Eternal life is the life of the age to come. Yesterday we saw that the age to come is the age of the kingdom of God, and eternal life is the life of the kingdom. But there is also another way to speak about the age to come, something else that is an important part of it: The age to come is the age of the resurrection of the righteous. This was the Jewish expectation. It is spoken of in Daniel 12:2, of the time when “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life [zoen aionion in the Septuagint], some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
When Lazarus died, Jesus said to his sister Martha, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” She was expressing the Jewish hope about the age to come. Taking up that point of expectation, Jesus responded with a startling revelation about Himself: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:23-26).
Jesus Himself is the resurrection life of the age to come, and all who believe in Him shall live. But this life does not begin sometime in the future — it begins now. Jesus said,
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. (John 5:24-25)“The hour is coming and now is,” He said, when those who hear His voice will live. This is resurrection life at work even in this present time. Even so, there is also another resurrection coming, the resurrection of the body. Jesus went on to say,
Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:28-29)We can hear the echo of Daniel 12:2, that some will wake to everlasting life and others to everlasting contempt. However, that hour, the hour for the resurrection of the body from the grave, is coming but is not yet here. Even so, resurrection life, the life of the age to come, is already at work in us. Paul said, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).
In his letter to the believers at Ephesus, Paul prayed that they might know “what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:19-20). Paul went on to say that God has “made us alive together with Christ … and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5-6). This is not future promise but present reality. It is resurrection life now, the age to come breaking into this present age. In Ephesians 3, Paul wrote that God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” The “power that works in us” in Ephesians 3:20 is the same power mentioned in Ephesians 1:19, the power that raised Jesus from the dead.
Indeed, this resurrection life that we have now (and the coming resurrection of the body) is the resurrection life of the Lord Jesus Himself. He is called the “firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18). Because He lives, we live, partaking of His life. Paul spoke of the “mystery” of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). This is the reality Paul himself confessed, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith I the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
This is eternal life, the life of the resurrection. It is the life of the risen Jesus and belongs to all those who belong to Him. It begins now and lasts forever.