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Matthew 22:23-33 / Luke 20:27-39
By Michael J. Sullivan
Copyright 2008

Some have tried (unsuccessfully) to refute Preterism, with an appeal to the debate over the resurrection between the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Jesus in Mt.22/Lk.20. It is assumed with no exegetical support, that Jesus sided with the “normative Judaism” of the Pharisees in their view of a physical resurrection. It is also argued unsuccessfully from futurists that Preterists can’t say that we are currently in the resurrection or “age to come” because we marry and are given in marriage today.   

In this article I will refute the above futuristic arguments and provide several affirmative observations and arguments of my own that need to be considered when looking at this crucial passage.  

1) Is there going to be polyandry in the resurrection, age to come, or new creation if the Mosaic law continues? 

The Sadducees posed a question to the Pharisees and then to Jesus – as to applicability of the Mosaic law (in this case the Leverite marriage law of Deut.25) in the resurrection and thus in the new creation. They were accustomed to have the Pharisees tell them that even the Torah taught a resurrection of the dead[1] but they still needed to harmonize their views of the new creation and the resurrection with their understanding of the Torah abiding in the new creation. And I believe this is the challenge presented to the Pharisees and Jesus. The Sadducees “argument” worked very well with the Pharisees carnal views of the resurrection and the laws applicability at that time. Since most of the Pharisees understood the new heavens and earth in (Isa.65) the same way futurists do – climaxing with a biological resurrection and then being in a new creation wherein CHILDREN are being produced; the futurist is placed in the same dilemma the Pharisees were in. It wasn’t just the belief that the Pharisees had in a biological resurrection (that the Sadducees denied) that caused much heckling from the Sadducees, but it was also the inconsistency of the Pharisees application of the Mosaic law during this time that had the Pharisees over a barrel. The Sadducees wanted to know how the OC Levirate law would be applied in physical relationships in the resurrection in the New Jerusalem and New Creation. In other words if the Leverite law was still in effect (a man had to marry his brothers wife if he died without children) and after all parties were raised biologically, “whose wife would she be for they all had her?” Since there is child birth going on in the resurrection and new creation (Isa.65) then is this woman going to be sleeping with all 7 men or to whom will she be married in order to keep producing children in the resurrection?!? Sam Frost in my opinion has come the closest in pointing out the logical and exegetical trap that was posed to the Pharisees and Jesus by the Sadducees: 


“It is possible that the Sadducees posed this question to the Pharisees before. This one was one of their favorites. The Pharisee would have two choices: endorse polygamy or the law has no application in the ‘age to come.” And “Here is the force of the question: Does Moses’ law apply in the resurrection? If so, how can it in this case? Since it cannot in this case, the resurrection is absurd, for it is better to serve the law, than to believe in something that counters the law. In Mark’s gospel, however, Jesus is no stranger to countering a false understanding of Moses’ law, and that is exactly one of the implications of his answer that Mark has in mind.”[2] 


The modification here is that the Pharisees view of a physical resurrection and the use of the law during that time forced them to believe in polyandry (a woman who has more than one husband) not polygamy (a man having more than one wife). The law did not forbid polygamy so there would not be a logical trap here for the Pharisees to fall into if they saw the Mosaic law continuing into the resurrection. 

Therefore, the issue here is not polygamy and the law (even though that was debated among the Jews), but rather a situation under the law’s continuance into the time of the resurrection that would contradict the law – polyandry. This was a practice that ALL Jews and Pharisees rejected as not lawful under Torah.  

This “argument” worked with the Pharisees so now it was time to try it on Jesus. Jesus and Paul taught that there would be two groups affected at the second coming – those who had physically died and would be raised out of Hades, and those who were alive and would be changed and gathered into the NC Kingdom.  

For futurists to say my view isn’t true or consistent because I have been married all the while claiming I’m in “the resurrection” age – is hardly an argument. Jesus taught that in the resurrection those who had died and believed in Him (Jn.11:25) would be raised to never die and no doubt be like the angels. And the same principal would apply for those being physically alive transitioning from the OC age to the NC age post AD 70 – because after believing and being raised (Jn.11:26; Jn.8:51; Jn.10:27-28) – they too would “never die” and there would neither be male nor female under the NC (Gals.3:28). Upon belief in Christ is the futurist going to deny that in his “this age” he will “never die” or that they are no longer a biological male or female?    

