The Servant King Speaks on the Life to Come – Mark 12:18-27
I am sure at some point we all have thought about Heaven. Yes, on the one hand, we may have shrugged our shoulders and said with Mercyme that we can only imagine what it would be like. Maybe you tried to read Revelation and freaked out when immediately in Rev. 1 Jesus is pictured as having eyes like flames of fire and a sword coming out of His mouth. Not very comforting right? Or maybe you thought of Heaven like how Mark Twain portrayed it in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. There is a lady named Miss Watson who tells Huckleberry what Heaven is like. According to Huck:
She went on and told me all about the good place. She said all a body would have to do there was to go around all day long with a harp and sing, forever and ever. So I didn’t think much of it….
This is pretty much Hollywood’s view of Heaven as well (which looks like hell to me) with clouds, harps and endless worship sessions where someone’s preaching to you. Let’s be honest. Yes we love to sing worship songs but not to sound like you are an unbeliever, but you may have wondered, is that all we’ll be doing?
I am sure we have had other questions about Heaven, especially in terms of relationships. If you are married, have you ever wondered if you will stay married in Heaven? Or will you even recognize people there? Am I going to be walking around Heaven and if I run into Jenny, will I be like, “Hi, do I know you from somewhere?” We may read passages like our text, “there is no marriage in Heaven” and if you are single you might be like, “Oh no. I better find someone fast!” Or if you are in a tough marriage you might be like, “Oh yes! Thank God! No marriage in Heaven.” And the most important question: Is there sex in Heaven? Hey, don’t pretend you never thought about that! Everyone’s avoiding eye contact with me right now even though secretly I know you want to know. Why is any of this important for us now? We’ll find out when we get there right? Well, if that is what we think of Heaven, guess what? That will inform our life now. If we are not excited about the destination where we’re headed, it will affect our journey now.
Randy Alcorn in his book Heaven (everyone needs to read this excellent work) says, “Satan need not convince us that Heaven doesn’t exist. He need only convince us that Heaven is a place of boring, unearthly existence. If we believe that lie, we’ll be robbed of our joy and anticipation, we’ll set our minds on this life and not the next, and we won’t be motivated to share our faith. Why should we share the “good news” that people can spend eternity in a boring, ghostly place that even we’re not looking forward to?” Wouldn’t I try to enjoy this world as much as I can instead? And Jesus would say to us today, “You know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.”
We won’t be answering a lot about Heaven today, but in our passage, Jesus is asked about Heaven. He doesn’t tell us all we would want to know, but I think He does give us all that we need to know. We’ll do it like we’ve been doing it, which is to go over the story and then to glean some truths for our lives. The title of the message is “The Servant King Speaks on the Life to Come.” First:
- The Story
The story is somewhat simple, though we may be confused since we don’t live in their day. The Sadducees come to question Jesus. This is the only encounter we have in Mark of Jesus with the Sadducees. There were many religious groups in Israel, but the two major ones were the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Both of these groups may have arisen probably 200 years or so before Christ. We might think the Pharisees and Sadducees are all the same, but they were not. They were very different, though we can’t always keep them straight in our head. Here are some major differences:
|Divine Sovereignty||Free will|
|Angels and Demons Exist||Nothing supernatural except God|
|OT + traditions||Torah only (1st 5 books of OT)|
|Resurrection of the dead, judgment, rewards and punishment||Annihilationists (dead and gone forever)—which is why they’re sad, you see (get it?)|
Though much less in number to the Pharisees, the Sadducees were nevertheless wealthy and educated. They inherited the priesthood, so they ran the Temple. Both groups hated each other, but they hated Jesus more, so Jesus brought them together.
Look what happens. They come to Jesus with a ridiculous, hypothetical situation. Before we look at it, we must remember that in that day, there was an institution called levirate marriage (pronounced “lever-it”, which is Latin for husband’s brother). It was a merciful provision in the Law of Moses and we can find in Deut. 25:5-6. Basically if a woman got married and before they have any children her husband had died, she would be in a terrible situation. 
