What does Jesus mean by "age" and "age to come"?
Jesus is speaking to his students and followers. And he is speaking of their particular lives.
Here is the same statement, translated in the Gospels of Jesus:
“Truly I tell you, no one who has left home, wife, brothers, parents or children for the sake of the sanctuary of God – will not fail to receive many times as much – whether in this lifetime or in the eternal lifetime to come." (Luke 18:29-30)The central difference in the translation lies with the translation of the Greek word αἰών (aiōn) to "lifetime" instead of "age." Certainly, the Greek word can mean "age." But it can also mean "period of time" according to the lexicon. What period of time or age is Jesus speaking of as he speaks to his followers?
He is speaking of their lifetimes. First, the period of time that his followers spend within their physical bodies. The span of time where the spirit-person - the soul - spends trapped within a physical body is referred to as a lifetime.
Let's say for example, that a person commits a crime and gets sentenced to 'life in prison without parole.' The person will live out the rest of their lifetime in prison, right?
But what about the afterlife? Will they be in prison then? No, since the prison is designed to lock up the physical body. The spirit-person within is not the physical body. So once the prisoner's body dies, the spirit-person leaves the body - and thus also leaves the prison.
So what is the "eternal lifetime to come" all about then?
Jesus is speaking of the spiritual realm.
The spiritual realm is considered the "eternal lifetime to come" because the spirit-person is eternal. And the spiritual realm is the home of the spirit-person.
The spiritual realm is also the home of the Supreme Being. And because we are intimately related to the Supreme Being - those who return to the spiritual realm are also returning to their particular type of loving relationship with God.
Remember that Jesus is speaking directly with his followers here - his students and disciples. He is not speaking in general to strangers or a big crowd. Jesus is responding directly to Peter's statement:
Peter said to him, "We have left all we had to follow you!" (Luke 18:28)We can also understand from this exchange between Peter and Jesus that family life was not the prime teaching of Jesus - as proposed by many sectarian teachers. Jesus is speaking of his followers leaving their homes to follow him. He is speaking of their leaving their wives, their brothers, their sisters, their parents - even their children behind and following him.
This was also communicated multiple times by Jesus in different situations. Here are two of them:
He said to another man, "Follow me." But he replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family."
Jesus replied, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:59-62)
What about the importance of family?
Contrasting with today's sectarian teachers that preach the importance of family, Jesus was encouraging his potential students to leave their homes and their families and even their occupations to follow him - and then take up their own preaching. Jesus was further suggesting that a person who "looks back" will not be "fit for service in the kingdom of God." What does he mean?
Jesus is speaking of his students starting to follow him and then simply returning home to their families and their occupations - their materialistic lives.
Jesus is asking his followers to commit their lives to following him and serving God.
While leaving home and family doesn't necessarily apply to us because Jesus is not walking the earth now, this teaching is important because Jesus is speaking of devotion. Becoming devoted to the Supreme Being means commitment.
Jesus was asking for their commitment.
Commitment is what it takes to return to our relationship with the Supreme Being. Why?
Let's say for example that a boy is dating around - he's dating different girls. But then there is one particular girl who he likes a lot and is more serious about.
What will she tell him? She will tell him that if he is serious about her, then stop dating all the other girls.
Why? Because this is what relationships are about. They are about commitment. When a person becomes serious about a particular relationship with a particular person, commitment is required.
Otherwise, how can there be a serious relationship? It will be a joke of a relationship if there is no commitment.
Jesus is speaking of this sort of commitment because he is trying to guide his students back to their respective relationships with the Supreme Being. And this is the first test of their seriousness - to leave their homes and family and follow Jesus.
Peter is illustrating this sort of commitment in his statement, and Jesus is illustrating this commitment in his own response to Peter. They both communicate that commitment is required, and Jesus points out that there is a reward for such commitment in the form of returning to one's relationship with the Supreme Being - not only in this lifetime but in the lifetime following their leaving the physical body at the time of death.
This means that one can be loving the Supreme Being and exchange a loving service relationship with Him even when we are living in the physical world.
It is all about exchanging a loving relationship with God. This is Jesus' primary teaching:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’" (Luke 10:27)Consider carefully the words: "all your heart" - "all your soul" - "all your strength" - "all your mind." Are these not the very substance of commitment?