and the third married her, and in the same way all seven died, leaving no children.
I. IMPORTANCE OF THE QUESTION. Though the question propounded in this section was proposed for a captious purpose, and in order to entangle, yet, divested of its technicalities, it is a most important one. There is no subject more closely connected with the immortal hopes of man than that to which the above section refers. The doctrine of the resurrection is implied, or directly inculcated, in several passages of the Old Testament. In the New, in which life and immortality are so clearly brought to light, we find many plain statements in regard to it. The whole subject is discussed at large, and fully elaborated in that magnificent chapter, the fifteenth of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, while our Lord, in the Scripture under consideration, puts the argument pithily and pointedly in reply to a question from the Sadducees.
II. AN ASSUMPTION. In clearing away the rubbish, with which they overlaid the difficulty whereby they thought to ensnare him, the Savior charges them with ignoring the mighty power of God, who quickeneth the dead and calleth the things which be not as though they were. He taxes them with resting their reasoning on an unwarrantable assumption, to the effect that the condition of life in heaven would be the same as here on earth, while, on the contrary, the occupants of that spirit-world are as the angels of God. Having, moreover, affirmed their ignorance of those Scriptures which they themselves acknowledged, he proceeds to the proof of the doctrine impugned.
III. IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL. By his quotation from the third chapter of Exodus, he establishes the immortality of the soul. God is the God of the living, for the relationship thus indicated is connected with the bestowal of benefits and blessings, while the dead are beyond the reach of these: but the passage quoted affirms God to be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; therefore these patriarchal men, whose earthly tabernacles, long dissolved, had mouldered and mingled with kindred dust, still lived in some sense and state and place. Their souls lived in God's sight and in God's presence and to God's praise. The-immortality of the soul is thus a clear enough conclusion, but the proof is not so plain with regard to the resurrection of the body; and yet this is the very point in dispute. It is a well-known fact that several of the heathen philosophers who believed in the immortality of the soul, seem never to have dreamt of the resurrection of the body. How, then does our Lord's plain proof of the former doctrine serve-the purpose of establishing the latter? This is the difficulty of the passage. The following considerations will resolve it: -
IV. GROUND OF SADDUCEES' DENIAL OF THE RESURRECTION. The chief reason of the Sadducees denying the resurrection of the body was their disbelief in the immortality of the soul. They repudiated the last-named doctrine, and on this very ground rejected the former. They said the soul does not exist apart from, or after, the dissolution of the body. "They gainsay the duration of the soul" is the testimony of Josephus to their opinion on this point. From this they inferred that there is no likelihood of, nor need for, the body to be raised up, as, according to this erroneous opinion of theirs, there was no soul to reanimate, or reinhabit, or be reunited therewith. Our Lord meets inference with inference. Having proved, as we have seen, the immortality of the soul, he thus prepares the way for the corollary, that the body would be raised from the dust of death, and that soul and body would be then and for ever reunited. They insisted on the extinction of the soul at the death of the body, or its non-existence as distinct from that body, and so wished it to be inferred therefrom that the body would not be raised, and no reunion ever take place. The Savior proves the distinct and undying existence of the soul, and leaves the Sadducees to infer the resurrection of the body and its reunion with that soul from which death had for a time separated it. In this way he opposed the inferential part of his argument to the inferential part of their doctrine, inasmuch as they did not, it would seem, employ expanded argument or developed reasoning. Having demolished the main pillar of their system, he left the frail fabric erected thereon to fall of itself. Our Lord's reasoning, though concise, was nevertheless conclusive.
V. CONFIRMATION. This view of the subject derives some confirmation from a custom of the ancient Egyptians. They embalmed the bodies of their dead, and so preserved them for centuries. Their object, as is with strong probability supposed, was that the mummy corpse might be prepared for the reception of the returning soul, and for reoccupancy by that former inhabitant, if such were their belief; it was doubtless a ray of light derived from revelation, but distorted as usual in such cases. While they anticipated the glorious fact of a reunion of soul and body, they added thereto the fancy that the same body, unaltered and unimproved, would be its receptacle. Revelation, however, confirms the one, but corrects the other; for these vile bodies shall be raised spiritual bodies, and fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body.
