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Pastor David B. Curtis

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The Afterlife (Part 1)

Matthew 22:23-33

Delivered 08/25/2013

I appreciate Jeff filling in for me last week. The encouragement that he gave to love, in my opinion, is always needed. Two weeks ago, I preached a message on, "Is Sanctification For Today"--the message was about the fact that Yahweh calls us to live a holy life. I didn't hear from anyone that had a problem with that. What some folks did have a problem with was that I said this, "Beyond AD 70 men still sin--hang of this one--Christians still sin. It is my personal view that sin will never end. Most believers think that we will be free from our sinful tendencies in heaven." I went on to say, "So when we get to heaven I kind of doubt that we will be sin-free. Sin seems innate in humanity. As Preterists we believe that we are in Christ, so what will change when we die? If you can prove me wrong on this, I'd be grateful."

I would word this differently now. I realize now that saying this was wrong. It was wrong to throw out a sound bite and not develop it. So I apologize to those of you who were confused or hurt by what I said. Because I didn't develop it, I got responses like, "Will Christ need to die again as we murder and rape one another in Heaven?" I certainly don't think that anyone will rape and murder in heaven. So let me try to clarify my view. First let me stress that this is my opinion based on what I see in Scripture. I am open to discuss it, and I appreciate the e-mails that I received that questioned what I said and asked for clarification.

Here's what I'm thinking. I think that human nature is sinful, Adam was sinful, Israel was sinful, Christians are sinful, and if receiving eternal life, the righteousness of Christ, and becoming citizens of the Kingdom, becoming part of the body of Christ hasn't made us sinless, I don't see why physical death will make us sinless. I don't think that we undergo a sinectomy at physical death. I don't see that there is another work of Yahweh that we partake of at death. Is there something more that must be done to fit us for heaven? If so, where is it talked about in Scripture.

Adam was under the law of sin and death; when he sinned, he died. We are not under that law:

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Yeshua has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Romans 8:2 NASB

Paul says that the Torah of the Spirit "has set you free..."--he is talking of setting slaves free, this is exodus language. Those in Christ are brought out of the Egypt of sin and death and made citizens in the Kingdom of God. We still sin, but death is not the result of our sin because Christ died and paid our sin debt in full.

I think that for Yahweh to make us sinless in heaven would be to remove our volition. I also think that if sin is possible in heaven, then Yahweh will be more honored and glorified when we live holy as opposed to taking away all possibility to sin.

That said, I think that heaven will be very different than life as we know it. I don't believe that we will have a body. As we leave the physical realm and move into the unhindered presence of Yahweh I think that we will see sin for what it is, and it will horrify us. We will have no desire to sin in the presence of the glory of Yahweh. I suppose that we will find ourselves in the company of the angels in Isaiah 6, covering our faces and crying out, "Holy, holy, holy is Yahweh." So that is kind of where I'm at right now.

Now let me try to show you the Scriptures that lead me to this position. I think that the Bible says next to nothing about the afterlife or heaven, so what we believe about the afterlife/heaven is for the most part speculation. One of my college professors wrote a book called, The Truth About Heaven. The book takes all the passages that refer to the New Covenant and makes them about heaven. Before becoming a Preterist I thought the Bible said a lot about heaven, but now I see that those verses talk about the New Covenant. So the nature of the afterlife/heaven is a big question, and there's a lot to learn; maybe a lot that we simply can't learn in this life. Why does the Bible say so little about the afterlife or heaven? I don't know, but my guess is that there is no way we can begin to understand the realm that Yahweh dwells in. It is beyond our finite understanding.

One text that does tell us something about the afterlife/heaven is:

On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Yeshua and questioned Him, asking, "Teacher, Moses said, 'IF A MAN DIES HAVING NO CHILDREN, HIS BROTHER AS NEXT OF KIN SHALL MARRY HIS WIFE, AND RAISE UP CHILDREN FOR HIS BROTHER.' "Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother; so also the second, and the third, down to the seventh. "Last of all, the woman died. "In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her." Matthew 22:23-28 NASB

What's interesting is that the Sadducees were asking Yeshua about something they didn't even believe in. They referred to the teaching in Deuteronomy 25 on levirate (lever-it) marriage. Which taught that if a man dies without bearing offspring, his widow is to marry the deceased's brother.

The Sadducees didn't care about whose wife someone would be in the resurrection. They didn't even believe in the resurrection. It never really happened, it is simply a ridiculous story that they made up. The question of the one bride and the seven brothers is not a search for the truth. The Sadducees do not expect, indeed, do not want, an answer. They hope to stump Yeshua, and thus to demonstrate how "foolish" ideas of a resurrection from the dead are. If Yeshua, the most noted and unstumpable teacher alive, could be stumped by their question, then He would become (reluctantly) an endorsement for their view:

But Yeshua answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. Matthew 22:29 NASB

Even before He offers any response to the actual question, Yeshua comments on the incompetence of the interrogators. "You are mistaken..." The term originally meant someone that had geographically gone astray from a particular road or path. Then it came to take more ethical connotations. They had gone astray from truth--that's what Christ meant by "You are mistaken..."

