What does eternal life mean

Eternal life

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Christian ideas about the afterlife

People notice a lot at birth: genes, talents and behaviors. But life is much more than that: experiences, hopes, disappointments and dreams. What will become of it in the end? Will all of this also be dissolved by bacteria and fungi - goodbye?

From the shadow realm to the museum

In many cultures the dead should always be cared for for a life in the hereafter - with everyday objects and food, jewelry and weapons. The ancient Egyptians, whose religion revolved heavily around life after death, were unsurpassed. This life was imagined as a kind of continuation of earth life, albeit in a shadowy realm in the dark, somewhere under the earth. Many museums today live excellently from what the graves revealed unused after thousands of years.

Life and death from God's hand

In ancient Israel, the question of a life after death was of little interest for a long time. Eternal life was only due to God as the creator of life itself. He alone had the power to take people's lives again. “The Lord gave it, the Lord has taken it, the name of the Lord be praised!” Says the pious Job in the Old Testament, who was subjected to terrible trials (Job chapter 1, verse 21). Life comes from God and it goes back there like going home. “My home is in heaven,” some Christians still say today.

There must be differences

But people have always had the tendency to project into the hereafter what originated on earth: good is rewarded and bad is punished. That's how you wanted to see the world. And if it didn't work out on earth, then the final reckoning should at least take place in heaven - above all as a reward for the pious: eternal life in God's light. Probably those who considered themselves pious thought about it. People are like that. But the opposite direction was also obvious: eternal distance from God as condemnation and punishment in the realm of shadows deep under the earth. Hellfire, horned goat-footed devils and boiling oil were added later as deterrents.

Marriage even after death?

Only: Nobody really knows what will be after death. Nevertheless, the people of Jesus' day also concerned themselves with the question of whether there was life after death. The Sadducees group, for example, considered this to be absurd. They confronted Jesus with a tricky case: “There were seven brothers with us. The first married and died; and because he had no offspring, he left his wife to his brother; likewise the second and the third up to the seventh. Last of all, the woman died. ”Then the Sadducees ask the real question:“ Now in the resurrection: whose wife will she be of these seven? You all had it. "

Like the angels in heaven

If there is a resurrection of the dead, this family in heaven should be in a mess - one woman and seven men. Does Jesus agree that eternal life is an unbelievable idea?
Jesus answered them: “You are wrong because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they will neither marry nor allow themselves to be married, but are like angels in heaven ”(Matthew chapter 22, verse 30)

Outside of our imagination

In everything, eternity is very different from life in this world. Our small orders and our narrow ideas no longer count there and even marriage is nothing in heaven: “You are like the angels”, not man, not woman, maybe even without a figure.


After Jesus' death and his return to life, as has often been attested, he himself became the bearer of hope for Christians: death no longer has the last word. The apostle Paul literally knocked this on the ears of the - apparently more this-minded - church in Corinth when he wrote: "If we only hope in Christ in this life, we are the most miserable of all people" (1 Corinthians chapter 15, Verse 19). Too German: Otherwise you can leave it alone!

Transit: where all thoughts fail

Maybe that's the core. But all the images that we have in mind about a life beyond death come from this world and are therefore guaranteed to be wrong. A medieval legend tells of two monks who wanted to know exactly. They had agreed, and the one who died first appeared to the other the next night. "Qualiter?" - how is it over there - asked, as agreed, the survivor. “Taliter” - as we thought it would - or “aliter” - different - the deceased should answer. But he just said with a smile: “Totaliter aliter” - completely different.

To God

Surprisingly, even among representatives of the Church, the question of life beyond the death line is sometimes treated like a secret, classified information and, if need be, described verbatim. If you don't know anything, the motto seems to be to keep a low profile. No wrong word, please. Also on the run? There are correct words. For example, the age-old farewell word from our French neighbors, which has been preserved in Baden and Swabian in “Adé!”. "A dieu!" It actually means: "To God!"