Jesus had foiled the scribes and the chief priests in their plan to entrap him in his public teaching. He was now attacked by the Sadducees who were the priestly and most powerful party among the Jews. They denied the immortality of the soul and believed neither in angels nor in spirits; they represented the modern materialists. It is to be noted that the question with which they approached Jesus was not one which referred only to immortality but specifically to the resurrection of the body. They proposed the case of a woman married successively to seven brothers from each of whom she was separated by death; and they asked, "In the resurrection therefore whose wife of them shall she be? for the seven had her to wife." They hoped that Jesus would either deny the orthodox belief as to the resurrection or would make some statement which would contradict the Law of Moses in accordance with which the successive marriages were made. They implied that this accepted Law was inconsistent with the belief in a resurrection.
In his reply Jesus declared that in the resurrection life will be regulated by larger laws than are known in this present age. Those who will share the glory of that age, and who will experience the blessedness of "the resurrection from the dead" will be immortal in soul and body. Marriage, which is now necessary for a continuance of the race, will no longer exist. The relationships in that life will be higher than even the most sacred relationship of the present life. Those who have a part in this resurrection will be "equal unto the angels," not in all particulars, but in the fact that their state will be deathless. In that larger sense they will be "sons of God" and "sons of the resurrection," for death will have lost its power over them.
Such a reply should be carefully weighed by men of the present day who deny miracles and refuse to believe in resurrection and immortality. Many beliefs which are now ridiculed because they seem to contradict established laws of science will some day be vindicated by the discovery of higher and more inclusive laws than are now known.
In his answer Jesus already had rebuked the Sadducees for denying the existence of angels. He next established the fact of the resurrection by a quotation from the very Law on which they had depended to show that resurrection was impossible. He recalled the words recorded by Moses in reference to "the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." He then added, "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living." Jesus meant to establish the fact of the continued existence of the dead; yet not merely this, but to prove the resurrection of the dead. The latter was the question at issue. The word "living," as used by our Lord, indicates those who are enjoying a normal life, not that of disembodied spirits, but of immortal spirits clothed with deathless bodies. Therefore Jesus added, "for all live unto him." In the mind and purpose of God all are to be raised from the dead and to enjoy that complete and blessed existence which resurrection implies. The confident expectation of such a future state is based on our relation to God. If he is truly our God and we are his people, the triumph of death is not real and permanent but will be ended by the glorious immortality of the body and of the soul.