“If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord”. Romans 14:8
“Life is the fruit of Eden’s Loftiest tree, whose ripened fruit is immortality.” - Martha L Hoffman.
The DNA molecule is called the secret of life. Just as DNA holds the key to life and its intricate processes, it also plays a significant role in death or the intricate tapestry of mortality. Within the depths of DNA reside genes, which govern our existence and carry the potential for our eventual demise within them. For example, a suicide gene can trigger “programmed cell death” called apoptosis which occurs in almost all living organisms normally during early embryonic development and in normal aging. In the nematode worm Caenorhabditis Elegans, which measures about 1 mm in length, scientists have discovered over 12 genes ("apoptogenes” ) that are involved in controlling the process of apoptosis. Additionally, they have identified a gene family called CISD that plays a crucial role in regulating this suicidal pathway. These genes govern the decision of individual cells whether to live or die and execute the death sentence in a cell that has decided to commit suicide. One fundamental element in inducing cell suicide in humans is the p53 gene (tumor suppressor gene) that codes for a p53 protein called a “cellular switch.” Stimulation or introduction of suicidal genes into cancer, especially through targeted gene therapy, may lead to a potential cure for cancer, where a cancer cell divides when and where it should not.
LET US PONDER
While apoptosis primarily focuses on the death of individual cells, it's important to acknowledge that our genes play a crucial role in the aging process and our vulnerability to certain diseases, ultimately contributing to our mortality. Given that genes influence cellular death, it is plausible to consider that similar genetic factors could impact the overall outcome of an organism’s death. Moreover, it is reasonable to assume that as technology advances, the potential discovery of 'death genes' is not excluded. Analyzing post-mortem samples has shown that numerous genes become activated within hours and days and get their postmortem reawakening. Among them are genes that have remained dormant since early developmental stages, lying dormant throughout our adult lives. Could the secret of “death genes” be hidden among these genes or somewhere else? Is postmortem reawakening informing us of our time of death or reminding us of the words of Jeremiah (“Behold I set before you the way of life and the way of death. Jeremiah 21:8)? What causes genes to become active and "sparkle"after an individual's death? With the establishment of a comprehensive human genome database and advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), it may become feasible to identify death genes associated with aging and mortality. The field of gene editing offers the means to modify these genes leading to a state of indefinite longevity, accompanied by the preservation of youthful vigor and vitality. If so, what will happen to the words of God in Genesis 3:3, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.” Could God become irrelevant? From a Christian perspective, death entered the world due to humanity's disobedience to God (Genesis 2:17, Romans 5:12), and all humans inherit a fallen nature, including physical and spiritual consequences such as sickness, aging, and eventual death. But belief in the resurrection and eternal life through Jesus Christ (John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 15:22) gives us comfort and hope in the assurance that physical death is not the end but a transition into an eternal relationship with God. While “death genes” may remind us of our mortality, they cannot execute the death sentence on us, for our hope is in the risen Savior, and we can take comfort in the assurance of a life that transcends the constraints of our earthly existence, through the grace of Jesus Christ.