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RESURRECTION AND MARRIAGE — LUKE 20: 28-38

By 11. March 2021Bible study

—REVIEW—

Jesus said according to Luke 20:35 that “those who have been counted worthy of gaining that system of things and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.” The view of JW for more than 60 years has been that these words refer to the earthly resurrection. But in 2014, a new view arguing that Jesus refers to the heavenly resurrection was presented in The Watchtower, and the whole article is quoted.

The words “counted worthy of…the resurrection” are used as an argument for the change in understanding. The unrighteous are not “counted worthy” of a resurrection, and therefore the earthly resurrection cannot be the reference, is the argument. I show that the meaning of the Greek word kataksioō (“counted worthy”) is misunderstood, and that this word can refer to unrighteous persons.

The words “they cannot die” represent the second argument in favor of the change to a heavenly resurrection because those who are resurrected on this earth can die if they break God’s laws. I show that the Greek words “cannot” (oude…dynamai) is misunderstood, and so the argument has no merit.

Martha, the sister of Lazarus, showed that God-fearing people in the first century believed in an earthly resurrection on the last day.

The difference between “this system of things” and “the coming system of things” is discussed. I  show that these expressions are used with the same meaning in the Christian Greek Scriptures and in the Mishnah. The resurrection will occur in the coming system of things.

Two strong arguments that Jesus referred to the earthly resurrection in Luke 20:34-38 are presented: 1) Jesus said that the resurrection would occur in “the coming system of things,” and this expression always refers to a new order on this earth; it never refers to heaven. 2) As proof of the resurrection, Jesus refers to the future resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and these patriarchs will get an earthly resurrection.

The book Second Maccabees and two scrolls from Qumran show that persons living in the two last centuries BCE believed in the resurrection.  The Mishnah and Rabbinic literature show that the belief in an earthly resurrection was widespread in the first centuries CE. However, the Pharisees believed that every human had an immortal soul. This belief led to different viewpoints regarding the resurrection.

The heavenly resurrection was unknown when the Sadducees posed their questions. So, if his audience understood Jesus not to refer to the earthly resurrection, that would either lead his listeners to a belief similar to the belief of the Pharisees of an immortal soul, or to the belief of some rabbis of two paradises and that Jesus referred to the celestial paradise. Thus, a non-earthly understanding of Jesus’ words would mislead his listeners.

The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, and they posed the following question to Jesus:

However, some of the Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came and asked him: 28  “Teacher, Moses wrote us, ‘If a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife, but he was childless, his brother should take the wife and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 29  Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife but died childless.30  So the second 31  and the third married her. Likewise even all seven; they died and left no children. 32  Finally the woman also died.33  Consequently, in the resurrection, whose wife will she become? For the seven had her as a wife.”

The question is logical, but it is also tricky. For persons who have lost their mate, the answer to the question is important: “If there is no marriage in the resurrection, can we not have a kind of relationship with our mate when he or she is resurrected?” Several letters were sent to the Watchtower Society asking if Jesus’ answer related to the heavenly or earthly resurrection.  But the answers in The Watchtower have always been that the context clearly shows that Jesus referred to the resurrection on this earth. Then, in The Watchtower of 15 August 2014, page 30, a completely new view was presented. I quote the whole discussion:

QUESTIONS FROM READERS

Jesus told the Sadducees that resurrected ones “neither marry nor are given in marriage.” (Luke 20:34-36) Was he talking about the earthly resurrection?

The question is an important one, especially for those who have lost a beloved mate. Such ones may yearn to be reunited in marriage with their resurrected spouse in the new world. One widower said: “My wife and I did not choose to end our marriage. It was our heartfelt desire to remain united in worship as husband and wife forever. These feelings have not changed for me.” Is there sound reason for hoping that resurrected ones will be able to marry? Put simply, the answer is that we cannot say.

For years, our publications have said that Jesus’ words about the resurrection and getting married likely refer to the earthly resurrection and that those resurrected to life in the new world will evidently not marry. (Matt. 22:29, 30;Mark 12:24, 25; Luke 20:34-36) While we cannot be dogmatic, is it possible that Jesus’ words refer to the heavenly resurrection? Let us examine what Jesus said.

Consider the setting. (Read Luke 20:27-33.) The Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection, tried to entrap Jesus with a question about the resurrection and brother-in-law marriage. Jesus responded: “The children of this system of things marry and are given in marriage, but those who have been counted worthy of gaining that system of things and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. In fact, neither can they die anymore, for they are like the angels, and they are God’s children by being children of the resurrection.”​—Luke 20:34-36.

Why have our publications said that Jesus was probably talking about the earthly resurrection? That conclusion is primarily based on two lines of reasoning. First, it is reasoned that the Sadducees likely had in mind an earthly resurrection and that Jesus would have answered them accordingly. Second, Jesus ended his reply by referring to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob​—faithful patriarchs who are in line to be resurrected to life on earth.​—Luke 20:37, 38.

However, it seems possible that Jesus had in mind the heavenly resurrection. On what basis might we reach that conclusion? Let us consider two key phrases.

“Those who have been counted worthy of gaining . . . the resurrection from the dead.” Faithful anointed ones are “counted worthy of the Kingdom of God.” (2 Thess. 1:5, 11) They have been declared righteous for life on the basis of the ransom; thus, they do not die as condemned sinners. (Rom. 5:1, 18; 8:1) Such ones are called “happy and holy” and are deemed worthy of a resurrection to heaven. (Rev. 20:5, 6) In contrast, those who are resurrected to life on earth will include “the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) Can it be said of them that they are “counted worthy” of a resurrection?

Neither can they die anymore.” Jesus did not say: “They will not die anymore.” Rather, he said: “Neither can they die anymore.” Other translations render that phrase “they are not subject to death any longer” and “death has no more power over them.” Anointed ones who finish their earthly course in faithfulness are raised to heaven and given immortality​—endless, indestructible life. (1 Cor. 15:53, 54) Death no longer has any power over those who receive a heavenly resurrection.

In view of the foregoing, what might we conclude? It is possible that Jesus’ words about marrying and the resurrection apply to the heavenly resurrection. If so, then his words would tell us several things about those raised to heavenly life: They do not marry, they cannot die, and they are in some respects like angels​—spirit creatures who inhabit the spirit realm. Such a conclusion, however, raises several questions.

