What is this life all about? Is it preparation for the age to come? Where does the soul go after we depart this planet? Will there be a resurrection? If so, what is the point? Do we spend eternity in heaven with Jesus like an unending worship service? Will we still be married to the one we love? Will she be waiting on the other side, longing to be reunited? Let’s take a look at Luke 20:27-40.
“But now, as to whether the dead will be raised—even Moses proved this when he wrote about the burning bush. Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, he referred to the Lord as ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live before him.” (Luke 20:37-38)
As Jesus taught in the temple courts, several religious leaders from the Sadducees approached him in an effort to trip him up theologically. The Sadducees were a priestly group of elite leaders who based their theology on the Torah only, the five books of Moses. That is why they did not affirm the resurrection of the dead, a view that comes out of later sections of the Old Testament. This put the Sadducees at odds with other Jews of the time, including the Pharisees. The Sadducees believed that the soul perished along with the body. They would have answered the question “What happens after we die?” simply: “Nothing. When we die, we are dead. Period.”
In Luke 20:27-40, the Sadducees approached Jesus with a theological problem they thought invalidated the resurrection of the dead. It seems likely that they had discovered that Jesus, like the Pharisees, affirmed the resurrection doctrine. Suppose a widow remarries several times, the Sadducees proposed, when she and her husbands are resurrected, whose wife will she be? Since the Sadducees, along with all other Jews of their day, rejected the rightness of polygamy, their hypothetical situation seemed to show the foolishness of the resurrection.
Jesus responded to this challenge in a way that the Sadducees did not expect. He revealed that marriage “is for people here on earth” (Luke 20:34). In the age to come, when people are resurrected, they will not be married. Moreover, Jesus provided evidence from the Torah for the reality of life after death. The “God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” as revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:6), is the God of the living. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are alive in God (Luke 20:38).
Jesus’ vision of life after death can be upsetting, not only to first-century Sadducees, but also to Christians today. We sometimes assume that the after-life will include marriage as we have known it. For those of us who are deeply connected to our spouses, it’s hard to imagine an eternity without being married to the one we love. Yet, if we trust God’s goodness, we have confidence that the life of the age to come will be wondrous beyond our imagination.
When it comes to the question of what happens after we die, there is much that we don’t yet know. But we do know that we will enter into a fullness of life in God, eternal life, abundant life, life as it was meant to be.
How do you respond to Jesus’ teaching about life after death? When you think of what God’s future holds, what do you envision? What do you hope for?