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Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Fountain of youth

There is a way, but only one, to live forever

Issue: "Millions cut down," Jan. 17, 2009

You do not have to wait long to hear exhortations to care for your health and your looks. Yes, most of us need more exercise than what we are getting. And, yes, we eat too much junk food. But at the other extreme lies the cult of the body, the cult of youthful beauty. Young Hollywood stars become the model for all-American good looks. Our preoccupation with our body becomes self-indulgent. We get trapped into worshipping one more American idol.

Do you remember Ponce de León? The only thing I remember about him was that he wandered around Florida looking for the Fountain of Youth. The link between him and the Fountain of Youth is probably a later invention. But it sticks in the mind because the idea of the Fountain of Youth is so striking. Might there be, somewhere in an obscure part of the world, a water source that you could drink from or bathe in to make you perpetually youthful, perpetually healthy? A fond desire, no? We Americans, with our love for youth and our avoidance of death, find ourselves strangely attracted to the idea.

Modern people know too well that a real-life Fountain of Youth could not possibly exist. From our vantage point, Ponce de León's search looks foolish rather than heroic. We have given up hope; but the idea continues to fascinate us. Even if we no longer hope for eternal life, we still long for it. A film like Cocoon, within a science-fiction setting, can imagine invigorating waters being discovered-in Florida, naturally. It gets our attention because it expresses our secret longings.

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These longings are not surprising. God made us for Himself. In the beginning He made us for eternal life in His presence. Human death is an intrusion, coming in because of sin (Romans 5:12; 6:23). Our bodily illnesses and the decay from youthful vigor signal on a small scale the coming of the ultimate dissolution in death itself.

Is there a remedy? Yes, eternal life is not only possible, but accessible. But it comes in God's way, not man's way. The millions would flock to Florida if the news media gave a credible report about the discovery of youth-restoring water. But God's way is not even news. People don't believe it, not because it isn't true, not because we do not have abundant evidence for the resurrection of Christ, but because it does not fit contemporary expectations or people's hardened hearts. What folly!

Centuries ago a lonely, unfit, aging woman, with five wrecked marriages in her past, found the real Fountain of Youth. What she found got written down. Anyone who cares can read it. Ponce de León did not need to go to Florida, but only to read the Bible:

Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water. . . . Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:10, 14).

Ask Jesus, who has been raised from the dead and who is alive with eternal life today. He will give you the water of eternal life, namely His own Spirit (John 7:37-39). He promises, "Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die" (John 11:25-26). You will live forever.

Vern S. Poythress
Vern S. Poythress

Vern is professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

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