VI. OTHER EXPLANATIONS. Some, we are aware, understand by resurrection in this passage merely a renewal of life, restricting that life to the soul. In this way they remove to some extent the difficulty involved in the reasoning, but destroy at the same time the proper meaning of the word, as might easily be shown from other Scriptures. Paul, for example, speaks of the resurrection in the ordinary and usual sense when he asks," How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?" Besides, it is to be observed that, in our Lord's quotation, God is not called the God of the souls of the patriarchs, but of their compound being, consisting of both soul and body. The reference to marriage in the verses preceding also points to the resurrection of the body as well as to the life of the soul Life is thus implied in relation to both the constituent parts of man - present life for the soul, future life for the body. Others there are who, understanding the argument to relate exclusively to those who die the death of the righteous, elucidate it in this manner. The Scripture cited by our Lord, in which God declares himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, involves the Father-ship of God and the sonship of believers, as appears from such Scripture statements as "I will be to him a God, and he shall be to me a son;" also, "I will be to you a Father, and ye shall be to me sons and daughters." Again, our adoption as children of God includes the redemption of the body, and consequent recovery from the power of the grave, as may be gathered from Romans 8:23, "We wait for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body." Now, though this explanation plausible, yet it appears too restricted, and not quite in harmony with our Lord's own words in John 5:28, 29, "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."
VII. Practical Observations.
1. A few practical thoughts connect themselves with this subject. We learn hence the value of an accurate acquaintance with the Scriptures of the Old as well as of the New Testament. Our Lord refuted his adversaries as he repelled Satan, by an appeal to the Law and to the testimony. He took every opportunity of putting honor on, and claiming respect for, the Divine Word. It is our safeguard against error. His quotation is from a portion of that Pentateuch which has in recent times been the object of repeated and insidious attacks.
2. We see how our Master meets his opponents on their own chosen ground, and reasons with them after their own favourite mode. They put their objections inferentially; our Lord, who always adapted his discourse, whether sermon, or parable, or argument, to his audience, adopts the selfsame method. The Sadducees believed, at least, the five books of Moses; he quotes from an early portion of those books. He denounced their error with mildness, and demonstrated it from the very Scriptures to the authority of which they themselves deferred. He took the ground from under their feet by hard arguments, not by hard words. Persuasiveness, not abusiveness, characterizes his reasoning.
8. Let us seek grace that we may appreciate as we ought the comfort of this doctrine. Our very dust is dear to God. The visible sky above us may pass away, but no particle of this dust shall perish. Let us realize the duty of seeking a part in the resurrection of the just. Let the doctrine have a practical effect upon our hves. With this prospect in view, "what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness"?
"Those bodies that corrupted fall
There were, therefore, seven brethren.I. THAT THERE IS ANOTHER WORLD. Our Lord calls it that world. It is evidently opposed to "this world" (ver. 34); "the children of this world." We know a little of this world. Oh that we knew it aright! Oh that we saw it with the eyes of faith! The world of which we speak is a world of light, and purity, and joy. There is "no night there" (Revelation 21:25). Hell is eternal darkness; heaven is eternal light. No ignorance, no errors, no mistakes; but the knowledge of God in Christ begun on earth is there completed; for we shall know even as we are known (1 Corinthians 13:12).
II. IT WILL BE A GREAT MATTER TO OBTAIN THAT WORLD. Notice our Saviour's words, "they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world." Oh, it will be a great matter to obtain that world I It will be a matter of amazing grace and favour. And oh, what a matter of infinite joy will it be!
