Many passages seem to suggest that one becomes born again and obtains eternal life on this side of eternity (before death).
For example, regarding eternal life, the Apostle John said:
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
[John 5:24 ESV]
36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
[John 3:36 ESV]
11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
[1 John 5:11-12 ESV]
Notice how John seems to refer to eternal life as a present reality that we already possess, right now, if we have believed in the Son of God.
John Piper arrives at a similar conclusion:
Stage 5: We Have Eternal Life Now
In believing we have eternal life NOW, not just in the future.
In John 5:24 Jesus says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life [not "will have" but "has"—now!], and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." In other words eternal life is not something you wait for after death. It is something you have NOW if you are believing in Jesus.
Believing is the link that unites us with the life of God in Christ now. If we have Christ, we have his life now. And his life is eternal.
Stage 7: Not Interrupted at Death
Eternal life is not interrupted at death.
In John 11:25–26 Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die." I think what he means is this: Everyone who has eternal life by faith will never have that life stripped away from him; even if he dies, he will live. Physical death will not turn eternal life into temporary life.
John 17:3 sheds further light on the true meaning and implications of eternal life:
3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
[John 17:3 ESV]
Eternal life thus entails knowing both God and His Son, Jesus Christ. But then John explains to us in other passages what it means to know God and how this knowing happens in this life. If we know God in this life, then from John 17:3 it would seem to follow that we also obtain eternal life in this life:
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
[1 John 4:7-12 ESV]
23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
[John 14:23 ESV]
Similarly, regarding spiritual rebirth, Peter said (note the present & present perfect tenses):
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
[1 Peter 1:3-5]
20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
2 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;
[1 Peter 1:20-23]
And a similar idea was expressed by the Apostle Paul (once again, note the present & present perfect tenses)
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
[2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV]
10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
[Romans 6:10-13 ESV]
According to Christian mortalists (a.k.a. 'Soul sleep' advocates):
- Are we born again in this life?
- Does eternal life begin in this life?
- If so, what happens when we die? Does eternal life continue while we are physically dead (i.e. between death and the resurrection)? Can a Christian be dead (biologically/physically) and have eternal life simultaneously?
- Does eternal life begin in this life, stop when we die and resume when we are resurrected? If so, how can it be eternal if it has gaps?