When Yeshua declares that they deny the power of God, He may evoke the traditional Jewish view that God expresses His power most visibly in the resurrection of the dead.

Now let's look at Yeshua's answer to the Sadducees:

"For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. "But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: 'I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living." When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. Matthew 22:30-33 NASB

What does this answer of Yeshua tell us? This text affirms the reality of an afterlife. It doesn't really tell us much about the afterlife, but it affirms that there is one. By "afterlife" I mean the continuation of spiritual life in heaven after physical death. So I'm using afterlife and heaven interchangeably.

Yeshua didn't go back to an obscure text buried somewhere in the Torah. This would have been one of the most well-known passages to these men. And Yeshua is saying, "You don't even get this one. When God said, 'I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,' He did not say, 'I was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.' And He's not the God of the dead."

Let's compare Matthew's account to Mark's:

"But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying... Mark 12:26a NASB
"But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, Matthew 22:31 NASB

Mark says, "Have you not read in the book of Moses..." and Matthew says, "Have you not read that which was spoken to you by God..." Our Lord affirms the plenary inspiration of Scripture--"When the Scripture speaks, God speaks." Moses was not just speaking to the Israelites of his day, because Yeshua says, "It was spoken to you."--referring to His first century crowd in the temple.

At the end of verse 32 Yeshua said, "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living"--These words come from an early portion of the book of Exodus known as "The Bush" section. That is, these words were spoken to Moses by Yahweh from the burning bush. Both the precise words and the context are of great significance to us in the matter of the resurrection of the dead.

Yahweh identified Himself to Moses, and thus to Israel, as the "I am," the eternal God. But further, Yahweh referred to Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, thus speaking of these patriarchs not as dead men, but as those who are alive, immortal. If God spoke of dead men as though they were alive, then this implied that these men would live again, they would rise from the dead.

There may also have been the further thought that Yahweh is the God of covenant. He was "the God of Abraham" precisely because He had entered into a living covenant with him. He had shown His love to Abraham time and again. That was what His being "the God of Abraham" indicated. Did the Sadducees then think that the living God would forget that covenant and that relationship when Abraham died? That He would just drop him and overlook him and let him sink into nothingness, while still claiming to be his God? Never! For then He would cease to be the God of Abraham. He would simply be the God of the present generation. He would cease to be the faithful God towards those with whom He was in covenant. And that could not be. So Abraham must still exist in some way.

This event in the life of Moses occurred about 1440 B.C. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived from 2000 B.C. to 1870 B.C. They were a long time dead when Yahweh said this to Moses. The Sadducees would have believed them to be extinct, no longer existing. But Yahweh said: "I am [right now, still] the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."

The resurrection is no small matter. It was, and is, one of the fundamental and foundational truths of the Bible. Yahweh is the God of the living. As Paul put it in 1 Corinthians, chapter 15, if there is no resurrection:

If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15:19 NASB

Believers, we have already been raised from death to life:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), Ephesians 2:4-5 NASB

We are spiritually alive! Someday we will all die physically, and when we do, we will simply move into the heavenly realm for unhindered, unending fellowship with our Lord, never to die again!

Alright, so we see from this passage that Yeshua affirms the fact of an afterlife. Now let's back up and look at:

"For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. Matthew 22:30 NASB

One thing that this verse tells us about the afterlife/heaven is that there will be NO MARRIAGE! What is the purpose of marriage? Companionship!

In Genesis at the close of each creative day, it says, "God saw what He had made, that it was good." But when Adam was made, it is explicitly recorded that:

Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." Genesis 2:18 NASB

The creative work lacked completeness until there was found for Adam a help mate, a companion. Not until this was done did Yahweh see the work of the last creative day also to be good. I believe that this tells us that Yahweh's primary provision in marriage is companionship. We were created for companionship, with all the sexual aspects that that relationship implies. But when the physical stops, marriage stops:

Look with me at Luke's account of this incident:

And Yeshua said to them, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; Luke 20:34-35 NASB

According to these verses in Luke, those who attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead don't marry. If this is true, then why do we marry? We are living in the "that age," and we have experienced the resurrection from the dead. We have been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life by the power of God. So does this statement about marriage apply to us? In the text, who is Yeshua talking about? The subject is physically dead people. The woman and her seven husbands had all died physically. This "no marriage" state will also apply to us when we physically die:

"For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. Matthew 22:30 NASB

As little as this verse tells us about the afterlife, it tells us more than any other verse that I am aware of. So what does it tell us about the afterlife?

