Matthew 22:23

When Jesus had disposed of the Pharisees and Herodians, the Sadducees approached him. They were the physicists - the materialists - of their time, who did not believe in angels or spirits, and accounted as a thing incredible the resurrection of the dead. They urged a ease which they deemed conclusive against the latter, which is recorded here (vers. 23-28). We are chiefly concerned with our Lord's reply (vers. 29-32). Hence we learn -


1. Covenant relationship is expressed in the term "God of.

(1) Thus when Jehovah proclaims himself to be the God of Abraham," the meaning is that he stands in covenant relationship to that patriarch (see Genesis 17:7, 8). So of Isaac and of Jacob; but he never speaks of himself as the God of Lot, of Ishmael, or of Esau.

(2) By the Sinai covenant with the Hebrew nation he became the "God of Israel" (see Deuteronomy 29:10-13).

(3) Now, in the gospel covenant, he is "the God" of every true believer (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:10).

2. The covenant relationship implies purification from sin.

(1) The Hebrew word for "covenant" expresses the idea of purification. The plan of God's goodness and mercy is sometimes called his purification; the term is also applied to the sacrifices offered to God, and Christ himself is called the Covenant, or Purification Sacrifice, of his people.

(2) The phrase, "make a covenant," is literally, "cut off a purifier," or purification sacrifice, in allusion to the death of the sacrifices. So Messiah was to be "cut off out of the land of the living" (Isaiah 53:8)

(3) The sacrificial blood sprinkled is called the sprinkling of the blood of the covenant the effect of which was ceremonial purification (see Hebrews 9:19, 20). This of course typified the purifying efficacy of the blood of Christ (see Hebrews 9:13-15).

(4) The Shechinah passing with Abraham along the avenue between the divided pieces of the sacrifices, when God entered into covenant with that patriarch, set forth the consent of the sinner to be treated as the sacrifices were treated should he violate the Law of God, and the engagement of God to light up with his favour and friendship the way of obedience through the blood of Christ (cf. Genesis 15:10, 17; Exodus 19:18; Jeremiah 34:18-20).

3. The life of the covenant is more than existence.

(1) The God of the pure is "the God of the living" (ver. 32). Luke adds, "For all live unto him" (Luke 20:38), viz. all standing in true covenant relationship to him. The unbelieving Jews existed, but they did not "live" in Christ's sense, when he said, "Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life" (see John 5:39, 40).

(2) All destitute of this covenant life of purity are dead - "dead in trespasses and sins," obnoxious to be treated as the sacrifices had been (cf. Ephesians 2:12; Jeremiah 34:18, 19). Those who despise the everlasting covenant are liable to the "much sorer punishment" of being cut up by the flames of hell.


1. God's covenant remains with his disembodied saints.

(1) Abraham was dead when God said to Isaac, "I am the God of Abraham thy father" (see Genesis 26:24). Isaac also was dead when God said to Jacob, "I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac" (Genesis 28:13). Jacob also was sleeping when God appeared to Moses, and said, "I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Exodus 3:6). This is the fact recognized in the argument of our Lord.

(2) But if God was, hundreds of years after the natural death of the patriarchs, still in covenant relation with them, they must retain a conscious existence in the disembodied state. "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live unto him" (see Luke 20:38). This living unto God is a condition of the happiest consciousness (cf. John 3:36; John 6:48-53; John 11:26).

2. The existence of the sinner is an abiding death.

(1) "God is not the God of the dead," viz. "in trespasses and sins," whether in this world or in the disembodied state. The antithesis of a life which is distinct from existence is obviously a death not involving the extinction of existence. If spiritual life survives the dissolution of the body, so may the spiritual death survive the dissolution of the body.

(2) "God is not the God of the dead." This gives no more encouragement to the universalist than it does to the annihilationist. God is nowhere in his covenant pledged to the disembodied sinner. What a terrible thing to the spiritually dead is his indestructibility!


1. He is pledged to raise the Hebrew patriarchs.

(1) The argument of the text is intended to prove more than the conscious and happy existence of the spirit of the believer after death. This undoubtedly it does conclude, as we have seen; but it means more.

(2) It is an argument also to prove the resurrection of the body (see ver. 31). And the reasoning to that conclusion was to the Sadducees unanswerable (see Luke 20:40).

(3) Its force lies in the matter of the covenant. It promised the patriarchs personal inheritance in Canaan (see Genesis 17:7, 8), which, in this mortal life, they never enjoyed (see Acts 7:5). But God still abides by his covenant, as is evident from his words to Moses at the bush. How, then, can the promise be fulfilled, unless they be raised from the dead for the purpose?

(4) In this sense the patriarchs themselves interpreted the promise. They know they should die without inheriting (see Genesis 15:13-16). How could they understand the land to be personally inherited by them as "an everlasting possession," unless in the great future? That future inheritance their faith firmly seized (see Hebrews 11:9-19).

