The God of the Living
November 6, 2022 |The God of the Living | Luke 20:23-37
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In our journey through the Gospel of Luke, Jesus has reached Jerusalem for his final week of ministry this side of the cross
Triumphal Entry, Cleanses the Temple, Authority Challenged by the chief priests and Pharisees, Parable of the wicked tenants. Scribes and chief priests send people to try and trick him by appearing to be sincere people with sincere questions, first, into going against Rome so they could get rid of him. Then come the Sadducees to try and trip him up and discredit him.
These different groups disagreed about a number of issues, but they all agreed that Jesus was a problem that needed to be solved. So it is the Sadducees turn.
Here is the primary question before us this morning, is there life after death?
As long as men have been on this earth, that has been a pertinent question, and it is one that Jesus addresses head on with the Sadducees. This is one of those questions that has implications for every area of our lives. Whether there is life after death or not affects everything.
The way the Saduccees approached the question wasn’t as direct, they tried a roundabout way of getting there, as we will see in our text.
The reason for the question- twofold, one to trip up Jesus, two, because this is one of the central areas they disagreed with the Pharisees about. If they could succeed here, it would give them credibility where the Pharisees had failed.
This encounter is recorded in all three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
They are called synoptic because they form a common view from their similarity in content, order, and statement. Each one telling the same story, but emphasizing different details depending on their author and their intended audiences.
In Matthew and Mark Jesus begins his response with a statement that sets the tone for what follows.
“Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God?
“You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God."
Even without this detail, what follows in Luke’s record is primarily Jesus teaching in an attempt to correct both their understanding of Scripture and their view of God
Why is this important?
The resurrection is primary to the gospel.
The good news hinges on the reality of the resurrection and life after death.
Listen as Paul argues for the centrality of the resurrection in Christianity.
1 Corinthians 15:12-19 (ESV) 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
The very confession we gather around as Baptist believers repeatedly emphasizes these two things.
Baptist Faith and Message-
Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification.
Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.
The full consummation of the Kingdom awaits the return of Jesus Christ and the end of this age.
God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.
In a very real way our answer to this question is what firmly puts us in the category of Christians, in particulars, as Protestants, and in implications, as Evangelicals. It is hard to overstate the importance of the doctrine of life after death.
This morning our goal then is to simply examine what Jesus taught in response to this question and then understand what the implications are for us today. We are going to divide Jesus’s teachings into three statements to summarize Jesus’s teaching.
Before we dig in, let’s start with the Sadducees question. We find this in Luke 20.
Luke 20:27-33 (ESV) 27 There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, 28 and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. 30 And the second 31 and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. 32 Afterward the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.”
In one way, good for the Sadducees for attempting to carry out the doctrine of the resurrection to its farthest logical implications. We don’t do that with our beliefs enough. The problem was, as Jesus says, they didn’t understand the scripture correctly or God’s power and so they arrived at a faulty conclusion which led them to this hypothetical question that was designed to poke holes in believing that there was a resurrection from the dead. But as often is the case, where they thought they had come up with clever questions, when laid before God it was a nonsensical question that couldn't be answered, not because it was difficult, but because it was nonsense. Like can God make a square circle? Can God create a rock so heavy, he can’t lift it? Jesus immediately brushes the question aside and gets at the heart of what they are really trying to do, deny the existence of life after this life.
Let’s look at what he said in response to the real question they were after.
The first statement that summarizes what Jesus teaches is…
Jesus confirms the existence of life after death
Luke 20:34-35a (ESV) 34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead…
Jesus does three things that are summarized in our statement. He references two ages, he highlights that not everyone will experience the next age the same, and that attaining that age is synonymous with the resurrection of the dead. Let’s look at each one of those.
Jesus references two ages- this age and that age. Scripture uses this term age to describe a period of time. It is where we get our English word eon from. It describes a long period of time.
Jesus describes them as this age, meaning this current age they are in, and that age, referencing their question when they said ‘in the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will she be’. In the next age.
This was common vocabulary used by Jesus.
In his teaching- Matthew 12:32 (ESV) 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
In his explanation of parables- Matthew 13:36-43 (ESV) 36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
In encouraging his disciples- Luke 18:28-30 (ESV) 28 And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
Jesus clearly defined two ages, the current age that began with the creation of Adam and Eve and the second age that will be ushered in by his second coming, an age that will last forever.
Jesus highlights that not everyone will experience that age the same- those considered worthy to attain to that age
A common thinking of the world, if they believe in an after life at all, is that all will experience good after death. That heaven is for everyone regardless of the way they lived their life. Jesus clearly makes a distinction when he says those considered worthy to attain that age.
The implication is clear, not everyone will experience the blessing of the coming age. That is not to say, everyone will not experience eternity, but that the experience will not be the same for everyone.
It matters what we do in this age, with this life, in regards to the next.
What does it mean to be considered worthy? The word carries the idea of being accounted worthy or even being made worthy. Jesus doesn’t explain it here, but the rest of the new Testament clearly shows that none of us in this present age, because of our willful and rebellious sin are worthy, therefore we need to be made worthy or something to be done for us to be counted worthy.
(Reformed Expository Commentary (28 Vols.) - REC) Nevertheless, God considers, or reckons, or counts us as worthy. We know from the rest of the New Testament that he does this on the basis of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. We are not worthy, but Jesus is, and when we put our faith in Jesus, God considers us to be worthy in his sight. I want to be found in Christ, said the apostle Paul, “not having a righteousness [or worthiness] of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness [or worthiness] from God that depends on faith” (Phil. 3:9).
So far we have seen that Jesus references the reality of an age after this one, that only those counted worthy will experience blessings in that age, and lastly he teaches that life after this age is a physical one, not just spiritual. That is we will not just be spiritual beings floating around in the next life.