First, why would Jesus refer to the heavenly resurrection when answering the Sadducees, who probably had in mind an earthly resurrection? Jesus did not always answer his opposers in accord with what they were thinking. For example, to Jews who demanded a sign from him, he said: “Tear down this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Jesus likely knew that they were thinking about the temple building, “but he was talking about the temple of his body.” (John 2:18-21) Perhaps Jesus felt no need to answer the insincere Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection or in the existence of angels. (Prov. 23:9; Matt. 7:6; Acts 23:8) Instead, he may have wanted to reveal truths about the heavenly resurrection for the benefit of his sincere disciples, who would one day be in line for receiving such a resurrection.

Second, why would Jesus end his discussion with a reference to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who will be resurrected to life on earth? (Read Matthew 22:31, 32.) Note that Jesus prefaced his comment about those patriarchs with the words “regarding the resurrection of the dead.” That transitional phrase may allow for a shift in focus. Then, drawing from the writings of Moses, which the Sadducees claimed to accept, Jesus used the words of Jehovah to Moses at the burning bush to give added proof that the resurrection​—an earthly one—​is a sure purpose of God.​—Ex. 3:1-6.

Third, if Jesus’ words about the resurrection and getting married apply to the heavenly resurrection, does this mean that those who come back in the earthly resurrection will be able to marry? God’s Word does not give a direct answer to that specific question. If Jesus was, in fact, talking about the heavenly resurrection, then his words do not shed any light on whether resurrected ones on earth will be able to marry in the new world.

Meanwhile, we know that God’s Word definitely says that death dissolves the marriage tie. Hence, a widower or a widow need not feel guilty if he or she decides to remarry. That is a personal decision, and such ones should not be criticized for seeking the warm companionship of a marriage mate.​—Rom. 7:2, 3; 1 Cor. 7:39.

Understandably, we may have many questions about life in the new world. Rather than needlessly speculating on the answers to those questions, we will just have to wait and see. But of this we can be sure: Obedient humans will be happy, for Jehovah will satisfy all their needs and desires in the best possible way.​—Ps. 145:16.

THE ARGUMENTS OF THE NEW VIEW ANALYZED

Honestly speaking, I find that most of the arguments behind new viewpoints in the 21st century to be of a different forensic caliber than most of the arguments from the previous century when interactive study was encouraged. I do not find the new arguments to be as convincing. I will now consider the new view regarding the resurrection.

Being counted worthy of the resurrection

The first argument the GB sets forth in favor of a heavenly resurrection is as follows:

“Those who have been counted worthy of gaining . . . the resurrection from the dead.” Faithful anointed ones are “counted worthy of the Kingdom of God.” (2 Thess. 1:5, 11) They have been declared righteous for life on the basis of the ransom; thus, they do not die as condemned sinners. (Rom. 5:1, 18; 8:1) Such ones are called “happy and holy” and are deemed worthy of a resurrection to heaven. (Rev. 20:5, 6) In contrast, those who are resurrected to life on earth will include “the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) Can it be said of them that they are “counted worthy” of a resurrection?

The word that is translated as “counted worthy” is kataksioō, which according to Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains by E. Nida and J.P. Louw has the meaning:

To consider something of a comparable merit or worth — ‘to regard worthy of, to consider as meriting, to regard as being valuable for’.

This word is used in 2 Thessalonians 1:5 (NWT13) in the clause “being counted worthy (kataksioō) of the Kingdom of God.” The author of the article in The Watchtower points out that the unrighteous ones will be resurrected, and then he asks: “Can it be said of them that they are “counted worthy” of a resurrection?” The expected answer is No, and therefore the resurrection mentioned by Jesus cannot refer to the earthly resurrection. Does this argument have any merit?

Words can have different shades of meaning and different references. But the author seems to overlook this fact. His argument is built on the view that those who “are counted worthy” of something have a particular value, or a particular value is connected with these. In other words, the author believes that the expression “counted worthy” relates to some special merit concerning them that earns them the right to be resurrected. However, please consider Acts 5:44 (NWT13):

So they went out from before the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy (kataksioō) to be dishonored in behalf of his Name.

What is the meaning of these words? Is the meaning that the apostles had a particular value or that a certain inherent level of excellence was connected with the apostles that uniquely qualified them to be dishonored above all others? The meaning must be that the apostles were allowed to be dishonored or that they received the privilege of being dishonored for his Name, and not that they had a particular inherent value over other Christians that merited them this privilege. This shows that the word kataksioō used in connection with the resurrection can simply mean “to be allowed to have a resurrection” or “to get the privilege of” having a resurrection,” that is, in contrast with those who have sinned against the holy spirit and so will not be allowed to have a resurrection.

Chapter 10 of the tractate Sanhedrin in the Mishnah has a long list of those who will, and those who will not get a resurrection. Similar to Acts 24:15, the Mishnah states that both righteous and unrighteous persons will get a resurrection, and the expression used is that all these “have a share (hælæq) in the resurrection.” The word hælæq in Mishnaic Hebrew has the meaning “lot, share, portion,” and because a share or a portion is something that you own or is entitled to, the meaning of this word is close to the Greek word kataksioō with the meaning “being worthy of” and to “consider as meriting.” No particular value or merit is ascribed to those who get a resurrection. But the use of hælæq simply means that they “are allowed a resurrection,” or they get the privilege of having a resurrection.

Let us now return to those who “are counted worthy of the Kingdom of God”? Why are they “counted worthy”? These persons are sinners, and therefore they are “unrighteous” just as the “unrighteous” mentioned in Acts 24:15 are. The only reason why they “are counted worthy” is the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And it is this same sacrifice that makes the general resurrection possible. So the argument that Jesus’ words “counted worthy of… the resurrection of the dead” must refer to the heavenly resurrection has no merit at all.

They cannot die anymore

The second argument in favor of the heavenly resurrection is as follows:

Neither can they die anymore.” Jesus did not say: “They will not die anymore.” Rather, he said: “Neither can they die anymore.” Other translations render that phrase “they are not subject to death any longer” and “death has no more power over them.” Anointed ones who finish their earthly course in faithfulness are raised to heaven and given immortality​—endless, indestructible life. (1 Cor. 15:53, 54) Death no longer has any power over those who receive a heavenly resurrection.

