the show’s characters, the ending was sad. It reminded me of those romantic comedies where the girl’s boyfriend is so mean that you hope by the end of the movie she dumps him and embraces the nice guy who is truly in love with her. Only here, it is life that is the mean boyfriend and death the true lover.

(Credit: Valeria Almaraz, Unsplash)

I’m sorry, but that just feels off to me. No amount of fancy philosophical acrobatics can ever erase one glaring reality of the human experience: we resist death. We resist it because somewhere deep inside, we know it is an intruder. We know it’s not meant to be. We know it’s a virus that haunts and plagues us. The Bible states that death is “an enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26) that infiltrated our world through another intruder: sin. The two are intertwined, mysteriously brought into being by the being ha satan (Hebrew for “the adversary” or “accuser”). This alien force is at work in our world. And as soon as it entered, God declared “I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring” (Genesis 3:15).

Few have captured this hostility between humans and death as brilliantly as Welsh poet Dylan Thomas when he wrote:
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

It makes sense then, that from the ages past to our present day, men are at war with death. Be it through rituals, ceremonies, worldviews or, in our present day, technological advances, humans resist death because we know we were made for life.

Fan’s mourn Kobe Bryant’s death, 2020. (Credit: Freddy Kearney)

But there is remarkably good news. The Bible doesn’t simply identify death as an enemy. It also says that death will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26), its victory will be taken away (15:55), and it will be annihilated from the universe forever (Revelation 20:14). The thing that makes this possible is not ritual, ceremony or technology. It’s that God came through, in the person of Jesus and conquered death. He did this by absorbing death into Himself and dying the death that has claimed all men since Adam. The grave thought it had won, but it could not contain Him! Hundreds of years earlier, the prophet Isaiah had already predicted Jesus’ triumph: “He will swallow up death in victory” (Isaiah 25:8) and after His resurrection, the apostle Paul declared, “The saying that is written will come to pass: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55, 56). Because of this great victory, the words of the prophet Hosea will come true: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction” (Hosea 13:14).

In simple terms, Jesus blew the gates of the prison house of death and walked right through it, coming back to life and forever defeating the greatest enemy of the human species. And because He did so, He is the only human to ever live who can promise us the way out. “I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death” (Revelation 1:18). And it is because of this victory, that the story of Scripture ends with a scene that no technology could ever give us. It is a scene of a universe restored to its original design. Death is gone. Suffering is gone. A new era has begun.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,” writes the apostle John, “and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Sign me up for that.

Marcos Torres is a Seventh-day Adventist pastor for the Cockburn and Joondalup churches in Perth, where he lives with his wife and children. He also writes for his own blog, The Story Project.

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