Jesus emphasizes that attaining that age is synonymous with attaining the resurrection from the dead.
At the end of this age, God will raise the dead and the living will be transformed and we will all have eternal bodies. The great curse of death on mankind will be finally and fully dealt with.
We are not told a great deal about what exactly that we will be like, but in no uncertain terms, the Bible describes the new heaven and the new earth in physical terminology. We do not join some great cosmic awareness, we do not become disjoined souls, the same God that brought man from dust will join our souls with everlasting bodies. This is the reality of eternity.
Jesus teaches that there is life after death. That there is a next in this life, and when we enter it, it will matter what we did in this life, and it will be a physical reality.
Jesus then gives some further details. The first statement that summarizes Jesus’s teaching is that Jesuys confirms the existence of life after death, the second summary statement is…
Jesus describes our life after death
Luke 20:35b-36 (ESV) …neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.
The coming age will not simply be a continuation of this age (Mormons believe, as they put it, the sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there)
There will be fundamental differences between them, let’s look at three of them.
Death will not be a part of it- they cannot die
1 Corinthians 15:53-57 (ESV) 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Revelation 21:4 (ESV) He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
The reality is that the next age will be the last age, there will be no more death, indeed, it says, that cannot die. It will not be possible. Death is a problem of this age, not the next.
Life will be different- they will not marry or be given in marriage
This passage reminds us of another of Jesus’ teachings concerning the two ages
Matthew 24:37-39 (ESV) 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
There will not be any need for marriage because the main reason God gave man marriage was to fulfill the commandment to be fruitful and multiply. This commission was for this age and is finished when Christ ushers in the next age. For the happily married Christian, this can cause some sadness as we think about our love for our spouses. But the reality is we will love them more fully, more selflessly, and more perfectly in heaven than we ever could here.
We do not know exactly what life will be like in heaven but we know that it will be different. Untouched by sin, untouched by death, mourning, crying, and pain. It will be glorious and as the apostle Paul says nothing can even compare to it.
Not only will life be different, we will be different.
We will be different- equal to angels and sons of God
No, this does not teach that we become angels. That is unsupported, unbiblical, non-sense, and anyone that tells you otherwise, run from them.
Jesus’s point deals with the eternal nature of the afterlife. There are some comparisons that we can draw. Angels are made for the glory of God, angels are devoted to worship of God, unfallen angels never sin, angels do not get married, and angels are immortal. This is how we will be like angels in heaven. To draw any further comparison is to go beyond the text.
Furthermore, we will be different from the angels in that we will be sons and daughters of God.
That is what God did in salvation, adopting us as sons and daughters, will find its ultimate fulfillment when we dwell with him in the home he has prepared for his family. It is the inheritance of Jesus that we share.
Life after death will be fundamentally different. We don’t know everything but we know that life will be different, we will be different, and there will be no more death.
Jesus confirms the existence of life after death, Jesus describes our life after death, and the third statement that summarizes his teaching on life after death is…
Jesus provides evidence for life after death
Luke 20:37 (ESV) 37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.
Jesus references Moses for two reasons.
1. They quoted him in their question- Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.
2. They only accepted the first five books of the bible.
Here is the passage that he references
Exodus 3:1-6 (ESV) 1 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Exodus 3:13-14 (ESV) 13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”
Exodus 3:15 (ESV) “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.
Setting aside everything else God has revealed to his people through scripture, Jesus says, even Moses, whom you believe, in the book you know, showed that there is life after death.
Jesus’s argument hinges on the way God presented himself to Moses is evidence of life after death.
In meeting Moses, God introduced himself as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. I AM WHO I AM. And told Moses to tell His people, Yaweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob has sent him.
What is Jesus highlighting?
God did not say, I was the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, but I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob- currently
Does Jesus’s whole argument hinge on semantics? No, it hinges on the relationship God highlights by calling himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
When someone passes, the way we speak of them changes, right?
I am a friend of your dad’s verses I was a friend of your dad’s.
God, by calling himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, invokes his covenant relationship with his people.
He covenanted with these people and God keeps his covenant, and since these men died before the fulfillment of the covenant, the implication is that they still live, they have not ceased to exist.
Isn’t that exactly what the author of Hebrews says?
Hebrews 11:13-16 (ESV) 13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
If these men died and ceased to exist then God did not keep his promise, but if they live, if there is life after death where these men and women of faith will experience the fullness of God’s promises through Christ Jesus, then God is faithful to his word.
Jesus then makes this final statement
Luke 20:38 (ESV) 38 Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”
When we take all three synoptic gospels together, he says,
Now, you are mistaken, he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.
To be in covenant with an everlasting God necessities an everlasting life. God is not a God of things that are dead, things that no longer exist, but a God of the living, who find their life in him.
For Jesus, this was enough evidence to conclusively declare that there is life after death.
Jesus has taught, in contrast to what the Sadducees believed, there is life after death, he has shared a little of what it will be like, and he has given us evidence of that everlasting life.
Either you believe Jesus and accept that there is life after death or you reject his teaching, as the Sadducees did, and hold that there is nothing but this life.
If you believe the first, then the question is how can I attain life in the next age and the answer from Scripture is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ because he is the way, the truth, and the life. Furthermore, we have further proof in the resurrected Jesus that there is life after death. Death could not hold him, it did not have the final word, and he lives today, and because of his life we can be certain we will live after this age.
If you believe the second, that there is nothing after this life, then Christianity is not for you. You cannot follow Christ and reject his teachings.
So before each of us is a choice. Each of us has to answer the question, is there life after death? Each of us has to choose to believe Jesus and everything he taught or to reject him and choose our own way.