St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Is There Life After Death?

Sermon on Luke 20:27-38

Text: Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 “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. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the 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.’ 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

In Job chapter 14, we find Job asking this question, “If a man dies, will he live again?” It is a question that mankind has pondered for centuries. Is there life after death? It’s interesting that, if you put that question into a search engine on the internet, you will find that there are many sites that deal with this question. I found one site called debate.org that allows people to write their opinions on various topics, and one of them was “Is there life after death?” When you look at the various opinions posted, you will find that 57% said that there was. This is not saying what they believed when they said there was life after death. It is just that they felt that there was. Yet, this also shows that almost half of those who wrote did not believe that there was life after death. This morning, as we study God’s Word, we are going to look at this most important question IS THERE LIFE AFTER DEATH? 1. Man’s Reason Denies It. 2. Jesus Describes It. 3. The Scriptures Teach It.

Jesus was speaking in the temple courtyard on the Tuesday before his suffering, death, and resurrection. The Jewish leaders were trying to discredit Jesus by asking him a series of questions, hoping that he will answer incorrectly. A group of Sadducees was the next ones to ask a question. The Sadducees were a faction in the Jewish faith that did not believe as the rest of mainstream Judaism believed. They believed that only the first five books of the Bible, the books written by Moses, were inspired by God. They did not believe in angels. Our text also tells us that they did not believe in the resurrection.

The Sadducees asked this foolish question to try to trip Jesus up. We need to remind ourselves of a law that God gave to his people. The Sadducees 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.” This is called the Levirate law. If a man died without having any male heirs, his brother or nearest male relative had to marry the widow. The first male child produced would carry the name of the deceased and also would be the heir of the dead man’s property. They came with this foolish question about something that would never happen. They spoke about a man who died and his widow ended up marrying all seven of his brothers. No male heirs were produced from any of these unions. The question that they asked in conclusion was, “Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” They asked this question because they wanted to make the resurrection look foolish. The reason that they did not believe in the resurrection was that it went completely against their reason. They had never seen anyone rise from the dead. They had never been to or seen heaven. It did not make sense to them. As a result, they completely denied the fact that there is life after death.

We see the same thing in our world today. As I mentioned earlier, there are many people today that do not believe that there is life after death. They have the same reasons that the Sadducees of our text did. The concept of life after death does completely against man’s reason. Man’s reason looks at death as the end. Once you’re dead, that’s it. There is nothing beyond that. The reason for this speculation is the fact that they have never seen anyone come back from the dead. They will say that, if there is life after death, why hasn’t anyone come back from the dead and told us about it? They refuse to believe what they cannot see with their own eyes or understand with their own minds. The result of this type of thinking is that you are only concerned about this life, then. You might as well get all that you can now, because once you’re dead, that’s it. We think of the old saying, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” The one who dies with the most toys wins. If this life is really all there is make the most of it.

Sometimes, we fall into that same trap, as well. We forget that there is something beyond this life and, as a result, put our time and our energies into the things of this world. We almost try to make a heaven here on the earth. This is not to say that we are not to be concerned with what is going on in our lives. We are to take care of ourselves and our families. However, as Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:33, we are to put our relationship with him as the first priority in our lives. Whenever anything or anyone is given that place in our hearts, we sin. The fact is, none of us deserves life after death. We all deserve death after death, that is to say, eternal punishment in hell after our death.

It is for this reason that Jesus came into the world. He loved us so much that he did not want us to spend our eternity apart from him. Since there was nothing that we could do to change that situation, Jesus came to the world to do everything necessary to save us. He was the perfectly obedient Son in our place. He paid for all of our sins, including our misplaced priorities, when he suffered and died on the cross. Then, showing us that there is indeed a resurrection, he rose from the dead. He has won the victory over death and he shares that victory with us, when we are brought to faith. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

Jesus describes this life after death to the Sadducees in this way, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age 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.” Jesus comes right to the point in their faulty logic. He says that the next world will not be the same as this world. Jesus describes eternal life by saying that “those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead,” that is believers, will be like the angels. This is not to say that we will look like angels, because angels are spirits and we will have glorified bodies. We will be like the angels in that we will be immortal. Just as angels do not die, we will no longer die. We will live forever in the presence of God in the bliss of heaven. The other way that we will be like the angels is that we will no longer have the same relationships that we have here on earth. This may sound like a bad thing, because we love those who are near and dear to us. However, remember that we will all be the children of God in the resurrection. Family ties will no longer be important since all Christians will be one family – God’s family – united in heavenly bliss. Jesus is not speculating about what life after death will be like. He knows exactly what is given in this life after death.

In further answer to the challenge of the Sadducees, Jesus goes back to the book of Exodus. Remember that the Sadducees only accepted the first five books of the Bible as inspired. He reminds them of God’s words to Moses from the burning bush. Jesus spoke of the fact that “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.’” When God spoke to Moses, he did not say, ‘I was the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He said, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Even though these men had been dead for hundreds of years by this time, God still speaks of being their God at the present time. In order for this to be true, they would still have to be alive. In summation, Jesus said, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” When God spoke to Moses from the bush, he used a special term for himself. He said that he is “I am.” This refers to the fact that he is the keeper of promises. He faithfully brought about our salvation. He will faithfully bring us into glory. He is our God for this life and for the life to come.

There are so many places in God’s Word where he tells about the fact that there is a heaven to which all believers will go. After John had been given a glimpse of heaven in the book of Revelation, he wrote “I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” The reason that they were wearing white robes is the fact that, because of the work of Jesus, they are all seen as perfect. The palm branches are symbols of victory. Through faith in Jesus, they share in the victory that Jesus won for them.

What heaven will be like exactly, we cannot say. It is dangerous for us to go beyond what the Scriptures teach about heaven and eternal life. What we do know is the fact that we will be perfectly happy. We read in Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” All of the things that make this life so difficult will be gone. Paul in speaking of the resurrection says, “we will be forever with the Lord.” While we may not be able to answer every question about what heaven will be like, we do know enough to long to be there. As the hymn writer put it so well, “I’m but a stranger here; heaven is my home.” Scriptures teach this fact so clearly that we never have reason to doubt.

When it comes to life after death, many will point to near death experiences as proof that there is life after death. A book that caused quite a stir in 2010 was “Heaven is For Real.” It details one little boy’s near-death experience and how he saw things that he could never have known otherwise. It is because of books and accounts like these that people say there is life after death. What may or may not have happened in these cases is open to debate. What I do know is this. We do not need these near-death experiences as proof that there is life after death. We have something far better. We have the clear words of our Savior, who said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25,26) While many are searching, you and I have been blessed to know the answer to that question that has plagued so many. Is there life after death? We answer with a resounding, “Yes!” Amen.