Mark 12:18

I. THE CASE STATED. An extreme one; and probably a locus classicus in the works of the rabbins. It was supposed to be a reductio ad absurdum of all theories of resurrection or immortality. "In the resurrection" is used apparently in a pregnant sense, as including the judgment, when all questions would be decided, and the conditions of the future state settled. The case as stated referred only to legal and external conditions, questions of sentiment or spiritual attachment being ignored. The only case in Scripture of Christ coming into direct collision with the Sadducees. That the questioners were not maliciously disposed in presenting these difficulties may be inferred from the manner in which they are answered: not indignantly, or with an epithet expressing moral condemnation; but in a straightforward, matter-of-fact way, although censure is also expressed - a kind of censure peculiarly distasteful to such men, who generally pretend to grit originality and critical acumen. They are accused of ignorance and spiritual inexperience.


1. By reference to the possibilities of Divine power. "In the resurrection state there will not be a repetition, pure and simple, of present conditions; there will be advance of inward and outward development. Love will continue; but in the case of the holy it will be sublimed. 'The power of God' is adequate, not only to the re-formative, but also to the transformative changes that may be requisite; and his wisdom will see to it that they be in harmony with the perfectibility of individual personality and the general procession of the ages. Even on earth there are loftier loves than those that are merely marital" (Morison). "They neither marry, nor are given in marriage." "His words teach absolutely the absence from the resurrection life of the definite relations on which marriage rests in this, and they suggest an answer to the yearning questions which rise up in our minds as we ponder the things behind the veil... The old relations may subsist under new conditions. Things that are incompatible here may there be found to coexist. The saintly wife of two saintly husbands may love both with an angelic, and therefore a pure and unimpaired, affection. The contrast between our Lord's teaching and the sensual paradise of Mahomet, or Swedenberg's dream of the marriage state perpetuated under its earthly conditions, is so obvious as hardly to call for notice" (Plumptre). "The present life is but a partial revelation of the Divine power. All the relations of earthly families do not continue in heaven" (Godwin)."

2. By interpretation of Scripture. Not the letter of Scripture is appealed to, but the underlying truth involved in the statement of Scripture, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. The copula connecting the first clause of the quotation is not in the original, so that no argument can be founded upon it. Professor Plumptre's explanation - The principle implied in the reasoning is, that the union of the Divine Name with that of a man, as in "I am the God of Abraham,' involved a relation existing, not in the past only, but when the words were uttered. They meant something more than "I am the God whom Abraham worshipped in the past" - is, therefore, manifestly inadequate. That of Dr. Morison is more explicit and profound: "It amounted to this: If there was at all a patriarchal dispensation, embracing a Messianic, or redemptive scheme, and thus involving a Divinely commissioned Messiah or Redeemer, who was to be in due time incarnated, then there must be a life to come. But there was such a dispensation, if it be the case that God became ' the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,' in any distinctive sense whatever. And then, moreover, as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob took personal advantage of the Messianic covenant into which God entered with them, they 'live' They have 'life,' 'everlasting life,' in the intense acceptation of the term" (in loc.). Cf. Hebrews 11:13, 14, 16. A more direct proof might have been obtained in other portions of the Old Testament, but the skill of this argument lay in the reference to a book received by the Sadducees, and in the unexpected interpretation of familiar words. Thus their liberalism and narrowness were rebuked, and the popular longing of the Jews confirmed. The line of evidence led by Christ not only meets the objection to resurrection, but includes the proof of that of which resurrection is only a portion, viz. immortality. If such depth of meaning lay in the words of an old pre-Christian revelation, what may not the gospel itself unfold, when spiritually interpretated in the light of new conditions and experiences

In the resurrection.
These words of Christ show us how much more there is in Scripture than at first sight appears. God spoke to Moses in the bush, and called Himself the God of Abraham; and Christ tells us, that in this simple announcement was contained the promise, that Abraham should rise again from the dead. In truth, if we may say it with reverence, the All-wise All-knowing God cannot speak, without meaning many things at once. He sees the end from the beginning; He understands the numberless connections and relations of all things one with another. Every word of His is full of instruction looking many ways; and, though it is not often given to us to know these various senses, and we are not at liberty to attempt lightly to imagine them, yet, as far as they are told us, and as far as we may reasonably infer them, we must thankfully accept them.

(J. H. Newman.)

Christ raises the question: Could God call Himself Abraham's God if He had permitted his hopes to be disappointed, and his whole life to be dissipated by the touch of death? Whatever we love we seek to keep alive, and, if God loved Abraham, would He let him die? If the Sadducee was right, Abraham was at the time a handful of desert dust in which certainly God could take no peculiar interest. The fact that man can engage the interest of God, speak to Him, enter into covenant with Him; be beloved, embraced, protected by God, is the proof of immortality. Because God lives, he will live also whom God loves. There are many arguments that go to prove immortality, but this is chief, that God loves man, delights in him, and would be Himself bereaved, and spend a desolate eternity, if death robbed Him of the spirits that trust Him.

