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QUESTIONS OF ETERNITY
Intro: Nearly every culture that has ever existed has possessed some type of belief in life after death. A nineteenth-century professor at Yale University named James Dwight Dana summed up this hope of abiding life when he said that he did not believe that God would create man and then desert him at the grave. A quick overview of history shows that man has always possessed a hope of living beyond the grave.
· The ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead is full of tales of life after death. The tomb of Pharaoh Cheops, who died some 5,000 years ago, contained a solar boat that was designed to carry him through the heavens in eternity.
· Ancient Greeks were often buried with a coin in their mouths to pay their fare to cross the River Styx into the land of the dead.
· Some Native Americans were buried with their bows, arrows and ponies, so they would be ready to hunt when they arrived at the happy hunting ground.
· The ancient Vikings believed in a place called Valhalla where they believed they would fight all day. The dead would be raised and the wounded healed every evening. Then they would feast and drink the night away, then go out to fight again.
· The Muslims look forward to their version of heaven where every sensual, physical pleasure can be indulged throughout eternity.
· In our own era, nearly all non-Christian cults and religions hold to some view of life after death.
· Even some who have refused to believe on Jesus for salvation have felt the pull of eternity. Benjamin Franklin, who was, as far as we know, not a believer, had the following words placed on his tombstone.
The body of
Benjamin Franklin, printer,
(Like the cover of an old book,
Its contents worn out,
An stript of its lettering and gilding)
Lies here, food for worms!
Yet the work itself shall not be lost,
For it will, as he believed, appear once more in a new
And more beautiful edition,
Corrected and amended
By its Author!
The ancient Jews were no exception. They also believed in life after death. Their Talmud, which contained their written and oral traditions, was filled with references to life after death. That is the issue that confronts us in these verses.
When the Pharisees and the Herodians failed to trap Jesus in His words, another group of religious Jews thought they would give it a try. Today, we will examine this encounter between Jesus and the Sadducees. In the course of studying these verses, we will consider some Questions Of Eternity.
We all have questions about life after death.
· What will the afterlife be like?
· What will we be like when we get there?
· What will our relationships be with one another?
Jesus addresses questions like those in these verses. Let’s consider the divisions of this text together as we look at some Questions Of Eternity.
I. v. 18 THE ANTAGONISTS
· As Jesus ministers in the Temple, another group of Jews comes to Him. Matthew tells us that this encounter took place on the same day that the Pharisees came, Matt. 22:23. They came for the same reason; they wanted to discredit Jesus with the people.
· The Sadducees were a minority sect among the Jews. They may have been few, but they were the most powerful and influential of all the Jewish sects. The Sadducees controlled all the buying and selling that went on at the Temple. Thus, they were angry with Jesus because He had interrupted their business enterprises when He cleansed the Temple, Mark 11:12-19.
The Sadducees also controlled the priesthood. All the high priests and chief priests were Sadducees. The Sadducees also formed a majority of the Sanhedrin, or the Jewish Supreme Court. They were aristocratic and wealthy. They were friendly to Rome. Most of all, they, along with the Pharisees and the Herodians, hated Jesus.
· The Sadducees were disliked by the common Jew. They were often aloof, thinking they were better than everyone else. They were rude, insensitive, and very harsh in the judgments they handed down. They cared nothing for the common man.
They were also disliked because of their theology. The Sadducees were extreme literalists in their interpretation of Scripture. All they accepted as truly authoritative was the Pentateuch, or the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. They believed that one could not base doctrine on what the prophets or the other Old Testament writers said. The doctrine that caused them the most trouble with the people was their denial of all things supernatural.
They believed in the existence of God, but they rejected everything else that was of a supernatural nature. They did not believe in demons, angels or the devil, they did not believe in miracles. They did not believe in Heaven or Hell. They did not believe in a future judgment. They did not believe in life after death, nor did they believe in the resurrection of the dead. That’s why they were “Sad-you-see. They could not find these doctrines in their reading of the Pentateuch, so they rejected them out of hand.
· The Sadducees have been described as liberals. When in fact, they were the extreme fundamentalists of the day. They refused to accept the authority of anything they could not support by a literal reading of the Law of Moses.
· Yet, because they did not believe in life after death, a resurrection or a future judgment, they tended to live for the moment. They lived their lives for power and profit. Their philosophy could be described as one of “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.
· By the way, this is the same mentality that grips modern man. People in our day have rejected the Bible as the standard and rule of life. Because they have done that, they have no hope of life after death, and they have no hope of resurrection. They have no fear of a future judgment. Man doesn’t believe in the existence of evil or Hell. Man does not believe that he will face God in judgment, so he lives as he pleases, Rom. 1:18-31.
