Matthew 22:23-30 reads:
“The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, saying, ‘Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.’ And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.”
It is important to realize that Jesus answered the Sadducees and that He responded to their wrong concepts pertaining to the resurrection. We might say, Jesus answered a fool according to his folly (compare Proverbs 26:5).
Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible explains that the “Sadducees had their origin and name from one Sadoc, a disciple of Antigonus of Socho, president of the Sanhedrin, and teacher of the law in one of the great divinity schools in Jerusalem, about 264 years before the incarnation… Sadoc [taught that] there was no resurrection of the dead, nor angel, nor spirit, in the invisible world… [The Sadducees] received only the five books of Moses, and rejected all unwritten traditions.”
From this background, we must understand correctly to whom Christ was speaking and what He was saying–and we must take note of what He was NOT saying. He responded to the assertion of the Sadducees that there was no resurrection by pointing out that there WAS a resurrection to ETERNAL LIFE. Please note carefully that He was not addressing other resurrections to physical life–both past and future. (For more information on the THREE resurrections, as taught in Scripture, please read our free booklets, “Do We Have an Immortal Soul?” and “God’s Commanded Holy Days.” Please read also our Q&A in Update #316 on the three resurrections.)
Notice that the parallel passage in Luke 20:27-40 makes clear that Jesus was only addressing the resurrection to eternal life.
He said in verses 34-36: “..’ The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are COUNTED WORTHY to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; NOR CAN THEY DIE ANYMORE, for they are equal to the angels and are SONS OF GOD, being sons of the resurrection.”
When addressing the resurrection to immortality–also called the FIRST resurrection in the Bible (compare Revelation 20:4-5)–Jesus explained that those who will be in THAT resurrection, will be SPIRIT beings (like angels are spirit beings) who don’t marry in the way physical human beings do. In making this comparison, He told the Sadducees that angels DO exist, and that the righteous will be LIKE angels–as they will be Spirit beings. He did not teach that the righteous will BECOME angels; rather, that they will be higher than angels, as He called them SONS of the resurrection (compare Hebrews 2:10). Normally, angels are not called sons, but ministering spirits to assist the SONS of God to inherit salvation (compare Hebrews 1:14). Paul would later say that the sons of God will “judge angels” (compare 1 Corinthians 6:3). For further information, please read our free booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World.”
Notice how Jesus continued His response to the Sadducees, as recorded in the parallel account, in Luke 20:37: “But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that THE DEAD ARE RAISED, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live in Him.”
As the Sadducees did not believe in the inspiration of the Old Testament apart from the first five books of Moses, Jesus quoted, as proof for a resurrection, from the first five books of Moses, mentioning the burning bush episode, as recorded in the book of Exodus. He continued to say that God was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and that God was not the God of the dead, but of the living.
Some commentaries erroneously conclude that Jesus was saying here that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were ALIVE when Jesus spoke these words–and that Jesus was therefore upholding the concept of the immortal soul which teaches that the immortal soul goes to heaven when man dies–a teaching which the Sadducees rejected.
However, Jesus did not believe in the false concept of the immortal soul. He taught that death was a sleep out of which man must be awakened (compare John 11:11-14, 43-44). He said to the Sadducees that God is a God of the living, because He will awaken Abraham, Isaac and Jacob out of their sleep of death through a resurrection from the dead. Remember, Jesus answered the Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection. He proved that there is a resurrection from the dead by saying that God is the God of the living. The dead will live because God WILL RAISE them up in the resurrection (compare John 5:25, 28-29)–and God looks at future events, which are certain, as if they had already occurred. (Compare Romans 4:17, in the Living Bible: “That is what the Scriptures mean when they say that God made Abraham the father of many nations. God will accept all people in every nation who trust God as Abraham did. And this promise is from God himself, who makes the dead alive again and speaks of future events with as much certainty as though they were already past.”)
But let us also consider resurrections to physical life. Jesus taught such resurrections as well, but He did not address those in His response to the Sadducees. Jesus resurrected Lazarus to physical life, and He taught that many will be resurrected to physical life in the future. The Bible refers to that resurrection of billions of people as the “Great White Throne Judgment” (Revelation 20:11-12; compare also Revelation 20:5).
The question may be asked: What will happen to a woman who was married to several husbands and who will be resurrected to physical life, together with all those former husbands, in the Great White Throne Judgment resurrection? Would God consider her married to any or all of those former husbands? The answer would be clearly, no. When a husband dies, the wife is no longer “bound” or married to him. Since in the example of the Sadducees, all husbands died before the woman did, she was not “bound” or married to any of them at the time of her death. But even if she had died before her last husband, she still would not be considered married to him at the time of her resurrection–as the last husband would also have died subsequently.
Paul says in Romans 7:1-2:
“Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.”
A married couple would not be considered married to each other in the First Resurrection to immortal life. Nor would they be considered married in the Second Resurrection to physical life, because by virtue of their death, their physical marriage arrangement was dissolved.
Would they be able, though, to marry (again) in the Second Resurrection? The Bible does not expressly say that marriages will not take place during the time period of the Second Resurrection–the Great White Throne Judgment–but it is highly unlikely that they will, as one important reason for marriage is producing physical offspring. It does not appear from Scripture that new babies will be born in the Second Resurrection. The Great White Throne Judgment period will pertain to those who HAD lived before, without having been given the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, and who will then be given that opportunity.
In conclusion, Christ reproved the Sadducees in many different ways, teaching and confirming the concept of the resurrection of the dead. He limited His answer to the FIRST resurrection of the righteous. He did not teach the false concept of an immortal soul, but He did teach that the righteous, who DIED, will be RAISED to immortal life through a resurrection.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link