It was a male-dominated agricultural culture, so she could not just go and get a job. With no children to take care of her and no one wanting to marry someone who was already married once, she could potentially die or be in extreme poverty. So this law was a merciful law to protect widows that said that the single brother of the deceased (or, if none, his nearest male relative—like the story of Ruth) should marry the widow. This was to prevent extinction of a family line and thereby kept the family inheritance intact.
So here is the situation. A man marries a woman, and he dies. He has six brothers who can fulfill the levirate obligation. She married each one, and tragically all seven died without bearing a child. This bizarre story sounds like something from 20/20 or Dateline. She sounds like a black widow. Husbands keep dying on her and she keeps living? Thankfully she dies in v.22. Thankfully there was not another brother because if this lady died, he must have been so relieved! Assuming monogamy (which they would have), to whom then will she be married in the world to come? 
Pastor John Macarthur says, “They were drawing their theology of the resurrection from the Pharisees…And the Pharisees would have affirmed that you would be married in heaven as you were married on earth. The Pharisees said the next life is going to be exactly like this life. The Pharisees said that relationships are forever and permanent. Some actually…believed that in the next life, people would not only be married but they would have children.”
So the Sadducees thought this was kind of funny. And since Jesus already talked about his own resurrection, they figure He’s more of a Pharisee. The Sadducees think Jesus is more of a Pharisee and the Pharisees think Jesus is more of a Sadducee. He doesn’t fit in any category we make up!
Anyway, He points out they are in error in two ways. They are ignorant of the Scriptures and they are ignorant of God’s power. This is pretty audacious of Jesus. This is going up to someone on Wall Street and telling him that he knows nothing about finance or going up to Michael Jordan saying he doesn’t understand basketball. They specialized in Scripture and they had the power in the Temple, inheriting the priesthood.  So He basically says the whole setup of your faith is wrong. It’s not minor issues you got wrong, but major.
Verse 25 shows us why they didn’t understand the power of God and then verses 26-27 shows us how they didn’t understand the Scriptures. We’ll unpack them as we go over the lessons here. First of all,
- The Lessons
- a) Know the Word of God
Look where Jesus goes when this scenario comes out of their mouths. They don’t know God’s Word. In recent studies, Americans seem to love their Bibles, so much so they never open it and leave it in pristine condition. There are more Study Bibles out there than ever before, but it seems like we are moving towards a more and more biblically illiterate nation. We know more sports stats and movie lines than verses on that declare Jesus is God. It is sad that the only time I was memorizing Scripture was when I have to teach my kids for AWANA.
Why is Biblical literacy important? Because if the Word of God is not shaping us, then something else will be shaping us. Media will shape us. Our experiences, our past, our culture, etc. has and will continue to shape us. Then we don’t know what God says about anything we are going through and make decisions based on our feelings or what the world says. Let me give you an example.
Recently there seems to have been a resurgence of interest in talking about the after-life. Leading the trend is the book-now-turned-movie Heaven is for Real written by Pastor Todd Burpo, about his then four-year-old-son who awakens from surgery and claims to have had a near-death experience and visited Heaven. These depictions of journeys to Heaven have seemed to have picked up. There’s also “90 Minutes in Heaven,” “To Heaven and Back,” “Proof of Heaven,” and “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven,” just to name a few.
Blogger and pastor Tim Challies calls this genre “Heaven tourism.” Millions of copies are sold and evangelicals devouring them. I am not here to assassinate anyone’s character or discount anyone’s experiences or even say God doesn’t use this stuff for His purposes and I’m sorry if these are your favorite books of all time, but they make me skeptical simply because the feel-good fuzzy accounts are so different from the accounts of people’s experience in Scripture. But no one knows the Scripture to talk about it. Our hope becomes more in a doctor or toddler, instead of in the living Christ and His living Word. There is already a book that tells us that Heaven is for real! These accounts must be scrutinized under the lens of Scripture, even if a cute four year old says it. So I go there as my final authority. The prophet Daniel, for instance, can stare down lions, but when Heaven opens, he‘s fainting (Dan. 10). Ezekiel, absolutely overwhelmed as well, falls face down (Eze. 1:28). Isaiah, when He sees the Lord “high and lifted up” loses it and says, “I am ruined” (Is. 6:5).