The point of the author of The Watchtower article is that those who get a resurrection “cannot die anymore.” But many of those who get an earthly resurrection “will die.” Therefore, the words cannot refer to the earthly resurrection. The comments in The Watchtower of 1 June 1987, page 31, is as follows

Those questioning Jesus did not believe in him or know about a heavenly resurrection. They asked about a Jewish family under the Law. In reply Jesus referred to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, men who hoped for life again on earth. (Genesis 42:38; Job 14:13-15; compare Hebrews 11:19.) Those patriarchs, and millions of others, who are raised on earth and who prove faithful will be “like the angels.” Though mortal, they will not die once God has declared them righteous for endless life.

Is the new argument better than the argument in the 1987 article quoted above? Unlikely, as I will now show. The Greek word dynamai has the basic meaning “to be able to.” But words have different shades of meaning, and this is the case with this word as well, as the examples below from NWT13 show:

Matthew 9:15

And he said to them: “The friends of the bridegroom have no reason (dynamai) to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, do they?

Luke 11:7

But that one replies from inside: ‘Stop bothering me. The door is already locked, and my young children are with me in bed. I cannot (dynamai) get up and give you anything.’

Luke 14:20

Still another said, ‘I just got married, and for this reason I cannot (dynamai) come.’

Acts 4:20

But as for us, we cannot (dynamai) stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.”

1 Corinthians 13:8

For we can do nothing (dynamai) against the truth, but only for the truth.

In none of the five examples is the word dynamai used in an absolute sense of “it is impossible.” Rather, the idea has more the connotation of “will not” instead of “cannot.” I will also quote three scriptures in connection with the use of the word “death.”

John 5:24

Most truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes the One who sent me has everlasting life, and he does not come into judgment, but has passed over from death to life.

John 8:51

Most truly I say to you, if anyone observes my word, he will never see death at all.

John 11:26

And everyone who is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all.

Without discussing each of the three scriptures above in detail, I will point out that in each case where the grant of ‘everlasting life’ appears to be final or absolute, it is possible to reverse the situation. The persons will never die only if they continue to exercise faith in Jesus. Hebrews 10:26, 27 says:

26 For if we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, 27 but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a burning indignation that is going to consume those in opposition.

All the points above show that the author’s argument that Jesus meant that resurrected ones cannot die anymore, in an absolute sense, has no basis. So, the use of the Greek word dynamai (“be able to”) in Luke 20:36 cannot be used to show that Jesus referred to the heavenly resurrection. Those who are resurrected on Judgment Day, the thousand-year reign of Jesus, are acquitted from the sin they inherited from Adam (Romans 6:7). Therefore, the death they inherited from Adam has no power over them. Like the angels, they will continue to live as long as they obey God’s laws.

I have now shown that the arguments in favor of a heavenly resurrection have no merit.

BELIEFS IN THE EARTHLY RESURRECTION

Evidence of the life and faith of the Jews in the first century CE can be found in the Christian Greek Scriptures, in the writings of Flavius Josephus, and in the Mishnah. I will first refer to a situation described in the Gospel of John where the resurrection is mentioned.

The resurrection “on the last day”

When Lazarus, who was a friend of Jesus, died, Jesus spoke with his sisters Martha and Mary. According to John 11:23, Jesus said to Martha, “Your brother will rise.” According to verse 24, Martha answered: “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.”

Martha’s words are very important because they show that God-fearing persons in the days of Jesus had developed faith in what the book of Daniel says about the resurrection. Daniel 12:13 (NWT13) says:

You will rest, but you will stand up for your lot at the end of the days (qēsts hayyāmīm).

The word qēts can refer to an endpoint, or it can refer to the last part of a period of time. Both the Greek Septuagint and the Greek Teodotion translation have syntelaian hēmerōn “conclusion of the days” as a translation of qēts hayyāmīm. The Greek expression synteleias tou aiōnos “the conclusion of the system of things” is used as a parallel to the presence (parousia) of Jesus. This shows that synteleia in this expression refers to a period of time, the same period as the presence of Jesus. Therefore, the most likely understanding of the words qēts hayyāmīm in Daniel 12:13 is that they refer to the final period, and not to the endpoint, of “the days.”

The Greek words that are ascribed to Martha are tē eskhatē hēmera (“the last day”). Mounce Greek Dictionary shows that hēmera can refer to the daylight during 24 hours, to a 24-hour day, and to “a point or period of time.” The Hebrew word yom (“day”) that Martha used has the same meanings. We can therefore conclude that Martha’s words “the last day” can refer to “the conclusion/the last part of the days, as in Daniel 12:13. We must also conclude that Martha referred to the earthly resurrection when she spoke about her dead brother, just as Daniel also will be resurrected on this earth.

Having now considered Martha’s words, we may ask if there are any clues in the Christian Greek Scriptures that can tell us anything more about the belief of Martha and other God-fearing people. Such clues can be found, and they can be compared with similar clues in The Mishnah.

The earthly resurrection in “the coming system of things”

The Mishnah, which was collected about 200 CE,  is a book describing what we can call rabbinic Judaism. It contains a great number of quotations from different rabbis, including rabbis who lived at the same time as Jesus Christ. In addition to the Mishnah, there are also many other rabbinic writings that tell about the faith of the Jews at different periods of time.

One reason why I refer to these writings is that we find Greek expressions in the Christian Greek Scriptures that are translations of, or correspond to similar expressions in the Mishnah and other rabbinic literature. Completely similar expressions do not arise in two different places independent of each other. But they must have a clear relationship. And when we find the more detailed descriptions of these expressions in the Mishnah and other rabbinic literature, we can assume that these details also fit the views of the Jews in the days of Jesus. The important expressions are “this system of things” and “the coming system of things,” and the last expression is related to the resurrection.

The contrast between “this system of things” and “the coming system of things” is seen in the following scriptures:

Matthew 12:32

For example, whoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the holy spirit, it will not be forgiven him, no, not in this system of things (toutō tō aiōni) nor in that to come (tō mellonti).