2. The promise extends to all believers.

(1) The natural seed of Abraham as such are not the children of the promise. Else it behoved the Arabs, Midianites, and Idumaeans to have inherited. Only a portion of the seed of Jacob inherited the land in any sense. No one ever yet inherited the land according to the terms of the promise as "an everlasting possession."

(2) The true Seed of Abraham is Christ (see Galatians 3:16). He is the Depository of the promises. Yet even he never inherited the land of promise in person. But the "Scriptures cannot be broken." The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was a necessity; for he must inherit it forever.

(3) Believers in Christ, whether lineally descended from Abraham or not, are the seed of Abraham, and children of the promise. In a secondary sense the term, "seed of Abraham," is to be taken collectively (cf. Galatians 3:26-29). Believers therefore must be raised from the dead that they may inherit.

(4) Then the expression, "all the land of Canaan," purports the whole earth to its utmost limit (cf. Psalm 2:8; Psalm 72:8; Romans 4:13-18; Hebrews 11:13). The covenant also extends into the heavens. - J.A.M.

For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage.
The Gauls, an ancient people of France, after they had once tasted of the sweet wine of the grapes that grew in Italy, inquired after that country where such pleasant liquor was, and understanding of it, they made towards that place, and never rested till they came thither where such pleasant things grew. Could we only realize something of the joys of heaven, should we not more earnestly set ourselves to find the way? This thought often sustained Christian martyrs in their sufferings.

We must all of us develop one way or the other; manhood here is but the corn in the ear.


1. The saints of God are like unto the angels as to the qualities of their persons. Sex is obliterated not in mental characteristics, but in bodily frame. Alike in their immortality they cannot die. Like the angels in the maturity of their being, the body is raised in glory. Resemble the angels in beauty, and equal them in strength. What a blessed personality will be yours when the present age is past.

2. There will be likeness between the angels and glorified saints in the matter of character. No inbred sin. Purity and perfection.

3. The souls of the blessed are like to angels as to their occupation. Adoration; wondering study; gazing upon God; untiring service — these their occupations.

4. We shall be like the angels in heavenliness. Here we want externals; eat and drink: there no desires of an earthly kind.

5. Like the angels as to our happiness.

II. THE ANGELIC LIFE ON EARTH. We may be like angels here below.

1. Be it ours, as it was theirs, to declare the word of God.

2. For fighting a good fight. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon.

3. In setting free those who are the prisoners of hope. The angel came to Peter in prison.

4. In ministering comfort to those who are saved. An angel said to Paul, "Fear not."

5. In watching our souls.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. To ESTABLISH THE FACT THAT IGNORANCE OF HOLY SCRIPTURE IS THE SOURCE OF ERROR IN RELIGION. Holy Scripture is the truth from which error is the deviation. The Sadducees erred because they knew them not: they denied the resurrection of the dead. They substituted tradition for them: hence their error.

II. THAT MISREPRESENTATION OF SCRIPTURE LEADS TO SINFUL CONSEQUENCES. "Destroy the temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Upon this false witnesses accused Christ. See how the misinterpretation of Christ's words led to sin. Education that falls short of "knowing the Scriptures" will end in error.

(C. Cator, M. A.)

The churchyard at Oberhofen, Switzerland was beautiful, and the simplicity of the little remembrance-posts set upon the graves very pleasant. One who had been too poor to put up an engraved brass plate, or even a painted board, had written with ink on paper the birth and death of the being whose remains were below, and this had been fastened to a board, and mounted on the top of a stick at the head of the grave, the paper being protected by a little edge and roof. Such was the simple remembrance, but Nature had added her pathos, for under the shelter by the writing a caterpillar had fastened itself, and passed into its death-like state of chrysalis, and having ultimately assumed its final state, it had winged its way from the spot, and had left the corpse-like relics behind. How old and how beautiful is this figure of the resurrection! Surely it can never appear before our eyes without touching the thoughts.

(Life of Faraday.)

For it is not the same thing to rekindle an extinguished lamp, as to show fire that has never yet appeared. It is not the same thing to raise up again a house that has fallen down, and to produce one which has never had an existence.

( Chrysostom.)

I. The soul of man subsists after death, and hath some place of abode allotted to it at the resurrection.

II. This intermediate state is, in all probability, not a state of insensibility to the souls of the righteous; but of thought and self-consciousness, and consequently of content and of happiness, in a certain degree.

(John Jortin.)