But, there is a God. His Word is still the final authority. There will be a resurrection. Man will live somewhere forever. Man will face God in judgment. There is a Hell. Jesus is the only hope of salvation, John 14:6; Acts 4:12. The only hope the lost soul has of salvation is to come to Jesus Christ by faith and believe the Gospel! Have you done that?
II. v 19-23 THE ABSURDITY
· These men come to Jesus and call Him “Master. The word means teacher and it was designed to flatter Jesus and cause Him to let down His guard. It didnt work!
· These men appeal to “Moses. He was the great lawgiver. He was the spokesman for God. He was universally respected by all the Jews. The Sadducees knew of Christs respect for the Scriptures, so they approach with what they see as a problem from the Word of God.
These men have constructed a puzzle that they feel Jesus cannot solve. Their aim is to embarrass Him in front of the people who have gathered in the Temple.
· They begin to tell Jesus a story based on the Old Testament law of levirate marriage. This law was taught in Deut. 25:5-10. This law made provision for families, tribal names and inheritances intact. If a man died, with no living children, his next of kin would marry his widow and raise up a child in the name of the deceased.
This law was what brought about the union between Judah and Tamar, Gen. 38, which ensured Jesus would be born of the tribe of Judah. It also made possible the marriage of Ruth and Boaz, Ruth 4, which further ensured Jesus would be born of the tribe of Judah. This was a very important law to the nation of Israel. It guaranteed that a family’s inheritance would stay in the family.
· Based on this law, the Sadducees come to Jesus with a tale of a man and a woman. The man died without leaving an heir. The man had seven brothers. When he died, the next brother took the wife, but he died before producing an heir. Each of the brothers married the woman in turn and each died before producing an heir. Finally, the woman herself died. Poor woman!
Their question is, who will she belong to in the resurrection of the dead? The Jews, who believed in the resurrection, believed that life in eternity would be a continuation of life here on earth. They believed that a man would have the same family in Heaven that he had here.
Of course, the Sadducees didn’t even believe in a resurrection, they were just trying to embarrass Jesus. They were probably trying to mock His believe in the resurrection as well. These fellows thought they had created a puzzle, a Gordian Knot, that Jesus could not solve. They thought their question revealed the absolute absurdity of the resurrection. They thought they had Jesus trapped. In their eyes, whether He answered or not they believed they could claim the victory over Him. Whatever their intention, their question was absurd and Jesus proved that by His answer.
III. v. 24-27 THE ANSWER
(Ill. Jesus wasn’t as easy to defeat as they figured. In His answer, He put them in their place and He answered some very important questions regarding eternity.)
A. v. 24 A Confrontation Jesus began His response by accusing these men of being in error. The word err means to stray, to go aside from the right way. It sometimes carried the idea of living in a dream world.
Jesus looks at these religious hypocrites and He says, “You men have no idea what you are talking about. You are living in a dream world. You are dead wrong! Jesus went on to say that they wrong thinking came from two specific areas.
1. They were ignorant of God’s Word These men read the Scriptures, and they believed what they read, but they were ignorant of the message in the Word. If they had just taken the time to read the whole Word and believe it, they would not have been confused about the resurrection Ill. Job 19:25-27; Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2. The truth of the resurrection is printed all over the Old Testament.
(Ill. These men were like so many in our day. They knew just enough Bible to be dangerous. They ran around saying, “The Bible says this, and the Bible says that, but they were wrong about what they believed it said.
The same thing is true today. Have you ever heard any of the following?
· Adam and Eve ate an apple in the Garden of Eden.
· The High Priest never entered the Holy of Holies without a rope tied around his ankle.
· The Lord helps those who help themselves.
· Cleanliness is next to godliness.
· Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem when she was expecting Jesus.
· There were three wise men.
· The angels rejoice when someone is saved.
· Noah only took two of every kind of animal into the ark.
Most people believe these things to be true, but they are misintreptations of what the Bible says, or they are old wives tales that cannot be found in the Word of God. Reading the Bible will destroy a lot of what people say they believe. Let me just remind you that we have a duty to study the Word of God, 2 Tim. 2:15. We know what we believe and why we believe it, 1 Pet. 3:15.
2. They were ignorant of God’s Power These men believed that God created the universe out of nothing. They believed that God formed Adam out of the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. They believed God could do all that, but they did not believe that He had the power to raise the dead.
Let me take just a minute to remind you that the God we serve is an all-powerful God. There is nothing beyond the realm of possibility with Him. Here is what the Bible teaches about that, Luke 1:18; Job 42:2; Gen. 18:14; Eph. 3:20. (Ill. The exchange between Jeremiah and the Lord is Jer. 32:17 and 27.) If you can believe Him, you can see the impossible take place. That is the power of faith in an omnipotent God, Heb. 11:1.