Yeshua did not say that resurrected believers become angels, as some have mistakenly believed. He said, "When they (those who died under the Old Covenant age--this age) rise from the dead (which happened in A.D. 70), they don't marry, but are like angels in heaven. The word "like" is a comparative adverb, which draws a similar but not exact comparison. So in what way are believers in the afterlife/heaven like the angels? (1) We don't marry. After physical death there is no marriage. In heaven men become spiritual beings like the angels and are not affected by physical desires and requirements. Marriage is for now, but not for heaven.

(2) Luke's account also tells us that we cannot die:

for neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. Luke 20:36 NASB

Remember, in the context he is speaking of physically dead people that are spiritually alive. So the death that he speaks of is referring to any death--we cannot die physically or spiritually. Resurrection brings one to a state where he or she can never again experience death, which is to say that we can never be separated from Yahweh. This is true of us now, so the only thing for us to experience is physical death.

What else do we know about angels that will apply to us after physical death? They are incorporeal--they don't have bodies:

But to which of the angels has He ever said, "SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE THINE ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR THY FEET"? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:14 NASB

Angels are spirits, and spirits don't have bodies:

"See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." Luke 24:39 NASB

Since angels are spirits rather than physical beings, they don't have to be visible at all:

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. Colossians 1:16 NASB

"Invisible" here refers to the angelic principalities and powers. Do you remember back in 2 Kings where Elisha prayed that his servant would see the armies of angels surrounding the city?:

Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" So he answered, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." Then Elisha prayed and said, "O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." And the LORD opened the servant's eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:15-17 NASB

Yahweh opened his eyes to the invisible spiritual realm, and he saw the host of Yahweh.

In Mark 5 Yeshua is dealing with a demon possessed man, and He asks the demon, "What is your name?:

And He was asking him, "What is your name?" And he said to Him, "My name is Legion; for we are many." Mark 5:9 NASB

The demon said his name was Legion. A legion was 6000 men. Whether or not there were actually 6000 demons in this man, we don't know, but I'm sure it means that there were a whole lot of demons in this man. Now if these demons had bodies, they must have been very small to fit 6,000 in this man. Okay, I'm being sarcastic, but my point is these demons did not have bodies.

I see this text in Matthew as saying that in the afterlife/heaven we won't have bodies, we'll be spiritual beings like angels. This idea of not having a body bothers many of my brothers. But I really don't understand why.

Someone who wrote me said, "It seems impossible to me to conclude that the promise of eternal life given so often by Jesus means that we will not have some kind of individual body in heaven." I don't really understand that. Yeshua's promise was not for eternal physical life, it was for spiritual life. Angels are individuals and have no body, so why can't this be true of us?

Someone also worte to me, "You may have contradicted yourself. You said (1) we will not have bodies in heaven, and (b) we still sin in heaven. Those two statements I think are contradictory. We cannot sin if we do not have a body!"

I don't see this as a contradiction. There is no suggestion in the Tanakh that the body is in any way sinful or unclean. This is the very opposite to Greek understanding, which holds to a dualistic existence: spirit is pure and matter is evil. I think that much of the Church has been influenced by Greek ideas and thinks that the body is evil. This is not something a Hebrew would do.

When Paul speaks of the "body of sin," he is not writing with an individualistic Greek understanding of the spirit of a man being polluted by his sinful body, but of the solidarity of mankind with Adam--the unredeemed members of the human race form the "body of Sin." The picture is of a covenant community, which is outside of the Kingdom of God. Conceptually, he thinks in corporate terms.

Ed Stevens, in a podcast delivered on July 28, 2013, said, "Part of that individual identity is associated with our individual bodies. Without a bodily 'form' in the afterlife, that identity would be diminished." So Ed associates our individual identity with a body.

Let me ask you this: Does Yahweh have a body? John said:

"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:24 NASB

Yahweh is spirit, He has no body. Paul said of Yeshua:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Colossians 1:15 NASB

What this text is teaching is that Yeshua manifests the invisible God to us. God is invisible, no one can see God:

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. John 1:18 NASB

Yeshua expresses God to us. Yeshua is always the visible member of the trinity. Whether it be the shekinah glory cloud, or burning bush, or angel of the Lord--it is always the pre-incarnate Christ.

So Yahweh, our God, has no body, so why would we need to have one when dwelling with Him? So based upon these verses, I don't think that we get a spiritual body or any other kind of body at death. We are right now part of the corporate body of Christ.

