Matthew 22:31-32 – “But about the resurrection of the dead — have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” NIV
Jesus had just frustrated the Pharisees so much that they had quit trying to trap Him and left the Temple area where He is teaching. Now it’s the Sadducees turn to ask Him a bunch of questions to prove their take on religion. The Sadducees were the more liberal of the Jewish groups. Among other things, they didn’t believe in miracles or the resurrection of the dead. Interestingly, many of the priest were part of this group. It kind of makes me wonder why they worried about offering sacrifices other than the money from their sacrifice concession in the Temple. Perhaps that’s what angered Jesus so much about what they were doing. It wasn’t for the worshipers’ convenience but for their gain!
They thought that they had an air tight argument to disprove the resurrection of the dead using the law of levirate marriage described in Deuteronomy 25:5 ff. about a childless widow and seven brothers. (The account of Ruth and Boaz is an example of this Old Testament law being applied.) Their question to Jesus was: “Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” (Matthew 22:28 – NIV)
Jesus at first told them: “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” (Matthew 22:29-30 – NIV)
This is always a verse I like to discuss with Mormons or other groups that hold that there is marriage or a married state in heaven. According to Jesus there is not. It always provides some interesting discussion.
Then Jesus asked them if they had not read where Moses encounters Yahweh at the burning bush, and He quotes Exodus 3:6 where Yahweh states in the present tense that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob not that He was their God! Jesus thereby affirms that there is life after death. Those people who had died believing in Yahweh were still alive!
This passage has another application. I have some dear friends who believe that there is a resurrection of the dead but that it doesn’t happen until Jesus returns. They take literally the word “sleep” in 1 Corinthians 15:51 and 1 Thessalonians 3:13-18. I call that “soul sleeping.” In modern sci-fi terminology one might call it stasis. If God is the God of the living, I believe that at least our soul if living in Jesus Presence. We might not get a resurrected body until we need it on the new earth. I’ll let God worry about the details. I trust Him!