This discourse with the Sadducees we had before, just as it is here, only that the description Christ gives of the future state is somewhat more full and large here. Observe here,
I. In every age there have been men of corrupt minds, that have endeavoured to subvert the fundamental principles of revealed religion. As there are deists now, who call themselves free-thinkers, but are really false-thinkers; so there were Sadducees in our Saviour’s time, who bantered the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come, though they were plainly revealed in the Old Testament, and were articles of the Jewish faith. The Sadducees deny that there is any resurrection, any future state, so anastasis may signify; not only no return of the body to life, but no continuance of the soul in life, no world of spirits, no state of recompence and retribution for what was done in the body. Take away this, and all religion falls to the ground.
II. It is common for those that design to undermine any truth of God to perplex it, and load it with difficulties. So these Sadducees did; when they would weaken people’s faith in the doctrine of the resurrection, they put a question upon the supposition of it, which they thought could not be answered either way to satisfaction. The case perhaps was matter of fact, at least it might be so, of a woman that had seven husbands. Now in the resurrection whose wife shall she be? whereas it was not at all material whose she was, for when death puts an end to that relation it is not to be resumed.
III. There is a great deal of difference between the state of the children of men on earth and that of the children of God in heaven, a vast unlikeness between this world and that world; and we wrong ourselves, and wrong the truth of Christ, when we form our notions of that world of spirits by our present enjoyments in this world of sense.
1. The children of men in this world marry, and are given in marriage, hyioi tou aionos toutou—the children of this age, this generation, both good and bad, marry themselves and give their children in marriage. Much of our business in this world is to raise and build up families, and to provide for them. Much of our pleasure in this world is in our relations, our wives and children; nature inclines to it. Marriage is instituted for the comfort of human life, here in this state where we carry bodies about with us. It is likewise a remedy against fornication, that natural desires might not become brutal, but be under direction and control. The children of this world are dying and going off the stage, and therefore they marry and give their children in marriage, that they may furnish the world of mankind with needful recruits, that as one generation passeth away another may come, and that they may have some of their own offspring to leave the fruit of their labours to, especially that the chosen of God in future ages may be introduced, for it is a godly seed that is sought by marriage (Mal. 2:15), a seed to serve the Lord, that shall be a generation to him.
2. The world to come is quite another thing; it is called that world, by way of emphasis and eminency. Note, There are more worlds than one; a present visible world, and a future invisible world; and it is the concern of every one of us to compare worlds, this world and that world, and give the preference in our thoughts and cares to that which deserves them. Now observe,
(1.) Who shall be the inhabitants of that world: They that shall be accounted worthy to obtain it, that is, that are interested in Christ’s merit, who purchased it for us, and have a holy meetness for it wrought in them by the Spirit, whose business it is to prepare us for it. They have not a legal worthiness, upon account of any thing in them or done by them, but an evangelical worthiness, upon account of the inestimable price which Christ paid for the redemption of the purchased possession. It is a worthiness imputed by which we are glorified, as well as righteousness imputed by which we are justified; kataxiothentes, they are made agreeable to that world. The disagreeableness that there is in the corrupt nature is taken away, and the dispositions of the soul are by the grace of God conformed to that state. They are by grace made and counted worthy to obtain that world; it intimates some difficulty in reaching after it, and danger of coming short. We must so run as that we may obtain. They shall obtain the resurrection from the dead, that is, the blessed resurrection; for that of condemnation (as Christ calls it, John 5:29), is rather a resurrection to death, a second death, an eternal death, than from death.
(2.) What shall be the happy state of the inhabitants of that world we cannot express or conceive, 1 Cor. 2:9. See what Christ here says of it. [1.] They neither marry nor are given in marriage. Those that have entered into the joy of their Lord are entirely taken up with that, and need not the joy of the bridegroom in his bride. The love in that world of love is all seraphic, and such as eclipses and loses the purest and most pleasing loves we entertain ourselves with in this world of sense. Where the body itself shall be a spiritual body, the delights of sense will all be banished; and where there is a perfection of holiness there is no occasion for marriage as a preservative from sin. Into the new Jerusalem there enters nothing that defiles. [2.] They cannot die any more; and this comes in as a reason why they do not marry. In this dying world there must be marriage, in order to the filling up of the vacancies made by death; but, where there are no burials, there is no need of weddings. This crowns the comfort of that world that there is no more death there, which sullies all the beauty, and damps all the comforts, of this world. Here death reigns, but thence it is for ever excluded. [3.] They are equal unto the angels. In the other evangelists it was said, They are as the angels—os angeloi, but here they are said to be equal to the angels, isangeloi—angels’ peers; they have a glory and bliss no way inferior to that of the holy angels. They shall see the same sight, be employed in the same work, and share in the same joys, with the holy angels. Saints, when they come to heaven, shall be naturalized, and, though by nature strangers, yet, having obtained this freedom with a great sum, which Christ paid for them, they have in all respects equal privileges with them that were free-born, the angels that are the natives and aborigines of that country. They shall be companions with the angels, and converse with those blessed spirits that love them dearly, and with an innumerable company, to whom they are now come in faith, hope, and love. [4.] They are the children of God, and so they are as the angels, who are called the sons of God. In the inheritance of sons, the adoption of sons will be completed. Hence believers are said to wait for the adoption, even the redemption of the body, Rom. 8:23. For till the body is redeemed from the grave the adoption is not completed. Now are we the sons of God, 1 John 3:2. We have the nature and disposition of sons, but that will not be perfected till we come to heaven. [5.] They are the children of the resurrection, that is, they are made capable of the employments and enjoyments of the future state; they are born to that world, belong to that family, had their education for it here, and shall there have their inheritance in it. They are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. Note, God owns those only for his children that are the children of the resurrection, that are born from above, are allied to the world of spirits, and prepared for that world, the children of that family.
IV. It is an undoubted truth that there is another life after this, and there were eminent discoveries made of this truth in the early ages of the church (Luke 20:37, 38): Moses showed this, as it was shown to Moses at the bush, and he hath shown it to us, when he calleth the Lord, as the Lord calleth himself, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were then dead as to our world; they had departed out of it many years before, and their bodies were turned into dust in the cave of Machpelah; how then could God say, not I was, but I am the God or Abraham? It is absurd that the living God and Fountain of life should continue related to them as their God, if there were no more of them in being than what lay in that cave, undistinguished from common dust. We must therefore conclude that they were then in being in another world; for God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Luke here adds, For all live unto him, that is, all who, like them, are true believers; though they are dead, yet they do live; their souls, which return to God who gave them (Eccl. 12:7), live to him as the Father of spirits: and their bodies shall live again at the end of time by the power of God; for he calleth things that are not as though they were, because he is the God that quickens the dead, Rom. 4:17. But there is more in it yet; when God called himself the God of these patriarchs, he meant that he was their felicity and portion, a God all-sufficient to them (Gen. 17:1), their exceeding great reward, Gen. 15:1. Now it is plain by their history that he never did that for them in this world which would answer the true intent and full extent of that great undertaking, and therefore there must be another life after this, in which he will do that for them that will amount to a discharge in full of that promise—that he would be to them a God, which he is able to do, for all live to him, and he has wherewithal to make every soul happy that lives to him; enough for all, enough for each.