Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40
On the Resurrection of the Dead
One of the many doctrines that sets Christianity apart from all manmade, earthly religions is the resurrection of the dead. Christians know that Christ rose bodily from the dead, but some don’t know (or at least speak as if they don’t) that Christ rose so that we too may rise from the dead bodily. The Apostle Paul writes all about this in 1 Corinthians 15. Almost every religion, both ancient and modern, speaks of the immortality of the soul. And Christians also believe that the soul has been so endowed by God; but the Christian faith also teaches that on the last day, the bodies of the dead rise, some to eternal punishment and others to eternal felicity. This doctrine was even taught in the first five (Mosaic) books, as we shall soon see.
The Sadducees were the ruling class. They only accepted the first five books of the Old Testament, whereas every other Jew in Jesus’ day accepted all of them. These rejected the doctrine of the resurrection as they felt it was not in those Mosaic books. So they ask Jesus a rather ridiculous question about this teaching. They use the illustration of a man who dies and leaves a wife, who is then taken by his brother who dies, and so is then taken by a third brother who dies, down to the seventh until both he and the woman die, all childless. This describes a rather improbable scenario of what is called “levirate marriage,” in which a brother was to marry his dead brother’s wife if he died childless, that he might perpetuate his brother’s name by having a son by her (Deuteronomy 25:5-10; also see Genesis 38:6-11 & Ruth 4). It also provided protection for a widow in a day when widowhood could be harsh. They then ask Jesus whose wife she will be in the resurrection since all seven had her. Jesus’ practically scolds them: “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” And then Jesus explains that in the resurrection (to eternal life) there is no institution of marriage for the simple reason that the risen no longer die. In other words, there is no need to raise up offspring. And since we are there married to the Lamb and in perfect fellowship with one another, there is no need of a unique relationship with someone else. Marriage is a blessing in this life only, in which we are married till death. Instead, we will be like the angels, not that we become angels (we and they are two different kinds of beings, Hebrews 1:14; 2:16), but that, like them, we shall be immortal. And Jesus finishes off the argument in a way that even surprises us: God told Moses that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who had long since died before the birth of Moses (Exodus 3:6). But since God is God only of the living, though having died on earth, they lived before Him – and so shall we.