And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. — Luke 20:34-36
Jesus knows that the Sadducees he’s speaking to do not believe in a resurrection, and in a way, their very misunderstanding of what Jesus believes about marriage betrays their disbelief. The Sadducees, like so many others then and today who don’t believe in Jesus, think this is all there is. Nothing comes after death. You die and that’s it. They do not think on the scale of eternity. That God is endless and therefore life is endless. That when God created the world, not even the fall of mankind and the sin unleashed into the world through it and the brokenness of the earth contracted by it, can thwart God’s purposes. Sin will not have the last word when it comes to even creation. What God made good, and man trashed, he is going to remake.
This means that everything created good is only a pale glimmer of what it will be in the time when heaven crashes into earth fully and God restores it all.
So Jesus sets up the contrast between the here and now with the sweet bye and bye.
Now, when he says resurrected believers are “equal to angels” he doesn’t mean that when good people die they become angels. That’s been a very popular misunderstanding throughout the church age. I mean, I don’t know if you get your theology of the afterlife from Tom and Jerry cartoons, but when we die we don’t spend the rest of eternity up in the clouds playing harps and wearing diapers.
Jesus simply means that we will be glorified in such a way that we will be along the order of angels – enjoying the paradise of God under a new order.
The thrust of this is in the contrast. Notice the difference he presents between “this age” (v.34) and “that age” (v.35)
What Jesus is telling them – and us – is that the gifts we enjoy in this age are meant to be signposts to the Giver himself and the everlasting enjoyment in the age to come. He uses the example they’ve brought him:
They’ve brought up the topic of marriage, so that’s how he answers them. In this age, men and women are gifted the covenant of marriage. But in that age, like the angels, we won’t need the covenant of marriage.
What Jesus is saying is that marriage is meant for this age to point us to the reality of that age. How does it do that? There are so many broken marriages, and always have been since the fall, but it was originally like that. And even the best marriages, even the ones that last until death do them part,” are often fraught with conflict or hurts or just disappointments. But that wasn’t the original design. The original design – that man would leave his parents and cleave to his wife and become “one flesh” with her – was meant to be a reflection of God’s loving commitment to mankind.
Even after sin entered the world through the acts of that first married couple, marriage points to the gospel, because a husband and wife are meant to live in a gracious covenant with each other – forgiving each other, nurturing each other, caring for each other – as a picture of what Christ has done out of sheer grace to show his love for his church. In Ephesians 5, Paul calls marriage “a profound mystery,” and he says it refers to Christ and his church.
This is why marriage is both beautiful and temporary. It’s beautiful because it is a signpost pointing to Christ and his Bride, the Church. And it’s temporary, because when Christ returns to consummate his kingdom, the thing to which the sign points will finally have arrived. We won’t need the signs any more – because we will have the reality forever.
Sons of the resurrection we will be. And so Jesus is showing how the reality of the resurrection to come provides a new perspective on how we think about things like marriage today. Looking to the day of the news heavens and the new earth gives clarity to our vision for the things around us.
What would it look like to treat each other, married or not, not as objects for our own use and pleasure today, but as opportunities to affirm the image of God and show we believe there is a new day coming?