In Matthew 22:23-32, Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead. They posed this question: “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies without children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name.’ Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children, so his brother married the widow. But the second brother also died, and the third brother married her. This continued with all seven of them. Last of all, the woman also died. So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her.” Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven. “But now, as to whether there will be a resurrection of the dead—haven’t you ever read about this in the Scriptures? Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, God said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ So he is the God of the living, not the dead.”
Maybe the reason the brother is to marry the…wait a minute…! If a man dies childless, then his wife is not a widow (Deuteronomy 25:5) – The Sadducees called her a widow. According to Deuteronomy 25:5, when brothers live together in the same home, and one married, yet dies without any sons, his wife shall not marry outside the family to a stranger. Why not? Isn’t the marriage null? Because according to old Israelite tradition, once she’s joined the family, she’s a full-fledged member of the family. So the husband’s brother shall marry her and have children with her. Today, we may see this as her having to now be whored off to the rest of the brothers, but not so with ancient Jewish tradition. Plus, the first born son to them will succeed the dead brother’s name (Adam, son of David, for instance), and this was done so as to keep the deceased brother’s name among Israel, versus being blotted out. But how does this explain the “widow” part? Interestingly enough, it’s only the English versions that use the word “widow”. The word used in the Greek Septuagint means “wife”, “woman”, or “spouse”. The word used in Hebrew only means “wife” or “woman”. So nowhere, other than the English translations, is the wife of the deceased considered a “widow”.
So going back to the Matthew text, the Sadducees don’t believe in the resurrection (so they’re sad, you see?). Their argument was that Moses said if a man dies childless, then his brother should marry the wife and raise up their children for the deceased brother. Jesus stops them there saying they don’t know the scriptures. Why? Well, first of all, Deuteronomy says “firstborn”, not “children”. Secondly, Deuteronomy 25:5 is not about marriage, but about the woman’s permanency in the family: She won’t be kicked out as a non-virgin (which would otherwise be as a death sentence to her, for nobody else would want her as a wife), she wouldn’t be kicked out because her husband has died, and she’s married into the family lineage.
Deuteronomy 25:5 is also about the lineage of the deceased brother, for otherwise, total destruction of somebody would lead them to be blotted out. But the son shall not be blotted out. Therefore, the firstborn (not all the children born) will be under his name (it may also be about inheritance).
So Jesus rebukes the Sadducees for getting the scriptures wrong, as well as for not knowing God’s power. Understand, the Sadducees were teachers of the Law, so they were supposed to be professionals at everything pertaining to the Law. For them to suggest incorrect information about that which they should know better than anybody, and then to test somebody on such scriptures, deserves rebuke. Also, their whole stance on the scriptures depended on there not being a resurrection. But Jesus corrects them here, also with scripture, reminding them of where God said pertaining to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “I AM their God”, not I WAS their God. In other words, they had ascended into heaven, or resurrected from death into life, but eternal life.
Today, this is also a great example of people who base their beliefs upon the incorrect interpretation of the scripture. Their first mistake is always that they got the Scripture wrong. Their second mistake (in response to this passage) is that they also have wrong theology/beliefs, based on their misinterpretation of the scriptures. For example, Mormons have their own bibles, but add the Holy bible to their collection, and not as their main book. Also, their reading and understanding of it is incorrect, for if their reading and understanding was correct, then Jesus wouldn’t be a latter-day saint, nor a created being who’s equal with Satan, but the non-created Messiah who was, is and always will be God. They wouldn’t be Mormons, they’d be Christians, and realize that their book of Mormon is all just fictional stories in no relation to the True history, as revealed also in the Holy Bible.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are another example, for they also believe that their way is correct, even that God has an eraser on the writing of their names in the Book of Life. But then, when Christianity talks of a secure salvation and correctly explains the Scriptures, they choose to keep their own wrong interpretations of them to match their incorrect theology.
How sad/empty a religion must be to think/believe that there’s no resurrection and that this is it. And then to argue with another group that speaks of the hope of resurrection!
Unfortunately , many within the Christian Church also don’t read the Bible, but think they know what it says. For instance, I’m amazed at how many people actually believe:
- That the sentence, “God helps those who help themselves” is from the Bible! It’s not! It’s originally quoted in one of Aesop’s Fables, Greek Mythology, then later again quoted by Benjamin Franklin, and I’m told Rockefeller, also.
- “Works will get you to Heaven.” Actually, they won’t! And the Bible continues to say this, but many people who claim the name of Christ seem to think they will.
- Holiness: God continues to tell His people that we are to be Holy, just as He is Holy. Discipleship is a huge part of this, also. But many I’ve spoken with seem to think that God accepts them the way they are and that they can continue living like this now, only difference is that they’re saved (it’s the “Christians aren’t perfect, just saved” mentality). This was also the understanding of the Corinthian church…the “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so” theology. But real Christianity says that “God loves and accepts you where you are, but loves you too much to leave you there.” (theology, not a quote in the Bible). Paul names off examples in 1 Corinthians 6 of types of people who will not make it into Heaven, then says, “And that’s what many of you were!” But there should’ve been a transformation somewhere between the time they accepted Christ and now. But seeing that they’re still behaving as they did when they first repented only shows that they never allowed the Holy Spirit to transform them. They also never matured in their faith.
- Sin: If everybody understood the severity of sin, then I wonder if they would be more careful about committing it? Do you remember playing those games when we were kids, where we walked on parts of the furniture, but if we stepped on the floor, which was “lava”, it was immediate death? Now imagine if the floor really was lava. That’s sort of like how sin is…the floor was sin. There’s no 2-second rule, there’s no “one step across is OK”, just immediate death due. You can’t walk on lava, you can’t touch it, you can’t even go near it, so you do everything you can to avoid it. If people recognized sin as even more dangerous than lava, I wonder if we’d do better at keeping away from it? We need to see sin as more deadly than lava, because it is.
- Bible Illiteracy: Apparently, this is also a problem among those who serve in the Church. The sad thing about that is, in my own research, I’ve learned that just about everybody who’s suffering from Bible illiteracy has a Bible! But for some reason, it’s like pulling teeth to get them to read it. Also in my research, the result of Bible illiteracy is Liberal Christianity…Christians who have become numb to the sin occurring in the world around them that they begin to accept it as the norm, even sometimes believing the Bible supports it.
Another bit of misinterpretation from this passage is when Jesus said that people are like angels in Heaven. Taken at face-value, one might think He’s saying that people become angels when we die. But that is not at all what Jesus is saying here, for the context is marriage. What Jesus is saying is that just as the angels in Heaven are neither married nor given in marriage, neither are those of us who enter His eternal presence.
If you don’t read your Bible regularly, then it’s real easy to begin to believe non-truths, forget what the Bible actually says, get caught up in what others who don’t know what the Bible actually says, say that the Bible says, and to form your understandings about God into misunderstandings about God. As Christians, it’s imperative that we know what is and what is not in the Bible, how to explain what’s going on, and when somebody’s getting something wrong. When Jesus corrected the Sadduccees, He responded, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God”. As Christians, we need to be sure that we don’t make the same mistake.