(R. Glover).

1. Knowledge of the Scriptures may be very superficial.

2. Christ shows us how to conduct controversy.

3. Jesus enlarges our thoughts of what life is.

4. We are not to measure the unseen by the seen.

5. We cannot ignore one truth without danger of losing our hold on others.

6. The future life differs from the present

(1)In its constitution;

(2)in its blessedness.

7. A higher existence hereafter suggests the folly of expecting perfection here.

8. Our friends, who "sleep in Jesus" are not dead.

(F. Wagstaff.)

I. THE ARGUMENT. It may be presented in three aspects.

1. After the three patriarchs were dead, and had been in the grave for centuries, God spoke of Himself as their God. If the words assume their then conscious existence as spirits, then it followed(1) that the negative portion of the system of the Sadducees was destroyed. There are spiritual existences.

2. Supposing they do not exist in a state of consciousness, still God considers Himself as sustaining relations to them; He is their God. This, again, disposes of materialistic Sadduceeism. For God cannot sustain that relationship to what has been annihilated — to what has ceased to be — to nothing.

3. The emphasis may be put on the term "God." "I am the God," etc. What is it to be God to a being who has a religious nature, is capable of worship and happiness through Divine relations? How had He shown them He was their God? He called, led, educated, tried them, and taught them to rest implicitly on His word. He promised them a wonderful possession. What seemed to be conveyed by the words was never actually enjoyed. Yet they lived in faith, and died in the exercise of this faith — that in bestowing this possession He would prove Himself to be their God. If the Sadducees were right, there was an end of them and of the Divine faithfulness. It was a commencement without a conclusion, a porch without a temple, a beginning of promise without the termination.


1. The manner in which Christ threw light upon the future condition of man. He did not bring life and immortality to light as a new thing. There were indications of it in the ancient Church. He brought out in distinctness, and clearness, and fulness what was involved in mist and fog. Speaking with Divine authority,(1) He took the affirmative side — always took it: resisted the objectors, threw against them arguments from the power of God, and the Scriptures of God.(2) He raised men from the dead.(3) He threw light upon the resurrection — the life of men in glory — long after their bodies had passed away.(4) Then He illustrated and embodied in His own Person everything He taught. He died, was buried, was raised, was changed, was glorified.(5) But greatest of all, by His redemptive work He shows how all could be done according to, and in harmony with, the principles of the Divine government, and the perfection of God's nature.

2. Light is cast upon the state of the pious and holy dead. They live.Martyred saints committed their spirits to the Lord Jesus.

1. If men choose to live "without God" here, they will find hereafter that there is a sense in which the actual relation between Him and them has not been destroyed.

2. The dignity and glory of a religious life. They are to be glorious immortals who love God, cherish religious faith, cultivate acquaintance with the infinite, and walk in holy obedience. The character of faithful worshippers is to be perpetuated and become eternal.

3. It is of infinite importance that all possess this Divine faith, and live the real life based upon the truth of God and the Gospel of Christ.

(Thomas Binney.)

I never saw a man that did not believe in the immortality of love when following the body of a loved one to the grave. I have seen men under other circumstances that did not believe in it; but I never saw a man that, when he stood looking upon the form of one that he really loved stretched out for burial, did not revolt from saying, "It has all come to that: the hours of sweet companionship; the wondrous interlacings of tropical souls, the joys, the hopes, the trusts, the unutterable yearnings — there they all lie." No man can stand and look in a coffin upon the body of a fellow creature, and remember the flaming intelligence, the blossoming love, the whole range of Divine faculties which so lately animated that cold clay, and say, "These have all collapsed and gone." No person can witness the last sad ceremonials which are performed over the remains of a human being — the sealing down of the unopenable lid, the following of the rumbling procession to the place of burial, the letting of the dust down into dust, the falling of the earth upon the hollow coffin, with those sounds that are worse than thunder, and the placing of the green sod over the grave — no person, unless he be a beast, can witness these things, and then turn away and say, "I have buried my wife; I have buried my child; I have buried my sister, my brother, my love."

(H. W. Beecher.)

One bright summer day I stood beside a large water butt, watching the insect life which skimmed its surface and the lower forms of life which revelled and rejoiced in its depths. Whilst thus engaged, I saw a little creature, in the shape of a worm, come up with zig-zag course apparently from the bottom of the butt to its surface. There was a little agitation — the shell broke, and a bright and beautiful insect flew away towards heaven. To my apprehension that was the most beautiful type of the resurrection ever beheld, and thus has our gracious God filled all nature with appropriate and instructive emblems of the glorious doctrine of the resurrection.

(S. Cocks.)

