He Is The God Of The Living
“But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living. ” Matthew 22:31-32
Last week we looked at the law of Levirate marriage (Deut. 25:5-11) and the customs associated with it. The issue was raised in the context of a question posed by the Sadducees designed to trap Jesus. (Matt. 22:24-28)
Matthew, Mark and Luke all note in their inspired narratives of this event that the Sadducees were those that did not believe in a resurrection of the dead (They are the saddest-of-all-you-see). Their attempt to trap our Lord was rooted in a “hypothetical” situation where seven brothers had the same woman as their wife, due to each fulfilling their obligations under the law of Levirate marriage because their previous, now deceased, brother had not raised up any offspring. So, they wanted to know, who would have her in the resurrection, since they all had her. Under the law, it was illegal for another man to have his brother’s wife while he was alive. (C. f. Mark 6:18; Lev. 18:16) You can just see their smug smiles thinking they had trapped Jesus, forcing him to either deny the resurrection, or if not, He would be found as tacitly approving the breaking of the law, if they all were alive in the resurrection and each had had her as their wife.
Jesus took the opportunity, as He so often did, for a teaching moment to correct their misguided assumption and improper understanding of Scripture. That’s how we arrive at today’s text of an Old Testament quote by our Lord.
The passage Jesus cites is found in the book of Exodus regarding Moses’ encounter with the LORD at the burning bush. “Then He said, ‘Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ 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.” (Ex. 3:5-6)
The Doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead in the Old Testament
In the sacred scrolls of what we now refer to as the Old Testament, the resurrection of the dead was one of those topics that the Spirit had not revealed extensive information and it was somewhat concealed. However, there were passages that spoke of an obvious resurrection such as Daniel 12:2-3, 13; Isaiah 26:19, and Job spoke of looking forward to a resurrection in Job 19:25-27. The honest mind would have to come to the conclusion in Isaiah 53:8-12 that the writer is talking of a resurrection from the dead since the subject is said to have died, yet He would see his offspring and have His days prolonged. The message of the resurrection was there.
Jesus, when He appended the statement “He is not the God of the dead but of the living” to His quote of Exodus 3:6, confirmed the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. As Luke’s account adds, “for all live to Him.” (Luke 20:38)
Moses and the Spiritual world
The Sadducees considered the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible attributed to Moses, as inspired and authoritative. They also held the position that not only was there no resurrection or future state for the soul of man, but that there were no demons nor angels, essentially denying a spiritual world.
Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees’ question also corrected their erroneous belief system in regards to the spiritual realm. When they asked, regarding the Levirate marriage issue, “In the resurrection therefore whose wife of the seven shall she be? For they all had her.” (Matt 22:28 NAS) Jesus answered them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (Matt. 22:29-30 NAS) Jesus statement not only confirmed the resurrection, but also the existence of angels (and therefore demons), the spiritual realm, and the future state of the soul.
Remember, the Sadducees approached Jesus with the question, “Teacher, Moses said…” (Matt. 22:24) How did Jesus turn their own devious intentions and trap against them? By referencing a passage from the Pentateuch, the book of Moses, as is recorded in Mark’s gospel, “But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses…” (Mark 12:26a NAS)
The Sadducees also missed the power of God concerning the resurrection and things spiritual. The power of God is revealed in the resurrection of the Messiah from the dead according to prophecy. In raising Him from the grave to the throne in glory, the spiritual realm, He manifests His power over death. God’s power to transform is emitted from the spiritual realm in glory and the resurrected state. The apostle Paul says of this knowledge of the gospel of glory, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves;” (2 Cor. 4:7) Brethren, we’ve been raised from the dead in our immersion into Christ. If we understand and accept the scriptures’ emphasis on the power of things spiritual and our resurrected state by faith, we will then be benefactors of its power, both here and in the future state of our soul in the eternal realm. He is the God of the living!