The Sadducees do not believe that people rise from the dead. Some of them came to Jesus with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us about a man’s brother who dies. Suppose the brother leaves a wife but has no children. Then the man must get married to the widow. He must have children to carry on his dead brother’s name.
“There were seven brothers. The first one got married to a woman. He died without leaving any children. The second one got married to her. And then the third one got married to her. One after another, the seven brothers got married to her. They all died. None left any children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, when the dead rise, whose wife will she be? All seven brothers were married to her.”
Jesus replied, “People in this world get married. And their parents give them to get married. But it will not be like that when the dead rise. Those who are considered worthy to take part in what happens at that time won’t get married. And their parents won’t give them to be married. They can’t die anymore. They are like the angels. They are God’s children. They will be given a new form of life when the dead rise.
“Remember the story of Moses and the bush. Even Moses showed that the dead rise. The Lord said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham. I am the God of Isaac. And I am the God of Jacob.’ (Exodus 3:6) He is not the God of the dead. He is the God of the living. In his eyes, everyone is alive.”
Some of the teachers of the law replied, “You have spoken well, teacher!” And no one dared to ask him any more questions. – Luke 20:27-40
When I was about 13, I saw a church play where different vignettes would play out. In a few scenarios, a person would accept Jesus, and then a moment later die in some tragic way (I remember a very jovial construction working being knocked off a high beam and falling to his death). But it’s okay, because then they would be met by Jesus who would take them to the afterlife. Looking back now, it seems like something out of a horror movie. But I get their point – when you know Jesus, the afterlife is not something to fear.
I think we are a culture fascinated by the afterlife. This includes Christians, too. Scan the shelves of the Christian section of any bookstore and you’ll see books like this, this, and this. On one level, it’s natural to want to know what heaven is like, and Scripture does give us a glimpse into it. On another level, it’s possible to be so intrigued by heaven that we miss out on what God is doing in the here and now.
No doubt the Sadducees were trying to test Jesus with their question, and Jesus’ response has a deeper meaning about who God is. But I find their question interesting. They know how marriage works down here. They want to know how it works up there. And I’m sure readers today have mixed reactions to Jesus’ answer. Some think, no marriage? But I love my spouse. They’re the person I spend the most time with. No marriage in heaven sounds like a bummer. For others, the idea of no marriage in the afterlife sounds like, well, heaven!
There are things our small, finite mind cannot understand. Eternity lasts for a really long time. Of course I want to know what things will be like. But God is the God of the living. We can live knowing our eternity is secure, but yet focus on the work to be done while we still have breath.