Age of Grace

The world's oldest person, a 115-year-old American woman named Gertrude Baines, died in September 2009. According to the Gerontology Research Group (GRG), the leading authority on "supercentenarians," the world's oldest living person now is Kama Chinen, a 114-year-old Japanese woman. The oldest verified person in history was Jeanne Calment who died in 1997 at the age of 122 years and 164 days old. A GRG spokesperson said, "Anything over 120 is extremely unusual."

Long ago, God said, "In the future, [people's] normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years" (Genesis 6:3). The fact that it's rare for humans to live beyond 120 years today is a reminder of God's judgment on an increasingly corrupt and evil world (vv.5,11).

Some scholars say that the number 120 signifies the gradually implemented new age limit for humans. After the flood, the recorded ages declined steadily, but considerably, from the 900s (5:4-20) to the 120s. Abraham, 10 generations from Noah (11:10-26), lived to be 175 (25:7); Isaac, 180 (35:28); Jacob, 147 (47:28). Joseph lived 110 years (50:26) and Moses died at 120 (Deut. 34:7).

Other scholars say that the 120 years represents a period of grace that existed prior to God unleashing His wrath on His sinning creation. Of this 120 years of grace, Peter says that "God waited patiently while Noah was building His boat. . . . He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent" (1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:9). Yet, our 120-year mortality cap is a grim warning that it's possible for people to reach the point of no return and then to face God's judgment. Instead of presuming on His grace, let's repent of our sinfulness today. , K.T. Sim

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