III. SOME KIND OF WORTHINESS IS NECESSARY TO THE OBTAINING OF THAT WORLD. "They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world." This worthiness includes merit and meetness; or, a title to glory, and a fitness for it. Both these are necessary. But where shall we look for merit? Not in man.
IV. THE RELATIONS OF THE PRESENT WORLD WILL NOT SUBSIST IN THE WORLD TO COME. Our Lord says, "They neither marry, nor are given in marriage." This expression is not intended to disparage that kind of union; for marriage was ordained by God Himself, while yet our first parents retained their original innocence. But in heaven this relation will cease, because the purposes for which it was instituted will also cease. Nor shall the glorified need the aid of that domestic friendship and comfort which result from the married state, and which are well suited to our embodied condition; for even in paradise the Creator judged it was not "good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18). But in heaven there will be no occasion for the lesser streams of happiness, when believers have arrived at the fountain. Oh, let us learn from hence to sit loose to all creature comforts.
V. IN THAT WORLD DEATH WILL BE FOR EVER ABOLISHED. This is a dying world.
VI. THE BLESSED INHABITANTS OF THAT WORLD SHALL BE LIKE THE ANGELS. "They are equal unto the angels."
VII. THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY WILL PERFECT THE BLISS OF GOD'S PEOPLE. "They are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection; they shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead."
1. Be reminded that we have persons resembling the Sadducees in our own times. There are some who seek to subvert the leading truths of religion; and the method they pursue is very like that followed by the Sadducees of old. They rarely make the attack openly, like honest and generous assailants; but they start difficulties, and endeavour to involve the subjects of inquiry in inextricable perplexity.
2. Let us be suitably affected by the doctrines of immortality and the resurrection here taught.
3. Once more, let us improve this passage in reference to the endearing relations of life. We are here reminded that death is coming to break them all up, and that short is the time we are to sustain them. Far be it from us to regard them with indifference. Religion requires us to fulfil their duties with all affection and faithfulness. Yet, they are of very limited duration, and very little value, in comparison with eternity.
(James Foote, M. A.)I. GIVE SOME ACCOUNT OF THE SADDUCEES: — A small number of men of rank and affluence, who had shaken off such opinions and practices as they deemed a restraint upon their pleasures. They acknowledged the truth of the Pentateuch, but rejected the tradition of the elders. They also denied a future state, and believed that the soul dies with the body.
II. CONSIDER THE ARGUMENT OF THE SADDUCEES.
III. CONSIDER HOW JESUS CHRIST ACTED ON THIS OCCASION.
1. He removed the difficulty which had puzzled the Sadducees. They had not studied the Scriptures with sufficient attention, and a sincere desire of understanding their meaning. If they had done so, they could not have doubted of a future state. If, again, they had reflected on the power of God, they would have concluded that what might appear difficult or impossible to man, is possible and of easy accomplishment with God. He then explained the difficulty. It is to be observed, however, that He speaks only of the righteous. On this subject our Saviour reveals two important truths, — First, that the righteous never die; and, secondly, that they become like the angels.
2. Our Saviour, then, having removed the difficulty which had embarrassed the Sadducees, and having at the same time communicated new and important information concerning the world of spirits, next proceeded to prove from Scripture the certainty of a future state. He argued from a passage in the Book of Exodus, where God is represented as speaking from the burning bush to Moses, and saying, " I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob" (Exodus 3:6). It is here particularly to be observed, that the force of our Saviour's argument rests upon the words, I am the God. Had the words been I was the God, the argument would be destroyed.
IV. ATTEND TO THE INFERENCES WHICH WE MAY JUSTLY DRAW FROM THIS SUBJECT.
1. A difficulty arising from our ignorance is not sufficient to disprove or weaken direct or positive evidence.
2. Although a future state is not clearly revealed in the Books of Moses, yet it is presupposed, for the passage here selected can be explained only on the assurance that there is such a state.
