Then come to him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying,…
I. IMPORTANCE OF THE QUESTION. Though the question propounded in this section was proposed for a captious purpose, and in order to entangle, yet, divested of its technicalities, it is a most important one. There is no subject more closely connected with the immortal hopes of man than that to which the above section refers. The doctrine of the resurrection is implied, or directly inculcated, in several passages of the Old Testament. In the New, in which life and immortality are so clearly brought to light, we find many plain statements in regard to it. The whole subject is discussed at large, and fully elaborated in that magnificent chapter, the fifteenth of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, while our Lord, in the Scripture under consideration, puts the argument pithily and pointedly in reply to a question from the Sadducees.
II. AN ASSUMPTION. In clearing away the rubbish, with which they overlaid the difficulty whereby they thought to ensnare him, the Savior charges them with ignoring the mighty power of God, who quickeneth the dead and calleth the things which be not as though they were. He taxes them with resting their reasoning on an unwarrantable assumption, to the effect that the condition of life in heaven would be the same as here on earth, while, on the contrary, the occupants of that spirit-world are as the angels of God. Having, moreover, affirmed their ignorance of those Scriptures which they themselves acknowledged, he proceeds to the proof of the doctrine impugned.
III. IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL. By his quotation from the third chapter of Exodus, he establishes the immortality of the soul. God is the God of the living, for the relationship thus indicated is connected with the bestowal of benefits and blessings, while the dead are beyond the reach of these: but the passage quoted affirms God to be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; therefore these patriarchal men, whose earthly tabernacles, long dissolved, had mouldered and mingled with kindred dust, still lived in some sense and state and place. Their souls lived in God's sight and in God's presence and to God's praise. The-immortality of the soul is thus a clear enough conclusion, but the proof is not so plain with regard to the resurrection of the body; and yet this is the very point in dispute. It is a well-known fact that several of the heathen philosophers who believed in the immortality of the soul, seem never to have dreamt of the resurrection of the body. How, then does our Lord's plain proof of the former doctrine serve-the purpose of establishing the latter? This is the difficulty of the passage. The following considerations will resolve it: -
IV. GROUND OF SADDUCEES' DENIAL OF THE RESURRECTION. The chief reason of the Sadducees denying the resurrection of the body was their disbelief in the immortality of the soul. They repudiated the last-named doctrine, and on this very ground rejected the former. They said the soul does not exist apart from, or after, the dissolution of the body. "They gainsay the duration of the soul" is the testimony of Josephus to their opinion on this point. From this they inferred that there is no likelihood of, nor need for, the body to be raised up, as, according to this erroneous opinion of theirs, there was no soul to reanimate, or reinhabit, or be reunited therewith. Our Lord meets inference with inference. Having proved, as we have seen, the immortality of the soul, he thus prepares the way for the corollary, that the body would be raised from the dust of death, and that soul and body would be then and for ever reunited. They insisted on the extinction of the soul at the death of the body, or its non-existence as distinct from that body, and so wished it to be inferred therefrom that the body would not be raised, and no reunion ever take place. The Savior proves the distinct and undying existence of the soul, and leaves the Sadducees to infer the resurrection of the body and its reunion with that soul from which death had for a time separated it. In this way he opposed the inferential part of his argument to the inferential part of their doctrine, inasmuch as they did not, it would seem, employ expanded argument or developed reasoning. Having demolished the main pillar of their system, he left the frail fabric erected thereon to fall of itself. Our Lord's reasoning, though concise, was nevertheless conclusive.
V. CONFIRMATION. This view of the subject derives some confirmation from a custom of the ancient Egyptians. They embalmed the bodies of their dead, and so preserved them for centuries. Their object, as is with strong probability supposed, was that the mummy corpse might be prepared for the reception of the returning soul, and for reoccupancy by that former inhabitant, if such were their belief; it was doubtless a ray of light derived from revelation, but distorted as usual in such cases. While they anticipated the glorious fact of a reunion of soul and body, they added thereto the fancy that the same body, unaltered and unimproved, would be its receptacle. Revelation, however, confirms the one, but corrects the other; for these vile bodies shall be raised spiritual bodies, and fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body.
VI. OTHER EXPLANATIONS. Some, we are aware, understand by resurrection in this passage merely a renewal of life, restricting that life to the soul. In this way they remove to some extent the difficulty involved in the reasoning, but destroy at the same time the proper meaning of the word, as might easily be shown from other Scriptures. Paul, for example, speaks of the resurrection in the ordinary and usual sense when he asks," How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?" Besides, it is to be observed that, in our Lord's quotation, God is not called the God of the souls of the patriarchs, but of their compound being, consisting of both soul and body. The reference to marriage in the verses preceding also points to the resurrection of the body as well as to the life of the soul Life is thus implied in relation to both the constituent parts of man - present life for the soul, future life for the body. Others there are who, understanding the argument to relate exclusively to those who die the death of the righteous, elucidate it in this manner. The Scripture cited by our Lord, in which God declares himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, involves the Father-ship of God and the sonship of believers, as appears from such Scripture statements as "I will be to him a God, and he shall be to me a son;" also, "I will be to you a Father, and ye shall be to me sons and daughters." Again, our adoption as children of God includes the redemption of the body, and consequent recovery from the power of the grave, as may be gathered from Romans 8:23, "We wait for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body." Now, though this explanation plausible, yet it appears too restricted, and not quite in harmony with our Lord's own words in John 5:28, 29, "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."
VII. Practical Observations.
1. A few practical thoughts connect themselves with this subject. We learn hence the value of an accurate acquaintance with the Scriptures of the Old as well as of the New Testament. Our Lord refuted his adversaries as he repelled Satan, by an appeal to the Law and to the testimony. He took every opportunity of putting honor on, and claiming respect for, the Divine Word. It is our safeguard against error. His quotation is from a portion of that Pentateuch which has in recent times been the object of repeated and insidious attacks.
2. We see how our Master meets his opponents on their own chosen ground, and reasons with them after their own favourite mode. They put their objections inferentially; our Lord, who always adapted his discourse, whether sermon, or parable, or argument, to his audience, adopts the selfsame method. The Sadducees believed, at least, the five books of Moses; he quotes from an early portion of those books. He denounced their error with mildness, and demonstrated it from the very Scriptures to the authority of which they themselves deferred. He took the ground from under their feet by hard arguments, not by hard words. Persuasiveness, not abusiveness, characterizes his reasoning.
8. Let us seek grace that we may appreciate as we ought the comfort of this doctrine. Our very dust is dear to God. The visible sky above us may pass away, but no particle of this dust shall perish. Let us realize the duty of seeking a part in the resurrection of the just. Let the doctrine have a practical effect upon our hves. With this prospect in view, "what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness"?
"Those bodies that corrupted fall
Shall incorrupted rise,
And mortal forms shall spring to life,
Immortal in the skies." Having this hope within us, let us purify ourselves, and by grace keep the bodily temple undefiled. - J.J.G.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying,