Of Which of Them Does the Woman Become a Wife?
By Jonathan Mitchell
In Lu. 20:27ff the Sadducees asked Jesus this question after having presented to Him a hypothetical case of a woman who had been married to seven brothers, one at a time, who each had died, one after another. Finally, the woman died. So they asked,
"Therefore, in the resurrection, of which of them does the woman become a wife – for you see, the seven men had her [as] a wife?" (vs. 33)
The way Lu. 20:34-36 is normally rendered it can sound like Jesus was giving a direct response to the question from the Sadducees. However, Jesus rarely actually answered questions that were put to Him by those who were hostile to His message. In this passage He actually side-stepped their tricky question (for they did not believe in a resurrection – vs. 27). You see, His message was not about the next life, but about the next age. He never said much about what the next life would be. His message was for this life, here on earth. So He did not fall into the trap that they set for Him. Let's look how He responded to them:
34. So Jesus said to them, "The sons of this age (= those now living and having the qualities and characteristics of this present time and arrangement) are normally marrying and being given in marriage.
35. "Yet those folks being considered worthy (of complete equal value) of that Age – even to hit the target of the resurrection, the one out from among [the] dead folks – are neither normally marrying nor are being habitually given in marriage,
36. "for you see, neither are they any longer able to die off, for they exist being (or: are) the equivalence of agents (or: identical to and the same thing as messengers) and they are God's sons (= the offsprings of God) – being sons of the resurrection (= the offsprings of, and from, the resurrection; or: = those having the qualities and characteristic of the resurrection).
37. "Yet that the dead people are habitually (or: repeatedly; or: continuously) being raised up, even Moses divulged (or: discloses) at the thornbush, as he continues terming (or: speaking of) [the] Lord [= Yahweh] 'the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' [Ex. 3:6]
38. "Yet He is not a God of dead folks, but to the contrary, of continuously living ones – for you see, in Him (and: with Him; and: by Him; and: to Him) all people are continuously living."
If we realize that Jesus was speaking of what Paul refers to as the "new creation," and is elsewhere referred to in terms of the Jew's expectation of the coming Messiah, then we can conclude that what Jesus calls "that Age" – and note the limiting adjective "that" – is the new arrangement (or: covenant) that would be inaugurated upon His being raised from the dead.
Now when this new creation came, the outward man did not change – any more than you did when you became a Christian. In this new arrangement there is neither male nor female, nor slave nor free – as Paul described it (Gal. 3:28). The only marriage in this new economy is the marriage of Christ to His body (Eph. 5:23-32). The kingdom of God is the kingdom of the heavens – it exists in the realm of spirit, even within us. In this realm and in this new existence we cannot die. We have been raised up to be seated with Him in the heavenly realm (Eph. 2:6).
Furthermore, we become like the rest of His agents (not "angels" – that is a transliteration of the Greek "angelos," but this word means an "agent" or a "messenger," or both). Notice what Heb. 1:7 tell us,
"He is the One making His agents (messengers; folks with the message) spirits (or: Breath-effects), and His public servants a flame of fire." [Ps. 104:4]
Did you catch that? He makes His "agents [to be] spirits." And that happens by being joined to the Lord and becoming "one spirit" (1 Cor. 6:17). The age of the Messiah is the age of the Spirit indwelling humanity. It is the age of the covenant communities that were created by the coming of the Spirit. This is the dealing of God with humanity through having them be "in Christ."
Now note the next clause of vs. 36, "they are God's sons (= the offsprings of God)." Well, now that's us – right now – isn't it? Yes, we who are led by the Spirit are God's sons (Rom. 8:14). Then Jesus further qualifies this by saying "being sons of the resurrection (= the offsprings of, and from, the resurrection; or: = those having the qualities and characteristic of the resurrection)." What resurrection? Christ's resurrection. Recall Jesus' words in John 11:25-26,
"Jesus said to her, 'I am the Resurrection (or: the standing back up again; the Arising) and the Life. The one progressively believing and habitually putting trust into Me, even if he may die-off (or: die-away), will live (or: will be alive; will continue living)! And further, everyone (or: all mankind) presently (or: continuing in) living and trusting (or: progressively believing; regularly exercising faith) into Me can by no means (or: may under no circumstances) die-off (or: die-away), on into the Age. Are you presently believing, trusting and having convinced faith of this?'"
Now look at the tense of the verb "being raised up" in the first clause of vs. 37, here in Lu. 20. It is the present tense, and speaks here of "habitual" action. Jesus was speaking in terms of the new age already being in effect (for He was the One who brought the kingdom, the new age, and told folks that it was close to them – at hand) and as a SIGN of this on the natural plain He raised folks from the dead (in the natural realm). But in the spirit, God (expressed in this vs. as what scholars call "the divine passive") is habitually raising folks up into this new age.
In the latter half of this vs. Jesus reaches back to a statement by Moses (i.e., by the Torah, the OT) and uses it as being prophetic of the time of Christ (as in many other instances throughout the OT – cf Lu. 24:27). Because of this new age, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are spoken of as "continuously living ones" (vs. 38, above).
Now consider the last statement in vs. 38,
"for you see, in Him (and: with Him; and: by Him; and: to Him) all people are continuously living."
You see, we are His agents and messengers ("angelos") here and now, and I suspect that we will be the same in the next life. Consider Rev. 22:9 and what that agent said to John,
"See! No! I am your fellow slave, even of (belonging to; from among) your brothers – of (or: belonging to and from among) the prophets and of those continuously keeping and observing the words of this scroll. Worship God!"
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