Then Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead. They posed this question: “Teacher, Moses gave us a law that if a man dies, leaving a wife but no children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name. Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children. So the second brother married the widow, but he also died. Then the third brother married her. This continued with all seven of them, who died without children. Finally, the woman also died. So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her!” Jesus replied, “Marriage is for people here on earth. But in the age to come, those worthy of being raised from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage. And they will never die again. In this respect they will be like angels. They are children of God and children of the resurrection. But now, as to whether the dead will be raised—even Moses proved this when he wrote about the burning bush. Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, he referred to the Lord as ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ So He is the God of the living, not the dead, for they are all alive to Him.” “Well said, Teacher!” remarked some of the teachers of religious law who were standing there.Luke 20:27-39
Some of you have commented that I haven’t used the accounts of Matthew and Mark in comparison with Luke. I don’t profess to cover all the bases, all the time in all ways possible. There is always more you can do. I have to leave something for you to do (my tongue is now in my cheek).
What a fascinating answer Jesus gave! So much so that they respond with “Well said teacher.”
- What does that mean and who said it?
- Was that a sincere response or not?
We will find out as we investigate this passage. Let’s make a start on Jesus’ answer.
- The NLT translation gives us: “Marriage is for people here on earth.”
- The LIT Version is translated “The sons of this world marry and are given in marriage.”
The sons of this [aion] – where [aion] means “age” or “world”. Notice the “sons of this age” are contrasted with the “age to come”. There is “this present age” or “this present world” and then there is the “age to come” or the “world to come”. There is a marked difference “this side” of the resurrection compared with “that side” of the resurrection. The NLT tells us marriage is for people on earth. Literally, Jesus said the sons marry and are given in marriage. Men marry and women are given in marriage. I.e. daughters given in marriage by their parents to the groom-to-be. So “the sons of this age” refers to men and women – the sons and daughters. It refers to all people on earth at this time – before the coming of the Age to Come.
Notice, next Jesus says: In the Age to Come those worthy of being raised from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage. Note: not all the dead are worthy of being raised. The Kingdom of God and the Age to Come belongs to the sons and daughters of God. Those who have been forgiven through repentance and have the righteousness of God through faith in Christ. Those are the ones who are raised from the dead in the first instance. The “other dead” will be raised to face the judgment seat of Christ. Jesus is talking here about those who God considers worthy. Not all will enter into the Age to Come in the sense of a universalist view. The Age to Come and Heaven is only for those who have been given the righteousness of Christ. Your own righteousness is not sufficient. You will never work your way into heaven. You can only get there through Christ after you have been given the Righteousness of God.
Now we come to a very significant statement. In the Age to Come those who are called and judged worthy, don’t marry nor are given in marriage.
Does that shock you? I remember when I first saw that verse I was shocked. God, do you mean I will not be married to Tania in heaven? I will not be married at all? Well, that solves the problem for those who have had multiple spouses doesn’t it? Hence, this totally disarms the argument of the Sadducees. They must have thought they had a great argument against the notion of the resurrection. How would the after-life work for someone who’d had a number of wives or a number of husbands in this life? What exactly does this mean? What implicit information lies in this statement that needs unpacking? Is there anything more I need to understand to fully understand what is being said here?
There are those who are shocked to think that the relationship they have with their spouse here on earth, will not continue in the Age to Come. Some think this should be understood as the abolition of earthly relationships as we know them here in this present age. But they feel already existing marriages will continue but on a different level. But think for a moment. We are told that with the death of a spouse, we are released from the marriage because the marriage covenant has ended with death. That means that all of us who enter into the Age to Come are no longer married. Some believe that the marriages we have will continue, it is just new marriages that won’t be entered into, existing ones will continue. But I remind you there are no existing marriages after death. Also if that were the case, then it nullifies what Jesus is saying related to the scenario painted for Him by the Sadducees hypothetical example. Surely that can’t be the case.
Still others feel the abolition of marriage is focused on the procreative act alone. That is to say, the marriage relationship shifts to a new level of relationship because procreation is no longer needed. If from the beginning of the Age to Come, post resurrection, people will not die again, is there a need to have children anymore? Does that mean no sex in heaven? Do we become sexless in heaven? We will have new bodies, quite unlike our earthly bodies. What does that mean? Will we be hermaphrodites or will we be neuter beings? For some that will be a major turnoff to going to heaven. Even more so for some whose religion teaches that heaven provides sufficient to satisfy your every desire. There are still others who argue that we don’t know what the arrangements for angel marriages are and therefore we don’t know what Jesus is meaning in this passage. I have news for them: angels are not married. They are ministering spirits, they are not like us in many ways; one of which is that they don’t enter into marriage relationships.
Surely the point of this example from Jesus is focused on two aspects. One is to deal with the issue of marriage in the after-life so as to counter the example of the Sadducees. The second is to lead us to the conclusion that God is the God of the living, not of the dead. As Jesus states clearly: The reason why there is no marriage in the after-life is FOR the reason that they are equal to angels.What is the point of comparison about angels that is in focus here? Their marital status? We know they are not married.Surely the point is – for they cannot die any more! If they cannot die anymore, then there is no need for them to procreate. Isn’t a major reason for marriage in the first place to populate the earth and fill it? If we will be immortal in the after-life then there is no need for procreation anymore.
In the after-life we will be resurrected sons of God rather than physical sons of God. The relationship we will have with God after the resurrection goes beyond what it was like in this life. The same is true of our relationship with other people. Heaven will be full of love because God is love. Perhaps our relationship with people in the Age to Come will be far deeper and more multi-faceted than is possible this side of heaven. Hence, we won’t need marriage. We will have far deeper relationships with all around us. I don’t know; I am pondering and letting my thoughts run. But I would counter what some claim – that marriage won’t exist in heaven so therefore sex won’t be there because sex is evil. That is rubbish. God made us in the physical form we have for a reason. He looked at the man and woman He had made and said, “Very good”. God planned the human sexual experience. Man’s sin made it a dirty thing. I had better nip this line of thought in the bud before it gains momentum.
There is much behind this passage that bears thinking about. Feel free to respond to me with what I have written here. If there is something that touches your button, continue the discussion or at least share your insights with the Gems Readers. Post comments on the Website and start a discussion there. Or email a response to me and I will share it in the next Gems. This Gem is already long enough and there is more to go before I finish. So I will stay on this passage for one more day. The focus tomorrow will be on God being the God of the Living, not the dead. So anything you send me worth sharing on this topic, I will share it in tomorrow’s Gem.
Soon after marriage, a lady’s husband stopped wearing his wedding ring. She asked, “Why don’t you ever wear your wedding band?” He replied, “It cuts off my circulation.” She answered back, “It’s supposed to!”Anon
Love is blind, but marriage is an eye-opener.Anon
Marriages are made in heaven. Then again, so are thunder, lightning, tornados and hail.Anon
Marriage is when a man and woman become as one. The trouble starts when they try to decide which one.Anon
Son: Is it true that in some parts of Africa a man doesn’t know his wife until he marries her? Dad: That happens in every country, son.Anon