Mark 10:30

Who will not get 100 times more now in this period of time ( kairō toutō)—houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the coming system of things (tō aiōni tō erkhomenō), everlasting life.

Luke 18:30

Who will get many times more in this period of time (tō kairō toutō), and in the coming system of things (tō aiōni tō erkhomenō), everlasting life.

Luke 20:34

34 Jesus said to them: “The children of this system of things (tou aiōnos toutou), marry and are given in marriage,35 but those who have been counted worthy of gaining that system of things (tou aiōnos ekeinou) and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.

Ephesians 1:21

21  far above every government and authority and power and lordship and every name that is named, not only in this system of things (tō aiōni toutō) but also in that to come (tō mellonti).

Ephesians 2:7

So that in the coming systems of things (tois aiōsin tois erkhomenois) he might demonstrate the surpassing riches of his undeserved kindness in his graciousness toward us in union with Christ Jesus.

1 Timothy 6:17

Instruct those who are rich in the present system of things (tō nyn aiōni) not to be arrogant.

2 Timothy 4:10

9 Do your utmost to come to me shortly. 10 For De’mas has forsaken me because he loved the present system of things (ton nyn aiōna).

Titus 2:12

It trains us to reject ungodliness and worldly desires and to live with soundness of mind and unrighteousness and godly devotion amid this present system of things (tō nyn aiōni),

Hebrews 6:5

And who have tasted the fine word of God and powers of the coming system of things (mellontos aiōnos)

The contrast in the passages above is between “the present system of things” and “the coming system of things.” 1 Timothy 6:17, 2 Timothy 4:10, and Titus 2:12 speak of “the present system of things,” which implies that there is “the coming system of things.” Ephesians 2:7 and Hebrews 6:5 speak about “the coming systems of things.”

Mark 10:30 and Luke 18:30 contrasts “the coming “system of things” with “this appointed time” (kairos). Matthew 12:32 and Ephesians 1:20 contrast “the present system of things” with “the coming one,” and Luke 20:34 contrasts “this system of things” with “that system of things.”

Different expressions are used, but the contrast is clear: There is one present system of things and one system of things that is future.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word ‘ōlam always refers to time, namely, to a time whose length is not known. Many Bible translations, including NWT13,  translates this word with “eternal.” But that is not a good translation. I have never seen any evidence that the Jews in ancient times had the modern idea of a time that never ends. At most, the Jews could refer to a time whose end they could not see. A better translation would therefore be “time indefinite,” which is found in NWT84.

Some time before the first century CE the meaning of the word ‘olam changed. It still referred to a time of unknown length, but it also could focus on the aspects of a time period relating to its particular characteristics in contrast with other time periods with other characteristics. Jesus and his disciples spoke Hebrew, and both Jesus and his disciples used the word ‘ōlam with the meaning “system of things”—a time period with particular characteristics. The corresponding Greek word that we find in the Christian Greek Scriptures is aiōn.

In the Mishnah, there are 18 examples of  ōlām habbā (“the coming system of things”) and 12 examples of ‘ōlām hazzæ (“this system of things”). The tractate Avoth quotes what different rabbis from the time of Ezra have said. Rabbi Jacob ben Korshai lived in the second century CE, and in Avoth 4:16 we read:

Rabbi Jacob says: this world (‘ōlām hazzæ, “the system of things, this”), is like an antechamber [vestibule] before the world to come (ha‘ōlām habbā, “the system of things, the coming”).

The contrast between “this system of things” and “the coming system of things” in this quotation is the same contrast that Jesus and his disciples used. This contrast is also seen in the tractate Peah 1:1 in the Mishnah. The description of “the coming system of things” in the Mishnah clearly refers to this earth and to the Messianic age. Chapter 10 of the tractate Sanhedrin in the Mishnah describes who will have a resurrection on the earth and who will not have a resurrection. I quote the first lines of this chapter:

All of the Jewish people, even sinners and those who are liable to be executed with a court-imposed death penalty, have a share in the World-to-Come (‘ōlām habbā), as it is stated: “And your people also shall be all righteous, they shall inherit the land forever; the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, for My name to be glorified” (Isaiah 60:21). And these are the exceptions, the people who have no share in the World-to-Come (‘ōlām habbā)), even when they fulfilled many mitzvot: One who says: There is no resurrection of the dead derived from the Torah.

The words “they shall inherit the land forever” show that the resurrection will occur in “the World-to-Come,” i.e. “the coming system of things,” and it will be an earthly resurrection.

ARGUMENTS THAT JESUS REFERRED TO THE EARTHLY RESURRECTION IN LUKE 20:34-38

We have seen the contrast between “this system of things” and “the coming system of things” both in the Christian Greek Scriptures and in the Mishnah. And we have seen that the resurrection, according to both sources, will occur in the coming system of things.

The expression “the coming system of things” never refers to heaven

I will now discuss how Jesus used the Hebrew word ‘ōlam and the Greek word aiōn, both having the meaning “system of things.” In Luke 20:34, Jesus uses the expression “this system of things” (Hebrew: (ōlām hazzæ: Greek: tou aiōnos toutou) and in verse 35 he speaks about “that (the coming) system of things (Hebrew; ōlām zæ (habbā); Greek: tou aiōnos ekeinou).

An important question must be what meaning did Jesus attach to these expressions. And the answer to this question is simple. The word ‘ōlam, corresponding to the Greek word aiōn, had in the days of Jesus acquired a new meaning. The only meaning ‘ōlam has in the Hebrew Scriptures is “time indefinite,” a time period of unknown length. But the new meaning it had acquired some time before the first century was “system of things,” i.e., a period of time that is characterized by certain events and situations. And so, the focus was no longer on the time period but on the characteristics of the time period.

There can be no doubt that Jesus’ use of “this system of things” referred to “the present wicked system of things” (Galatians 1:4) whose god is the Devil (2 Corinthians 4.4). But what did Jesus mean by the words “the coming system of things”? Could these words refer to heaven? This is a very important question in relation to the words of Jesus about the prospect of resurrected ones marrying and being given in marriage during that future period of time. And the answer is negative; it cannot refer to heaven.