Well, that’s the Old Testament right? Well, New Testament guys don’t do better. The disciples are terrified at the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:6). John in Rev. 1 falls at Jesus’ feet as though dead when he sees Jesus. This is a far cry from chubby babies with cute wings or Morgan Freeman’s voice.
Please hear me. Is Heaven a place where there is ultimate comfort, inexpressible joy and tears wiped away? Absolutely. We’ll even talk about that today. But it is also a place where God’s unbridled supreme majesty reigns supreme, and that is often missing in these stories.
In a CNN piece, author Drew Dyck says it well:
Did a 4-year-old boy from Nebraska really visit heaven? I don’t know. My hunch is that the popularity of such stories tells us more about our view of God than the place in which he dwells. Ultimately I believe we flock to gauzy, feel-good depictions of heaven and tiptoe around the biblical passages …because we’ve lost sight of God’s holiness. I fear we’ve sentimentalized heaven and by extension its primary occupant. I worry the modern understanding of God owes more to Colton Burpo than the prophet Isaiah. And I think this one-sided portrayal diminishes our experience of God. We can’t truly appreciate God’s grace until we glimpse his greatness. We won’t be lifted by his love until we’re humbled by his holiness.
John Stott says, “God has clothed His thoughts in words, and there is no way to know Him except by knowing the Scriptures. … We can’t even read each other’s minds, much less what is in the mind of God.” This leads us secondly that we should:
- b) Know the God of the Word
Notice Jesus doesn’t just say, “You need to study Scripture, that’s it.” They didn’t know God’s Word intellectually or know God’s power either, experientially. When we are in the Word of God, the purpose is not for us to collect information, but to meet the God of the Word for transformation.
The late Chicago pastor, A.W. Tozer once said that the devil knows theology better than all of us but is a devil still. Jesus warns that it is not simply knowing the Scriptures, but experiencing the power of God that one experiences from the God of the Word that the Scriptures point to. Bible Study can send you to hell if it does not lead you into a relationship with Jesus Christ. You study the Word to get to know God better, not for trivia or to improve your life.
Look at the text. He points them to Exodus 3 because He wants to show them a chapter that they definitely read (since they only give value to the first five books of the OT). Look at the language there: “I AM the God of Abraham…” Not I WAS. I AM. He speaks of them in the present tense. How can He say that if they’re gone forever? He speaks of His covenant relationship with them in the present tense even though they’ve been dead for centuries when He says these words. It’s a covenant relationship.
Notice how personal He is. If I said, “Abbie is doing well in school.” You might assume I am talking about my daughter, but we also have two other Abbies here, so it might not be that clear. But if I say, “My Abbie,” then you know whom I’m talking about. I’m allowed to use personal possessive pronouns since Abbie is mine. These guys are all worried about marriage in the afterlife, but God says, “My book is a love letter that shows how much I want such a personal and intimate relationship with you. And when you enter into that covenant relationship with me, my love to you is so deep and so real that IT WILL NEVER GO INTO THE PAST TENSE.” He never says, “I used to love you when you first got saved.” I am your God now. You are mine now. And I don’t just love a future version of you. I love you now.
Listen, God has zero regrets in saving you. He love is in the present tense. Right now. This also means the same for us. Love the spouse YOU HAVE not the spouse YOU WANT. Love the kids YOU HAVE, not the kids YOU WANT. Love the small group YOU HAVE right now in the present, not the small group YOU WANT. Love the church YOU HAVE Robin, not the church YOU WANT.
