Saints Triumphant Sunday November 4, 2018
1 John 3:1-3
463:1-4,6, 391, Worship Supplement 2000: 766 (alt. TLH 603), 613
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Then some of the Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, saying: “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he dies without children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. And the first took a wife, and died without children. And the second took her as wife, and he died childless. Then the third took her, and in like manner the seven also; and they left no children, and died. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife.”
And Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.” (NKJV)
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus, fellow sinners made saints through the blood of Jesus Christ,
Children come up with the most curious questions sometimes. One child wanted to know what you called the space between the teeth of a comb. Another child asked his Mom, “Mom how do you know I am real and this is not just a dream?”
Children of God come up with some pretty curious questions too. Curious questions that sometimes go beyond what God has told us in His Word. Some of these curious questions deal with what life will be like on heaven. Questions like, “What kind of clothes will we be wearing in heaven?” A Christian mother wanted to know if in heaven her son would have that tattoo that she detested so much. A widower wondered whether he would be able to snuggle with his bride in heaven.
The Sadducees seem to have one such curious question for Jesus in our text. They speak of a woman had seven different husbands who all died. In the resurrection, they wondered which one will she be married to in heaven? That sounds like a reasonable question. Yet, looking closer at the first verse of our text, we find the Sadducees had a much more diabolical reason for asking this question of Jesus. You see, the Sadducees were an upper class of sophisticated Jewish philosophers who rejected just about everything of a spiritual nature. They rejected the reality of angels, they rejected the immortality of the soul, and the rejected the resurrection from the dead.
In an attempt to prove that there cannot be a bodily resurrection from the dead, they drew from an Old Testament law in Deuteronomy. In Old Testament Israel, it was very important to maintain the family name and inheritance which God had given each tribe and family. If a husband died and had no son to carry on the family name, the unmarried brother of the deceased husband was to marry the widow and the firstborn son was to carry on the family name of the deceased. They used this example to show that there cannot possibly be a resurrection from the dead, or this woman would have seven husbands in the life to come.
While the Sadducees thought they were pretty clever and had Jesus trapped, Jesus, who is the Word made flesh and of whom all Scripture testifies, reveals to the Sadducees that they neither knew the Scriptures nor the power of God. Therefore, on this All Saints Sunday, let us learn from Him who alone has the words of eternal life. Let us learn from Jesus about “the sons of the resurrection.” As we do, we will learn from Scripture how one is made worthy for that age by faith, how the sons of the resurrection are like the angels, and how all are alive to God. May the Holy Spirit help us to rejoice in these truths!
When the Sadducees talked about the seven Jewish brothers, they skim over a very important point. How did the seven Jewish brothers get to heaven? Did the Sadducees simply assume, like the Pharisees, that since they were the physical descendants of Abraham and did the duty that Moses commanded, that they would automatically be received into heaven? Jesus makes a very important point in verse 35. He talks about “those who are counted worthy to attain that age and the resurrection from the dead.”
“Those who are counted worthy to attain” heaven…that should have caught the attention of the Sadducees. Did it capture your attention? Who is counted worthy of having their dead body raised to life on the last day? Whose life was so great that God should give their corpse a second, new life? Maybe Abraham was. After all he is the patriarch of the nation of Israel. Yet, we read in Genesis that Abraham was a liar. Abraham lied to Pharaoh about Sarah being his wife because he was afraid he would get killed so Pharaoh could take her as his wife. The sin of lying would have disqualified father Abraham from the resurrection of the just.
What about another patriarch, Jacob? After all the Children of Israel are named after Jacob. Certainly he must have been worthy. Yet, Jacob so often failed to trust God to accomplish His plans. Jacob tricked his brother, Esau, out of his birthright. Jacob lied to his father, Isaac, in order to get Esau’s blessing. Jacob hardly sounds like someone SO GREAT in God’s eyes that he was WORTHY of having his dead body raised to new life in the resurrection.
If not Abraham or Jacob, then who? You or me? Our consciences testify that we are no better than Abraham or Jacob. In fact, our consciences know the unloving and lustful thoughts we wrestle with every day. We know the lies we have told. My life, my thoughts, my attitudes—my sin—disqualifies me from being a son of the resurrection. Who among us is worthy to attain that age?
There has been only One to walk this earth who was WORTHY to attain heaven and the resurrection. Only Jesus of Nazareth is worthy. Jesus who “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Not even the fiercest of enemies was able to accuse Jesus of sin. Jesus was so faithful to God that He “became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). Jesus alone is worthy to attain heaven and the resurrection from the dead and the life of the world to come.
