How many of you believe you have eternal life right now? Probably all of us right? Nobody would disagree that once Christ comes to dwell in our hearts and the relationship is restored with God, we receive eternal life so that when we shed this body of flesh, we live on in God's presence. Pretty straight forward.
But did you know that most believers who proclaim that we have eternal life already, actually also believe that we are still waiting for the arrival of what Jesus called "the age to come"?
However the 2 ideas do not fit together. One cannot be true. Look what Jesus said...
“Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—AND IN THE AGE TO COME, ETERNAL LIFE." Mark 10:29-30
Now clearly there was an aspect of "already but not yet" just like we see with numerous other concepts during that 40 year overlapping period when the Old Covenant was fading away and the New Covenant was "about to" be ushered in fully. In a sense those believers already had the promise of eternal life. It was as good as done when they believed. But Jesus makes it clear that ETERNAL LIFE would be the reward to those who were following him. When would they receive that reward? IN THE AGE TO COME.
This is why we see Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 say that at the coming of the Lord the dead would be raised imperishable and the living would be changed to immortal. The eternal life would come when the King brought His Kingdom to earth at the end of the Old age and the beginning of the New age.
This is not the age to come for us but rather it was the age to come for them. They were the ones living at the time of the closing of the first age, the mosaic Old Covenant age. They were right at the door and some would even be still alive when the New Kingdom would fully arrive years later.
Again I refer back to what Paul said when he wrote to the Corinthians around 50-55 ad or so. He is still looking FORWARD to the point when this would happen but he assures them that "not all of them would sleep" (or die physically) before it would happen. He says..
"When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 1 Cor. 15:54
There would come a time in the lifetime of those whom Paul was writing to, where death would truly be defeated. When salvation would fully come. The Kingdom would be opened to receive all those out of Hades. Most importantly for this post, THE LIVING WOULD BE CHANGED FROM MORTAL TO IMMORTAL.
They would receive their "eternal life" at the inauguration of the next age.