3. From our Saviour's declaration here, we also obtain the important information, that the righteous, after their removal from this world by death, do not sink into a state of sleep or insensibility; for the passage which He quotes implies that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, after death, remained alive, and still continued to acknowledge and serve God; for all these things are included in what our Saviour says. Now, the inference we draw is, that what is true respecting the patriarchs we may safely extend to all good men, that they are all in a similar situation.
4. While informed by our Saviour, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, that immediately after death angels are employed to conduct the spirits of the righteous to paradise, we are also assured here by the same authority, that they shall be made like to the angels. When to these we add the passage quoted above, from the Epistle to the Hebrews, respecting the office of angels, it appears necessarily to follow that the righteous shall be elevated in rank and situation; for they shall associate with celestial beings, and consequently will receive all the benefits which can arise from society so pure and exalted. Nor can we help believing that while thus mingled with angels they will be engaged in similar duties and employments.
(J. Thompson, D. D.)
Expository Outlines.I. THAT THERE IS ANOTHER STATE OF BEING BESIDE AND BEYOND THE PRESENT STATE. None can deny the importance of the question, "If a man die, shall he live again?"
1. The traditions of universal belief. It is said that there is not, perhaps, a people on the face of the earth which does not hold the opinion, in some form or other, that there is a country beyond the grave, where the weary are at rest. Yet this universality of belief is no proof; it is but a mere presumption at best.
2. Certain transformations which take place in nature around us. Such as that of the butterfly from the grave of the chrysalis, and spring from the grave of winter. Such analogies, however, although appropriate as illustrations, are radically defective as proofs. The chrysalis only seemed dead; the plants and trees only seemed to have lost their vitality.
3. There is, again, the dignity of man. But while much may be said on one side of this question, not a little can be said on the other. "Talk as you will," it has been said, "of the grandeur of man — why should it not be honour enough for him to have his seventy years' life-rent of God's universe?
4. It is by the gospel alone that life and immortality have been brought to light.
II. THAT THE FUTURE STATE IN MANY IMPORTANT PARTICULARS IS WIDELY DIFFERENT FROM THE PRESENT STATE. They differ —
1. In their constitution. "The children of this world marry, and arc given in marriage;" but there will be nothing of this kind in heaven. The institution of marriage is intended to accomplish two great objects.(1) the propagation of mankind. But in that world the number of the redeemed family will be complete, and hence marrying and giving in marriage will be done away.(2) Mutual help and sympathy.
2. In the blessedness enjoyed.(1) Negative. "Neither can. they die any more."(2) Positive. "They shall be equal unto the angels — in nature, immortality, purity, knowledge, happiness." It is further added, that they will be "the children of God, being children of the resurrection." To the blessing of adoption several gradations appertain. What is spoken of here is the highest. The apostle refers to it in those striking words, "Because the creature itself shall be delivered," etc. (Romans 8:21-23).
III. THAT BEFORE THIS GLORIOUS STATE CAN BE ENTERED UPON, CERTAIN PRE-REQUISITES ARE INDISPENSABLY REQUIRED. None can attain the world but those which shall be accounted worthy. Two things may be here noticed.
1. Our guilty persons must be accepted. That can only be done through the Lord Jesus — winning Christ, and being found in Him, not having on our own righteousness.
2. Our sinful nature must be renewed. Worthiness and meetness are often used as synonymous terms. Thus we read in one place, "Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance"; in another, "Bring forth fruits meet for repentance." So with the worthiness in the passage before us; it is to be understood as indicating meekness for the heavenly inheritance. Now, nothing that defileth can enter there. Holiness of heart and life is an essential qualification. The pure alone shall see God.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
Christian Age.Casper Hauser was shut up in a narrow, dimly-lighted chamber when a little child. He grew to manhood there. He never saw the earth or the sky. He knew nothing about flowers or stars, mountains or plains, forests or streams. If one had gone to him and tried to tell him of these things, of the life of men in city or country, of the occupations of men in shop or field, the effort would have been a failure. No words could have conveyed to him any idea of the world outside of his cell. And we are like him while shut up in these bodies. The spirit must go out of its clay house before it can begin to know anything definite about life in the spirit world.
