By Samuel M. Frost, Th. M.
Now there came to Him some of the Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection), 28 and they questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he is childless, his brother should take the wife and raise up offspring to his brother. 29 “Now there were seven brothers; and the first took a wife, and died childless; 30 and the second 31 and the third took her; and in the same way all seven died, leaving no children. 32 “Finally the woman died also. 33 “In the resurrection therefore, which one’s wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife.” 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 the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; 36 for neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 37 “But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 “Now He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him.” 39 And some of the scribes answered and said, “Teacher, You have spoken well.” 40 For they did not have courage to question Him any longer about anything (Luke 20.27-40).
I am recently studying Luke-Acts and in the passage dealing with resurrection, the Sadducees asked Jesus a question concerning this topic. They, of course, denied the resurrection of the dead, which was affirmed by the Pharisees. I also re-read my chapter when I was promoting the heresy known as “Full Preterism” in the book, Exegetical Essays on the Resurrection (JaDon Publications). Don Preston still peddles this work of mine, but it surely shows the utter blindness I had during that time.
First off, in that passage I noted that Jesus disagrees with the Pharisees conception of resurrection (which is the traditional Christian orthodox view for 2000 years), and the Sadduccees. I wrote, “I will argue that Jesus’ answer, however, also disagrees with the Pharisaic view in that the conception of Jesus’ view is spiritual, and not a reanimation of long-dead corpses (the Pharisaic view)” (p. 52 – I am quoting from the 2004 publication of this book by TruthVoice before Don Preston took it under his own publication). I also quote the eminent scholar, R.T. France who wrote, ‘The question assumes that Jesus shares the Pharisaic belief….and here his [Jesus’] support for the ‘Pharisaic’ view is unequivocal’ (from NIGTC, 471). All of this is before I get into the material in Preston’s published work of mine.
When I read this now, my jaw drops. I entirely leave out of the whole chapter the fact that the scribes of the Pharisees agree with Jesus and say, “Good answer.” The Sadduccees never approach him anymore, but the Pharisees do. Thus, right off the bat I omit the verse that affirms that the scribes said, “good answer” (the scribes who disagreed with the Sadduccees). Instead, I argue the exact opposite. If Jesus’ answer is the one I gave in Exegetical Essays, then the scribes of the Pharisees would NEVER have said, “good answer”! R.T. France is correct, then. Samuel Frost was wrong (and omitted from discussion the fact that they did agree).
Second, I state in the book, ‘I argue that [France’s view] is half true. The question the Sadducees put forth does assume the Pharisaic view, and Jesus does affirm a view of the afterlife, but this hardly means that Jesus and the Pharisees affirmed the same manner and nature of resurrection life (what it would ‘look like’). In this passage all that Jesus supports is a view of the afterlife. I will argue that Jesus’ answer, however, also disagrees with the Pharisaic view in that the conception of Jesus’ view is spiritual, and not a reanimation of long-dead corpses (the Pharisaic view)’ (p.52). But, again, Sam Frost never states, never, how it is that the scribes said, “good answer”! If Jesus’ answer was only in some sort of quasi-agreement with the Pharisees, one’s response as a scribe of the Pharisees would not be, “good answer….partially.”
Third, I wrote in that book, ‘I will come back to the second part of the response of Jesus (about God being the God of the living) when I have finished up the first part of the answer’ (p.54). I never get to this part in the chapter! I read it, then I read it again. I never “come back” to it. I do not even discuss it. What I do say is that ‘By focusing on the present aspect of the resurrection, Jesus is stating that the resurrection of the dead is something already in the stages of happening. Moses and Elijah are already attesting to Jesus’ glory, and are appearing in glory with him. ‘Elijah to come’ has already come, and the restoration of all things has already begun (Mk 9.12,13). The dead are being raised’ (p.59). In other words, I spend one short paragraph on the second part of this section in Luke by affirming that the souls of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have already been raised! But, if anyone knows Full Preterism, the resurrection of the dead happened in 70 AD, and Jesus said this in 31 AD!
