The Promise of the Resurrection
Text: Mark 12:18-27
Main Idea: The Word of God and the Power of God guarantee the resurrection promises of God.
I. The Players (Mark 12:18)
II. The “Problem” (Mark 12:19-23)
III. The Proofs of the Resurrection (Mark 12:24-27)
Text: Mark 12:18–27
You may notice this morning that we are “skipping” a section in Mark’s Gospel today. Well, given the unexpected death of Nadine this week it seemed appropriate to skip a sermon about money and taxes so that we could dig into God’s promise of resurrection. Resurrection is a fundamental doctrine we profess but it’s also a doctrine we often struggle to understand, and much more, articulate to others.
And, as David Garland observes, this struggle is only compounded by that fact that most people in our culture today do not know what to think about an afterlife. Some take for granted that they will continue in a blessed afterlife with God, no matter how they related to God in this life. Many assume that the human soul is indestructible. Like the black box in an airplane it survives the crash of death. Some believe in reincarnation. And others assume nothing and believe nothing trusting that a total lack of consciousness after death makes the whole issue unimportant… just like the main players in our story this morning who are trying to discredit Jesus.
The Players (Mark 12:18)
Notice, what is the distinguishing mark of the Sadducees? What set’s them apart from the their theological rivals the Pharisees and virtually every other religious group in Jesus’ day? It’s that they did not believe in the resurrection. In fact, as we piece their beliefs together it’s easy to wonder what they really held to be true.
- They denied the existence of angels.
- They denied the inexhaustible sovereignty of God.
- They denied that the soul survived death and as a result they denied that humans need concern themselves with the threat of future rewards or punishment.
- All of this an more because they restricted God’s authoritative Word to the first five books of the Bible (the Law of Moses, the Pentateuch).
To be honest, in many ways, they reflect the mindset of cultural Christianity in America today. In that, many people want to promote spirituality and pursue God’s love but they want precious little to with the promises, commands, and most of all authority of God. Which is why they don’t bother with questions that might lead to charges of blasphemy against Jesus like the Pharisees and the Scribes. Why bother with blasphemy when you think that you can easily destroy your opponent by demonstrating the ridiculously impossible and seemingly absurd implications of his teaching?
The “Problem” (Mark 12:19–23)
The Law of Levirate Marriage (12:19–22)
Notice, the Sadducees are anchoring their question in an OT command NOT just a provision, like the question of divorce and remarriage in chapter 10. And this is a fundamental strength of their attack.
Deuteronomy 25:5–6 “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. 6 And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.”
See, this practice known as Levirate marriage or brother-in-law marriage, was not a clever provision to condone sexual promiscuity or immorality. Rather, it was a mandatory familial requirement designed by God to preserve the name of the deceased brother and to protect the brother’s inheritance within the family line.
So yes, the Sadducee’s story may seem completely absurd to us today but was a feasible scenario in its First-Century context.
The Resurrection Paradox (12:23)
So returning to the Sadducees and their well-crafted illustration we can see that they are not only rejecting the resurrection because it was not explicitly mentioned in the Torah. They are denying the doctrine of the resurrection on the grounds that it would produce utterly ridiculous marital situations in the afterlife.
Because it was one thing for a woman to have seven husbands one-after-another during her mortal life according to the Law of Moses. But, there was no legal provision in the Law for a woman to have seven husbands at the same time. The Law may have granted provisions for a man to have multiple wives but it never allowed a woman to have multiple husbands. Therefore, the resurrection was legally and morally impossible. Case closed.
Two Proofs of the Resurrection (Mark 12:24–27)
It’s easy to miss the strength of Jesus’ rebuke in this passage. He doesn’t dance around definitions or plausible differences of opinions.
First of all, he brackets his reply with the reprimand “you are wrong” (12:24) and “you are quite wrong” (12:27).
And secondly, he indicates that they are not merely “wrong” like a student who works diligently on their math homework but fails to get the right answer. They are “quite wrong” like a elite stock broker who cannot explain the basic principles of investments and dividends. Because, the Greek verb behind “you are wrong” (πλανάω) means you are “wandering off track,” you are being “led astray,” you have completely lost your bearings like a planet cut lose from its orbit. Which ultimately means that the Sadducees are wrong because the very things they claim to know the bestare, in reality, the things they know the least. They don’t know the power of God nor do they the Word of God.
The Word of God (12:26–27)
Regarding the Word of God: they claimed to be experts in the Scriptures even though they rejected 75% of God’s direct revelation to them in the prophets and the writings. Revelation that progressively revealed God’s promise of resurrection.
Job 19:26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.
Isaiah 26:19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.