Equal unto the angels
I. IN THEIR DIGNIFIED POSITION.
II. IN THEIR SUBLIME WORSHIP.
IV. IN THEIR MINISTERING SERVICE (Hebrews 1:14).
V. IN LOVING OBEDIENCE. We read of angels that they "do His commandments, hearkening to the voice of His word."
VI. IN THEIR EARNEST STUDY OF THE MYSTERY OF REDEEMING LOVE. Speaking of the Gospel and its priceless privileges and blessings, Peter says, "Which things the angels desire to look into" (1 Peter 1:12).
VII. IN THE JOYFUL INTEREST WHICH THEY FEEL IN THE SALVATION OF SINNERS.
VIII. IN THEIR IMMORTAL YOUTH. Angels grow not old, as men on earth do. They wear no traces of age; revolving years tell not on them.
(P. Morrison.)I. MEN ARE CAPABLE OF BEING MADE EQUAL TO THE ANGELS. That man is capable of equalling the angels in the duration of their existence, may be very easily shown. Originally he was, like them, immortal. But what man once possessed, he must still be capable of possessing. Equally easy is it to show that man is capable of being made equal to the angels in moral excellence. The moral excellence of creatures, whether human or angelic, consists in their conformity to the law of God. Originally he was perfectly holy; for God made man upright, in His own image, and this image consisted, as inspiration informs us, in righteousness and true holiness. Man is then capable of being made equal to the angels in mural excellence. Man is also capable of being raised to an intellectual equality with the angels, or being made equal to them in wisdom and knowledge. The image of God in whack he was created, included knowledge, as well as righteousness and true holiness. He was, as inspiration informs us, but little lower than the angels. But this small intellectual inferiority, on the part of man, may be satisfactorily accounted for, without supposing that his intellectual faculties are essentially inferior to those of angels, or that his mind is incapable of expanding to the full dimensions of angelic intelligence. It may be accounted for by difference of situation, and of advantages for intellectual improvement. Man was placed on the earth, which is God's footstool. But angels were placed in heaven, which is His throne, His palace, and the peculiar habitation of His holiness and glory. They were thus enabled approach much nearer, than could earth-born man, to the great Father of lights; and their minds were, in consequence, illuminated with far more than a double portion of that Divine, all-disclosing radiance which diffuses itself around Him. If the mind of an infant can expand, during the lapse of a few years, to the dimensions of a Newton's mind, notwithstanding all the unfavourable circumstances in which it is here placed, why may it not, during an eternal residence in heaven, with the omniscient, all-wise God for its teacher, expand so far as to embrace any finite circle whatever? Little, if any, less reason have we to believe that he is capable of being made equal to them in power. It has been often remarked that knowledge is power; and observation must convince every one that it is so. Man's advances in knowledge have ever been accompanied by a proportionate increase of power. A knowledge of metals gave him power to subdue the earth. But we have already seen that man is capable of being made equal to the angels in knowledge. Again, man is capable of being raised to an equality with the angels in glory, honour, and felicity. The glory of a creature must consist principally in the intellectual and moral excellences with which he is endued; and we have already seen that in these respects man is capable of being made equal to the angels.
II. THAT IN THE FUTURE WORLD, GOOD MEN SHALL BE MADE EQUAL TO THEM IN EACH OF THESE PARTICULARS. The fact that men are capable of being made equal to the angels, goes far to prove the truth of this proposition. From the appearance of Moses and Elijah on the mount of transfiguration, it seems evident that they possessed power of various kinds, of which we are destitute. They had power to descend from the mansions of the blessed, and to return, and also, as it should seem, to render themselves visible or invisible, at their pleasure. Indeed it is certain, that in some respects at least, the powers of the righteous must be greatly increased, or they would be unable to sustain that far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, and honour, and felicity, which is reserved for them in the future world. There is a dreadful counterpart to this truth, which, though not mentioned in our text, must be briefly noticed. Every argument, which proves that good men are capable of being made equal to the holy angels, may justly be considered as proving, with equal clearness, that wicked men are capable of equalling the fallen angels, who kept not their first estate.
