Summary: In Heaven, our relationship with the Living God will be so powerful our earthly relationships will seem to be insignificant in comparison.
What will life be like in Heaven? There are about 4,000 different religions in the world, and most of them have a theory about the afterlife. Buddhists, Hindus, and other Gnostic religions see the body as evil and that after death, our pure spirits escape, often to be joined to another life form.
Mormons and Muslims believe we will have physical bodies and will even be married and produce children in the afterlife. Islam teaches that men who are faithful will go to Paradise where they will be rewarded with 72 young virgins. That reminds me of the funny story about the Muslim suicide bomber who entered the afterlife expecting his 72 virgins. But when he arrived he was met by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and dozens of other men. The Muslim said, “Where are the 72 virgins?” George Washington said, “Oh, that was a misprint. Your reward is 72 Virginians—and we aren’t happy about how you’ve been threatening our country.”
Does Heaven even exist? According to the Pew Research Center, in 2015 72% of Americans say they believe in Heaven, defined as a place where people who lived good lives are eternally rewarded.
There’s a growing segment of our American spiritual landscape who are called “nones.” These are not Catholic Sisters who wear black and white habits. The “nones” are those Americans who, when asked what their religious preference is, they say, “none.” But even among the American “nones,” 37% of them say they believe in Heaven. I guess even the nones long for a place called Heaven.
The Bible has a lot to say about Heaven. The word “Heaven” appears over 600 times in the Bible. The words “hell” or “Hades” appear only 22 times. When you write the word Heaven, you should use a capital “H” because Heaven is a proper noun for a place just like Tyler, or Dallas.
In our context, Jesus is in Jerusalem, and will face the cross in a few days. The religious leaders are constantly hounding Him, trying to get Him to say something to discredit Him. They were peppering Him with trick questions. In the last message they asked Him if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar. They thought they would trap Jesus with a “yes or no” answer, but Jesus escaped the trap with a brilliant answer. He asked for a coin that had an image of Caesar on it. He said, “Give to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.” And we have God’s image stamped on us.
This next question is a real doozy.
Mark 12:28-34. Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, [the Sadducees were religious liberals who didn’t even believe there would be a resurrection, that’s why they were sad-you-see]. They came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in Heaven. Now about the dead rising--have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘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. You are badly mistaken!”
Before we talk about Heaven, it’s important to understand the context of this passage. Jesus was responding to a trick question about marriage in Heaven. Their question was based on an actual law in the Old Testament called the law of Levirate marriage, or Yibbum in Hebrew. We find it in Deuteronomy 25:5-6: “If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.”
According to this law, when a married brother died, his surviving brother was obligated to marry his sister-in-law and try to have children. If her husband’s brother refused to marry her, she could spit in his face and take one of his sandals and he would be publicly shamed. So most brothers obliged by marrying their brother’s widow. Then if the wife had a son by her new husband, the son would carry on her dead husband’s name and claim his property. Since females had no rights, she needed a son to protect her rights, so the law was given to protect widows.