After his encounter with the Pharisees and Herodians, then another group comes forward to throw Jesus off by asking him a tough question. As you can see from the text, the Sadducees were a sect of Judaism--actually making up more of the wealthier class--which denied the general resurrection of humanity at the end of history. They also disbelieved in angels and were complete materialists. Their question originated from what was probably a cute story that they made up for the sole purpose of needling their Pharisee rivals (who actually agreed with Jesus about the afterlife). Supposedly the Sadducees held to these beliefs because they only accepted the Torah as authoritative. But while it’s true that Moses rarely spoke about an afterlife, angels are scattered throughout his books, starting in Genesis chapter 3.
By the way, when talking to nonbelievers, this is a pretty common tactic. Often they love to introduce some hypothetical situation and ask how our faith can reconcile with that. I’ve had people bring up everything from space aliens to the poor pygmy in Africa who’s never heard of Jesus. Friend, if the God you worship can be figured out by human understanding, then you’re worshiping the wrong God. Of course there are going to be questions we can’t answer. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: The truth in Scripture was revealed to give us what we need to know about God and ourselves. It's not there to provide answers to every question or to satisfy our idle curiosity.
I love the first part of Jesus’ response: “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” That’s the source of just about every major error out there, isn’t it? If you understand God’s word and actually believe that God is capable of living up to his word, you don’t really need to worry about falling into error.
The second point that our Lord made is that our understanding of what awaits us is very limited. In fact, we know much more about what heaven will not be than what it will be. For example, we know that there will be no crying, no pain, no tears, no sickness, and no death. So what does Jesus mean by saying that we’ll be like the angels? We won’t have any death there, so there won’t be any need to replenish the population. Sexual pleasure will fall by the wayside, not because we’re becoming emotionless robots, but because it will be eclipsed by so much more.
And finally, he points them back to the very Scriptures which they claim to follow. When the Lord appeared to Moses, he introduced himself as the “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” not “was the God.” They might have been dead to Moses, but they were alive to God, and they still had a personal relationship with him of some sort. In fact, Luke’s version adds “for all are alive to him.” Every person who has ever lived is going to live forever. We might prefer annihilationism, the belief that lost souls will be obliterated instead of being sent to conscious punishment in hell, but it’s not supported by Scripture.
I don’t know about you, but all this talk has made me pretty homesick. We don’t know much about our eternal home and new bodies, but it’s enough to give us a sure hope. It also should motivate us to be more obedient, more pleasing to our Lord. When God issues a command in heaven, the angels trip all over themselves rushing forward to obey. That’s a great example to follow, don’t you think?
Lord Jesus, the future you have in store for me is glorious, literally. Please continue this process of making me like you. I really need help in that.