Reading the Word
Matthew 22:23–33 (ESV)
23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”
29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
Parallel Texts: Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40
Understanding and Applying the Word
The Sadducees were religious leaders who denied that there would be a resurrection of the dead. They were at odds with the Pharisees, who did believe in a future resurrection. So, the Sadducees approached Jesus to ask him about this topic. In order to make their point on the ridiculousness of a future resurrection, they framed their question in a far-fetched manner. Suppose there was a woman who had been married seven times to seven brothers. She remarried each time her husband died to arrive at the seven marriages. When the future resurrection of the dead takes place, who will be her husband?
This seems like a good question on the surface. It may even seem to point out the silliness of belief in a future resurrection. However, the Sadducees were wrong about both the resurrection and marriage in the eternal state. Jesus acknowledged that there will be a resurrection of the dead, but there will be no marriage.
I often get questions about this teaching of Jesus. Many are disappointed to hear that there will be no marriage in the new heavens and new earth. I am always reminded of C. S. Lewis’ comments on this:
I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time. On receiving the answer ‘No’, he might regard the absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their carnal raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it. We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it.
There will be no marriage, but we can trust that there is something even better. There is a future resurrection for all believers. Our bodies will raised and fit for an eternal existence with our Lord in a new creation (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:50-55; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). What a wonderful day that will be!
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