2) Producing children In “this age” and “the age about to come” – exposing futurist assumptions and contradictions!  

Jesus said that the sons of “this age” married and were given in marriage (Lk.20:34) in the context of the question concerning the applicability of the OC Levirate marriage law that had to do with land inheritance rights under the Old Covenant. Think about it for a minute – in what “this age” would this OC Levirate marriage law apply in the immediate and historical context of the passage – the Christian NC “this age” or the OC “this age”? Were Jesus, the Pharisees, and Sadducees living in the “this age” in which this law was being practiced or were they living in the “this age” of the NC Christian Church age that hadn’t even begun yet?!? We love it when futurists want to discuss this text with us.  

Jesus and John the Baptist taught an “at hand” kingdom, an “about to be” coming wrath and judgment, and thus an imminent harvest/resurrection would occur at the end of the OC “this age” in AD 70 (Mt.3:2, 7, 10-12; Mt.13:40). This of course being consistent with Jesus’ teaching that when the Temple or “power of the holy people” would be completely shattered and experience abominations and desolation in His generation, is when the prophecy of Daniel’s last things would be fulfilled (Mt.13:40-43/Dan.12:2; Mt.24:15, 34/Dan.9:27/Dan.12:7).  

Then there is the issue of the Greek word mello being used to communicate the imminent nature of the coming resurrection or “age about to com” as developed by Jesus in:

“And whoever shall speak against the Son of Man may obtain forgiveness; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, neither in this nor in the coming (Greek mello – “about to be” or “on the point of”) age shall he obtain forgiveness.” (Matthew 12:32 WEY)

A better translation would read, “…nor in the age about to come.” Christ lived on earth and the Apostles wrote their epistles while living in the old covenant mosaic age which was in the process of “passing away” (Hebs. 8:13, 2 Cor. 3:11) while anticipating the arrival of the “age to come” which corresponds to the Christian new covenant or Messianic age. All Christ is saying here is that whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit in the old or new covenant age, he shall not obtain forgiveness. If the “age to come” is referring to the bliss of heaven and the afterlife, are Christians are in heaven going to be able to speak against the Holy Spirit in that age? Will Christians have the ability to blaspheme God in heaven? If that is the case, wouldn’t we be better off down here For “he who is born of God cannot sin, nor will he, for His seed remains in him.” (1 Jn. 3:9)? No, this is speaking of the Christian age where the everlasting gospel is still being preached and thus the speaking against the Holy Spirit is a possibility. Again, Jesus does not share completely in the views of the Pharisees or Creedalists regarding the “age to come.” After the resurrection in The New Heavens and Earth there would be physical death, sinners, work, and even evangelism (Isa.65-66). The resurrection in the “age to come” was an event that Jesus taught elsewhere was “about to” take place – and not an event 2000+ years away. Does the rest of Scripture support this? And what do futurist theologians say of the Greek word mello? My favorite quote on this subject can be found from the writings of R.C. Sproul and Kenneth Gentry. I will quote this so that the reader can see the arbitrary hermeneutics employed by these men in order to appease their fear of men. Also I will quote this section as it has to do with the resurrection and the revealing of the sons of God in (Rms.8) where mello is used and completely ignored by these men. Here is a section taken from my book, Gospel Eschatology: A Better Resurrection,

“Let me give the reader another example of how futurists violate their own hermeneutics when it comes to the “at hand” kingdom “end of the age” harvest/resurrection that John and Jesus preached was coming and would occur at the end of their “this age.” R.C. Sproul agrees with futurist Kenneth Gentry about the traid of imminent statements in Revelation refering to a soon coming of Christ in A.D. 70. They are as follows according to these men: 

1) taxos word group – “shortly” or “quickly” (Rev.1:1; 2:16; 3:11; 22:6, 7, 12, 20).            

2) engus word group – “near” or “at hand” (Rev.1:3; 22:10). 

3) mello word group – “about to” or “on the point of” (Rev.1:19; 3:10).