(E. Payson, D. D.)I. IN HEAVEN THE SAINTS ARE HOLY AS THE ANGELS ARE HOLY.
II. IN HEAVEN THE SAINTS, LIKE THE ANGELS, SHALL ENGAGE IN BECOMING ACTS AND EXERCISES.
1. I say acts and exercises, for while heaven is to be a place of rest, it is not to be a place of idleness. In heaven the saints are to be as angels, and angels, we know, are active in the service of God.
2. In particular, the saints, like the angels, engage in singing the praises of God.
3. Further, the saints, like the angels, are engaged in contemplating the works of God, and especially His wonders in providence and redemption.
4. Yet further, in heaven the saints, like the angels, are engaged in works of love. The angels, we have seen, are actively employed in the service of God. The whole method of the Divine procedure, so far as it comes under our view, seems to be carried on by a system of means or instruments. God fulfils His purposes by agents employed by Him who are blessed themselves and conveying blessings to others, who are happy and diffusing happiness. Even in inanimate creation on earth we find that nothing is useless; everything has a purpose to serve: the stone, the plant, the animal, every part of the plant and animal has a purpose to serve; it may be an end in itself, but it is also a means towards another end. The ear aids the eye, and the touch aids the ear and eye, and every member aids every other; it is good in itself, and is doing good to others. But these inanimate objects perform their work unknowingly, unconsciously. It is different with angels and the spirits of just men made perfect. They perform their allotted work knowing what they are doing, and blessed in the doing of it. Modern science shows us how much material agency can do. Take, as an example, the electric telegraph, which is every day carrying messages past your place. A methodical action is performed at one end of a wire, and in a few moments an intelligent communication is given at the other end, hundreds of miles away. It is a proof of the capacity of body. We know that our Lord's body after His resurrection appeared and disappeared, and acted no one could tell how. But in the resurrection our bodies will be like His, spiritual and celestial. They will therefore be fit ministers to the perfected spirit — not, as here, hindrances at times, but always helps, and ready to fulfil the will of the spirit.
(J. McCosh, D. D.)shall they die any more, but neither can they die any more. Death, which is now a law, an inevitable necessity, shall then be an impossibilty. Blessed impossibility! Neither can they die any more! They are clothed with the immortality Of the Son of God; for as the Head is immortal, so shall the members be. Ah, this is victory over death! This is the triumph of life! It is more than resurrection; for it is resurrection, with the security that death can never again approach them throughout eternity. All things connected with that new resurrection-state shall be immortal, too. Their inheritance is unfading. Their city, the new Jerusalem, shall never crumble down. Their paradise is as much beyond the power of decay as it is beyond the reach of a second serpent-tempter. Their crowns are all imperishable; and the white raiment in which they shine shall never need cleansing or renewal.
(H. Bonar, D. D.)
