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Good News: The Dead Are Alive!

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3/17/96

GOOD NEWS:  THE DEAD ARE ALIVE!
LUKE 20:27-39

INTRODUCTION:
Do you ever think about your death?  Do you ever wonder if there is anything beyond death?  Do you ever
consider what the circumstances of your death might be?  Will you die in a tragic accident?  Will you die
suddenly from a stroke or a heart attack?  Or will your death be at the end of a long and painful illness?  Every
mature person has faced the possibility of their death and has come to terms with it.  Modern psychiatrists tell
us that the fear of death and the refusal to face the reality of death is at the root of many emotional problems in
our day.   Woody Allen typifies many when it comes to the fear of death.  It has become something of an
obsession to this well-known playwright and actor.  True, he can joke about it.  "It is not that I am afraid to die,"
he quips; "I just don't want to be there when it happens."  But mostly Allen is filled with the dread of death.  
Some years ago he wrote in a national publication, "The fundamental thing behind all motivation and all activity
is the constant struggle against annihilation and against death.  It is absolutely stultifying in its terror, and it
renders anyone's accomplishments meaningless."  

The Christian has a different perspective on death.  The mature Christian is not afraid to face the reality of
death.  Their confidence in the face of death is rooted in their convictions concerning Jesus Christ and what He
taught about death.  


During his last working day, Tuesday before he was to die on Friday, Jesus faced a question concerning life
after death.  The question was presented by a coalition of Sadducees.  Sadducees were a small but influential
group within the nation of Israel.  They were actually in control of the political and religious structures within the
nation during the days of Jesus.  However, they were basically skeptics concerning the supernatural.  They
denied that there was any life after death, or angels, or any kind of spiritual reality.  It is out of this skepticism
that they presented to Jesus an absurd situation.  According to their scenario a man had been married to
seven different brothers.  Under the Jewish law if a man died and had not left an heir, then one of his brothers
would take his widow and would enable her to bear an heir to his dead brother.  This unfortunate woman was
married seven times to seven different brothers and none of them were able to beget a son.  The question the
Sadducees raised was, "If there is a resurrection, then whose wife will she be in the resurrection?"  

A little reflection on the scenario presented by the Sadducees could become humorous.  Can you imagine
having been married to seven different brothers?  It is not out of the question to imagine a woman being
married to seven different men.  Elizabeth Taylor is coming to close to that kind of achievement.  The unusual
thing in this scenario is that the woman was married to seven brothers.  Can you imagine the confusion in her
mind?  Actually, there was no such woman in mind when the Sadducees presented this scenario, but it was
rather an attempt to demonstrate the absurdity of  life after death.  It would be absurd to try to sort out
relationships in life after death if life after death is just a continuation of life as we have known it here.  

The response of our Lord to this scenario presented by the Sadducees is extremely helpful.  He makes it clear
that the dead are alive.  For those who are serious about their walk with God this is good news.  For those who
may have lost loved ones, this is good news.  For those who are struggling with the eventuality of their own
death, this is good news.  The dead are alive!  

I.  THE RESURRECTION LIFE IS A WORK OF GOD.

Our Lord made a longer response than the one found in Luke's gospel.  In the account in Mark's gospel He
confronts the Sadducee with the basis of their error.  They have erred in their thinking about the possibility of
life after death and the resurrection of  the dead for two reasons.  

1.  "Are you not in error because you do not know the scriptures?"


Even though they took pride in their knowledge of the Holy  Scriptures, Jesus accused them of being ignorant
of the witness of the scriptures.  He does not point to a specific promise in the Old Testament concerning the
resurrection of the dead or life after death, but there are several that He could have pointed to found in the
writings of Daniel, one of the last books to be written in the Old Testament.  Daniel gave this promise,
"Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake; some to ever lasting life, some to shame and ever
lasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2).  It is doubtful that the Sadducees were ignorant of  this promise found in the
book of Daniel.  It is more likely that they had chosen not to believe that promise.  They were ignoring the
witness to the Old Testament scriptures to the reality of life after death.  

