Summary: What will life be like in heaven? We'll have bodies that are physical, permanent, recognizable, and spiritual. We will have relationships so vital with Christ and each other that marriage will no longer be needed.
Relationships in the Hereafter
Sometimes we are forced to say good-bye to those we love. And in those most trying of times, we hold onto the biblical idea of a great reunion of all believers in a place called heaven. But in today’s scripture Jesus tells us there won’t be marriage as we know it in heaven. That might hit some of you kind of hard. Maybe you wonder why not? If not marriage, then what will there be?
In order to understand the passage I just read, we have to start first with a group called the Sadducees. I pick on the Pharisees a lot, but the Sadducees were another religious political party in Bible times. They were more the aristocratic Jewish party. They controlled the high priests and most of the seats on the presiding Jewish High Council called the Sanhedrin. They liked to argue with the Pharisees, and really only came together over a common enemy, Jesus. “My enemy’s enemy is my friend,” right?
The Sadducees only believed in the first five books of the Bible, the Torah, and there they found no hints of an afterlife, no resurrection from the dead. This was their basic theological difference with the Pharisees, who believed strongly IN a resurrection. You can remember their name and theology if you reflect on this: The Sadducees did not believe in heaven. That is why they were “sad—you see.”
It reminds me of a story I heard. The boss asked one of his employees, “Do you believe in life after death?”
“Yes, sir!” the new recruit replied.
“Well, then, that makes sense,” the boss said, “because after you left early yesterday to go to your grandmother’s funeral, she stopped by to see you.”
The other thing we have to understand besides the Sadducees is the custom of Levirate marriage prescribed in Deuteronomy 25:5. It was an ancient Israelite custom of ensuring a widow with no children could carry on the family name. At the time, it was crucial to the growth of a developing nation. The most famous example in the Bible is that of Ruth. Boaz became her kinsman redeemer and gave her a child Obed, who would become the grandfather of King David. By the time of Jesus, Levirate marriage was no longer practiced.
The story the Sadducees used in today’s scripture is probably a well-worn attack on what they considered the foolishness of resurrection. If there IS an afterlife, and if people practiced Levirate marriage, then who is going to be married to whom in heaven? What a mess! The Sadducees thought it a clever way to make fun of the notion of an afterlife and embarrass Jesus publicly at the same time.
And Jesus used it as an opportunity to teach on the nature of relationships in the hereafter. He contrasted this age—the life we now have in the flesh on earth—with the age to come—the hereafter, particularly for those who are “considered worthy to take part,” i.e., those who have joined God’s family forever through their faith in him. Jesus said of these “resurrection children” in verse 36, “They can no longer die; for they are like the angels.” He didn’t say we become angels; he said, we become LIKE the angels in our immortality. We don’t even have the option of dying, because the whole notion of death will be gone.
Now that could be really good if life in the hereafter is really rewarding. Or it could be really bad if the hereafter is boring or lonely without marriage. To understand better this life ahead, let’s look at some characteristics of our bodies in the hereafter.
For Jewish people, the body was very important; it was part of your soul, your basic identity. The surrounding Greek culture set up an artificial divide between physical and spiritual and suggested the physical was evil but the spiritual was good. Jews believed in a whole person—body, mind, and spirit—all wrapped up into one soul. So what is this soul or living being going to be like in the afterlife? Consider what the Bible tells us:
1. Our new bodies will be physical
We know this because of the first post-resurrection body we see in scripture, that of Jesus himself. Witnesses noted that he ate (Luke 24:43), probably to prove he wasn’t a ghost. And his disciples even touched him (1 John 1:1). Like Jesus we will have physical bodies, but they will differ in some significant ways from our current bodies. And the most notable is,
2. Our new bodies will be permanent
Maybe your Bible says “immortal,” or “imperishable.” Our resurrection bodies will no longer age or decay. They won’t grow weak or feeble. The Apostle Paul contrasts our pre- and post-resurrection bodies in 1 Corinthians 15:42: “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable.” Our new bodies in heaven will always be healthy, fit, and strong. We will no longer need doctors, nurses, therapists, rehab specialists, surgeons, home health aides, ambulances, or hospitals. No more!