Moses showed at the bushI. GOD IS THE GOD OF ALL MEN, HOWEVER DIFFERENT FROM EACH OTHER THEY MAY BE. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to name three men so closely related to each other, and yet so conspicuously different from each other, as were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Abraham is of the grandest heroic type — heroic in thought, in action, and, above all, in that faith which is the inspiration both of the highest thinking and of the noblest forms of conduct. But what a falling off is there in Isaac! He hardly seems his father's son. Quiet, thoughtful, a lover of ease and good fare, with no genius for action, his very wife chosen for him as if he were incompetent even to marry himself, unable to rule his own household, unable even to die — it would almost seem, when his time was come, that he fades out of history years before he slips his mortal coil. Jacob, again, strikes one as unlike both his father and his grandfather. We think of him as timid, selfish, crafty, unscrupulous, with none of the innocence of Isaac, little or none of the splendid courage and generosity of Abraham. What I want you to mark, then, is the grace of God in calling Himself, as He did for more than a thousand years by the mouth of His servants the prophets, the God of each and all of these three men. Different as they were from each other, they are all dear to Him. He has room enough in His heart for them all. Rightly viewed, then, there is hope for us and for all men in this familiar phrase. If God is not ashamed to call Himself their God, may He not, will He not, be our God too, and train us as He trained them, till all that is weak and selfish and subtle in us is chastened out of us, and we recover the image in which He created us?
II. GOD OUR FATHER WILL NEVER LET HIS CHILDREN DIE. The text our Lord quoted was this: To Moses at the bush — between four and five hundred years, that is, after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were dead — Jehovah had said, "I am," — not I was — "the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob." But how could He still be the God of these men if they had long been extinct? He is not the God of dead men, but of living men. The three patriarchs were very certainly not living in this world when God spoke to Moses. They must, therefore, have been living in some other world. Dead to men, they must have been alive unto God. Obviously, then, men do not all die when they die.
1. Because our Lord saw in God the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, He inferred that these men could not die; that even when they did die, they must have lived on unto God. And that after all is, I suppose, the argument or conviction on which we all really base our hope of immortality. "Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One? We shall not die." The eternity of God implies the immortality of man.
2. But our Lord at least reminds us by His words of another ground for hope. Nature has many symbols which speak of a life capable of passing through death, a life which grows in volume, in power, in beauty, by its submission to death. Every spring we behold the annual miracle by which the natural world is renewed into a richer, lovelier life. Year by year it emerges from its wintry tomb into the fuller and more fruitful life of summer. We may not care to base any very weighty arguments on these delicate and evanescent yet continually-recurring symbols; but, nevertheless, they speak to our imagination and our hearts with a force and a winning persuasiveness beyond that of logic.
III. What is to hinder us from arguing that, if God is still their God, and they still live unto Him, then GOD MUST EVEN NOW BE CARRYING ON THE DISCIPLINE AND TRAINING WHICH HE COMMENCED UPON THEM HERE, and carrying it on to still larger and happier issues? If they live, and live unto God, must they not be moving into a closer fellowship with Him, rising to a more hearty adoption of His will, a fuller participation of His righteousness and love? No one of you will question the validity of such an argument as that, I think. You will all gladly admit that, since he still lives, Abraham must by this time be a far greater and nobler man than he was when he left the earth, and must be engaged in far nobler discoveries and enterprises.I. WE WILL CONSIDER IT AS AN ARGUMENT AD HOMINEM, AND SHEW THE FITNESS AND FORCE OF IT TO CONVINCE THOSE WITH WHOM OUR SAVIOUR DISPUTED.
1. We will consider what our Saviour intended directly and immediately to prove by this argument. And that was this, That there is another state after this life, wherein men shall be happy or miserable according as they have lived in this world. And this doth not only suppose the immortality of the soul, but forasmuch as the body is an essential part of man, doth, by consequence, infer the resurrection of the body; because, otherwise, the man would not be happy or miserable in another world.
2. The force of this argument, against those with whom our Saviour disputed, will further appear, if we consider the great veneration which the Jews in general had for the writings of Moses above any other books of the Old Testament, which they (especially the Sadducees) looked upon only as explications and comments upon the law of Moses; but they esteemed nothing as a necessary article of faith, which had not some foundation in the writings of Moses. And this seems to me to be the true reason why our Saviour chose to confute them out of Moses, rather than any other part of the Old Testament.