Daniel 12:2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
But, Jesus already knows that they don’t accept these books so he refutes the Sadducees with the five books they used to deny the resurrection—the Law of Moses. In fact in verse 26, he cites one of the most famous and foundational passages in the entire OT to prove his point—God’s appearance to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus chapter 3.
Exodus 3:4–6 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
See there are two ways we can understand this I Am statement.
I Am the God of your father might simply mean I am the same God that was the God of your father. And just like I was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob I am now your God.
But, Jesus presses past this surface reading for a far greater implication. Jesus supports the doctrine of the resurrection on the grounds that God currently is (I Am: present tense) the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and he is their God because he is God of the living not the dead. In other words, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are not dead even though they died.
See, Jesus’ argument for the reality of resurrection is based on the premise that the call of God establishes a relationship with God, and once a relationship with God is established, it bears the promise of God, and that this promise cannot be terminated, even by death. In other words, God’s promise of resurrection is anchored in the Word of God but it is ultimately a promise that is enacted by the power of God. Power that conquers the enemy of death and ushers us into the very presence of God and an existence that is far greater than we could ever imagine.
The Power of God (12:24–25)
See the Sadducees most fundamental error was their human assumption that resurrection life would be nothing more than just a heightened extension of their earthly relationships and experiences.
So when Jesus says, “when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” what does he mean? Well, to understand this rightly we need to expand our understanding of life after death, in that, the Bible speaks of two stages of life after death: the intermediate state and the eternal state. And Christians tend to conflate the two.
Regarding the intermediate state, the Bible is very clear that believers are immediately ushered into the presence of God in heaven after their death. This is often referred to as the first resurrection.
2 Corinthians 5:8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
In other words, believers can find comfort in the promise that death is the very path to the presence of God. But, at the same time it raises the question, “What is this intermediate state like?” And I have to admit it is hard to answer in detail, because Scripture says very little about it. But, it does appear to indicate at least three things:
- Believers do not fall into some form of “soul sleep” losing all sense of consciousness until the resurrection. No they retain their awareness and enjoy the very presence of God.
- Believers do not become angles or function as guardian angels rather they retain their memory and uniqueness as humans even though they appear to exist in a disembodied (or spiritual) state.
- Believers may not be perfectly satisfied in heaven, in that, they may spend much of their time along with the martyrs of the faith asking God to complete his plan on earth (Rev 6:10–11), which will lead to their physical resurrection and ultimately the eternal state.
The Eternal State:
1 Corinthians 15:51–53 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
Revelation 21:1–4 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
What I want you to see is that heaven is real BUT it is not the promise of resurrection nor is it our ultimate destination. And that is because God created humans to be physical beings that live on a physical earth. And when Jesus returns in glory he will physically resurrect every true believer in a glorified physical body fit for eternal life on a purged and renewed physical planet.
Main Idea: The Word of God and the Power of God guarantee the resurrection promises of God.
The Question of Marriage:
But, these promises of physical resurrection and eternal life on a renewed planet bring us back to our question in Mark, why does Jesus say, “when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Mark 12:25). I believe what Jesus is telling us is that God did not create earthly marriage to exist eternally for its own sake because human marriage reflects and points to a far greater and eternal commitment—Jesus’ commitment to his bride the Church.
Ephesians 5:31–32 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. [Marriage has always been a symbol that points to a far greater reality]
The reason that there will be no marriage in eternity is that the new heavens and new earth will be a place where believers experience the eternal reality of their union with Christ.
We will be like the angels, in that, our highest joy and greatest delights will be—for the first time in our entire lives—focused rightly on our Sovereign, Saving Satisfier, Jesus Christ. And that every other relationship we have ever experienced with fellow believers in this life (good or bad) will find its rightful, proper, and happy place in relationship to Jesus Christ as well. Which ultimately means that contrary to the Sadducee’s accusation, the resurrection is not morally and legally impossible. No. The resurrection is the necessary end toward which history is moving and the very event though which God will magnify his name and reveal his matchless glory.
So as we close I just want to close with a practical question, “How do you think about death?” See, the reality is that some of you never take the time to contemplate the fact that death is coming for each and every one of us. And at the same time, some of you are staring death in the face whether it be from old age or unexpected disease.
What I want you to know that if you belong to Jesus Christ, if you have embraced his promise that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life, you can face death without any fear because Jesus tasted death for you that you might have eternal life with him.
1 Corinthians 15:54–56 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Word of God and the Power of God guarantee the resurrection promises of God. The question is have you received good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
 David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 471.
 See Robert H. Stein, Mark, Baker Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 552.
 James R Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 365.
 Stein, Mark, 553.
 Robert H. Gundry, Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 702. Mark L. Strauss, Mark, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 533.
 Walter Bauer et al., A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (University of Chicago Press, 2000).
 Adapted from, Frame, John M. Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006), 288–95.