B. v. 25-27a A Clarification Now, Jesus gets to the heart of their puzzle. He sets them straight about the errors in their belief system.
1. v. 25 Jesus refers to the nature of heavenly relationships. While the relationship of marriage is a wonderful and divinely ordained institution, it is an absolutely earthly institution. Marriage was designed for companionship, Gen. 2:18, continuation of the species, Gen. 1:22, and for the fulfillment of legitimate sexual needs, 1 Cor. 7:2. When we get to Heaven, we will be like the angels, only in the sense that we will be spiritual beings that will have no need for the physical necessities of this earthly life. In heaven, like the angels, we will be deathless, sinless, sexless, glorified and eternal. But, unlike the angels, we will be like Jesus, 1 John 3:2. Life will be different when we get there.
There will be no need for reproduction and childbirth because there will be no death. There will be no exclusive physical relationships like there are here, because in Heaven everyone will be perfectly and intimately related to everyone else, including God.
2. v. 26-27a Jesus refers to the reality of the resurrection The Sadducees came to Jesus talking about Moses, so Jesus turns to Moses to answer their question. Jesus points them to Exodus 3-4 when Moses had his encounter with God at the burning bush. Four times in the passage 3:6, 14-15, 16; 4:5, God says, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
In those verses, God speaks of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob not as dead men, nut as men who are alive. In fact, they are alive. These men were more alive after they died than they were while they were living in the world. When they died, they went in to the presence of the Lord to live forever. Jesus reminded these men that God “is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. For God to refer to those three men in the present tense means that they were, and are, very much alive!
You will notice that Jesus does not argue the reality of the resurrection. He simply states it as a fact. In verse 25 Jesus said, “For when they shall rise… The resurrection is a reality because Jesus Himself conquered death when He rose from the dead. He became the promise of resurrection to all those who receive Him as their Savior, 1 Cor. 15:20-23. Because Jesus rose from the dead, those who have their faith in Him for salvation have “passed from death unto life, John 5:24.
When Jesus saves a soul, He raises that person from spiritual death, Eph. 2:1. He makes them alive in Himself. He gives them His life. That is why salvation is referred to as “the new birth, John 3:3, 7. When a person receives Jesus, they become a partaker of “everlasting life, John 3:16; 6:47. They are given His “abundant life, both here and here after, John 10:10.
Everybody who dies will experience a resurrection, John 5:29. Some will get up again and receive everlasting life. Others will get up again to face God in judgment. Which is true for you will be determined by what you do with Jesus Christ, 1 John 5:12. He is dividing line between life and death, between Heaven and Hell.
· Much of the nature of our existence in Heaven will remain a mystery until we arrive there. But, there are some things we can know for sure. Let me share a few with you.
Ψ You will still be known as you in Heaven. You will retain your individuality there. Your physical appearance will say that you are you. You will simply be a better, perfected, and glorified you. (Ill. Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration – Matt. 17. They were recognized and known.) Those who die in Jesus lose nothing of themselves, but they become a better, glorified self. You will know your loved ones in Heaven. As one man said, “I know you here and I will not be a bigger fool there than I am here.
Ψ There will be no marriages in Heaven, but love will be perfected there. We will love one another fully, perfectly and without jealousy. I do, however, believe that we will remember our earthly relationships in Heaven. We will simply view them through glorified eyes.
Ψ There will be no death in Heaven. Those who go there will live forever, Rev. 21:4.
Ψ We will receive a new body in Heaven 1 Cor. 15:42-57.
· With that in mind, we should face the deaths of our loves with confidence. If they knew Jesus, they are more alive today than they ever were. If we know Jesus, we will meet again in Heaven. Jesus is coming, and when He does, He will bring the departed saints with Him. He will raise and glorify their bodies and gather us all together and take us all home to Heaven, 1 Thes. 4:13-18.
Conc: Jesus concludes His words by saying “ye do therefore greatly err. The word err, as I said earlier, means to stray; to go aside from the right way. But, here it in a form that suggests that the Sadducees were guilty of leading themselves astray. They were blind to the truth that was right before them and they chose the wrong path over the right path.
What about you? Are you following the right path today? Have you trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord? Are you ready to go to Heaven, or are you still headed to Hell? Come to Jesus and be saved!
Do you have fears and questions about eternity? The Lord will help you find the answers. Come to Him!
Are you saved today? Has the Lord confirmed some things in your heart? Has He given you encouragement concerning where you are headed when this life is over? If so, come before Him and thank Him for Who He is and for what He has done for you!