The Resurrection Question
On Monday of the Passion Week, Jesus cursed the fig tree and cast out the bankers from the temple. The next day (Tuesday) the disciples noticed that the fig tree had already withered (Mark 11:20). According to Mark’s account, it was on this day that the chief priests questioned Jesus’ authority (Mark 11:27-33). It appears also from Mark’s account that on the same day Jesus told the parable of the vineyard, answered the tax question, and the question about the resurrection (Mark 12).
Luke is less concerned with the dates than Mark. Luke 20:27 says,
27 Now there came to Him some of the Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection)…
This question of the resurrection was a major difference between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The Pharisees believed in a bodily resurrection from the dead, while the Sadducees did not. We are told in Acts 23:7, 8,
7 And as he said this, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor a spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.
The fact that the Sadducees denied the resurrection of the dead did not mean that they denied the immortality of the soul. This mistake is often made by commentators, who assume that the Sadducees taught that when a man dies, he remains dead. Instead, we read in The Jewish Encyclopedia in the section on Resurrection, “Immortality of the soul takes the place of bodily resurrection.”
In other words, the Sadducees believed that when a righteous man dies, his soul goes to heaven, where he remains without returning to a bodily existence in the future. The Pharisees disputed that belief, insisting upon a bodily resurrection from the dead.
Beyond this, of course, there were many variations of belief, some saying that only Israelites would be raised from the dead, others saying that only those Israelites buried near Jerusalem would be raised, and others extending it beyond their borders to non-Israelites as well.
Luke 20:28-33 gives us the resurrection question posed by the Sadducees.
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.”
The Sadducees, to their credit, recognized the law as the authority but rejected the “oral traditions” that the Pharisees relied upon. Hence, this Sadducee question appealed to the law itself to support their rejection of the resurrection. No doubt this question had been debated many times already, with neither side being convinced of the other’s argument.
The Sadducee argument said, in effect, that this provision in Deut. 25:5-10 made resurrection absurd, because if all seven brothers took the same woman as his wife, whose wife would she be later, if there were a bodily resurrection?
Jesus’ Answer, Part 1
Jesus’ first answer supported the Pharisees and showed the fallacy of denying the resurrection. Luke 20:34-36 begins by saying,
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.
The term “sons of this age” was an idiom that referred to those living in the current state of mortal existence, where men grow old and die. In this current state, the law found in Deut. 25:5-10 was applicable, for if men retained perfect health and never died, that law would have been irrelevant.
By contrast, those who are raised from the dead “neither marry, nor are given in marriage.” The law in Deuteronomy 25 is no longer applicable in the same sense. No man will die childless, and hence, no man’s brother will need to take his dead brother’s wife to beget a son in the name of his dead brother.
In such a state of resurrected immortality, they are similar to angels in this way. They are also “sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” Here Jesus defines the sons of God in terms of resurrection, or that resurrected state. In other words, the sons of God are not those who are of some particular genealogy, but those who were “worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead.”
Jesus did not get into the question about whether or not non-Israelites could qualify for the resurrection, or if the place of their burial was a factor. He did affirm, however, that there would indeed be a resurrection, and in that sense, he agreed with this basic tenet of the Pharisees. This was obviously the view of both Luke and Paul, for we read in 1 Cor. 15:12-18,
12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover, we are even found to be false witnesses of Christ, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
Paul, the ex-Pharisee (Phil. 3:5), never forsook his earlier belief in resurrection, nor did he show any sign of altering that belief. He never argued against bodily resurrection, but instead proved it by the fact of Christ’s bodily resurrection. In linking Christ’s resurrection to our own, he made it clear that immortality does not replace bodily resurrection, as the Sadducees claimed.
Paul clearly defined resurrection (by Christ’s example) as a bodily resurrection, although Luke’s description of Jesus’ post-resurrection body shows that the sons of God will no longer be bound by the limitations of the present mortal body. We will say more about this when we study Luke 24.