There are many things said not to be in heaven, and yet, in another sense, said to be there. There is no temple in heaven; but the Lord God and the Lamb are the temple thereof. There is no sea in heaven; but there is a glassy sea proceeding from before the throne, not a tumultuous angry sea, but a translucent one whose, kindly waves are gently flowing. There is no night in heaven, but there are stars there: for they who turn many to righteousness shall shine as stars in the kingdom of heaven; and one star differeth from another star in glory. So there is no marriage in heaven, and yet heaven is one marriage, and its happiness is represented by a marriage festival, God Himself being the universal husband, and all the redeemed being to Him as one endeared wife. So we may be very sure that if marriage, as it exists here, be not the pattern of things to come, it is the parable of things to come. We may be very sure of this, that if relationships on earth shall not be entanglements hereafter, yet that whatever we enjoy now we shall enjoy then in a transfigured way; we may be very sure that in a world where there is no death, and therefore where there needs to be no birth, there shall be those varieties of life for which birth here provides. No death, therefore no birth, therefore not the ordinary terrestrial necessity for marriage as it exists around us. But marriage is an intimate delightful companionship; and shall the joy of companionship fail for ever? Nay; has not the one Lord — if we think deeply, and purify ore" thoughts from sensual relation — has not the one Lord a married nature? Can we think of Him otherwise than as having in Himself the perpetual joy of companionship, and, with a motherly heart and a fatherly heart blended in the one great heart of supreme love, giving forth to us, as the expression of Hit maternity and His fatherhood, His Son — the Lord Jesus Christ — so womanly in His tenderness, so manly in His strength.

(T. T. Lynch.)

I was reading the other day that, on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, the wives of fishermen whose husbands have gone out on the deep are in the habit, at eventide, of going down to the sea-shore, and singing, as female voices only can, the first stanza of a beautiful hymn. After they have sung it, they listen till they hear, borne by the wind across the desert-sea, the second stanza, sung by their gallant husbands, as they are tossed by the gale upon the waves; and both are happy. Perhaps if we could listen, we, too, might hear on this desert-world of ours some sound, some whisper, borne from afar, to remind us that there is a heaven and a home; and, when we sing the hymn upon the shores of earth, perhaps we shall hear its sweet echo breaking in music upon the sands of time, and cheering the hearts of them that are pilgrims and strangers, and look for a city that hath foundations.

(J. Cumming, D. D.)

The blessed in heaven after the resurrection shall be like the angels, not by nature; but

(1)by purity;

(2)by spiritual life, for they live by spiritual not corporeal food:

(3)by incorruption and immortality;

(4)by happiness and glory, in which, like the angels, they will continue for all eternity.


Well, how is that? He did not say. He likened them to the angels, but did not tell us how the angels were. It was rather negative. He declared that one potential, universal part of the economy of human life, with all its incidents and concomitants, stopped at the grave. This is the part of man out of which multitudinous history, good and bad, is derived. But useful as it is, it ceases and does not go on into the other life; and it seems very natural, since man is a double being, born for this lower life, in transition and formation for a life to come, that a portion of the powers or faculties which fit him especially for this lower life, when they shall have performed their function, will, as it were, like the calyx of a flower, wither and fall back, and that into the other life we shall carry only those parts of our nature which are highest and noblest, and which have relation to the spiritual rather than to the physical.

(H. W. Beecher.)

I have sat on the summit of Mount Holyoke, and looked out over the Connecticut valley, and seen as entrancing views as ever comforted the heart of man, poet though he might be; and yet, if you had asked me, "What is in that field?" I could not have told you whether it was wheat, or rye, or grass, or corn. If you had asked me, "What is that village?" I could not have told you. I could just see a white glimmer among the green trees, but that was all. If you had asked me, "Who are those men working yonder?" or "What are they doing?" I could not have told you. I could see men that seemed to be about the size of ants crawling over the surface of the ground; but whether they were mowing, or hoeing, or walking, or running, I could not tell. The whole picture lay before me, magnificent, and quickened every spring of fancy, and comforted my heart; but I could not give much idea of its horticulture, or agriculture, or anything that went to make up the interior of its life.

(H. W. Beecher.)

The argument Christ uses so convincingly is really this, and it is very simple: God said, "I am the God of your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" — not i was, but I am — meaning, that these had been dear to Him, and still were. Now, if these were God's children, and God loved them, why should they die? All "live unto Him," says Christ — as He pleases, and as long as He pleases. If he speaks of your fathers as caring for their life, why should you think them dead? They lived from Him, and they lived for Him, and therefore they live still. If they lived from Him, and no power could take their life away without His permission; if they lived for Him in such a sense that they were endeared to Him — why should the)" die? Would we let any one dear to us die, if we had an absolute control over life, as God has? Leave the thought of persons, and take the baser case of money. If a man keeps his money upon his table, and has a sufficient watch over his house, why do we feel sure that the bags of money are safe? Because we know that, being in his power, he not only is not likely to throw them out of the window — he loves them too well for that — but that, having power also to keep them from the thief, his love answers for their security. If he could not keep them, it is likely enough that they would be lost, for there are other people that desire to have them. The fact of his having them would be no obstacle to their having them, if only they could lay hands on them. But if, in the ease of money, where a man has power to keep it, he certainly will, what shall we say of the soul — the soul on which God has bestowed His Fatherly care? If no one — no devouring lion — can pluck Abraham out of God's hand, will God throw him away and say He cares for him no longer? If no one could destroy the lives of these fathers but God, was He likely to do it?

(T. T. Lynch.)

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