Questions of life and death are at the heart of the Gospel. What happens to us when we die? Is there “life” after death? What does that postmortem life look like? In light of one’s belief about the “afterlife,” what is the meaning of this present life?
These are deep, penetrating, and important questions to ask. Christianity answers them with the doctrine of resurrection. It isn’t so much a life “after” death as a life without beginning or end. Resurrection points us to “eternal life,” which by definition couldn’t start at a particular point, or else it wouldn’t be eternal. Resurrection life is much more an entering into what already is, rather than starting something new.
That gives meaning to life in the present time, since Jesus invites people into eternal life right here and now. In John 17, Jesus says a prayer that helps to define what “eternal life” is. He says, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
The Gospel of John, then, defines eternal life as something Jesus gives. And what Jesus gives is knowledge of God.
Can it really be that simple? Is “eternal life” really just a relationship with God, given by Jesus?
In the first “Star Wars” movie, just before Obi-Wan Kenobi is defeated by Darth Vader, Kenobi says, “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” It is a line that is loaded with meaning. And I think it is a fitting description of the resurrection, as well. Resurrection life is undoubtedly “more powerful than we can possibly imagine.”
“Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)