Imputed Life is Spiritual Resurrection
The principle of imputation also shows that we may achieve a level of both death and resurrection life here and now, as depicted in baptism. Paul discusses this in Rom. 6:3-11, concluding with verse 11,
11 Even so, consider [logizomai, “reckon”] yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
To reckon is to “call those things which be not as though they were” (Rom. 4:17, KJV). Though we are not actually dead, we are to reckon it to be so. Though we are not actually raised from the dead, we are to reckon it to be already done. In both cases, we call what is NOT as though it were, because we have faith in a future actual event. Our faith becomes the motive for living NOW as if we were already manifested sons of God.
As long as we distinguish between the reckoning and the actual event, we will not go astray in regard to biblical teaching.
Jesus’ Answer, Part 2
In Luke 20:37, 38, after taking a strong stand in favor of the Pharisees, Jesus showed how His questioners from the Sadducee sect were also partially correct:
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.”
Jesus cited Exodus 3:6, where Moses heard the voice coming out of the burning bush,
6 He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Jesus concedes that the Sadducees were correct in believing that the dead are immortal, for although Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were long dead by the time Moses saw the burning bush, they were alive in the eyes of a timeless God. If we probe deeper into this question, we can see two possible interpretations of this: (1) God was reckoning them as alive, although they were actually dead, having no conscious existence, or (2) These patriarchs were actually alive, being immortal and having a conscious existence.
To resolve this question, I believe it is necessary to understand the difference between body, soul, and spirit. Each has its own mind or consciousness. The body’s consciousness is located in the brain. The soul’s consciousness is located in the soul (mind). The spirit’s consciousness is in the heart. At creation, God formed man of the dust of the ground, breathed a spirit into him, and the combination of the two produced a “living soul” (Gen. 2:7, KJV). Hence also, Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 15:45, 46 says,
45 So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.
The natural man is a “living soul.” It is what Paul calls the old man. This is what we received from Adam. But when we were begotten by the Spirit (as was Jesus), that new man in us remained distinct from the old man. The new man is Christ in us, begotten of heaven but in an earthly mother. As with Jesus Christ, the Christ in us is “a life-giving spirit” and therefore cannot die.
According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, the Greek word for “life-giving” is zoopoieo, whose first definition is “to produce alive, beget, or bear living young.” The natural man is born dead on account of Adam’s sin; the new man is born alive, for it has bypassed Adam, being begotten from above.
This new man that is begotten in us is also sinless, as we read in 1 John 3:9, quoted from The Emphatic Diaglott,
9 No one who has been begotten by God practices sin; because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been begotten by God.
For this reason, Jesus says that God “is not the God of the dead but of the living.” In effect, He says that God is not the God of Adam or the old man, but is the God of the living—a reference to the New Creation Man that has been begotten by God. All who are begotten of God are recognized as the sons of God. Even though at creation Adam was called a “son of God” at that time (Luke 3:38), Adam lost his position through sin and death. The only way to regain that position is to be begotten a second time, as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3-8.
This second conception is accomplished by the law found in Deut. 25:5-10, which is precisely the passage on which the Sadducee based his question. It is the Law of Sonship, showing us how to regain the position as a son of God. Once Adam was condemned to death, there was no longer any way to save him from the divine sentence. Anyone who places their faith in their genealogy to Adam have misplaced their faith.
God has provided another way, however, and it is the way of adoption. Our elder Brother died childless when He went to the cross. By faith in Him, we have opportunity to raise up seed unto our elder Brother. In the law, the son produced by the dead man’s brother was legally the son of his elder brother. Therefore, we see that sonship is based not upon biology but upon a legal adoption. Paul tells us that “the law is spiritual” (Rom. 7:14), and so this legal adoption process is actually accomplished by spiritual means.
God is the God of the living, not the dead. He is the God of His sons, for He has begotten them by His Spirit, and that which has been begotten by God has life and cannot sin.