In Dr. Brown's work on the resurrection, their is a beautiful parable from Halley. The story is of a servant, who, receiving a silver cup from his master, suffers it to fall into a vessel of aquafortis, and, seeing it disappear, contends in argument with a fellow servant that its recovery is impossible, until the master comes on the scene, and infuses salt water, which precipitates the silver from the solution; and then, by melting and hammering the metal, he restores it to its original shape. With this incident a sceptic — one of whose great stumbling blocks was the resurrection — was so struck, that he ultimately renounced his opposition to the gospel, and became a partaker of the Christian hope of immortality.

(S. S. Teacher.)

Christian Age.
John Bunyan was once asked a question about heaven which he could not answer, because the matter was not revealed in the Scriptures; and he thereupon advised the inquirer to live a holy life and go and see.

(Christian Age.)

It is curious to compare old and new maps, and to mark the progress of discovery. The black space of ocean is followed by a faint outline of a few miles of coast, marking the termination of an intrepid voyage. Then further portions of the same coast are laid down at intervals as supposed islands. Then by and by these portions are connected, and the outline of a great continent begins to be developed. The "undiscovered" passes into the region of the known and familiar. Thus it is with the Bible. What progress is being made in the discovery of its meaning! How much better acquainted is the Church of Christ now with its spirit, its allusions, its inner and outer history, than the same church during a former period! What a far more true and just idea of the mind of Christ, as manifested in and by the Apostolic Church, have we now than the Church of the fourth and fifth centuries possessed! Distance has increased the magnitude, the extent, the totality, the grandeur in the heaven-kissing mountain range. Individually I find in daily study of the Bible a daily discovery. What was formerly unknown becomes known, and what seemed a solitary coast becomes a part of a great whole, and what seemed wild and strange and lonely becomes to me green pasture and refreshing water — the abode of my fireside affections. And surely I shall read the Bible as an alphabet in heaven. It was my first school book here, and I hope it will be my first there. What I shall I never know the Spirit which moves the wheels, whose rims are so high that they are dreadful? The only true theory of development is the development of the spiritual eye for the reception of that light which ever shineth.

(Norman Macleod, D. D.)

Christian World Pulpit.
Whatever correct ideas we have about the heavenly state, are of course derived from the revelation God has made. And yet from the very nature of the subject our ideas must necessarily be vague, and perhaps even incorrect. The information may be, and doubtless is, the very best God could give us; but the unsatisfactoriness of it clearly remains, just because the subject is so far beyond our present attainments and conceptions. It is like talking of the higher mathematics to a child who has only begun to comprehend the simplest relations of numbers, and to whom the multiplication table is an "Ultima Thule."

(Christian World Pulpit.)

The children of God, in the resurrection, our Saviour says, shall be equal to the angels; or, perhaps, more properly, they shall be like the angels in attributes, station, and employments. Like the angels, they will possess endless youth, activity, power, knowledge, and holiness; enjoy the same immortal happiness, dignity, and Divine favour; be lovely, beautiful, and glorious in the sight of God, and "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." Like the angels, shall they be sons, and kings, and priests to God, and live and reign with Him forever and ever.

(Pres. Dwight.)

In our mysterious being we have a double existence; we are part of a body, and God deals with men collectively as communities: yet also we are as much single spirits as if we were alone in the world, each running separately and apart its individual course. To teach men from the first the awful, the difficult truth, that they have each of them a soul — this was the meaning of that discipline of Abraham and the Patriarchs; and the whole history has shown how necessary it was. The visible world is all about us, early and late, wrapping us around, occupying eye and thought and desire; we seem to belong to it, and to it alone; it seems as if we must take our chance with it. And, on the other hand, we know how easily men come to think that being one of a body — even though it were the "seed of Abraham," or "the Church of Christ" — made it less necessary to remember their personal singleness, their personal responsibility. To belong to a "good set," to a religions family, seems to give us a security for ourselves; insensibly, perhaps, we take to ourselves credit for the goodness of our friends, we look at ourselves as if we must be what they are. The soul has indeed to think and to work with others and for others, and for great aims and purposes, out of and beyond itself. For others, and with others, the best parts of its earthly work is done. But first, the soul has to know that sublime truth about itself: that it stands before the Everlasting by itself, and for what it is. Abraham learned it, like Moses, like Elijah, like Isaiah, like St. Paul: in Job and the Psalter we see the early fruits of that discipline. The soul knew itself alone with God; no words could tell the incommunicable secret of the presence of God; and in that secret was wrapped up the seed of its conviction of its mysterious immortality — "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." This is the first lesson of the masters of the spiritual life. This is the first opening of the eyes to the reality of religion, when it comes upon us in our heart of hearts, in the deep certainties of conscience, that in spite of all that fills the eye and is not ourselves, there is ourself and there is God; and we begin by degrees, as it has been said, to perceive that there are but two beings in the whole universe — two only supreme and luminously self- evident beings — our own soul, and the God who made it.

