Jesus (like the pharisees, but unlike the Sadducees) preaches the resurrection from the dead. But, unlike pharisees, his teaching splits resurrection in two steps: his own resurrection (we already talked about it) as a first step and the eschatological résurrection as a second step.
In the synoptic gospels (Matthew/Mark/Luke) Jesus’ teaching about the resurrection is mainly given when sadducees try to trap him with the story of the seven brothers married to the same woman. I chose to study Luke account because it gives more details than Mark and Matthew: Luke 20,27-38
27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came up and questioned him: 28 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother has a wife, and dies childless, his brother should take the wife and produce offspring for his brother., 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife and died without children. 30 Also the second 31 and the third took her. In the same way, all seven died and left no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For all seven had married her.”
34 Jesus told them, “The children of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are counted worthy to take part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 For they can no longer die, because they are like angels and are children of God, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 Moses even indicated in the passage about the burning bush that the dead are raised, where 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, because all are living to him.”
What do we learn from Jesus here ?
1/ there will be a resurrection. Contrary to what the Sadducees were teaching.
2/ Resurrection will take place in an other age, which implies a discontinuity between now and then both in nature and in social practice.
3/ Resurrection is for those who are counted worthy. Worthiness is to be interpreted. If we relate to Daniel 12,2 resurrection of the worhty is for eternal life.
4/ Resurrection implies a transformation of humans as we know them in this age. So as we have seen, resurrection is not resuscitation (at least for those who are worhty). Humans will not return into their old dead bodies (like Lazarus or Jairus daughter). And this brings us to the next point:
5/ The transformation that will occur through resurrection will give humans the main characteristics of angels1:
- they can no longer die
- therefore they don’t need to marry for the purpose of having children as stated in the requirement of the law pointed out by Sadducees
- but listening to Jesus we have to be careful that his sentence doesn’t mean that "like angels, humans will be in heaven".
6/ The transformation that will occur through resurrection will give humans something that angels do not have: they are children of God which is synonymous of children of the resurrection which implies that:
- they are not transformed in angels as it was thought by some very first disciples (Acts 12,12-162)
- nor are they transformed in spirit (as the pharisees seems to believe - Acts 13,83)
- so they will have bodies
- if we (today) are already children of God, we are not yet fully children: As Paul says for Jesus himself that resurrection made Jesus to be fully Son of God in Romans 1,3-4:
Jesus Christ (…) was appointed to be the powerful Son of God (…) by the resurrection of the dead4.
7/ God is the God of the living, not of the dead : so the patriarchs are living. Which doesn’t mean they are already raised from the dead as Jesus does not specify in which way the patriarchs are alive. He simply says that the passage in Exodus 3 about the burning bush informed [past tense] that the dead are raised [present tense]5.
And there is this strange sentence: "all are living to him"6 which means that God hold their life in his power. It is not explicitly said that the patriarchs will rise from the dead, but in the context it is implicit.
So Jesus talks about a future bodily resurrection and an intermediate state which precedes it7.
1 In Luke ἰσάγγελοι — in Matthew/Mark ὡς ἄγγελοι
2 When Peter has been rescued (by angels) before his trial before Herod in Acts 12 …he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was called Mark, where many had assembled and were praying. 13 He knocked at the door of the outer gate, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer. 14 She recognized Peter’s voice, and because of her joy, she did not open the gate but ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the outer gate. 15 “You’re out of your mind!” they told her. But she kept insisting that it was true, and they said, “It’s his angel.” 16 Peter, however, kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were amazed.
1 When Paul defends himself before the Sanhedrin after being arrested in the temple in Jerusalem : Acts 23 6 When Paul realized that one part of them were Sadducees and the other part were Pharisees, he cried out in the Sanhedrin, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am being judged because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead!” 7 When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, and neither angel nor spirit, but the Pharisees affirm them all.
4 It does not implies that he was not Son of God before during his ministry, but that he could be fully recognized as such through this event.
5 ὅτι δὲ ἐγείρονται οἱ νεκροὶ καὶ Μωϋσῆς ἐμήνυσεν ἐπὶ τῆς βάτου, ὡς λέγει κύριον τὸν θεὸν Ἀβραὰμ καὶ θεὸν Ἰσαὰκ καὶ θεὸν Ἰακώβ —Literally: that they are raised [present indicative] the dead also Moses informed [aorist indicative] in the bush when he says the Lord [to be] the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
6 πάντες γὰρ αὐτῷ ζῶσιν: translated in the CSB by : all are living to him ; translated in the NIV by : to him all are alive. It can be translated for him or from him.
7 Such thinking would not have been possible a few centuries earlier, but in the time of Jesus and the first Christians the ancient solution, still maintained by the Sadducean minority, no longer satisfies the doctrinal exigencies of those who have experienced persecution and martyrdom — Bovon, F. (2012). Luke 3: A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 19:28–24:53, H. Koester, Ed., J. Crouch, Trans. (pp. 71–72). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.