2.  The power of God.  

The second part of our Lord's response to the Sadducees accused them of being in error concerning the
"power of God" (Mark 12:24).  Their view of God was such that they did not believe that God could make the
dead to live.  What ever experience one could have with God was confined to this life.  Once this life was
terminated in death, there was nothing more, according to the Sadducees.  

Jesus bases the hope of eternal life, the hope of the resurrection from the dead, on the ability of God to cause
a person to live after they die and the power of God to raise a person overcome by death from the dead.  
When you put it on that basis, it is obvious that the omnipotent God can cause the dead to live.  

It is interesting that Jesus did not base this hope of eternal life on the immortality of the soul.  Since the early
days, many have based their hope of eternal life on the immortality of the soul.  The Scriptures indicate that
only God is immortal.  Man partakes of immortality only when God grants to him immortality.  So, we will live
beyond death, not because there is something in us that cannot die, but because there is a God who is greater
than death.  The living God is able to give life to the dead.  The dead are alive because of the power of God.  

II.  THE RESURRECTION LIFE IS ON A HIGHER PLANE.

Jesus went a step further in confronting the error of the Sadducees.  They were erroneously concluding that if
there is life after death, then it would just be a continuation of life as we have known it on the earth.  There
scenario about the woman and her seven husbands makes this clear.  Their thought was that if you had seven
husbands on the earth, then you would still have seven husbands in the life to come, if there was a life to
come.  Jesus' response to that scenario is that the life to come, the resurrection life, is life on a higher plane.  
"The people of this age marry and are given in marriage.  But those considered worthy of taking part in that
age and in the resurrection of the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage and they can no longer die;
for they are like the angels, they are God's children, since they are the children of the resurrection."  


We need to be clear about what Jesus taught about the resurrection life in this statement.  When He indicated
that in the resurrection life we will "be like the angels," He did not mean that we would be angels.  In that life we
will continue to be who we have been in this life only it will be life on a higher plane than we have known in this
life.  

1.  There will be no marriage.  
Jesus indicates that marriage is something for this age only.  God created man and woman so that they can be
joined in a marriage relationship in this life.  The marriage relationship was designed for the fulfillment of the
man and the woman for procreation, and for the stability of the society in which we live.  In the life to come there
will be no need for procreation.  There will be no need for the family unit as we have known it in this life.  The
family unit is designed for stability, companionship, and growth in this age.  

This does not mean that we will not know our companions in the age to come.  We will know them in the age to
come but our relationship with them will be on a higher plane.  Our relationship in this age is physical and
sexual.  There will be no need for that part of the relationship in the age to come.  In the age to come, we will be
capable of a relationship on a plane that is unthinkable in this life.  It is not that we will be less in the age to
come than we have been in this age but rather we will have an indescribably wonderful relationship with the
whole family of God in the life to come.

2.  There will be no death.
This is one of the points at which we are like the angels.  "Nor can they die any more, for they are equal to the
angels of God and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” What a revelation! Life in the presence of
God in the life to come with be free from death, and it will be as sons of the resurrection. The resurrection will
lift life into a totally new relationship with God and with each other.
III. THE RESURRECTION LIFE IS A CONTINUATION OF A COVENANT RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.
Jesus closed to defense of the resurrection by reminding the Sadducee of what God said to Moses at the
burning bush. Every Hebrew was familiar of this encounter between the God of Israel and Moses.  God spoke to
Moses from the burning bush and declared, “I am the God of your Father—the God of Abraham, the God of
Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” They had missed the tense of the verb that God used. He used the present
tense verb—“I am”.
1.        Even though they died, they are alive.
Interestingly one of these three had visited Jesus not many months earlier to discuss His approaching death.
Jesus had met with a Moses who was very much alive on the Mount of Transfiguration, and three of His
disciples had been an eye witness to the meeting. So it is with all who die. Their bodies are asleep, but they are
in the presence of the Lord, very much alive.
2.        Even though they died, they are still in relationship with God.
The covenant relationship between God and His people is such that it cannot be destroyed by death. “For He is
not the God of dead but of the living, for all live to Him.”
This is why Jesus kept assuring His disciples that those who believe in Him will never die! Death cannot destroy
the covenant relationship.
What a word of hope for those who have lost a loved one to death! What a word of hope for someone who is
facing death!

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