(Dean Church.)

As the angels.
What shall we do in heaven? Well, our employments will accord with our state and disposition. Some one of you may perhaps be an artist. Now to paint a fine picture to hang upon somebody's wall on earth is accounted a great thing. Pooh! In heaven, your canvas shall be a soul, and your picture a loving spirit which under your guidance shall become a being of grace and beauty for evermore. On earth, an artist generally paints to make himself a name and earn both money and glory, but in heaven the object and aim of an artist shall be, "Oh, that I might train this soul to be like Christ! Oh, that my work might glorify God!" Someone else here may, I think, be an architect in heaven, not with bricks, stone, mortar, ladders, and rubbish. No; you build houses here; there you shall build human souls into angels. If life in heaven is to be as the angels, we have the joy of knowing that useful and congenial occupation will be our lot.

(W. Birch.)

A lad, who served as a milk vendor, stood one day in Antwerp cathedral before the glorious picture by Rubens of the bringing down of Christ from the cross. The boy drank in all the beauty of the painting as if it were a thing of life; and it seemed as if the hunger in his soul were satisfied while he gazed upon the marvellous glory of that scene. At length, he turned away with a sigh in his heart, but a light in his eye, saying, "I, also, have in me the soul of a painter!" But he was only a poor boy, who went with a dog and a little cart carrying milk cans from the country to the people of Antwerp. In his soul he said, "I in soul am an artist!" But he had to go back to his dog and cart and milk cans, and that sort of humdrum work continued to be his daily employment, until having lost his living through a false accusation, and he and his dog being refused bread, they wandered up and down in the cold of the winter until one day they found themselves weary and starving at the door of the cathedral. The poor boy, with the soul of an artist, followed by his dog, more faithful to him than men and women, walked up the grand aisle of the cathedral, and stood before the glorious picture of Christ. Being weary, he lay down, when the poor dog crouched close to his starving master to warm him, and the boy kissed the head of the faithful beast and fixed his eyes on the sacred canvas. In the morning, the people found a boy and dog both dead, and clasped together. He had the soul of a painter, but he was poor and cold and hungry, yet he died feeling the love of his dog and beholding the picture whose glory had inspired his soul. And the people wept, and mourned over the poor boy whose circumstances had prevented the realization of his heart's desire. In the other world there will be no obstruction to lawful desires, and the possibilities of the human heart shall be granted. Every one of us shall have our opportunity of congenial employment. That which is within the soul and forms our real nature shall come out and have an opportunity of being employed in the service of God and mankind. A man with a musical soul one day went into a shop where he saw a beautiful violin for sale, and with all the money he had, he bought it. He came exultingly out of the shop the possessor of the glorious instrument. Then somebody said to him, "My friend, where is the bow?" He had the fiddle, but he had no bow. In a corresponding way, many of you have the violin in your nature, the capacity for harmony, but circumstances are against you; you cannot realize your earnest resolves because there is something wanting, You were meant to be a poet, and yet are, perhaps, a brick setter; or you were made to be an artist, and may be only a chimney sweep; or you may have the instincts of an engineer, and yet are probably chained to a desk in some dingy office, or may be a shoemaker sitting at a stall all day mending boots. These are some of the disciplinary contradictions of this life, where round people are continually found in square holes, and square people in round holes. But in the better land all these "odds" shall be made "even," and an opportunity given to everyone to bring out that which God has put within us, and we shall be and do that which harmonizes with our angelic nature and inclination.

(W. Birch.)

Most earnest men are too busy in this world to find time to really live and know themselves. They are too much engrossed in the "maddening maze" of things to "watch and pray" and practise self-examination. They are like a steamer which is of excellent build and power of speed, and which is so profitable to its owners that they send it about from port to port and never put it into harbour to survey and restore it; and at length when stress of weather comes, the beautiful, powerful steamer gives way and sinks. Thousands of business men are like that steamer; they perish for want of overhauling and renovation. They are too busy to think of God, and death, and judgment. They are too busy to do a good deed in any way except putting their hand into their pocket to give something to a charitable institution, or throwing a copper to some unfortunate beggar. In the other world these over busy men will bare time to think of God and of themselves. The life of the other world will without doubt be progressive. Progress or development is the law of creation. There is progress on earth, and there will be progress in heaven. Your life is to be as a pure river which cannot be defiled or overshadowed by evil. We shall have to learn to forgive, learn to be pure, learn to be loving, learn to be kind. Have you learned these things on earth? Not fully; but you are trying to learn them; if so, you shall be as the angels and finish your education in heaven. There has been only One who went perfect into heaven. That perfect being was Jesus, and He has promised that His Spirit shall be with everyone who desires to follow Him.

(W. Birch.)

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