Sproul summarizes Gentry’s case on these time frame references as clearly A.D.70 events and states:

“Gentry argues that commentators would render the term differently from the lexiographical consensus only if influenced by an interpretive controlling a priori.”[3] 

Our point of interest here is the third word group listed above – mello “about to” or “on the point of.” Sproul quoting Gentry says of this word,

“Certainly it is true that the verb mello can indicate simply ‘destined,’ or it can be emplyed in a weakened sense as a periphrasis for the futre tense,” Gentry says. “Nevertheless, when used with the aorist infinitive –as in Revelation 1:19—the words predominant usage and preferred meaning is: ‘be on the point of, be about to.’ The same is true when the word is used with the present infinitive, as in Rev.3:10. The basic meaning in both Thayer and Abbott-Smith is: ‘to be about to.”[4]  

Well, just as Sproul and Gentry accuse other futurists as having a priori reasons for not taking the time texts throughout Revelations to be speaking to A.D.70 events, they likewise bring their creedal presuppositions to the book and pick and choose what texts they want to be A.D.70 events and which ones are allegedly 2000+ years removed. Nowhere does John say that “some or most of the things I am writing to you will shortly come to pass,” he states, “I am writing to you about things which must shortly come to pass” (Rev.1:1). It is only the judgment associated with the resurrection that apparently the time texts throughout the book does not address! And when the same Greek construction that renders mello to have the “predominant usage” and “basic meaning” of “be on the point of, be about to” in the book of Acts concerning the resurrection preached by Paul — we don’t find any comment from Gentry, Sproul, or any partial preterist futurist on these texts: 

1) ”because He has appointed a day on which He mello is about to judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)

2) ”I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there (Greek mello)is about to be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Acts.24:15)    

You don’t think that they themselves have any “a priori” creedal biases on the resurrection that cause them to contradict their previous statements about mello or that cause them to flat out avoid these passages do you?!? This is a classic case of taking the eisegetical plank out of your eye first before seeking to take it out of other eschatological views! Clearly the “kind” of resurrection/harvest associated with the kingdom and judgment John the Baptist was preaching to be “at hand” in (Mt.3:3, 10-12) and Jesus discussed to take place in his “this age” (Mt.13:40) is what Paul under inspiration understood to be “on the point of being fulfilled” in his day! Clearly when we don’t approach the Scripture with futuristic (no matter what brand it is packaged in – even partial “preterism”) “a priori” presuppostions, Scripture interprets itself. Paul in Romans likewise taught an imminent “redemption of the body” and thus a “glory about to be revealed”

“For I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory about to be revealed in us;” (Rms.8:18 YLT) 

“Why, what we now suffer I count as nothing in comparison with the glory which is soon to be manifested in us.” (Rms.8:18 WEY) 

Peter said the same thing about the glory “about to be” (Greek mello) revealed (1Pet.5:1YLT).  

Not only do partial preterists and futurists ignore mello in Rms.8, but R.C. Sproul tells us that the time statements in (Rms.13:11-12) can “reasonably” (hermeneutically) apply to previous passages in Romans:

“…you are treasuring up for yourselves wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”… (Rom.2:4-6)

…in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.” (Rom.2:16)

Paul refers to “the day of wrath” and “the day when God will judge the secrets of men.” Presumably both references are to the same “day.” Traditionalists see them as references to the yet future last judgment. Preterists like Russell interpret these references as they do all other references to the day of the Lord: this is the dark day of judgment that befell Israel in the destruction of Jerusalem.

Though the above texts lack time-frame references, they may reasonably be linked to later references Paul makes in the same epistle: “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand…” (Rom.13:11-12)


Therefore, according to the partial preterist position: 1) mello is a time statement that needs to be taken literally (so why not here in Roms. 8, & Acts 17 & 24?) and 2) the time statements in (Rms.13:11-12) can “reasonably” be linked to earlier chapters such as once again (Rms.8). We appreciate the “reasonableness” on the one hand, but on the other, there is clearly some man fearing dishonest eisegesis taking place here folks!” (Mike Sullivan, Gospel Eschatology: A Better Resurrection). 

