Her home until just one week before what would have been her 115th birthday was Okinawa, Japan. And before her death in a care facility on Sunday, Kama Chinen was privileged to see parts of three centuries.
She was born in May of 1895, according to the Gerontology Research Group, which tracks individuals of extremely old age. Because of privacy issues, the family decided to keep the details of her passing to themselves.
Japan has more than 40,000 of the world's centenarians – those who have reached age 100 or more. For some reason, many are from the southern Okinawa region with over 86% of them being women according to an annual report released in September. The United Nations is predicting that Japan's 100-year old population will reach nearly 1 million by the year 2059.
The first thing that enters many people’s minds, as it surely does mine, is the thought of what someone living in three centuries has been able to see. It is hard to fathom the staggering changes in just the last 2 decades much less what 115 years of human progress has brought. What must it have been like to be exposed to 19th century technology versus seeing what is today just commonplace? What must it have been like to see the introduction of the computer or the advancement in transportation on the ground and in the air – not to mention the medical miracles now in place? Then there was also the painful and unpleasant experiences that someone this age lived to witness.
But as amazing as Kama Chinen’s life must have been, including all she was able to see, the only important question now is, what is she seeing right today?
When she took her last breath on earth, was she immediately escorted to heaven according to Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 5:7-8? “For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”
The only other option would be the opposite and terrible one as spoken about in Luke chapter 16. He begins by writing in verse 23, “And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. "Then he cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.' But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us." (Luke 18:23-26)
When anyone dies, regardless of how long they lived, the only issue at that fateful moment is that ‘gulf’ mentioned in Like 16:26. That gulf represents the separation of sinful man from his holy Creator. Ephesians 2:14 describes it in a different form. “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation." There is a great spiritual barrier at birth between all ever born and the God who created them. Sin began with the disobedience of the very first two people on earth and its dreadful effects have remained constant and deadly until this very moment.
When the human soul is separated from its fleshly body, the issue becomes whether or not it has been made spiritually fit through faith and thus able to be transferred into the presence of a holy and just God. The Bible promises that the Creator will rightly judge every individual as inferred by the question asked in Genesis 18:25. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" But the Bible assures that all individuals are born sinners and in need of forgiveness and a change of heart to qualify for heaven.
That supernatural assistance is spelled out in 1 John 2. There, the apostle writes using a legal type of word to reference man’s only Savior. “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins.” (1John 2:1-2) Propitiation carries the basic idea of appeasement, or satisfaction, specifically towards God. It literally means 'to make favorable,' and specifically includes the idea of dealing with God’s wrath against sinners. It literally means 'to make pious' and implies either the removal or cleansing of sin.
Birthdays are always special occasions and few will live to see 114 of them. But the only birthday that really matters, and lasts forever, is the spiritual one described by Jesus in John 3:3. “Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
A few verses later He repeated the concept just to make sure there was no confusion or uncertainty. “Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again." (John 3:6-7)