What will we be like in the afterlife?
One reader asked, “What does the Bible teach about what we will be like in the afterlife?”
We read this story in the gospel of Matthew as well as the gospel of Mark: The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying,’”Teacher, Moses said, 'If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.' Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her." But Jesus answered them, "You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven (Matthew 22:23-30).
I believe that this story sheds light on the question that was asked, but I also think we can glean even more from it as we break it down part by part.
First, let me point out how much I love the way Jesus responds to this question. Now, I know from the context of the letter that was sent to me that the one who asked me this question was sincere, but the Sadducees, who were the religious group in charge of the temple, really didn’t want an answer, they just want to try to trick and trap Jesus. So often, that's what people do when dialoguing about faith. Some people just want to try and create ridiculous questions as if they will unravel the mysteries of the universe. “Can God create a rock that he cannot lift?!” Jesus responds to this nonsense calmly and succinctly.
Notice they didn't state their opinion, but Jesus knew their question had an opinion intrinsic to it so he simply says, “You're wrong for two reasons.”
The first reason that they were wrong, is that they did not understand the Scriptures. The Scriptures are where we learn about God. Yes, we can learn or surmise that there is a Creator when we look at a beautiful sunset, but if we want to learn specifically about God, we need to read the Bible. I know that some of our readers don't believe that the Bible is God’s word, but this is my presupposition from which I answer all of my weekly questions.
This is crucial, because as a culture we have become accustomed to going everywhere but the Bible for answers. For some reason, we are more likely to trust a four-year-old boy who claims that he died, went to heaven, came back to life and wrote a book about it with his publisher, then we are to trust a book that has been virtually unchanged for the last 1,900 years. The Bible is a book with tens of thousands of manuscript evidence that authenticate its accuracy. We have pieces of parchment that date back to second century A.D. No other historical literary work can boast such claims. Having access to such a miraculous work, we should read it.
The second reason Jesus states that they were wrong is because they doubted the power of God. Now, they doubted God’s power because they didn’t believe in a resurrection, but the demonstration of God’s power goes further than that. Anyone who has loved someone strongly and lost them looks forward to the day of being united once again. For those who are followers of Jesus, that hope is a reality. Still, for some, this passage might make us feel sad that we will not be married to the one we loved so deeply and strongly. Jesus’ encouragement to us is this: Do not doubt the power of God.
God’s power is such that we will have relationships so rich, so deep and so profound - both with God and one another - that even our most spectacular earthly relationships will pale in comparison. In other words, will followers of Jesus recognize other followers? Yes. Will we regret that we are not married to our spouse anymore? No, because we will find limitless joy in God. If we doubt this, Jesus’ words to us echo those to the Sadducees - “You do not know the power of God!”
All those who have been reborn of God can, with confidence, know that death is not the end, but merely a blinking of the eyes. And when our eyes open, there will be no room for sadness, God himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and we will enter into the joy of our Lord forever.