There are microbes that function as parasites and in the process challenge the human immune system. Pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms can cause disease when our immune system and defense mechanism do not effectively prevent viruses from invading cells, reproducing and spreading destruction in the body.
The immune system is a fascinating and highly sophisticated, internal, built-in mechanism to defend the integrity and equilibrium of the human body (homeostasis). It necessarily and efficiently participates in the maintenance of physical health. The human body can defend itself from invading viruses that bring death and destruction of our cells. God’s grace found a way to limit the damages of the intrusion of what the Bible calls sin.
There are boundaries the merciful God has put into place so that the way of death would not speedily overwhelm the whole of life. There come cells working in favor of our health.
Among them, antibodies or immunoglobins are proteins produced by B cells of the immune system in response to the invading microbes. They thereby play a vital role in the process of preventing the collapse or death of human cells, and subsequently of the whole organism. They normally repel the invading microbe and secure the good functioning of the various systems in the human body, examples of which are the respiratory, circulatory, digestive, and nervous endocrine system. The role of antibodies is to mark foreign elements that invade the system in such a way that they can be identified and neutralized and destroyed. A fitting example to illustrate their importance is demonstrated in the various blood types.
The antibodies produced by our human body specialize in identifying blood types different from ours and triggering the reaction of our immune system and destruction of the incompatible blood type/group. This explains why we can receive blood safely only when it is compatible with our own specific blood type.1
A and B type red blood cells, for example, display A and B antigens on the cell surface, respectively, while O type cells do not display any antigens. A and B type blood also contains antibodies against B and A type blood, respectively. Thus, if a person with B type blood were to be given a transfusion of A type blood, the antibodies that the B type person holds would bind to the A blood antigens, calling the immune system to attack the transfused blood. Since blood type O has no antigens, it can therefore be given to persons having any blood type. People with this blood type are universal donors, if they choose to be.
Our body cells are amazingly equipped to fight the good fight of keeping us healthy. Aging, however, shows that the fight can last only so long. Death, though not having the last word, still lingers for the moment. Trust in the faithfulness of God to keep the promises recorded in the Bible keeps our hope alive even while being surrounded by death or even inhabited by death. The goodness of God manifests itself even under the adverse circumstances of life as currently experienced in our internal conflict zone.
Inside the human body, cells that are infected may end up dying (apoptosis), to prevent viruses from living and replicating as parasites in other cells There are different kinds of cell death. Accurate information on this is readily available in cell biology textbooks, monographs, and literally millions of scientific papers.
The Pervasive Controversy in All Facets of Human Experience
The current coronavirus pandemic has brought to the fore the controversy between life and death, not as an abstract reality but as an existential one, in fact, inside the human body. Lives are lost as viruses cause disease, suffering, and death. Personal protective equipment, vaccinations, and even herd immunity only delay the time when the brain neurones cease to function. Death is the common human experience. The good news is that it does not have the last word. Death itself will be defeated. Humans will be delivered once and for all from its grip. The story is, in fact, a story of freedom: It goes as follows:
In the book of Genesis, God promised that that the evil one will be defeated. The agent of such victory is the “seed of the woman,” a designation understood in Christian circles as referring to the Messiah (see Gen. 3:15).2
God made a promise in the book of Isaiah that the time will come when there will be war no more (see Isa. 2:4). God also promised that the reign of the Messiah, also called the Branch, the One who has the fullness of the Spirit, will be characterized by peace, justice, and righteousness. There will be no more hurt or destruction because “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9).
The Good News
The cosmic war, as well as national, ethnic, tribal, and international wars, will cease. The cosmic war that the apostle reminded us of will come to an end. He wrote, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). The wars among nations will also come to an end. Isaiah recorded that “nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war” (Isa. 2:4).
The existential war within human beings will come to an end. After his plea for deliverance from the internal battle between the spirit and the flesh, the apostle Paul exclaimed: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin” (Rom. 7:25). The ultimate resolution of this inner battle will occur at the Second Coming with the gift of an incorruptible body.
The wars within the human body, in the microcosmic internal world, will also cease.
There will be no more disease, corruption, and death. The maledictions or curses recorded in Genesis will finally be reversed. Direct access to God and direct fellowship will be restored. Impassibility, the immunity against suffering, will be granted. Immortality will become a reality again. No more death in the macrocosm or in the microcosm worlds. Harmful viruses, bacteria, and microbes will give way to universal life carriers to maintain harmony. No more evil, evil functions, and evil actions. Life will prevail and remain undisturbed.
God’s love and mercy in not allowing the consequences of our earlier parents’ choice to completely destroy and obliterate life on planet earth, are the root of our hope and confidence that all controversies will cease.
The second coming of Jesus will bring the advent of life. To this, we invite the whole human family. God is not a monster taking pleasure in death. God is the God of life and love. But love cannot materialize without choice. The adverse effect of having made a choice to expel God from God’s creation brought in the mutation and intrusion of viruses and bad bacteria that bring death and destruction.
This too shall end. Death will meet its last moment when it will be canceled forever. Suffering will not be eternal, otherwise evil would win. Corruption will be succeeded by incorruptibility. The promise of receiving incorruptible bodies is firm, according to the apostle Paul’s beautiful resurrection message: “When this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54-57).
The best attitude, born of a deep benevolence and disposition that stem from God’s heart, is to model God’s empathy, compassion, identification, solidarity, and love. God did not just from a distance say, “He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors him” (Prov. 14:31). God came to identify with the human family. Jesus spoke the following words: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40, NIV3). And again, He identifies with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner (see verses 35, 36).
God joined our human predicament and fight against suffering and death. His incarnation demonstrated His identification and solidarity with the human family. God wants all people to be saved from disease, disability, and death. Jesus came in human flesh in the heat of the struggle against evil. In fact, God came to an occupied territory, the world, His legitimate kingdom, of which it is said that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one (see 1 John 5:19). Jesus is coming to liberate His creation from being occupied by forces of death. He is coming to complete the ultimate defeat of all enemies of life.
To all those who have lost loved ones, lift up your head, for deliverance is on its way.
God will turn all battlefields into gardens of freedom, peace, fellowship, and everlasting joy.
Lord Jesus, come and restore Your world to freedom, peace, and harmony, a new kingdom, a new world, where all will abide in Your love. We, on our end, wait in faith and hope and love.
Maranatha, the Lord is coming soon, according to His promise.
1 See the self-explanatory graphic in Dee Unglaub Silverthorn. Human Physiology: An Integrated Approach, revised 7th Edition, p. 800. See also Bruce Albert, Alexander Johnson, Julia Lewis, David Morgan, Martin Raff, Keith Robert, and Peter Walter, Molecular Biology of the Cell (New York: Garland Science, Taylor & Francis group, 2015). In the preface of the book it is noted that between the previous edition and this one there were more than five million scientific papers published on the topic. See also, a fascinating resource: S. Jane Flint, Vincent R. Racaniello (author), Glenn F. Rall (author), and Anna Marie Skalka, Principles of Virology (ASM Books), 4th Edition (Washington, D.C.: American Society for Microbiology, 2015).
Ganoune Diop, Ph.D. is director of the General Conference Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department, general secretary of the International Religious Liberty Association, and secretary of the Conference of Secretaries of the Christian World Communions.