Since it is not my intention in this article to go at depth into (Roms.8) as I have elsewhere, I shall summarize it’s teaching:  

Romans 8 summarized

1) The redemption of the body (singular) is dealing with the Church – the Body of Christ. Mortal bodies (plural) are identified covenantally with what corporate body they are in – in Adam (body of sin, body of death, flesh) or the Body of Christ – the Church. Being “mortal” or “weak” and the like phrases, are referring to the weakness and futility of the law to purge the conscience of dead works and bring about salvation and justification.     

2) This was a redemption and glory that was “about to be” revealed in them. 

3) The “creation” and “creature” (Greek kitisis) is an intelligent creation – ie. people not squirrels and rocks. Paul preached to every creature under heaven (Cols.1:5-6; 23) and he wasn’t preaching to rocks, trees, and squirrels. We have a better creation/building (Greek kitisis) under the NC (Hebs.9:11). And Christ being the High Priest of these “good things” in regard to this new tabernacle creation was “about to” (Greek mello) occur to the audience of the Hebrew letter.    

4) The present suffering in the text is a specific eschatological suffering preceded by the parousia consistent with what the prophets and Jesus taught. These are the eschatological “birth pains.” This is not dealing with me loosing my hair, people getting cancer, and squirrels getting hit by cars, etc. And in context with the previous chapters it is dealing with groaning under the weight and condemnation of the law.      

The children of God being revealed and the resurrection are both themes of (Rms.8-11) and it was an “about to be” event folks just like the resurrection and “end of the age” according to Jesus’ teaching. 

Under the OC children were born of flesh and blood and by the will of man and thus inheritance rights to the land of Israel were necessary for it’s covenant establishment and continuance. Jesus came preaching a NC kingdom in which one needed to be born from above (Jn.3; Jn.1:12-13). Being born from “above” was the geography of the NC kingdom and those that worshiped God wouldn’t be confined to a literal mountain but worship in “spirit and in truth” because the Kingdom was “not of this world” but rather “within you” (Jn.4:10-24; Lk.17:20-21; Jn.18:36). Inheritance rights and “raising up seed” with the firstborn male child may have been an issue under the OC Levirate marriage laws; but under the NC, Christ, His Bride (even Eunuchs), and His progeny – all fulfill the seed promises and thus produce children through the Gospel whom inherit a heavenly country (Gals.3, Isa.56:3-8/Acts 8:26f.; Rms.4; Rms.8-9; Hebs.12,). Like every covenantal promise in the OT Christ and the Church fulfill the “raising up seed” and resurrection promises within the New Creation (2Cor.1:20) – Praise God!  

3)      More Futurist Assumptions Upon This Text 

Many simply assume that Jesus believed the same kind of resurrection that the Pharisees believed in. However, where is this in the text?!? All that can be said is that Jesus agrees with the Pharisees that the Sadducees erred in denying the power of God in rejecting the afterlife – “He is the God of the living.” That’s it folks. He set the Sadducees straight on the after life, and set the Pharisees straight on the NON-applicability of the OC law in the “resurrection” or “age to come.” As usual our Lord left both groups speechless and dismantled their “arguments.”


Most simply see Jesus regurgitating the argument of Rabbi Gamaliel in his debate with the Sadducees in defending a physical resurrection of the dead. Jesus’ teaching and the N.T. writers teaching, is allegedly “normative” Judaism – Jesus towing the theological line of the Pharisees views.[6] Granted there are some similarities. The Talmud teaches,

“The Sadducees asked Rabbi Gamaliel, ‘Whence do you know that the holy one, blessed be he, will raise the dead?’ To which he replied, ‘From the law, the prophets, and the Hagiographia: from the law because it is written, And the Lord said to Moses, Behold, thou shalt lie down with thy fathers, and this people shall rise again (Deut 31:16): from the prophets because it is written, Thy dead men shall live, etc. (Isaiah 26:19); and from the Hagiographia because it is written, And the roof of thy mouth, etc. (Song of Songs 7:9).’ The Sadducees, however, would not accept these passages till he quoted the passage, ‘The land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give it to them’ (Deut 11:21). He promised it to them, i.e. to the living, and not to the dead; but as they were now dead, it is evident that there will be a resurrection if the promise is to be fulfilled.” (Sanhedrin, 90 b)

