Question: "How can it be said that we have everlasting life when we still die?"
Answer: The Word of God assures us that all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will have everlasting life (John 3:16; 6:47; 1 John 5:13). The Greek word translated “everlasting” means “perpetual, eternal, forever.” Perhaps the wordperpetual best explains the biblical concept of everlasting life; it is life that, once begun, continues perpetually into eternity. This speaks to the idea that man’s life is not merely physical. Rather, the true life of human beings is spiritual, and while the physical life ends, the spiritual continues throughout eternity. It is perpetual.
When God created Adam and Eve, He put them in the Garden with the tree of life, intending that they would live joyously forever, both physically and spiritually, but they sinned and brought physical and spiritual death to themselves and to all subsequent generations (Romans 5:12–14). God then sent Adam and Eve from the Garden and stationed cherubim to guard the way to the tree of life, and He did so because in His mercy He did not want man to live forever under the weight of sin. But sin must be punished and the only acceptable punishment to a holy God is everlasting punishment (Mark 9:43–44). However, our merciful God sent His Son as a perfect sacrifice to suffer, once for all time, the punishment due mankind for sin, thereby providing a perfect way to the tree of life for anyone and everyone who believes in Him (1 John 5:12; Revelation 22:14).
We receive everlasting life by dying to our own efforts and receiving Christ Jesus into our hearts as our Lord and Savior, and, when we do, we are instantly reborn and made alive in Christ. We may not feel any immediate change, but there has in fact been a rebirth in the heart (John 3:6–7), and we are now free of the fear of death; we have the promise of God that we will never die spiritually, but instead will live forever with our Lord Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:9–10). Later, when we die physically, our soul will immediately be with the Lord, and still later, when He returns, the Lord will resurrect our bodies to meet Him in the air. As for those Christians who are alive at His return, their bodies will be changed “in the twinkle of an eye,” and they will not experience even physical death (1 Corinthians 15:51–52).
Jesus Christ instructed the Apostle John to write the last book of the Bible, and therein we again read about the tree of life: “To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God'” (Revelation 2:7b). The tree of life in Revelation is symbolic of Jesus Christ. It is in Christ that all Christians trust, and it is in God’s power that we rest, assured of our everlasting life (1 Peter 1:3–5). The one true God who created all things, including life and death and rebirth, will keep His Word. Our God is all-powerful and full of grace and truth (John 1:14), and He wants us to know that our eternal state is assured: Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies” (John 11:25).
Recommended Resources: Heaven by Randy Alcorn and Logos Bible Software.