When you love someone … really love someone, whether it’s a baby or a child or a friend or a lover or a spouse … the greatest horror you can have is for the relationship to go into a past tense. There is nobody in the world who wants to ever have to say, “I had a son.” We want to say, “I have a son.” You never want to say, “I had a son.” You never want to say, “I had a spouse.” You never want to say, “I had a friend,” because when you love someone, you don’t want that relationship to ever go in the past tense. You don’t want anything to come between you. Would God’s love be less than ours? Would God’s love be less intense, God’s love be thinner somehow? If you can’t bear to have your relationships go into the past tense, how could God?
By the way, look at these guys that God identifies with? Abraham? The guy who hooked up with a girlfriend when his wife couldn’t get pregnant? Isaac? Whose favoritism poisoned the whole family? Jacob? Where do I start with that guy? We have a God who enters into such a deep covenant relationship through Christ WHO IS SO AMAZINGLY GRACIOUS AND INCREDIBLY LOVING THAT HE IS NOT EMBARASSED TO INTRODUCE HIMSELF AS OUR GOD. Despite our ignorance of His Word, despite our laziness in reading it, despite our lack of zeal and love, our slowness to repent and change, He never lets it go into the past tense. If God loves me at least as much as I love other human beings, then he does not want this to ever stop. He does not want this to ever get in the past tense. God will never let this go.
- c) Await His promises for our future
Back in verse 25, Jesus says, “They neither marry nor are given in marriage,” meaning in resurrection-life people will neither marry (contract a marriage) nor be given in marriage (have a marriage arranged by parents). It’s a whole new dimension with new categories, like the angels in Heaven. Does that excite you? I kind of feel like…remember junior high? And the girl you liked came over and finally said, “We can still be friends though.” Maybe that just happened to me. It’s like a letdown. We’ll all just be friends?
But Jesus prefaced it by saying, “You don’t know the power of God.” In other words, you have no idea of the magnitude of the life I have prepared for you. That means when He says there’s going to be no marriage in the resurrection, He can’t mean the future state will have less intense love than we have now. No way. He is telling us we don’t know the power of God. Before Jesus ascended He said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). He said that 2,000 years ago. He’s been working on it for 2,000 years…how amazing must it be? Await His promises!
The greatest marriage that ever happened on this earth, the greatest sex life, the greatest oneness, the greatest joy will feel like a dewdrop compared to the atomic bomb of what God has prepared for us. At His right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). No procreation will be necessary and all earthly joy is absorbed into a complete joy. He will answer prayers better than we would have even have known to ask.
When our kids were in utero, we would read Scripture to them, pray with them, talk to them. We would say things like, “We can’t wait to see you! We got these toys for you…We got these clothes for you.” Nothing we said really means anything to the baby really because the baby is not in a place to grasp it. At most, the child gets used to the sound of our voices. Before birth the child is totally surrounded in what is a safe and warm environment and gets all of his life from his mother. But she does not see her mother. When birth comes, it must be quite a shock to the child. The baby leaves the safe and warm confines of the mother’s womb and enters a harsh, bright, cold world. But only after birth is the child able to see its mother and be held and kissed. In life on this earth we are totally surrounded by God, who sustains our lives. But God remains invisible to us. When death comes to each of us, it may be a shock to the system, but then we will see the God who gave us life, nourished us, and gives us life again (1 John 3:2). Death is just birth to the believer. Right now it’s a womb. Wait for His promises!
I think one of the most repeated words in Heaven you will hear is “Wow.” It will be a shock to our system. Listen, there is still continuity—your individuality will be preserved—Abraham is still Abraham. Isaac is still Isaac and Jacob still Jacob. Paul says it’s like a seed growing into a plant. I don’t think any of them are neutered, sexless or some disembodied spirit. One day these guys and all believers will receive a new resurrected imperishable body (1 Cor. 15:42).