Interpreting Resurrection as a Present Reality
Some might interpret Luke 20:37, 38 in a way that equates the resurrection with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who are dead and yet are alive. In other words, it may be said that the dead are raised by virtue of their being alive to God. Interpretations of this sort seek to abolish bodily resurrection and equate it to immortality or to the reckoning of one’s old man to be dead and raised into newness of life (Rom. 6:4).
In other words, by this view every true believer was raised from the dead when he was justified by faith—or perhaps at his baptism. If that were the case, then how is it that most believers continue to be given in marriage? Would this not be contrary to Jesus’ statement in Luke 20:35, where they “neither marry, nor are given in marriage”?
Further, Jesus did not make such a condition a present reality but spoke of “those who are considered worthy to attain to THAT AGE and the resurrection from the dead.” It is clear that Jesus considered the resurrection to be an introduction to a future “age” (aionos).
Hence, just because Abraham, though dead in body and soul, continued to live through his spirit and its consciousness does not negate a future bodily resurrection. It is the purpose of God to make us all in the likeness of Christ’s post-resurrection body. This is the glorified (or spiritual) body, a body that is fully subservient to the spiritual mind, rather than to the fleshly soul.
Body, Soul, and Spirit
Because Adam sinned as a “living soul,” Ezekiel 18:20 KJV says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” It is the nephesh (“soul”) that dies, for that is the old man that is passed down from Adam. The soul is not immortal, as so many have thought. The soul has a death sentence upon it that cannot be reversed. On the other hand, Scripture never tells us that the spirit dies. Instead, Ecclesiastes 12:7 says,
7 then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.
Death is a return to an original state. The body returns to the earth; the soul goes to sheol (Greek: hades), which is often described as “sleep” but which literally means “the unseen, lack of perception.” We see this in the example of Jesus’ death, where His body was taken to the tomb. In resurrection, “His soul was not left in hell (hades)” (Acts 2:31). However, His spirit was committed into God’s hands (Luke 23:46).
Can we not link Luke 20:37 with 23:46? In what way is God not the God of the dead but of the living? When Jesus died, did God cease to be His God? Of course not. His spirit was commended to God. The Greek word used here is paratithemi, “to place or set near, to deposit, to entrust.”
This was a quote from David in Psalm 31:5, where the Hebrew word paqad means “go to, commit, charge to the care of, deposit.” Being prophetic of Christ, it also applied to David himself, as well as to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Christ’s death on the cross paid the penalty for Adam’s sin. That penalty was the death of the soul and body. We see the same in a legal (spiritual) sense when we put to death the old man which we received from Adam, the “living soul.” In other words, it is not necessary for one’s spirit to die in order to pay the penalty for sin. Our spirit is the house and the consciousness of the New Creation Man, begotten by the Father. It is that which is raised from the dead.
Many have thought that resurrection involved the old man coming back to life. No, the old man must die, and a New Man is raised in its place. This is why we must shift our consciousness and our identity from Adam to the Last Adam. We must claim the New Man in Christ to be our “self,” that is, our true identity, for that is the only “man” that can be raised from the dead.
It is the same with the resurrection of Israel from the valley of dry bones, as pictured in Ezekiel 37:12. Fleshly Israel died on account of its sinful condition which it received from Adam. Its resurrection comes about when the wind of God’s Spirit blows, for verse 14 says, “I will put My Spirit within you, and you will come to life.”
Israel died as a fleshly body, but will be raised a spiritual body. The new Israel consists only of believes in Christ, for only through Him can one be begotten of the Father. And so it is written in Hosea 1:11 that “the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, and they will appoint for themselves one Leader,” which is Christ. All breaches will be repaired in Christ.
In their resurrection, they will be called “the sons of the living God” (Hosea 1:10), even as we see with individual people. Hence, Jesus said in Luke 20:36 that those who attain the resurrection “are sons of God.” Israel does not achieve sonship on account of their fleshly descent from Adam (or Jacob), but on account of their descent from the Last Adam through the adoption law of Deut. 25:1-10.
