Jesus Questioned About Marriage At The Resurrection


‘That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?’ Matthew 22:23-28

The Sadducees

The Sadducees were a religious sect in the time of Jesus. Their origin is not known for sure. Some think they date back to Zadock, a high priest during the time of David and Solomon. However, in all probability, they came into existence during the period between the Old and New Testaments.

We do know that they came from the leading families of the nation such as the priests, merchants, and the rich. They can well be described as aristocrats. The high priests, the most powerful members of the priesthood were mainly Sadducees, Acts 5:17.

One of the distinguishing marks of the Sadducees was their rejection of the ‘traditions of the elders’ advocated by the Pharisees. They claimed that God not only gave Moses a written law, but also an oral law which was passed down and given to the elders. They in turn passed these oral laws on down to their successors.

The Pharisees claimed the oral law was needed to interpret the written Law of Moses. They regarded these traditions as important as the Law of Moses itself.

By contrast, the Sadducees insisted that only the laws written by Moses, the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, were the only binding laws.

In short, the main difference between the two parties was confined, on the whole, to this general rejection of Pharisaic traditions. With the Sadducees, little value was placed on the writings of the Prophets or the Psalms. They didn’t outright reject them, but they didn’t feel they were on an equal par with the Pentateuch.

The most prominent doctrine of the Sadducees was the denial of the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body. They believed that the soul dies with the body, thus the extinction of life. The Sadducees said that Moses nowhere mentions anything about a soul or a resurrection, Acts 23:8.

From this passage, we learn that they didn’t believe in either angels or spirits. However, angels are mentioned several times in the writings of Moses.

In view of this, it’s difficult to see how they could harmonise this with their denial of angels. They may have regarded angels as simply God appearing in some kind of visible form.

The Sadducees also believed in the free will of man, man is responsible for his own prosperity or misfortune. They interpreted the law literally and tended to support strict justice as opposed to mercy toward the offender.

Considering their concept of no life after death it seems strange to us that they were so intent on punishing those who violated the law. Stranger yet, why would they want to be priests and religious leaders if there is no resurrection?

The answer may lie in their belief that God prospered the righteous.

The Unrealistic Question

Just like the Pharisees before them, the Sadducees’ question was all about trying to trap Jesus. When you think about the actual question, the woman being widowed seven times, the possibility of this actually happening in real life is almost none, which tells us that this wasn’t a sincere question, it was a question asked to try and support their idea that there is no resurrection.

The law, which is referred to as the ‘levirate law’, was based on the principle that the family name of the dead brother is carried on throughout history, Genesis 38:8 / Ruth 3:5-6 / Deuteronomy 25:5-10.

Moses said that if the older brother, who had a legal right to continue the family name and the birthright, died leaving his wife without children, his brother must raise up children by the dead brother’s wife.

They asked a question designed to show that the doctrine of the resurrection was absurd. It involved the invented case of a woman who was married to seven brothers in succession. They asked Jesus to tell them whose wife she would be in the resurrection since all of them had been married to her.

Jesus’ Response

‘Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.’ Matthew 22:29

Their question was meant to show a supposed contradiction in the teaching of Jesus, but they didn’t know the Old Testament Scriptures or the power of God. I think it’s useful to go to Luke’s account at this point as he gives us a little more detail.

‘Jesus replied, ‘The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ Luke 20:34-37

Notice how Jesus speaks of two ages, ‘this age’ and ‘the age to come’, if this doesn’t tell us that there’s definitely life after death, I don’t know what will.

It’s interesting that Jesus just goes with their thought process and despite the chances of this happening, the woman being widowed six times previous, Christ, resolved the issue, not based on what Moses said, but on what God said, in other words, Christ tells them, it isn’t Moses they are quoting but God.

The Old Testament Scriptures do teach about the resurrection, whether the Jews understood this or not, they couldn’t deny what the Scriptures actually said concerning resurrection, Job 19:25-27 / Isaiah 26:19 / Daniel 12:2.

It’s clear that the Sadducees didn’t understand that there is life after death and they certainly didn’t believe in the power of God, this was simply because of their ignorance of what the Scriptures actually teach. Jesus confirms there will be a resurrection, but He also tells them there will be no marriage at the resurrection, just like angels don’t marry.