In all instances where the expression “the coming system of things” is used in the Christian Greek Scriptures, the reference is to a future time period on this earth characterized by certain events and situations. This is the time period in which the resurrection will occur, according to Jesus and to the Mishnah. Because “the coming system of things” exclusively is used with reference to this earth, it is a strong argument against the view that Jesus referred to a heavenly resurrection, but in favor of his reference to an earthly resurrection.

The reference to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob points to the earthly resurrection

Jesus also refers to the earthly resurrection in Luke 20:37-38 (NWT13):

37  But that the dead are raised up, even Moses made known in the account about the thornbush,  when he calls Jehovah ‘the God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob.’ 38 He is a God, not of the dead, but of the living, for they are all living to him.”

Jesus used the words of God in connection with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as evidence that the dead will be raised up. The verb that is translated “are raised up” is Greek present, which is imperfective (= expresses progressive action and is timeless). If we convey the full force of the verb, we could translate “*will being raised up.” This is an ungrammatical expression, indicated by the Asterix. But it shows both the future reference and the progressive action of the verb.

Jesus’ pointing out that the present reference of the verb is an indication, in itself, that there will be a resurrection probably was not a unique statement in the first century CE. This is seen by a similar statement by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who was active after the destruction of the temple in 70 CE. He wrote:

Rabbi said: “‘Then Moses will sing’ – it doesn’t say ‘Then Moses sang’! We learn from this that there is resurrection according to the Torah.”[1]

Jesus referred to God’s words regarding Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as proof of the resurrection. These patriarchs are mentioned in Hebrews 11:17-21. According to Hebrews 11:38, 39, there are two different hopes of salvation, and, as the chapter indicates, all the faithful servants of God will have a part in the earthly resurrection.

Jesus’ reference to the three patriarchs who will get an earthly resurrection is a strong argument in favor of the view that “the resurrection from the dead” mentioned in Luke 20:35 is an earthly resurrection. This important point is explained away in the 2014 Watchtower article. We read:

Second, why would Jesus end his discussion with a reference to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who will be resurrected to life on earth? (Read Matthew 22:31, 32.) Note that Jesus prefaced his comment about those patriarchs with the words “regarding the resurrection of the dead.” That transitional phrase may allow for a shift in focus. Then, drawing from the writings of Moses, which the Sadducees claimed to accept, Jesus used the words of Jehovah to Moses at the burning bush to give added proof that the resurrection​—an earthly one—​is a sure purpose of God.​—Ex. 3:1-6.

The argument about “the transitional phrase” is based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:31 and not on his words in Luke 20:31. A transitional phrase—here based on the Greek preposition peri (“about, concerning, around”)—often points to an example of something. And in this case, the words of God pointing to the resurrection is an example of the resurrection that Jesus mentioned in verse Luke 20:35.

The use of peri does not shift the focus. On the contrary, it strengthens the focus on the topic “the resurrection of the dead” in Luke 20:35, because what follows is an example of, or a proof of, this aforementioned resurrection. Moreover, the Greek preposition peri does not occur in Luke 20:37, and the Greek words hoti de (“that but”) in this verse is translated as “but that” in NWT13. These words clearly connect Jesus’ words about the patriarchs with his words “the resurrection from the dead” in Luke 20:35.

In this section, two strong arguments in favor of the view that Jesus does not refer to the heavenly resurrection but to the earthly one have been presented: 1) The “coming system of things” where the resurrection will occur never refers to heaven but only to this earth. 2) Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will get an earthly resurrection, and Jesus’ reference to them shows that he spoke about an earthly resurrection.

[1]. Mekhilta de Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai 15; https://www.sefaria.org/Mekhilta_DeRabbi_Shimon_Bar_Yochai.15?lang=bi.

BELIEFS IN THE RESURRECTION IN THE LAST CENTURIES BCE

The book Second Maccabees was written about 150 BCE. It has an account of seven brothers and their mother who were tortured, and one of the brothers who spoke for all of them said (7:14):

At the point of death, he said, “Better it is to pass away from among men while looking forward in hope to the fulfillment of God’s promises that we will be resurrected by Him, for you shall have no resurrection unto life.

The Dead Sea Scrolls say very little about resurrection or afterlife. But Devorah Dimant points to two scrolls that speak about the resurrection. The Messianic Apocalypse (4Q521) speaks about wonders that will take place in messianic times:

[F]or he heals the slain and the dead he resurrects. (2 II 12)

He who resurrects the dead of his people. (5 II 6)

Professor Dimant has the following comments:

In contrast to Daniel, which distinguished between the righteous and the wicked, the resurrection here seems to be applied to the entire people of Israel, a notion implied in Ezekiel 37.[1]

Dimant also has a reference to Pseudo-Ezekiel (4Q385, 4Q385b, 4Q386, 4Q388) where the resurrection of the dead is connected with Ezekiel 37 and the dry bones that come to life. Her conclusion is:

Pseudo-Ezekiel is therefore the most ancient witness to the view that the Vision of the Dry Bones speaks of resurrection, and perhaps for the understanding of Isaiah 26:19 as speaking of resurrection. When we read this text in tandem with the contemporary biblical text, Daniel 12, we can see that by the second century B.C.E., the idea that in the future, individual Israelites would be resurrected—whether all of them or only the pious ones—was already taking a firm hold as a core belief among at least certain groups of Jews.

In the last centuries BCE, there was a widespread belief in the resurrection that was based on the Hebrew Scriptures, and this belief is also seen in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

[1]. hetorah.com/article/the-valley-of-dry-bones-and-the-resurrection-of-the-dead.

BELIEFS IN THE RESURRECTION IN THE FIRST CENTURIES CE

We have seen that Jesus connected the resurrection with “the coming system of things,” and this expression can only refer to an earthly resurrection. I will now look at this issue from another point of view that we find in the gospel of Luke.

Resurrection in the restored earthly paradise

The account telling that in the resurrection persons “neither marry nor are given in marriage” occurs in Luke chapter 20. Three chapters later, Luke introduces a word that is highly significant in our context. According to Luke 23:43 (NWT13), Jesus said to one of the criminals hanging by his side:

Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in Paradise.