The Bible calls the future world, “the New Heavens and the New Earth.” Heaven actually comes down to Earth (Rev. 21:1). If Adam and Eve, pre-sin, were given a garden, rivers and mountains and trees to enjoy and if God gave those things for them to enjoy (notice God doesn’t tell Adam to just sit in front of him and sing Hillsongs to Him), why would God then give His only Son to die to purchase a people for Himself all to prepare a world for us full of clouds and harps? No, it will be the world we have always wanted complete with mountains, rivers, hills and valleys and everything we love about this world that is enslaved now, but will will be set free. We will have the relationships we have always wanted. Why all of this? Because He is in a covenant relationship with us. His Word and promises are true. Let’s wait for them!
Actually do you know why there are no marriages in the resurrection? Because everyone there is already married. At the resurrection, every believer will have already had a spouse. No more single people. No more widowed people. No more divorced people. He is our Bridegroom. No one is going to miss out. If you are single all of your life in this life, it will be ok. You are not missing out. If you are in a bad marriage now, we pray God moves in that marriage now, but you won’t have regrets that you missed out on a good marriage when you die. You won’t miss out. If you are in a good marriage, praise God, but you ain’t seen nothing yet either!
Recently I read the young adult book (now a movie as well) The Fault in our Stars by John Green. It’s about teenagers, cancer and hopelessness. It’s pretty sad. The main character, Hazel, has cancer and falls in love with a guy, Gus, who also has cancer. Hazel views life this way: “There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever.” She calls it the “inevitability of oblivion.” The Sadducees would love this book!
But she faces a problem. Gus says, “Maybe all of that stuff is true, but I am in love with you.” She says to him, “You gave me a forever among my numbered days.” You see, deep inside everyone, no matter what they believe about the after life is a longing for love that will last. For Hazel, saying that means nothing if she believes we all die and enter nothingness.
If only she knew the One who can truly say to those who believe in Him, “I will give you a forever among your numbered days.” There is One who at infinite cost to Himself, losing His world of love so we could gain it, for the fault within ourselves, dying to make us His own bride forever, who refuses to address us in past tense, who keeps loving us even at our worst covenanting to bring us into His world of love. If you have never given your life to Christ, why refuse this kind of love? If you have given your life to Christ, why refuse this kind of love right now? Come to Him!
An old saint once said, “The first moment in the arms of Jesus is going to make a thousand years of misery on Earth look like one night in a bad hotel.” As Keller says, “This is the love you have been looking for all of your life. This is the only love that can’t let you down. This is bombproof love. Not friend-love, not personal acclaim, not married love, and not even romantic love – it is this love that you are after, underneath all your pursuit of those others.” Come Lord Jesus!
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Edwards, J. R. (p. 365).
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Akin, Daniel L. (2014-06-01). Exalting Jesus in Mark (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) (p. 281). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Macarthur, J. (2011, February 27). Biblical Ignorance in High Places. Retrieved November 13, 2014, from http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/41-62/biblical-ignorance-in-high-places.
Edwards, J. R. (p. 367).
Dyck, D. (2014, April 21). What Hollywood gets wrong about heaven. Retrieved
November 12, 2014, from http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2014/04/21/heaven-is-scary-for-real/.
Quoted in http://www.baptist2baptist.net/b2barticle.asp?ID=54 Retrieved November 13, 2014.
Tozer, A. W. (2012). The Dangers of a Shallow Faith: Awakening from Spiritual Lethargy. (J. L. Snyder, Ed.) (p. 23). Ventura, CA: Regal.
Keller, T. J. (2013). The sermon, “Arguing about the Afterlife,” Preached July 1, 2001. The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
Grassmick, J. D. et al. (p.163).
Keller, T. Ibid.
Garland, D. E. (1996). Mark (p. 472). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
Green, J. (2012). The Fault in Our Stars. New York, NY: Dutton.
Keller, T. Sermon. Ibid.