There will be no marriage or procreation in heaven, for the purpose of procreation would have fulfilled its purpose. Procreation was for the purpose of populating the world. Heaven, however, will be populated by those who were born again in this world.

We also know there will be no death in heaven either, Luke 20:35-36 / 1 Corinthians 15:26 / Revelation 20:13-14. Our earthly relationships will be superseded by a state wherein we will be like angels who now exist, Luke 20:36 / Hebrews 1:14 / 1 John 3:2.

Even though the Sadducees didn’t ask Him about angels, I believe Jesus mentioned the angels on purpose, we looked at earlier they didn’t believe in angels.

And so, we could say, they came asking one question, but Jesus actually answers two questions, He tells them they’re thinking, and doctrine is wrong on both counts. There is a resurrection and angels do exist.

The phrases ‘God’s children’ and ‘children of the resurrection’ are used to mean the same thing, it’s God’s pledge for His children, Romans 8:21 / Romans 8:23, and as we know the resurrection is absolutely fundamental to the Christian faith, Hebrews 6:1-2.

It’s important to point out that Jesus uses the Greek present progressive tense here, and in doing so, He’s pointing out
the fact that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were still living at the time God made this statement and at the time Jesus referred to it, Genesis 17:2 / Genesis 26:24 / Genesis 28:21 / Exodus 3:6 / Exodus 3:15.

The God of the Living

‘He is not the God of the dead but of the living.’ Matthew 22:32

Jesus is saying that when a person dies, God doesn’t stop being their God and because He doesn’t stop being their God, tells us that the righteous don’t cease to exist when they die.

In other words, the souls of people are kept by God until the resurrection, after which we all will receive our new resurrected bodies which are made for eternal purposes in heaven, John 5:28-29 / 1 Corinthians 15:35-55 / 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17.

‘Some of the teachers of the law responded, ‘Well said, teacher!’ And no one dared to ask him any more questions.’ Luke 20:39-40

‘When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.’ Matthew 22:33

Notice it was ‘the teachers of the law’ who responded to Jesus’ teaching, you can hear them say, ‘bravo, bravo, teacher’ and sniggering amongst themselves as Jesus seems to side with their theology about the resurrection and angels.

It’s also interesting that Matthew doesn’t tell us that the Sadducees were astonished at Jesus’ teaching, but he says ‘the crowds’ were astonished.

It appears the crowds had heard the Sadducees’ theology for years, but no one really seemed to question their beliefs. The Sadducees, like the Pharisees before them, seem to disappear off the scene, no doubt feeling embarrassed and ashamed and no one else dared to ask Jesus any more questions.

As with the Pharisees, their whole religion was one of pretence, in other words, they pretended to know the Scriptures when in fact they didn’t know the Scriptures. And so, when Jesus comes along and shows how far off their understanding of the Scriptures actually was, the crowd were astonished.

We can almost hear the relief in the crowd, ‘at last’, they cry, ‘Someone who knows what they’re talking about, Someone who actually knows and understands the Scriptures correctly’.


If we learn anything from Jesus’ dealing with the Sadducees, it’s simply this, we must know the Scriptures. You’ll be amazed at how many Christians misquote Scripture, maybe in ignorance, as I’ve done in the past, but there are others who deliberately misquote Scripture to defend their personal beliefs.

If you listen carefully, you will hear it from the pulpit, you will hear it on the TV and everyone says the ‘amen’ without realising that they have just been lied to, 2 Timothy 4:3-4.

I was reading a ‘Christian’ survey just the other week and found it shocking that many Christians don’t even possess a Bible, I was even more shocked that those who do own one, don’t read it, and some only read it on a Sunday morning.

No wonder people are being led astray and come to believe all kinds of erroneous teachings! It’s a sad fact that many churches don’t have any Bible study time and those who do, don’t have many members in attendance.

I’m not saying that others don’t study at home or by themselves but one of the best ways to know the Scriptures is by sitting in a Bible class, where you are encouraged to read the Bible for yourself, a Bible class where your encouraged to ask questions and share your opinion, whilst learning from others, Acts 2:42.

‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.’ 2 Timothy 2:15