The Preterist camp is divided on this (I know, big shock, right?) Preterists have come up with terms like, Corporate or Collective Body View (CBV), and Immortal Body at Death View (IBD). Of these two views there are many variations. To me the CBV means that we don't get a body at death, the body talked about in Scripture is the corporate Body of Christ. This is the view I hold. Now some CBV guys believe that we are in heaven now. I DO NOT believe this. As I have already said, Heaven is the afterlife. Some of the CBV guys seem to remove all individuality and imply that we are all absorbed into the Borg. I do not believe this either. I believe that the corporate body of Christ is made up of individuals, with personalities. Yahweh is a Spirit, but He is a person. Losing our bodies does not make us less human. I'll still be me, but with no body. I know that's hard to grasp.

The Immortal Body at Death View (IBD) believes that at death we receive a spiritual or immortal body. Some in this view, like Ed Stevens, believe that a physical rapture occurred at AD 70 taking the saints to heaven/afterlife. Ed thus believes that the "perfection" spoken of in 1 Corinthians 13:10, only happens once we get to heaven. Where I see the "perfection" as our position in Christ, but not our practice. The view that perfection is only in heaven says to me that we are lacking something now. But Scripture teaches otherwise:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, Ephesians 1:3 NASB

The "us" here is believers. We have been blessed with "every" spiritual blessing. If this is true, what do we lack?

Now someone is bound to ask, "Don't we get a resurrected body like Yeshua's resurrected body? Was Christ physically resurrected? YES! Absolutely, without a doubt. Since Christ's resurrection was physical, won't ours be? NO! Christ's physical resurrection was a SIGN to the apostles that he had done what He had promised. The resurrection of Yeshua's body verified for His disciples, the resurrection of His soul. David had prophesied:

For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. Psalms 16:10 NASB

Peter preached that David looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of Christ:

he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY. Acts 2:31 NASB

These verses speak of both spiritual death (the soul in hades) and physical death (decay of the flesh). Yeshua was resurrected from both. Unless Yeshua's body had been resurrected, His disciples would have had no assurance that His soul had been to Hades and had been resurrected. The physical resurrection of Christ was essential to verify the spiritual to which it was tied. While the physical resurrection of our bodies would have no point since we will not continue living on this planet, breathing earth's oxygen, and eating earth's food after we die physically.

When Yeshua was resurrected, was His body different, was it a glorified body? Many say that it was. But I propose that the body of Yeshua that came out of the tomb was the same body that went into the tomb. Now someone who knows their Bible may say, "Well Mark says that Yeshua's body was different after the resurrection:

When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it. After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking along on their way to the country. Mark 16:11-12 NASB

Because of verses like this many have assumed that Yeshua's resurrection body was different. But notice what Mark writes in:

Six days later, Yeshua took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; Mark 9:2 NASB

That word "transfigured" comes from a Greek word from which we get our English word "metamorphosis"--to be changed into something else. The Greek word is a compound word from "morphe" meaning: "form" and "meta," which implies: "change." Very simply, therefore, the underlying meaning of the word has to be: "to change form." Remember, this is before the resurrection.

Now you might also be thinking, "Well, Yeshua walked through walls after His resurrection":

So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Yeshua came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." John 20:19 NASB

Notice that the text does not say He "walked through walls." It simply says He appeared in their midst. Well, doesn't that imply a different body? No, look at:

And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way. Luke 4:28-30 NASB

The crowd has Yeshua cornered on a cliff! And He "passes through their midst." How did He do that? And He did things like this before He was raised from the dead.

Notice what Luke writes of Yeshua after His resurrection:

And He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? "See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." Luke 24:38-39 NASB

Obviously, the scars from the Cross were visible, and Yeshua said He was flesh and bone, not a Spirit:

And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them. Luke 24:40-43 NASB

Here we see Yeshua eating. Will glorified bodies be hungry, have a digestive process? It sounds to me like a regular human body:

Then He said to Thomas, "Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing." Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" John 20:27-28 NASB

Here again we see that Yeshua had the same nail holes in His hands and feet and the same spear hole in His side, just like He did before His resurrection. Haven't we all heard that our glorified bodies will be perfect? Yeshua's wasn't, because it wasn't a glorified body; it was His SAME body. We could say that Yeshua's physical resurrection looked nothing different from Lazarus' physical resurrection.

When the Bible says that Yeshua was the firstborn from the dead, it is talking about spiritual life, not physical life:

and from Yeshua the Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood-- Revelation 1:5 NASB

There were many physical resurrections before Christ, but no spiritual resurrections before Christ.

We'll look at this corporate body verses individual body more next week. Let me leave you with this as we close. Whether we will be able to sin in heaven, whether we will have bodies of some kind or not in heaven, really bears no influence on how we live now. We are to live holy lives now, loving one another. I don't see it as honoring to Yahweh when we are fighting over what will happen in the afterlife. What you or I think about the afterlife will in no way alter the truth of what is. It is no big deal to me if we get a "spiritual body" or not, I could care less, I'll be with my Savior; that is all that matters to me.

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