If we still die, what does it mean that we have everlasting life?
John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." John 6:47 adds, "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life." But how can we have eternal or everlasting life and still die?
The problem of life and death began in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sinned against God, the resulting judgment included spiritual and physical death for them and their descendants. When Jesus came, died, and resurrected, He paid the price for sin and offered Himself as the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). In John 11:25, He taught, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live."
John 3 speaks about the concept of being born again. In other words, every person is born with a sinful nature and deserves eternal death apart from Christ. However, when a person believes in Jesus Christ, he or she becomes born again into a new life that never ends. Instead of receiving the eternal punishment one deserves, the person now has everlasting life in heaven to anticipate. In fact, 1 John 5:13 speaks of this with certainty, saying, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life."
In 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 we read, "For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him." Those who die as believers in Christ have a future so certain that physical death is referred to as "asleep" (also 1 Thessalonians 4:13).
There will also be many believers who will not die in this life due to the return of Christ at the rapture. First Thessalonians 4:13-18, John 14:1-3, and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 speak of a time when Jesus will return; at any moment He could come to first bring the dead in Christ (the bodies of believers who have already died) to be with Him and then take believers who are alive at that time into the air to be with Him forever. Each of these living believers taken up at the rapture will experience everlasting life that does not involve physical death.
In the end of time, the tree of life will exist in the paradise of God (Revelation 2:7). As 1 Peter 1:3 shares, this is a source of great joy: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
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