Presentation on theme: "Presentation 39. Introduction Is not uncommon for men to create ideas of heaven that conform to their experience here on earth. The red Indians great."— Presentation transcript:
Introduction Is not uncommon for men to create ideas of heaven that conform to their experience here on earth. The red Indians great love of hunting caused them to look forward to their continued enjoyment of ‘A Happy Hunting Ground'. The Vikings, a warrior people who delighted in looting and revelry spoke of ‘Valhalla’ as a place where they would fight all day and drink all night. For the Muslim, ‘Paradise’ reflects man’s sensual longings. He expect to be waited upon constantly by misty eyed maidens eager to satisfy their every desire. It is hard for us to imagine a form of existence that lies beyond our present limited experience. And it is this that lies behind the question put to Jesus by the Sadducees.
Presentation 39 The Sadducees In order to understand the Sadducees question we need some background. The Sadducees belonged to the aristocratic, priestly, families of Israel. They didn't believe in the supernatural, nor in life after death. Josephus the Jewish historian writes, 'The doctrine of the Sadducees is this: souls die with bodies.' If their human reason couldn't understand some issue they would reject it. They were like present-day rationalists, who demand that God place himself in a test tube or under a microscope to be examined by their human reason. The logic of rationalism concludes, 'The reason I won't have anything to do with God is because I cannot define him'. But wait a minute, if I can define God, I become greater than the God I define!
Presentation 39 The Sadducees The Sadducees did not come to Jesus because they were baffled in the pursuit of the truth and wanted help. Irreverent cynicism lies behind their question. Remember Jesus had warned his disciples against the 'leaven of the Sadducees‘ Matt16v6. When we scoff at spiritual realities we become frivolous as this question shows. The rationalism of our day has produced a joyless, superficial and cynical attitude to life. However this very superficiality has caused some to abandon it. Prof C.E.M. Joad, a great advocate of rationalism before his conversion wrote, “The rationalist-optimist philosophy by the light of which I had done my best to live came to seem intolerably trivial and superficial... unable to withstand the bleaker winds of the C20th I abandoned it and found myself a Christian.”
Presentation 39 The Sadducees’ Question The Sadducees were sure that they had a question that would show up the foolishness of a belief in the resurrection. Their question was based upon Levirate marriage - a piece of Mosaic legislation [Deut. 25v5-6] that had been given to ensure two things as Israel moved in to possess the promised land; the continuance of the family name and the retention of property within the family. If a husband died childless, then a near relative would marry his widow and the first child of that union would be counted as the dead man's child. [If you are familiar with the story of Ruth then you will know that her marriage to Boaz made use of this law.]
Presentation 39 The Sadducees’ Question The Sadducees present a hypothetical case: a married man dies before his wife had a child, his brother then marries her, but he also died childless and so on until seven brothers had married the woman, and had all died childless... whose wife would she be in the resurrection? They believed that Levirate marriage was God’s idea. It was a practical solution for a young emerging nation but was a nonsense in any so- called life to come. The woman couldn't be the wife of all seven brothers simultaneously! The case for the prosecution against the foolish notion of the resurrection rests.
Presentation 39 The Case For The Defence Jesus tells them why they are wrong. First they were ignorant of the scriptures. Unlike other Jews, the Sadducees didn't accept the whole of the O.T. as God’s Word. They accepted only the first five books, the Torah. These scholars of the Torah were convinced that no evidence for the resurrection could be found there. 'Very well', says Jesus, 'I'll stick to your very narrow view of God's Word for the moment and make a case for the resurrection from it. God did not say to Moses, 'I was Abraham's God' but 'I am Abraham's God. Some 500 years after Abraham's death, God continued to describe himself as Abraham's God. Why? The grave had not severed their relationship because Abraham is still alive and will live eternally.’
Presentation 39 The Case For The Defence Clearly, the Sadducees didn’t know God’s power and they handled the life-giving scriptures in away that brought ‘death’ to their souls. They institutionalised religion. Their rationalism had closed the door to any expectancy that God might work either in their own lives or through the ministry that they exercised. We also see their ignorance of God's power. They thought they had posed him an insurmountable problem. And simply, because they could not think of an answer to their little conundrum, they were sure that God could not either. They had done what every rationalist does, they had brought God down to their level. They thought they had a watertight case!