When he said these words, Jesus spoke Hebrew, and we may ask which Hebrew word corresponds to the Greek word paradeisos? In point of fact, there is no Hebrew word that corresponds to the Greek word paradeisos, which may refer to an orchard or a park. However, the word paradeisos is used several times in the Septuagint with reference to the garden of Eden and to other gardens or parks as well. In Genesis 2:15, the words gān-‘ædæn (literally, “garden-ædæn,” or “ædæn’s garden”) is translated with paradeisos in the LXX.

The words gān ‘ædæn occur in the tractate Avoth 5:19, 20 in the Mishnah (Danby’s translation):

How do the disciples of Abraham our father differ from the disciples of Balaam the wicked? The disciples of Abraham our father enjoy this world (ōlām hazzæ) and inherit the world to come (‘ōlām habbā), as it is written: that I may cause those that love me to inherit substance and that I may fill their treasuries. [Proverbs 8:21]The disciples of Balaam the wicked inherit Gehenna and go down to the pit of destruction, as it is written:, But thou, O God, shall bring them down into the pit of destruction; bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall nit live out half their days, [Psalm 55:23]

Judah b. Tema[1] said: Be strong as the leopard and swift as the eagle, fleet as the gazelle and brave as the lion to do the will of thy father which is in heaven. He used to say: “The shameless are for Gehenna and the shamefast for the garden of Eden (gān ‘ædæn).

The quotation mentions “this system of things” and “the system of things to come,” just as we find in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Then there is the contrast between inheriting “the system of things to come” or inheriting Gehenna. Judah ben Tema also mentions Gehenna, and its contrast is “the garden of Eden” (gān ‘ædæn). Because Gehenna is the contrast both to ‘ōlām habbā (“the coming system of things”), and gān ‘ædæn (“the garden of Eden”), “the coming system of things” must be the same as “the garden of Eden.” The quotation from Proverbs 8:21 puts “the coming system of things” in a setting of this earth by mentioning “treasuries,” and therefore, “the garden of Eden” in this tractate in the Mishnah also must refer to this earth.

When Jesus spoke to the criminal, he used words that he could understand. It is therefore likely that Jesus said, “Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in gān ‘ædæn.[2] This would be a reference to the garden where the two first humans lived, and by using a future verb, Jesus indicated that this garden would be restored. This would accord with the view of God-fearing Jews in the first part of the first century CE, including Martha.

As already mentioned, in chapter 10 in the tractate Sanhedrin in the Mishnah, people who will be resurrected in the World-to-Come are described. The people who died in the Flood and in Sodom and Gomorrah, and the one who mentions the ineffable Name have no share in the resurrection, but many others will be raised up.  Below is the first part of those who will have and will not have a resurrection.

All of the Jewish people, even sinners and those who are liable to be executed with a court-imposed death penalty, have a share in the World-to-Come (‘ōlām habbā), as it is stated: “And your people also shall be all righteous, they shall inherit the land forever; the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, for My name to be glorified” (Isaiah 60:21). And these are the exceptions, the people who have no share in the World-to-Come (‘ōlām habbā)), even when they fulfilled many mitzvot: One who says: There is no resurrection of the dead derived from the Torah, and one who says: The Torah did not originate from Heaven, and an epikoros, who treats Torah scholars and the Torah that they teach with contempt. Rabbi Akiva says: Also included in the exceptions are one who reads external literature, and one who whispers invocations over a wound and says as an invocation for healing: “Every illness that I placed upon Egypt I will not place upon you, for I am the Lord, your Healer” (Exodus 15:26). By doing so, he shows contempt for the sanctity of the name of God and therefore has no share in the World-to-Come (‘ōlām habbā). Abba Shaul says: Also included in the exceptions is one who pronounces the ineffable name of God as it is written, with its letters.[3]

The words “they shall inherit the land forever” show that the resurrection will occur in the land of Israel, in other words on this earth. An earthly resurrection is also witnessed in the Rabbinic literature.

Below are the words of four rabbis and lastly the words of a Hebrew scholar. The second quotation and the words of the Hebrew scholar speak about the resurrection of the flesh on this earth.

Rabbi Isaac says: The righteous and wicked alike will be resurrected, not only that the faithful Jews who died in exile amidst suffering and martyrdom may now enjoy the glory of Redemption, but also that the wicked who persecuted Israel during the years of exile may now receive punishment.[4]

“Just as a person goes, so he will return. If he died blind, deaf or mute, he will return blind, deaf or mute. As he goes clothed, he will return clothed. G‑d said, ‘let them rise as they went—and afterwards I will heal them’”[5]

All who have fallen asleep in hope of Him shall rise again.[6]

‘Let Reuven live and not die’ – but did he not already die? Rather, he should not die in the world to come (‘ōlām habbā).  This proves that there is resurrection of the dead according to the Torah.[7]

All the dead will be resurrected in the land of Israel. Those who are buried outside the Holy Land, their bodies will burrow through the earth until they reach Israel, and there their souls will be reinstated into their bodies. For tzaddikim, special tunnels will form beneath the ground, in order to make the journey easier and more dignified. Avoiding this laborious process is one of the reasons why so many choose to be buried in the soil of the Holy Land. [8]

[1]. Judah ben Tema lived at the end of the second century CE.

[2]. Delitzsch’s translation of the New Testament into Modern Hebrew, and the Modern Hebrew New Testament both use gan ‘ēden as a translation of paradaisos in Luke 23:43.

[3]. https://www.sefaria.org/Mishnah_Sanhedrin.10.1?lang=bi.

[4]. Midrash Rabbah 56; https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/issues-v06-n09/resurrection-rabbinic-judaism-hebrew-scripture-and-the-new-testament/.

[5]. Midrash Rabbah, Genesis 95.

[6]. II Baruch, 30.2; https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/issues-v06-n09/resurrection-rabbinic-judaism-hebrew-scripture-and-the-new-testament/.

[7]. Midrash Tannaim on Deuteronomy 33:29.

[8]. https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1127503/jewish/The-Resurrection-Process.htm.