3. If we consider further the peculiar notion which the Jews had concerning the use of this phrase or expression, of God's being any one's God. And that was this" that God is nowhere in Scripture said to be any one's God while he was alive. And, therefore, they tell us, that while Isaac lived, God is not called the God of Isaac, but the "fear of Isaac." I will not warrant this observation to be good, because I certainly know it is not true. For God doth expressly call Himself "the God of Isaac," while Isaac was yet alive (Genesis 28:10): "I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac." It is sufficient to my purpose that this was a notion anciently current among the Jews. And therefore our Saviour's argument from this expression must be so much the stronger against them: for if the souls of men be extinguished by death (as the Sadducees believed) what did it signify to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to have God called their God, after they were dead?
4. The great respect which the Jews had for these three fathers of their nation, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They, who had so superstitious a veneration for them, would easily believe anything of privilege to belong to them: so that our Saviour doth with great advantage instance in them, in favour of whom they would be inclined to extend the meaning of any promise to the utmost, and allow it to signify as much as the words could possibly bear. So that it is no wonder that the text tells us, that this argument put the Sadducees to silence. They durst not attempt a thing so odious, as to go about to take away anything of privilege from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
II. ENQUIRE WHETHER IT BE MORE THAN AN ARGUMENT AD HOMINEM. The following considerations would appear to indicate that our Lord really meant the matter to be regarded as settled fact.
1. If we consider that for God to be any one's God doth signify some very extraordinary blessing and happiness to those persons of whom this is said. It is a big word for God to declare Himself to be any one's God; and the least we can imagine to be meant by it, is that God will, in an extraordinary manner, employ His power and wisdom to do him good: that He will concern Himself more for the happiness of those whose God He declares Himself to be, than for others.
2. If we consider the eminent faith and obedience of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Abraham left his country in obedience to God, not knowing whither he was to go. And, which is one of the most unparalleled and strange instances of faith and obedience that can be almost imagined, he was willing to have sacrificed his only son at the command of God. Isaac and Jacob were also very good men, and devout worshippers of the true God, when almost the whole world was sunk into idolatry and all manner of impiety. Now what can we imagine, but that the good God did design some extraordinary reward to such faithful servants of His? especially if we consider, that He intended this gracious declaration of His concerning them, for a standing encouragement to all those who, in after ages, should follow the faith, and tread in the steps of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
3. If we consider the condition of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in this world. The Scripture tells us, that "they were pilgrims and strangers upon the earth," had no fixed and settled habitation, but were forced to wander from one kingdom and country to another; that they were exposed to many hazards and difficulties, to great troubles and afflictions in this world; so that there was no such peculiar happiness befel them, in this life, above the common rate of men, as may seem to fill up the big words of this promise, that God would be their God.
4. Then, we will consider the general importance of this promise, abstracting from the particular persons specified and named in it, viz., Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and that is, that God will make a wide and plain difference between good and bad men; He will be so the God of good men as He is not of the wicked: and some time or other put every good man into a better and happier condition than any wicked man: so that the general importance of this promise is finally resolved into the equity and justice of the Divine Providence.And now having, I hope, sufficiently cleared this matter, I shall make some improvement of this doctrine of a future state, and that to these three purposes.
1. To raise our minds above this world, and the enjoyments of this present life.
2. The consideration of another life should quicken our preparation for that blessed state which remains for us in the other world.
3. Let the consideration of that unspeakable reward which God hath promised to good men at the resurrection, encourage us to obedience and a holy life. We serve a great Prince who is able to promote us to honour; a most gracious Master who will not let the least service we do for Him pass unrewarded. This is the inference which the apostle makes from his large discourse of the doctrine of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:58). Nothing will make death more welcome to us, than a constant course of service and obedience to God. "Sleep (saith Solomon) is sweet to the labouring man": so after a great diligence and industry in " working out our own salvation," and (as it is said of David) "serving our generation according to the will of God," how pleasant will it be to fall asleep! And, as an useful and well-spent life will make our death to be sweet, so our resurrection to be glorious.
(J. N. Bennie, LL. B.)
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