Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
~ John 17:1-5
For most of us, life after death is an abstraction. Atheists don’t believe in it at all – there is death, and then there is nothing. But for people of faith, most any faith, the afterlife is a component of belief. Some believe in a cyclical afterlife of reincarnation that rewards or punishes our past lives.
Others, including Christians, believe that we will have actual bodies in a physical place. Even within Christianity there is disagreement as to the precise nature of our lives in the hereafter, but for those orthodox among us – it is characterized primarily by fellowship with God. As the Apostle Paul puts it, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face.” I Corinthians 13:12
It is important to note, though, that there is a difference between afterlife, what happens after we die, and eternal life, which has already begun. Jesus defines that eternal life here pretty simply – “this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
In this phrase he’s not describing how we attain eternal life, he covers that elsewhere in the Book of John where he says that whosoever believes in him shall have eternal life (John 3:16). No, here he is defining eternal life. It’s not simply living forever, it’s knowing God forever.
Lord God, thank you that my eternal life has begun, and let me know you better every day. Amen.
~ Steven Peterson