Presentation 39 The Case For The Defence Today, men bring God down to their level when they deny the virgin birth, the deity, miracles and resurrection of Christ. They say, 'these things go beyond the boundaries of human reason, our intellects cannot grasp them, therefore we have no option but to reject them'. The Sadducees thought that the world to come could not be any greater that a continuation of the world that is. When in v 30, Jesus describes heaven as a place where there is ‘neither marrying nor giving in marriage,’ he is describing a totally new level of existence. Paul develops this idea in 1 Cor. 15v51 We read that believers will be clothed in new resurrection bodies. Glorified bodies that will give expression to a changed situation.
Presentation 39 The Case For The Defence Some happily married Christians have been disturbed by this teaching about heaven. They fear being eternally separated from their lifetime partners. But one of the purposes of marriage was to help men and women to develop a closer relationship with God himself. Therefore, marriage at its sweetest and best, is a pointer to something infinitely more glorious and beyond our present imagination. In heaven, our love for one another will not be less, it will be more! Our love for our Christian partner will blossom and find its fullest expression in the world to come, not in terms of sensual enjoyment but in fruitful service. Our relationship will not be one of mere marriage, wonderful as that is, it will transcend marriage and be infinitely more beautiful.
Presentation 39 The Case For The Defence Our problem of course is in trying to conceive of such a relationship! Imagine a small boy and girl who live next door to each other. They occasionally play together and are good friends, but the boy prefers playing football, while the girl is much happier playing with her dolls. As they grow up they both go through the door of adolescence and suddenly their interest in one another changes! It deepens they fall in love and marry. They think back to their relationship as children and need no persuasion that a married relationship is infinitely better is. A love relationship they were not able to conceive of before they walked through the door of adolescence
Presentation 39 The Case For The Defence They recognise that their childhood friendship was a transitional relationship, one that prepared them for a far richer adult relationship. But, and this is Jesus point, marriage here on earth is also no more than a transitional relationship. When we go through the door of death something infinitely more wonderful awaits us. We will not be less close to our marriage partner but more close. Before going through the door of adolescence we cannot begin to imagine the joy of a loving marriage relationship. So too, before going through the door of death we cannot begin to imagine a relationship greater than we experience down here.
Presentation 39 The Case For The Defence There is also something wonderfully reassuring here for those, who for whatever reason, are not married. It is easy to feel excluded and even to envy the special relationship of married couples. It is easy to feel that one has been denied something precious while here on earth and to fear that heaven will not be as sweet for you as for married couples. Well try and wrap your mind around this, your relationship with the family of God in heaven will be deeper, richer, more beautiful and more meaningful than the very best marriages known to you on earth. Such marriages are a pale reflection of what awaits you in Glory.
Presentation 39 The Case For The Defence Our love for our partners does not end with the grave. It not only survives but is gloriously transformed in eternity to come. Charles Kingsley, the famous author, gave great thought to the inscription he wanted written on the gravestone which he and his wife would one day share. These are the words he chose: 'We have loved, we love, we shall love.' The problem of many will always be trying to conceive of something infinitely better than our present bliss. Some have asked, ‘Why did Jesus not spell out more clearly what awaits the believer in heaven?’ In order to suggest an answer again we return to the world of analogy…
Presentation 39 The Case For The Defence …Imagine a school of tadpoles living in the depths of a murky pond. How would you describe life above the surface to them? Your language would be meaningless until they break free into the pure, free air and the brilliant sunshine of the world above. Therefore the Bible provides us with only a general picture of heaven. Paul writes of, What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” - the things God has prepared for those who love him. I Cor.2v9 God will provide a quality of existence that far transcends our present experience. The Sadducees could not think beyond their present experience or, imagine that God could do something wonderfully new! There is none more to be pitied than the man who denies the power of God.
Presentation 39 Conclusion Whenever, we exalt human reason over against God's gracious revelation in scripture we have effectively robbed scripture of its power to do its work within our lives. But more than that we have reduced God to our own level. And by doing so we produced a religion that is dry, lifeless and cynical. Indeed, without necessarily realising it we have become practical atheists. Jesus exposes this practical atheism and challenges each one of us to let God be God! This involves, not kissing goodbye to our intellect and reason, but placing them under the authority of God’s revealed Word. As we do so our understanding of spiritual realities is increased.