What's your perspective on life? That would probably be an interesting question to ask a large group of people. I'm certain that you would get many different answers, and if you listened closely, you'd most likely be able to discern quite a few world views present in those answers.
Some people think of life as being brief. Some consider life to be more about the pursuit of comfort than anything else. Others look at their lives and would probably say that the running theme of their life has been one of suffering.
Many people look at earthly life through the lens of believing it is all we're really given. Their world view contributes to the belief that there is nothing beyond the few short decades our bodies successfully function on this earth. But what do you think? Is life something that comes to an abrupt end, or is there more in store? And how does our answer to this question impact the quality of our lives in the present?
I. Why would anyone choose to live without hope?
People have a knack for dividing themselves into various camps. We like labels. We like being part of groups. We often try to seek some kind of identity through the ideas and people we choose to associate with.
Just this past week, I had the privilege of teaching courses to new and aspiring pastors. It was an enjoyable experience, but I do notice something when I get together with groups of new pastors. They always want to know what theological camp I fall into. They're intensely interested in which labels I stick on myself. Am I a Calvinist, Arminian, Wesleyan, conservative, liberal, young earth, old earth, cessationist, charismatic, Premillennial, Amillenial, who practices baptism by immersion, pouring, or sprinkling? I understand the heart behind those questions, but my answers usually annoy people because I'd rather be known as a follower of Jesus than an adherent to the narrow dictates of some of our theological preferences.
But again, people love their labels, and one of the labels that was prominent in Jewish theology is referenced in this passage. We're also told about what they believed. This passage mentions the Sadducees, and we're told that Sadducees didn't believe in such a thing as the resurrection. In fact, they denied it. They even tried to give Jesus a seemingly complicated family scenario to analyze, that they thought would bolster their point that the concept of the resurrection was silliness.
I don't know how a passage like this strikes you, but I have to admit that one of the emotions it brings out of me is sadness. I look at this smug group of people who were blessed with opportunities for formal learning, and can see that they really lacked understanding. Jesus offered them hope, but that probably seemed too simplistic to them, so they rejected Him. The Scriptures offered them encouragement to think beyond this world, but that was information they didn't embrace, partly because they had a bad habit of dismissing things in Scripture that didn't fit with what they already wanted to believe.
You and I can also live without hope like they did, if we want to, but I wish we wouldn't.
Through faith in Jesus, we are blessed with a confident hope that is designed by God to overflow from our lives. It's also fascinating to realize that with hope also comes, joy, peace, confidence, and power. These are supplied to us in abundance through Jesus when we trust Him, and stop working against what He's trying to teach us, and do within us. Our future hope directly impacts the quality of our present life.
II. What will be different about us in the age to come?
Some people embrace change. Others resist it. What's your perspective toward change? Are some changes easier for you to accept than others? Do you sometimes catch yourself thinking that the way things are at present is the way things will always be? What does Jesus reveal to us in His answer to the Sadducees?
Jesus explained a contrast between the way those who have been granted the gift of eternal life live now, and how they will live in the future. To set this up, let me reference a process the Lord is bringing those who believe in Him through. At the moment you trusted in Jesus, you were justified (or declared righteous) by God. Throughout the course of your life, He is progressively sanctifying you, which means He is helping you to grow in holiness and spiritual maturity. After your body dies, He is going to glorify you, which will involve giving you a new body that doesn't sin, nor is it subject to the effects of sin.
In this present era, we practice marriage and we bear children. In the age to come, after we're glorified, we won't be given in marriage, we won't continue to have children, nor will it be possible for us to experience death. On the contrary, Jesus explains that we will then be like the angels. So the question the Sadducees asked Jesus was based on a false premise that showed that they didn't understand much about what life in our glorified state will be like.
Jesus also refers to those who trust in Him as being "sons of the resurrection." To be a son of the resurrection indicates our identification with Christ in His resurrection. When Jesus rose from the grave, He defeated sin, Satan, and death. At present, during this season of our sanctification, we can experience victory over all three through the power of Christ. In the future, when we're in our glorified state, we'll see the ultimate effects of the victory Christ secured put into full effect. We won't be tempted to sin any longer. Satan won't be able to bring accusation against us. Death won't have any power over us.
Our natural bodies are perfectly designed for living in this world. Our new, spiritual bodies, will be perfectly designed for Heaven. In the glorified state that Jesus is referring to in this passage, we'll resemble Jesus in His resurrected state.
After Christ's resurrection, the disciples were still able to physically touch Him, and He also ate. But Jesus was also able to walk through walls, appear, disappear, and travel distances quickly, without exhaustion. We're also shown that His wounds were open, but didn't bleed. Some take this to mean that our glorified bodies won't have blood like our natural bodies do.
It's interesting to fathom what the Lord has in store for those who trust in Jesus, but Christ was trying to help this group of confrontational doubters to gain a glimpse of the kind of future that can await anyone who believes in Him.
III. True life is found in a relationship with our Creator
Jesus was speaking to people who tended not to take a literal view of the Scriptures. Yet it's clear that Jesus was conveying that the events recorded in the Old Testament regarding the life and ministry of Moses, were literal occurrences. Specifically, Jesus brings their attention back to the passage of Scripture where the Lord spoke to Moses from a bush.
In that passage, the Lord told Moses that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And the Lord wasn't just speaking in the past tense. He wasn't just saying that at one time years ago He had been their God. He said that, presently speaking, He was their God, even though those men had experienced physical death hundreds of years earlier.
The point Jesus was making is that the Scripture teaches that there is such thing as life after death. Physical death is a transition, not an ultimate ending. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were very much alive and didn't cease to exist after their earthly lives were complete. I don't imagine that the Sadducees believed this, even after Jesus declared it to be true, but rhetorically speaking, they seemed to think He gave a decent reply to their question. So for the time being, they decided to stop bugging Him.
But let's not miss the greater point Jesus is trying to convey here. The names He listed were men who were known for having a relationship with the Lord. Consider what Scripture tells us about Abraham in particular.
Abraham believed the Lord when He spoke. His belief was lived out in obedience. He wasn't someone who merely knew about his Creator. He knew the Creator personally, and continues to live because of that relationship.
True life is found in a relationship with our Creator. Scripture is clear that Jesus is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
Jesus, our Creator, desires that we invest in our relationship with Him. Many of us make daily investments in our health, our finances, and our children. Comparatively speaking, how many minutes of our week are spent making investments in our relationship with Christ?
Does your life feel like it's just a series of purposeless wanderings? Do you struggle to value who God has created you to be? Are you wrestling through doubt and discouragement? I would contend that if any of that is the case, you take a close look at your relationship with your Creator and begin making more intentional investments in it. He can bring clarity and encouragement into your life like nothing else can. You are meant for and designed for an ongoing, continually growing, relationship with Him.
Don't live without hope. Don't mistakenly believe that your future won't be any different than your past. True life is found in a relationship with Jesus. He has great things in store for all who trust Him and confess Him as Lord.
© John Stange, 2017