The God of the Living

As for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong” (vv. 26–27).

- Mark 12:25–27

Scripture affirms the afterlife and the resurrection of the dead (Dan. 12:2; Luke 16:19–31), but it does not give us many details about what resurrected life will be like. John says we will be like Christ, but even he does not relay much about our resurrected state, writing that “what we will be has not yet appeared” (1 John 3:2). The lack of specific information about our post-resurrection state, however, has not stopped people from speculating about the afterlife. People often assume that life in the world to come will be just like life on the present earth, only better. We tend to think it will differ from our life now only in degree, not in kind.

Assuming the life to come will be just like life in the present led the Sadducees to ask Jesus what they considered a resurrection-disproving question: Which of the seven brothers would have as his wife the one woman they all married in succession before they died (Mark 12:18–23)? The Sadducees believed such a situation demonstrated that people will not rise from the dead. Their scenario would make one or all of the brothers guilty of adultery if all of them were living and married to her (Lev. 18:16; 20:21), and surely God would not cause people to break His law by raising them to an adulterous situation.

Jesus responded by criticizing the Sadducees for not knowing God’s Word (Mark 12:24). First, they wrongly assumed that life in the resurrection would be exactly the same as life in this present world. There will be continuity, but there will be no marriage in the resurrection. We will be like angels, who do not get married (v. 25).

More importantly, the Sadducees were wrong about the resurrection of the dead because Scripture proclaims that we will rise from the grave. Even the five books of Moses, the only portion of the Old Testament that the Sadducees used for their theology, teach the resurrection. Jesus pointed to Exodus 3 as proof for the resurrection, noting that God said to Moses, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Mark 12:26–27). Implicitly, our Lord argued on the basis of both the verb tense and theology. If death ended the patriarchs’ existence, God would have said, “I was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Our Creator’s use of the present tense implies that they live on to worship Him. Moreover, the Lord always keeps His promises, and His promise to the patriarchs—long life in the Promised Land, ultimately, the new creation (Gen. 12:1– 3; Matt. 5:5)—can be ful lled only if they will live forever.

Coram Deo

Scripture refers to the Lord as the “living God” (Deut. 5:26) not only because He is the only God who is alive—the other gods being dead because they do not truly exist as gods—but also because He is the God of the living. God’s relationship to His people does not end at their death, for they live on to worship Him in heaven. Because God is the God of the living, we know that all His promises to us will be kept either now or in the world to come.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 16
Matthew 22:30–33

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