The fact of the matter is, is that R.T. France is correct. Jesus sided with the Pharisees view of the resurrection, as did Paul where he was confronted with both the Pharisees and the Sadduccees on this matter, and, according to Luke, said, “Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” For, as Luke records, ‘And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all’ (Acts 23.6-ff). And, once again, we find the Pharisees agreeing with Paul, “and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” (Acts 23.9). Same issue. Same parties. Same subject. Same results. Jesus and Paul affirmed the resurrection of the dead. Their answer was not Preston’s corporate body view, nor was it Ed Stevens’ “get a brand new body when you die” view. The Pharisees would have found Paul guilty right there on that point alone. Forget circumcision, Paul is in error regarding resurrection of the dead! Now, Don and Ed will do all sorts of wailing and flailing and “deeper meaning” and such, but the fact of the matter, as recorded by Luke, Jesus and Paul sided with the Pharisees. No amount of exegetical acrobats can counter it. France was correct. Sam was all over the place.
Now, quickly, the argument of the Sadduccees was an attempt to reduce the idea of bodily resurrection to absurdity. If a woman had been married to a man with seven brothers, and each of them died, and she married each one of them, then which wife would she be in the resurrection, when they all stand again? Clever.
Jesus’ answer is the death annuls marriage (according to the Law). No brainer. When the resurrection happens (and note that Jesus is not saying, “the resurrection is happening right now” as I assert), there is no need for marriage or procreation. In the new heavens and new earth such necessities that were meant for this life, and not meant for that one. No brainer. Duh.
That Jesus affirms the futurity of the resurrection means that the death of these seven brothers and the woman is not when they get new bodies upon death. There is an intermediate state here. They live on earth. They died. Their souls are in heaven, and there they await, “but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage.” Jesus is not at all saying that when a person dies, they immediately are raised with the new body in heaven! That would be absolutely absurd to read that here. Both the Pharisees and Jesus repeatedly state a future resurrection.
“”But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 “Now He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him.” Now, watch this. If Jesus is affirming the future resurrection of the dead, and is not affirming that being a soul in heaven, with God, is a resurrected state, then Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have not been raised from the dead yet when he spoke these words. However, he is affirming that they are alive. How can they be alive with God, and not be raised? It is here that Jesus affirms that when the seven brothers and the woman die, they await “whenever” the dead are raised at some point in the future. This is the intermediate state between the death of believers, the saints, and resurrection of the dead.
Second, and most devastating to my old heresy, is that the verse Jesus quotes from is Exodus 3.6. I never once quote this verse in the chapter in Don’s book by me. Never. Not once. I do not deal with it at all. That passes for “exegetical” in this “essay”? My psychological bend at the time I wrote that (2004) was 70 AD, and all things 70 AD, and the resurrection of the dead must be in 70 AD. Therefore, never mind Exodus 3.6! It does not “fit” the tunnel vision!
Now, why does Jesus quote from this verse, which, on the surface appears as if it has nothing to do with the resurrection of the dead? “And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Jesus’ commentary is that God is the God of the living Abraham, the living Isaac, and the then living Jacob. This is a highly repeated description of the God who keeps covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And the covenant he made with them on oath, forever, is that they would inherit the world and all things. Paul makes this very clear: “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith” (Romans 4.13).
“By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God….These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Further, “For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland…. 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.” Now, hear John, “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God”. When the better country comes down and all things of creation are restored, and there is no more death (for death has been swallowed up in victory when the dead are raised), Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will, then, have received what God promised them on oath: heaven and earth, the world, restored. And they will, with all the saints, stand again on the Land of Promise, the Earth of God’s Creation, restored, renewed.
This answer is why the scribe agree with Jesus. This is why he said, “good answer”. The Sadducees would have to deny the promise made on oath, by covenant, forever, that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not receive nor would ever receive that which was promised. But they are living. They are living as souls in heaven, in the heavenly city, the very same one that John saw as coming down out of heaven when the dead are raised – when Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be raised to inherit all things as promised – together with all the saints.