On a final note, when Elijah or Elisha, Jesus or Paul, raised men from the dead during their ministries on earth, those men later died. Their old man was given mortal life, which was temporary. They were granted extensions of Adamic life, but not resurrection to immortal life that will be seen in The Age to come.
Some were impressed with Jesus’ answer, because Luke 20:39, 40 concludes,
39 And some of the scribes answered and said, “Teacher, You have spoken well.” 40 And they did not have courage to question Him any longer about anything.
No doubt it was the chief priests who dared not send any more spies to question Jesus, because those spies were being converted. A different course of action would have to be taken.
Remember that Luke’s gospel was addressed to Theophilus, the son of the high priest. He was from a Sadducee family which did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. This particular passage in Luke 20:27-39 would have been of special interest to Theophilus. In fact, we may wonder if perhaps Theophilus himself was one of the Sadducees sent to question Jesus. Was he, perhaps, the one who said, “Teacher, you have spoken well” (Luke 20:39)? Did Luke allow him to remain anonymous in this story so as not to expose him to persecution or ridicule?
Even if he were not one of the questioners, there is no doubt that he would have heard the report first-hand from those Sadducees. Surely Luke knew this and wrote his account first to remind Theophilus, and secondly to share it discretely with a wider audience.
The Seven Churches
I believe that there is a prophetic side to the question of the Sadducees in regard to the seven brothers who married the same woman, one after the other. These seven brethren appear to be connected to The Seven Churches in Revelation 2 and 3. The Seven Churches, though they were literally churches in those cities, also prophesied of seven church ages, as I showed in my book, The Seven Churches.
Ephesus (33-64 A.D.)
Smyrna (64-313 A.D.)
These seven run parallel to seven ages of the Old Testament Church, which is why John included many Old Testament references in describing their counterpart churches in the Pentecostal Age.
The Church itself was begotten by the seed of the Word (1 Peter 1:23-25) and was called to raise up children to be the inheritors of Christ, according to the law of Deut. 25:5-10. The problem was that while many individuals did achieve this by faith, each of the Seven Churches as a whole failed to bring forth the manifested sons of God. We know, of course, that the historic fulfillment of the divine plan made it impossible for the feast of Pentecost to achieve this goal, because Pentecost could only bring forth the kingdom of Saul (the prophetic type of Pentecost).
In other words, it was God’s will that the seven church “brothers” bring forth the Manchild, but it was God’s plan that they fail to do so, in order that the never-ending Kingdom might be established, not by prophetic “Saul” but by prophetic “David.”
In this, I see the Sadducee question to be prophetic of the Seven Churches of the Pentecostal Age (of Saul). The Seven Church ages each had a segment of the forty Jubilees of Saul’s reign from 33-1993 A.D. After that, as I wrote in the final chapter of the book, there was a 7½ year transition from Saul to David, according to the pattern of 2 Samuel 5:5.
The transfer of authority from Saul to David came in two phases: (1) May 30, 1993, which was the 40th Jubilee from the ordination of the Church under Pentecost, correlating with David’s reign over Judah; (2) November 30, 2000 was the full transfer of authority from Pentecost to Tabernacles, correlating with David’s coronation over all Israel.
This transfer of authority was yet limited, because we had not yet reached the time for the world-wide transfer of authority from the beast empires to the saints of the Most High. We finally reached this point in 2014, as I have shown in previous weblogs, and even then it appears that there is at least a three-year transition to 2017, or even into 2018, before this is complete.
When we view the Sadducee question from a prophetic angle, it seems to indicate that we are at the beginning of The Age to come. In particular, this question focuses upon the Tabernacles Church in the Kingdom (of “David”), which will succeed where the Passover Church (under Moses and the prophets) and the Pentecost Church (since Acts 2) have both failed.