Questions From Readers
● Do Jesus’ words at Luke 20:34-36 apply to the earthly resurrection or to the heavenly resurrection of the 144,000?—W. D., Australia.
We frequently receive inquiries on these Lu 20 verses 34-36, which read: “The children of this system of things marry and are given in marriage, but those who have been counted worthy of gaining that system of things and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. In fact, neither can they die any more, for they are like the angels, and they are God’s children by being children of the resurrection.”
It is understandable that Christians might be concerned about marriage prospects in the resurrection, since the strongest human emotional ties are often with regard to one’s mate. Many faithful servants of God who look forward to living forever on earth and whose mates have died would like to have support for their hope that they could be reunited as husband and wife in the resurrection. While not being callous to their sincere feelings, we must admit that apparently Jesus’ words apply to the earthly resurrection, and they indicate that those resurrected will not marry or be reunited in a marriage relationship with former mates.
In order to appreciate why this position is held, it would be beneficial to consider the setting of Jesus’ words. Matthew 22:23-33 could be read with profit. In an attempt to outwit Jesus the Sadducees posed a problem: A Jewish Woman lost her husband before producing any children. In accord with the law of brother-in-law marriage given at Deuteronomy 25:5-10, she married her deceased husband’s brother and progressed through seven brothers without producing children, each of the husbands dying. The Sadducees asked whose wife she would be in the resurrection.—Luke 20:28-33.
The Jews had knowledge and hope of an earthly resurrection, even though these opposing Sadducees did not accept the resurrection hope plainly set out in the Hebrew Scriptures. (Isa. 25:8; Job 14:13; Dan. 12:13) In his reply Jesus did not avoid answering their question by speaking about the resurrection to heavenly life. They had presented a problem involving Jews under the Mosaic law who died before Jesus opened the way to heavenly life, and Christ logically replied on this basis: “In the resurrection neither do men marry nor are women given in marriage, but are as angels in heaven.”—Matt. 22:30.
Further showing that Jesus had in mind an earthly resurrection, as recorded at Matthew 22:31, 32 and Luke 20:37, 38, he referred to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and proved by the information that Moses was given at the burning bush that these patriarchs would be resurrected from the dead. Well, what Scriptural hope is there for these men? They will have an earthly resurrection, having died before Jesus opened the way to heavenly life or held out that hope for a small number of mankind. (Matt. 11:11; Acts 2:34; Heb. 10:19, 20) So the entire discussion here is about an earthly resurrection and not about a resurrection that results in life in heaven with the angels there.
This has long been understood and taught by Jehovah’s witnesses. As far back as The Watchtower of November 15, 1904, page 345, we read in a discussion of these Lu 20 verses 34-36: “True the glorified Church will not marry, but there is no reference here to the Church class, the Bride class. The question did not refer to saints, but to any ordinary Jews under the Law. . . . Nothing in the illustration implied that either the woman or any of her husbands were followers of the Lord.”
How, then, will those raised to earthly life be like the angels? The angels in heaven do not marry and procreate, producing angelic offspring. Yet they can enjoy satisfying association with myriads of other spirit creatures serving God. Similarly, those who in this present wicked system of things prove themselves worthy of gaining a resurrection in the new order or the coming system of things will not marry and produce offspring. (2 Cor. 4:4; Mark 10:30) Immediately upon resurrection they become “God’s children by being children of the resurrection.” Their heavenly “Father,” the one giving them life by resurrecting them, has determined that they will not marry, though they will be in position to receive many other blessings at his hand, not the least of which will be the privilege of close and warm association with other earthly servants of God.
Additionally, the ones who are resurrected to earthly life and who prove their integrity to God through the millennium and the final test to follow will be recognized by God as being righteous and so will be given everlasting life. (Rev. 20:5, 7-10) When once Jehovah has declared them righteous by recognizing their human perfection and righteousness, no other person in heaven or on earth can destroy them without God’s permission and according to his will. (Rom. 8:33) The angels are mortal, as proved by the fact that Satan and the demons will be destroyed. (Matt. 25:41) Despite their mortality the faithful angels live on forever. Those resurrected to earthly life who are declared righteous by God will live and be blessed by Jehovah forever even though they are mortal like the angels.
So while it is true that the 144,000 raised to heavenly life will not marry, evidently Jesus, in making the comments at Luke 20:34-36, was not speaking about this small fraction of those to be resurrected. But, rather, in accord with the question posed, he was speaking about the earthly resurrection and what will be the situation for the thousands of millions raised from the dead to earthly life.
As indicated by correspondence we have received, this conclusion is one difficult for some to accept because of the strong influence of human emotions. While we can sincerely sympathize with those who have lost mates in death, we must honestly admit that the conclusion discussed above is the one suggested in the Scriptures. Since this is all God’s Word says about it, when asked what the Bible indicates on this topic, we can but explain matters in this way.
If, though, this Scriptural conclusion seems hard for one to accept, is it wise to become upset over the matter and let this question interfere with one’s faith? No, it would be far better to leave the matter in God’s hands. Jehovah is a God of loving-kindness, understanding and mercy. (Ex. 34:6; Job 12:13; Isa. 60:10) He will not act unjustly toward those who have his favor. As Elihu said to Job, “for a fact, God himself does not act wickedly, and the Almighty himself does not pervert judgment.” (Job 34:12) While humans might now think they will have certain needs and desires, we personally have never lived under the perfect conditions God has in store for mankind. He knows what perfect humans need, and we can be certain he will provide for all the needs of his “children of the resurrection,” as well as the Armageddon survivors. We can rest assured that the inspired words at Psalm 145:16 will prove true then: “You are opening your hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing.” What God has promised for those Who love him and serve him faithfully, everlasting life in peace, health, happiness and contentment, will be the possession of all who have his approval in the new order. What a joy it will be to fellowship with friends and relatives united by the bonds of Christian love and the service of Jehovah. That will truly be a rich and satisfying life!
The Bible does not provide all the details about the resurrection and how things such as family matters and child training will be arranged on the earth in the new system of things. We can be certain, though, that Jehovah is going to do what is loving and absolutely just. In fact, he is going to do what is perfect and right to a degree that our imperfect minds cannot even conceive. Thus we can in faith rely on Moses’ words at Deuteronomy 32:4: “The Rock, perfect is his activity, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice; righteous and upright is he.”