Have you ever wondered about what life will be like in heaven after we die? If so, you’ll be interested in what Jesus has to say about the subject in the passage from Luke 20:27-38.
The Sadducees’ question about the resurrection was a ridiculous one because the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. Their question was designed to draw Jesus into an argument based on Old Testament law. Deuteronomy 25:5 commanded a man to marry his brother’s wife if the brother died. If they had a son, the son was to be named after the deceased brother. The Sadducees asked which of the seven brothers would be married to the widow in the resurrection.
The question reflected the common attitude toward women at that time. Women were seen as being no better than property. They had few rights and could be divorced by their husbands for petty reasons. Widows were in an even worse situation if they had no sons to look after them.
Jesus was quick to poke holes in the Sadducees’ logic. They were talking in human terms, but Jesus and God always talk in heavenly terms. Remember that God’s ways are not our ways and sometimes his ways are hard for us to understand. Heaven is a Godly concept that we can’t easily understand. Jesus does not give us a definite description of what heaven is like, but he does tell us that life in heaven will not be a continuation of life here on earth. Therefore, there will be no marriage, no property or worrying about property. Jesus also says that the only part of our earthly life that will continue in heaven is that we will continue to be children of God. When we die, we will fall into his arms and he will never let us go.
In our earthly life, marriage and procreation are necessary for life to continue. In our heavenly life, we will never die, so we will never have to worry about property and who will inherit our property after we die. We can’t prove the resurrection with rational arguments. We can’t understand things we have not seen. We have to accept them by faith, just like we have to accept God’s Word by faith. Even the world’s greatest preachers have trouble understanding the Word of God. Billy Graham once had a struggle with the truth of God’s Word, but one evening he knelt by a tree stump and declared to God that he would accept God’s Word by faith.
Jesus commented on the Sadducees’ rejection of the resurrection by referring to Moses. The Sadducees only believed in the first five books of the Old Testament, including the books written by Moses. These books did not talk about the resurrection. When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, he said, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” If there was no life after death, God would have said, “I was their God,” instead of “I am their God.” The phrase “I am” proves that our soul survives physical death and implies that the dead in Christ will rise when he returns.
The Gospel message is not about a continuation. It is about a new life. Jesus’ death and resurrection makes this new life possible. It is better that anything our current life can offer. It is a new birth, a new age, the unveiled sight of God. Heaven is God’s responsibility, not ours. Our responsibility is how we live our lives here and now. We have no idea what’s coming in the next life, no way to imagine how the next life will be even richer than the life we know now. We can’t let go of today’s relationships and trust God to give us new relationships. That limits our ability to accept the good news of eternal life. All life is under God’s direction, so everything we do needs to be seen in light of what God does in our world.
When we stop worrying about life after death, our lives will take on a new direction and a new energy. We will see the world with eyes that see God at our side as we face life’s challenges. It is appropriate that we are hearing this reading at this time in the church year. Three weeks from today we will enter the season of Advent, which begins a new church year. As we conclude our church year and look toward what is to come, our readings focus on what is to come. Christian faith is about living, loving God and loving people.
It’s sometimes hard for us to believe in the big things in life when we have so many little issues and struggles that we let take up lots of space in our lives. When we are obsessed with the little things in life, it’s not easy for us to step back and understand everlasting life. We can only imagine what heaven will be like. Some people imagine it as a beautiful place with endless good times. Others imagine it as a place where there will be no sickness, old age or pain. Our ability to imagine what heaven will be like is our way of expressing our faith that our loved ones are alive and well and are getting along with each other.
For example, C.S. Lewis, who wrote “The Chronicles of Narnia”, once told the story of a woman who was thrown into a dungeon. Her only light came from a barred window high above. She gave birth to a son, who had never seen the outside world. He couldn’t reach the window to see outside, so his mother told him about green fields and waves crashing on the shore-but he couldn’t imagine what she was describing. Eventually, she persuaded the guards to give her some paper and charcoal so she could draw pictures to show her son what the outside world was really like-but what the boy came to understand was that the outside world looked like black lines on a white piece of paper.
The reality keeps returning to us, and it is stark. We have to let go of today’s relationships and trust God to give new relationships. Otherwise, our ability to accept the good news of resurrection and life after death is limited. Our loved ones are buried in a cemetery. Their gravestones are in a line and mark the names of our loved ones along with the dates of their births and deaths. We wonder where they are and what they are doing. At times like that, we can turn to the Scriptures for comfort, especially the passage we heard today.
Those who are willing to give their lives to God now will find that God will be there for them when the journey of their earthly life is over. We are to love one another just as God loves us and share God’s love for people in a way that excludes no one. In effect, marital love is extended and perfected, so that what’s best about human beings in this life is made available in an even better way to all of us in the next life.
If God is our God, and we are his people, death is not the end of the story. It is the beginning. Someone once said that “today is the first day of the rest of your life” and that will be especially true on the day we die. When we die, the Lord will not abandon us. He will be there to greet us. To be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord. We have Christ’s promise of the reality of the resurrection through Christ’s own death and resurrection. Because he lives, we too shall live. Living without the doctrine of resurrection, or the hope it offers, cheapens this life.
The Gospel passage is about the next life. It’s about what happens after we die, especially if we are followers of Christ. For the Sadducees, death was the end of life’s journey. Jesus reveals that God is a god of life and not a god of death. For believers, death is just the end of one phase of life and the beginning of a new, glorious life-a life that we can only barely begin to understand now and will completely understand when we sit at the Master’s feet. Christ’s resurrection glorified life, and the hope of the resurrection for believers glorifies them. The resurrection gives us hope.
In order for us to receive the hope and glory of the resurrection, we have to repent. Repentance gives us hope for the future. Paul argued that the process of resurrection and repentance began with Jesus’ bodily resurrection. Resurrection is the start of a new life in heaven with Christ. Our dead, physical bodies will be raised spiritually to a new life.
In order for us to understand the resurrection, we have to expand our ideas about who and what God is and what we can do. We can’t limit God with our own limited human reasoning. God continually surprises us. The future he has planned for us is a glorious one that is far more than we can imagine and different from what we can imagine.
- Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, 32nd Sunday, Year C”. Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
- Larsen, B. & Ogilvie, L.J. : The Preacher’s Commentary Series; Vol. 26: Luke (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983)
- Rev. Wayne Palmer, “Doubts About the Resurrection “. Retrieved from www.lhm.org
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr. : The MacArthur Study Bible, NASB (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2006)
- Exegesis for Luke 20:27-38. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
- The Rev. Charles Hoffacker, “God’s Novelty”. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
- Brett Blair, “His Teachings”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
- John Wayne Clarke, “Putting Eternity to the Test”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
- King Duncan, “Easter in November”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
- Exegesis for 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
- ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 10 Bible software package.
Lectionary Homiletics, Vol. XXIV, No. 6 (St. Paul, MN: Luther Seminary; 2