THE BELIEF IN THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL AND ITS CONSEQUENCES FOR THE BELIEF IN THE RESURRECTION

While ordinary people in the last centuries BCE and the first century CE believed in an earthly resurrection, the Pharisees had a different belief. Josephus wrote regarding the Pharisees and the Sadducees in Antiquities XVIII (Whiston’s translation):

Now, for the Pharisees… They also believe that souls have an immortal rigor in them, and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life; and the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison, but that the former shall have power to revive and live again… But the doctrine of the Sadducees is this: That souls die with the bodies.

The view of the Pharisees was the diametrical opposite of Martha’s view of a resurrection on this earth on the last day. The differences of these two views can be seen in the Rabbinic literature.

The Garden of Eden appears in the aggadah in contradistinction to Gehinnom – “hell” (e.g., BT Sotah 22a). However, talmudic and midrashic sources know of two Gardens of Eden: the terrestrial, of abundant fertility and vegetation, and the celestial, which serves as the habitation of souls of the righteous. The location of the earthly Eden is traced by the boundaries delineated in Genesis 2:11–14.[1]

An article by Ariela Pelaia gives an overview of the beliefs of the Jews in the first centuries CE regarding the resurrection.[2]

In addition to Olam Ha Ba, Gan Eden is a term used to refer to one of several Jewish versions of the afterlife. “Gan Eden” is Hebrew for the “Garden of Eden.” It first appears in the book of Genesis when God creates humanity and places them in the Garden of Eden.

It wasn’t until much later that Gan Eden also became associated with the afterlife. However, as with Olam Ha Ba, there is no definitive answer to what Gan Eden is or how it ultimately fits into the afterlife.

Gan Eden at the End of Days

The ancient rabbis often talked about Gan Eden as a place where righteous people go after they die. However, it is unclear whether they believed that souls would journey to Gan Eden directly after death, or whether they went there at some point in the future, or even whether it was the resurrected dead who would inhabit Gan Eden at the end of time.

One example of this ambiguity can be seen in Exodus Rabbah 15:7, which states: “In the Messianic Age, God will establish peace for [the nations] and they will sit at ease and eat in Gan Eden.” While it’s apparent that the rabbis are discussing Gan Eden at the end of days, this quote does not reference the dead in any way. Therefore we can only use our best judgment in determining whether the “nations” they talk about are righteous souls, living people or the resurrected dead.

Author Simcha Raphael believes that in this excerpt the rabbis are referring to a paradise that will be inhabited by the righteous resurrected. His basis for this interpretation is the strength of the rabbinic belief in resurrection when Olam Ha Ba arrives. Of course, this interpretation applies to Olam Ha Ba in the Messianic Age, not Olam Ha Ba as a postmortem realm.

Gan Eden as an Afterlife Realm

Other rabbinic texts discuss Gan Eden as a place where souls go immediately after a person dies. Barakhot 28b, for example, relates the story of Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai on his deathbed. Just before he passes away ben Zakki wonders whether he will enter Gan Eden or Gehenna, saying “There are two roads before me, one leading to Gan Eden and the other to Gehenna, and I do know by which I shall be taken.”

Here you can see that ben Zakkai is talking about both Gan Eden and Gehena as afterlife realms and that he believes he will immediately enter one of them when he dies.

Gan Eden is often linked to Gehenna, which was thought of as a place of punishment for unrighteous souls. One midrash says, “Why has God created Gan Eden and Gehenna? That one might deliver from the other” (Pesikta de-Rav Kahana 30, 19b).

The rabbis believed that those who studied Torah and led a righteous life would go to Gan Eden after they died. Those who neglected the Torah and led unrighteous lives would go to Gehenna, though usually only long enough for their souls to be cleansed before moving on to Gan Eden.

Gan Eden as an Earthly Garden

Talmudic teachings about Gan Eden as an earthly paradise are based upon Genesis 2:10-14 which describes the garden as if it were a known location:

“A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.”

Notice how the text names the rivers and even comments upon the quality of gold mined in that area. Based on references like this the rabbis sometimes talked about Gan Eden in earthly terms, debating, for example, whether it was in Israel, “Arabia” or Africa (Erubin 19a). They likewise discussed whether Gan Eden existed prior to Creation or whether it was created on the third day of Creation.

Much later Jewish mystical texts describe Gan Eden in physical detail, detailing “gates of ruby, by which stand sixty myriads and ministering angels” and even describing the process by which a righteous person is greeted when they arrive at Gan Eden.

The Tree of Life stands in the center with its branches covering the entire garden and it contains “five hundred thousand varieties of fruit all differing in appearance and taste” (Yalkut Shimoni, Bereshit 20).

Sources

“Jewish Views of the Afterlife” by Simcha Paul Raphael. Jason Aronson, Inc: Northvale, 1996.

If Jesus referred to a non-earthly resurrection, that would support the view of an immortal soul

As the article above shows, the belief in the afterlife in the first centuries CE was varied. Some persons, such as Martha, believed in an earthly resurrection on the last day, the Pharisees believed in the immortality of the soul, and the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection at all.

When an author says something or writes something, he does this in order to communicate with his audience, in order to be understood by his audience. Jesus spoke his words with the purpose of teaching his disciples and other persons. He used many illustrations, and in some cases, he used exaggerations to drive home his point. But he used clear and understandable language and simple words.

According to John 16:12 (NWT13) Jesus said:

“I still have many things to say to you, but you are not able to bear them now.”

These words can, for example, be applied to the prophecies about the presence of Jesus in Matthew 25, 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13. The words in these prophecies are clear. But the reason why his disciples could not fully fathom these prophecies was that they would first be fully understandable when the fulfillments were seen.

How can we view the account in Luke 20:28-38? The questions are simple. And the words used by Jesus are clear as well, and there is no need for a fulfillment of these words to understand them. I have already shown that from a linguistic and contextual point of view, Jesus’ reference to “the resurrection” must refer to the earthly resurrection.

I will now look at Jesus’ words from another point of view, namely, on their teaching effectiveness. In other words: How would the Jews who heard the words of Jesus, and the Jews who read these words in the first centuries CE understand the words about the resurrection?

There are three expressions to consider:

  • Resurrection
  • The coming system of things (Greek: tō aiōni tō erkhomenō ; Hebrew: ‘ōlām habbā).
  • Paradise (Greek: paradaisos; Hebrew: gān-‘ædæn).