Though Jesus is the only one worthy to attain that age and our sins disqualified us from heaven, the amazing grace of our God and Savior is that Jesus came to MAKE US qualified. Last week we were reminded in Romans 3, “A man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28). God declares us righteous not because of what we have done—our works—but by faith in the righteous Son of God, for “the just shall live by faith” (Hab 2:4; Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38).
Through faith in Jesus Christ, a faith which God Himself has given you through the message about Jesus, through that very faith God “counts you worthy to attain that age.” Jesus again and again promises this in the Gospels. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, whoever LIVES AND BELIEVES in Him, even though He may die, He shall…can you finish it? “HE SHALL LIVE!” (John 11:25) All thanks and praise to God the Father, “who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Colossians 1:12). You are sons of the resurrection through faith in Christ Jesus!
“But Pastor, am I going to be married in heaven?” Good question. In our text, Jesus clearly says that there will be no weddings in heaven. “But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage.” God instituted marriage here on earth because it was not good for man to be alone. Here on earth He created us as sexual beings and instituted marriage as a means to fulfill those desires in a pure way. He also instituted marriage here on earth for the good of raising children.
In heaven there will be no lack of companionship. In heaven, we will dwell with God Himself and our Savior Jesus will shepherd us. In heaven we will also be surrounded by the family of God and have a perfect, loving relationship with all of them. Think of that! Imagine everyone you come into contact with giving you the true hug of a true friend. They will have a perfect love for you and you will have a perfect love for them. No bitter feelings, no jealousy, only the pure and holy love of God. Yes, your believing spouse will love you perfectly in heaven—but so will Abraham, Rahab, David, Isaiah, Mary, Peter, and all the saints triumphant.
Futhermore, no member of the family of God in heaven will ever go anywhere. Jesus continues in verse 36, “nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” The sons of the resurrection are like the angels in that they are immortal. In heaven “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). THIS is the life that Jesus earned for you by His holy life. Jesus died to cleanse you from your sin so that you could share in this inheritance. THIS is the life that Jesus rose from the dead to secure for you. Because Jesus lives, you too shall live—and what a life it will be! The sons of the resurrection will be equal to the angels and will never die.
Back to those sad, pathetic Sadducees. Remember how they rejected that there is a resurrection from the dead? Well, Jesus corrects them on this error as well—and He does so brilliantly! Jesus could have quoted verses from the Psalms, Isaiah, or Job to prove that the Old Testament taught the resurrection of the dead. But knowing the Sadducees relied only on the books of Moses as having true authority, Jesus draws from the first five books of the Old Testament. In fact, Jesus uses what would have been one of the most well known stories of the Old Testament: when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush in Exodus 3.
In Exodus 3, how did God reveal Himself to Moses? He said, “I am the God of your father — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). Now this is just brilliant. Would you have picked this passage to defend the truth about the resurrection from the dead? I wouldn’t have even thought of it. But Jesus, who alone has the words of eternal life, He reminds us that God did not say, “I WAS the God of Abraham…” Though they had been dead and buried for nearly 400 years when Moses lived, God says “I AM the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” The souls of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been taken to be with their Lord in Paradise! Jesus concludes triumphantly, “For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him”.
What joy and comfort is found in these verses on this “All Saints” and “Saints Triumphant” Sunday! Recently the church on earth has had to say good-bye to some of our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. Here at Trinity it was names like Pauline, Doris, Margie, and Les. In our broader fellowship, there have been believers that you maybe did not know, like Barb Voigt, Marty Beekman, Don Luebkeman, Verna Kiesz, and Kathy Eisenbeisz.
Regardless of how well you knew them, like you, the Good Shepherd knew them and they knew and followed Him. They had the same promise Jesus gave to Martha had at her brother’s tomb, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). By grace through faith in Jesus, they were counted worthy to attain the resurrection from the dead. Right now, like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they live! As Jesus Himself says, they live to God. When Jesus returns in glory on the last day, the trumpet will sound, their souls will be reunited with their bodies, they will be raised glorious, and they—together with you and all believers in Christ—will be with the Lord FOREVER! The sons of the resurrection are all alive to God!
This side of heaven there will continue to be “curious questions” about heaven. But let us not dwell on those, nor attempt to answer them by saying more than God says in His Word. Instead, let us focus on the wonderful truths God HAS told us. Give thanks that through faith in Him, Jesus has made you worthy to be called “sons of the resurrection.” Rejoice that in heaven we will be like the angels and death will never again be a part of our lives. Praise God that all who die in the Lord here in time, live to Him forever in heaven. As Paul writes to the worried Thessalonians, “comfort one another with these words!” All praise be to the Lord of life who died and rose to give us life eternal. Hallelujah! Amen!
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.