The God of the Living

“Have you not read…‘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” (vv. 31–32).  

- Matthew 22:31–33

The Sadducees denied the reality of angels, and Jesus probably intended to address this point as well in His answer to their question (Matt. 22:23–30). He affirmed the existence of angels, who do not marry, when He said we will be like them — functionally — when resurrected (Matt. 22:23–30). The idea here is that marriage itself, as a God-ordained institution to be fruitful and multiply, will be rendered irrelevant in a renewed world without death. Remember that the Sadducees’ question was not about affection and companionship in the resurrection but about fulfilling the mandate to keep the family line going (Deut. 25:6). 

Jesus then gives the theology of resurrection that underlies His comments thus far. He bases this doctrine in the Pentateuch, specifically Exodus 3:6, to refute the Sadducees who believe the five books of Moses teach nothing about the resurrection. Our Lord’s argument in Matthew 22:31–32 seems to be based partly on the use of the present tense; God said, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” not “I was the God of Abraham Isaac, and Jacob.” When Yahweh appeared to Moses hundreds of years after the patriarchs died, He remained their God, implying that after death they lived on to worship Him and, most importantly, will be bodily raised in the future. As an aside, this appeal to the tense of one word is important for our doctrine of biblical inspiration, for we see in it that the entire Bible is God-breathed. Not even one word is expendable.

Our spirits do live on in our Creator’s presence between our death and judgment day (2 Cor. 5:8), but only when our bodies are resurrected from the dead will we, like Jesus who reigns on high today, enjoy our complete, glorified state as all that God has created us to be. Yet though the fullness of new life does not come until the final resurrection, those who die in Christ live on today. The God who first revealed Himself to Israel is the eternal Lord of the covenant who loves His people forever. Not even death can end this relationship; therefore, “God of the dead” is not a fitting title for Him (Ps. 16:10–11). The church father Jerome writes, “To say that God is the God of the dead is to consign the life of God to those who have no life” (Commentary on Matthew, 3.22.32).

Coram Deo

Luke 20:38 records some additional words Jesus spoke on this occasion: “All live to him [God].” This is a precious and comforting truth indeed. Death is not the end of life for God’s people; we will dwell with Him forever and enjoy the blessings of eternal life. Our Creator is the Lord of the living, not the dead, and He can remain the God of the living only if His people will be raised forever. Have you grasped the profound blessing of eternal life in Christ Jesus?

Passages for Further Study

Job 19:25–27
Isaiah 26:19
John 3:16, 36
1 John 2:25

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