We know that the Pharisees believed in the immortality of the soul in the first century CE. But we do not know how this belief related to the resurrection. The rabbinic literature shows that in the first centuries CE, some persons believed that the soul at death entered “the paradise” gān-‘ædæn, and other persons believed that in the resurrection, the body would come to life and the soul would be reunited with its body. Others believed in two different paradises (gān-‘ædæn), one terrestrial and another celestial, as the quotation below shows:

We also know that some Jews in the first century believed that there would be an earthly resurrection on the last day. But later, the view arose of two different Gardens of Eden.

The Garden of Eden appears in the aggadah in contradistinction to Gehinnom – “hell” (e.g., BT Sotah 22a). However, talmudic and midrashic sources know of two Gardens of Eden: the terrestrial, of abundant fertility and vegetation, and the celestial, which serves as the habitation of souls of the righteous. The location of the earthly Eden is traced by the boundaries delineated in Genesis 2:11–14.[3]

As I have shown above, the questions of the Sadducees refer to the earthly resurrection, the mentioning of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as examples of those who will be so resurrected, and the use of the expression “that system of things” clearly points to the earthly resurrection on the last day mentioned by Martha.

If Jesus referred to the heavenly resurrection of the 144,000, and his audience understood that he excluded the earthly resurrection, what would his audience conclude? The heavenly resurrection of 144,000 heirs of the Kingdom was unknown when the Sadducees posed their questions. So, if the listeners understood Jesus’ words as excluding an earthly resurrection, they would either believe that Jesus supported the view of the Pharisees of an immortal soul or the view of some rabbis that there were two paradises, a terrestrial one and a celestial one, and that Jesus referred to the celestial paradise.

My point is that if Jesus did not refer to the earthly resurrection, which was the basis of the questions of the Sadducees, he would mislead his audience by leading them to believe in the mythological view of life after death and some kind of celestial existence.

[1]. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/garden-of-eden.

[2]. https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-gan-eden-2076759.

[3]. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/garden-of-eden.

CONCLUSION

Since World War II, for sixty years, the view of the leaders of JW was that the words of Jesus that the resurrected ones “neither marry nor are given in marriage” refer to the earthly resurrection. In 2014, the present GB presented a new view, and they argued that the words referred to the heavenly resurrection.

The new view that Jesus referred to the heavenly resurrection has serious weaknesses, and in the following summary, I show why this new view must be rejected.

  • The argument that the words “counted worthy of…the resurrection” cannot be applied to the unrighteous ones who get an earthly resurrection, and therefore must refer to a heavenly resurrection, is shown to be based on a wrong understanding of the Greek word kataksioō. This word can, in fact, be applied to unrighteous persons.
  • Because Jesus says that the resurrected ones “cannot die,” and those who get an earthly resurrection can die if they break God’s laws, says the GB, the reference must be to those who are granted immortality when they receive a heavenly resurrection. I show that this argument has no merit because it is based on a wrong understanding of the Greek words oude…dynamai (“cannot die”)
  • Jesus shows that the resurrection will occur in “the coming system of things.” This expression is only used to refer to a new order on this earth and not to a new order in heaven. Therefore, Jesus must have referred to an earthly resurrection.
  • Jesus refers to God’s words regarding Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as proof of the resurrection. These three patriarchs will get an earthly resurrection. Therefore, Jesus referred to an earthly resurrection.
  • The heavenly resurrection was unknown when the Sadducees posed their questions. If the listeners understood Jesus’ words as excluding an earthly resurrection, they would either believe that Jesus supported the view of the Pharisees of an immortal soul or the view of some rabbis that there were two paradises, a terrestrial one and a celestial one, and that Jesus referred to the celestial paradise.

The arguments of the GB in favor of Jesus referring to a heavenly resurrection have no merit. But there are strong arguments in favor of Jesus referring to an earthly resurrection. The view held by JW for more than 60 years is the right one, and the new view that was presented in 2014 clearly is wrong.

ADDENDUM

Many persons today have lost their wife or husband, and they look forward to the resurrection to meet their loved one again. Will the view that Jesus referred to the earthly resurrection destroy their hope because there will not be any marriage in the coming system of things? Absolutely not!

Marriage today has two purposes. Genesis 1:28 and 2:18 (NWT13) says:

“Be fruitful and become many, fill the earth and subdue it.”

“It is not good for the man to continue to be alone.”

Marriage should form a very close relationship between a man and a woman, and the two should have sexual relations and have children. This means that if Adam and Eve had not sinned, they would have had perfect children. And their children would have had perfect children until the earth was filled. And what would then happen? There would be no marriage anymore in our sense of the word “marriage” because one of its purposes was fulfilled. So even if we do not take the resurrection into account, at some time in the new system of things, marriage will cease to exist.

But what will then happen with two persons who have lived together as a married couple for many years? Will they be separated? Of course not! Jehovah God has created us with our emotions, passions, and sentiments. And after the purpose of having children is fulfilled, it still “is not good for man to be alone.” Jehovah will never do anything that harms us. But as a loving father, he will perfectly satisfy our physical, psychical, and emotional needs.

Therefore, it is obvious that there will be some form of a close relationship between a man and a woman, particularly between those who have lived together for many years. This is not “marriage” in our sense of the word. But a part of the relationship between a married couple today will evidently be included in these relationships. As perfect humans, Jehovah will satisfy all our desires and emotions in ways that we cannot imagine today.

But what about the resurrection? I am certain that Abraham and Sarah will live together in a new kind of relationship in the new system of things. But what about Hagar? John was the apostle that Jesus loved. But Jesus loved the other apostles as well. We have many friends, but some of them are closer to us than others.

When we become perfect in the new system of things, jealousy will be gone. So we can imagine that some persons in the new order will have a closer relationship with each other than with other persons. Sarah and Abraham will have a very close relationship, but Hagar will also have a close relationship with them.

And this is the solution to the question of the Sadducees about the woman who had seven husbands. A person today who had more than one wife or husband, will, if his spouses are resurrected, either have a close relationship with each of them or have a closer relationship with one of them than with the others.

The important point is that if we have lost a loved one in death, we can look forward to welcoming him or her back in the resurrection. And we can look forward of having a close relationship with our loved one forever.

Rolf Furuli

Author Rolf Furuli

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