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Eternity begins in the present

"Eternal life" is one of the dominant metaphors in the Fourth Gospel to describe the change in human existence wrought by faith in Jesus (e.g., 3:36; 4:14; 5:24; 6:27; 17:4).  To have eternal life is to live life no longer defined by blood or by the will of the flesh or by human will, but by God (cf.  1:13).  "Eternal" does not mean mere endless duration of human existence, but is a way of describing life as lived in the unending presence of God.  To have eternal life is to be given life as a child of God.  To speak of the newness available to the believer as "eternal life" shifts eschatological expectations to the present.  Eternal life is not something held in abeyance until the believer's future, but begins in the believer's present.

- Gail R. O'Day, New Interpreter's Bible, Luke-John (Abingdon, 1996), p. 552.