Life…. as We Don't Know It

One of the more interesting aspects of the story of Jesus and his debate with the Sadducees as found in Luke 20 is the whole question of God as a living God.  What the Bible means by such an assertion is not merely that God is real or alive, but that God, as the beginning of Genesis makes clear, is the very source of life.  God not merely has life and is alive, God is so alive that it can be said he is the source of all life, always, and all the time.  “God raises the dead as easily as God gives life in the first place. And this resurrection life is radically different from the present one. The ‘children of the resurrection’ are ‘children of God’ and share God’s own [everlasting] life. Not only lack of faith in God but an impoverished imagination insists on portraying such a hope in terms of earthly preoccupations about descent and property….The kingdom shaped by such a Lord is therefore entirely new with the newness of God’s own life. It is not simply the perpetuation of a national dream of sovereignty, but hope of eternal life for all humans.”[1]  What this means, among other things, is that attempts to draw too detailed analogies between life now and life in the Kingdom, or human relationships now (including marriage) and human relationships in the Kingdom are bound to fail to do justice to the eschatological state of affairs.  Marriage, for an example is an earthly institution given for our earthly good and for the propagation of the species.  What happens when such mandates and needs are no more? 

In a world where there is no suffering, sin or sorrow, no disease, decay or decay, and all are caught up in love of God and neighbor, such earthly institutions will no longer be necessary. We shall be like the angels says Jesus, which means deathless, probably not sexless (for angels in early Judaism were indeed seen as sexual beings).  What is endlessly interesting about these sorts of discussions is how they stretch or just blow up our categories and remind us how we see through a glass darkly in regard to the great quandaries of life.  Just as Jesus prodded his interlocutors to realize that their messianic categories about the Son of David are too small, if messiah is not only David’s son but David’s Lord, so reflection on a God who is Life and Life Everlasting and intends to share that with us, should lead us to say with that old poet and songstress Joni Mitchell “I really don’t know life, at all”.    


[1] Johnson, Luke,  pp. 318-19.

  • Brian McInerney

    Thanks, Ben!. I’m looking forward to reading the whole book. When will it be published; by whom? Is the Johnson commentary you cite the one published by Liturigical Press?

  • Joseph Perdue

    Dr. Witherington,

    This is very interesting, and I am looking forward to reading more. Would you please go into more detail about angels being sexual beings in early Judaism, and what you believe the implications are for humans after the resurrection? Thanks.


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