This last week I heard on the Moody station that we listen to (KMBI) that the life expectancy in the United States has declined each year for the past three years. You would think with all our medical advancements and available hospitals and clinics that longevity would continue to increase, but, because of increasing rates of suicide, mental illness, drug overdoses, homicides and mass shootings, the average expected lifespan in our country has actually decreased for three consecutive years. And that doesn’t take into account the millions of babies that are aborted, since our society doesn’t consider those as lives taken before birth.
Actuarial Science studies and helps to determine life expectancy and creates an “Actuarial Table” (or “Mortality Table”) which shows for each age, what the probability is that a person of that age will die before their next birthday. Life insurance companies determine their rates based on these table.There are a number of factors which obviously have an affect on life expectancy, things such as where you live, what you eat, whether or not you get regular rest and exercise, and of course your DNA—what you have had passed on to you by your ancestors.
It is interesting to look at life expectancies in recorded history. When we go back to time between creation and the Flood, when the earth existed in a sort of terrarium effect with a vapor canopy to protect from harmful suns rays, the average life expectancy of those mentioned in Scripture was 912 years! Methuselah lived the longest at 969—wow! The universal Flood which God sent to judge the earth because of the wickedness (Gen. 6:5) was caused by the deluge of rain upon earth from the vapor canopy dispelling and fountains of the deep breaking loose (Gen. 7:11,12,19,20). The new generations that populated the earth through Noah’s three sons and their wives experienced a much harsher world of seasons and weather changes, including an ice age. Life became much more difficult and there was no longer the vapor canopy to protect from the sun’s rays, and life expectancy dropped drastically to approximately 120.
As the curse on the earth and the affects of sin on the human body continued to take a toll, life expectancy dropped to what Moses wrote in the oldest of the Psalms and the only one credited to him: “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away” (Psa. 90:10). Interestingly, several millennia later, we are still in that same range of life expectancy. One factor I failed to mentioned in the above list of things that affect how long we live is that it is ultimately God who determines our lifespan. Job, a contemporary of Abraham, wrote: “Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil. Like a flower he comes forth and withers. He also flees like a shadow and doesn’t remain…Since his days are determined, the number of his months is with Thee, and his limits Thou hast set so that he cannot pass” (Job. 14:1,2,5). In the New Testament, the author of the book of Hebrews writes “Inasmuch as it appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27).
Each of us has an appointment with death and we won’t be early or late! God has set a boundary on the length of each life. That doesn’t mean we should be careless or reckless with our lives and our bodies, for we are the temples of God on this earth (I Cor. 3:16; 6:19,20) and are to be good stewards of the bodies God has given us as His dwelling place. In His Psalm, Moses went on to say, “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom” (Psa. 90:12). The Apostle Paul, in his challenge to the believers at Ephesus, wrote: “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is (and do it!)” (Eph. 5:15-17).
As a pastor for nearly four decades, I conducted many funerals and graveside services and observed that death is no respecter of age. I was involved in services for a pre-born and for those who made the century mark and nearly every age in-between. Although, as someone—it may have been Bob Hope—said, “If you make it to 100, you’ve got it made, for not many die over a 100!” (that’s true, because not many get there!).
You could go to an “Actuarial Table” to see what the probability is that you will live until your next birthday, but the bottom line is, only God knows and He has determined the number of your days. The important thing is that you be ready to meet the Lord at any time, for you are not even promised tomorrow. For many—maybe even some receiving this—this could be your last year or even last day day in your earthly body. And don’t forget that one minute after you die it is too late to decide your eternal destiny. That’s a decision you need to make now. If you have not done so, I urge you to consider that “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life and He who has not the Son of God does not have the life” (I Jn. 5:11,12).
At Christmas we exchange gifts with those we love, because we are celebrating the greatest Gift ever given when “God so loved the world (you and me) that He gave (us) His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). Eternal life is in a Person, Jesus Christ, God’s gift to us. Have you received Him? If so, you can “know that you have eternal life” (I Jn. 5:13).