A couple of observations. First, I kind of laugh when I hear reformed theologians such as Chuck Hill tell us that Jesus, Paul, and the N.T. taught “normative Judaism” concerning a general biological resurrection of corpses at the end of time. And yet a Dispensationalist such as John MacArthur seeks to rebuke both reformed theologians such as Mr. Hill and preterists in our views of the Messianic Kingdom – claiming any good Jew within “normative Judaism” knowing his scriptures, taught a nationalistic kingdom on earth and a physical fulfillment of the land promises.[7] So what is “normative Judaism” to one group of futurists isn’t always the standard of the other. Thus the “normative Judaism” “argument” quickly becomes a “house divided” point among futurists. Jesus spent His entire earthly ministry rebuking the “normative” views of the religious leaders of His day which included BOTH the Pharisees and the Sadducees. If Pharisees such as Nicodemus (and no doubt Gamaliel before him) didn’t even understand what it meant to be “born again,” and were rebuked by Jesus in not knowing the Scriptures as to Zion’s giving birth (Isa.26; 49), surely they did not know the nature of God’s Spirit and wind blowing in the nature of Her resurrection and land promises (Ezk.37:9-10).        

Secondly, as I have pointed out above, Jesus is not just rebuking the Sadducees views of the resurrection, but that of the Pharisees as well. The Mosaic law would not continue into the resurrection or “age to come.” All things would not continue as they had with the Fathers, and the old wineskins of the old covenant would not be able to contain the new wine of the New Covenant when it came to the issue of raising up seed in the Messianic kingdom or new creation. Gamaliel did not understand the OT passages he quoted from to the Sadducees properly, but his point that the promises were made to the Father’s who had died and that they would live (their souls not terminating like the Sadducees taught) to realize them with their descendants, proved that they would “live” to experience them in the resurrection. The Sadducees obviously had a hard time refuting the Abrahamic promise as taught in the Torah (only the first 5 books – they viewed as authoritative) and how the patriarchs would benefit from the promise made to them and not just their descendants. That’s about the only thing Jesus shares in common with the Pharisees in refuting the Sadducees. Although the Sadducees had a hard time with the Gamaliel argument, it did not “silence” them as Jesus’ argument did (Mt.22:34). For the Sadducees were able to show the contradictions of the Pharisees views of a biological resurrection, child birth in the new creation, a nationalistic kingdom, and the continuance of the Mosaic law. Jesus was the Great Master, and answered the dispute of both groups once and for all! Just as Gospel Eschatology brings healing to the “normative Judaistic” errors within the teachings of such men as Chuck Hill and John MacArthur J.    

4) How about answering some of my questions now?

But now I have some challenging questions for my futurist friends since I have covered the (Mt.22/Lk.20) challenge. How is it that there is birth and death in the literal new heavens and earth paradise of (Isa.65)? Are you not speaking out of both sides of your mouth by claiming that after the resurrection and in the “paradise” of the new creation there won’t be marriage and the producing of children, and yet the text clearly teaches there will be child birth? Are these illegitimate relations going on in the New Creation producing these children Isaiah talks about?!? You claim there won’t be biological death in the new creation and yet Isaiah clearly says there will be. You claim there won’t be sinners there either or any unclean thing and yet Isaiah says there are sinners. To our Dispensationalist friends we need to remind them that they need to read Isaiah 65 “literally” and so answer our questions. 


Some futurists claim that Isaiah’s prediction of the new creation has a lot of metaphors describing life in the Kingdom now for Christians – in the gospel age. They go back and forth trying to explain what is literal in the new creation when Christ comes to restore the planet earth and what is being experienced now for Christians in a spiritual way. Somehow the no tears and no death passages of (Isa.65-66/Rev.21/22) are supposed to be taken as experiencing joy and “eternal life” today, and then other times the no tears and no death passages are to be taken literally. It’s rather a hermeneutical and exegetical arbitrary mess! Then there are men like Kenneth Gentry who tell us that the passing of the old creation is the old covenant and the new creation of (Rev.21-22 – which is the promise of Isa.65-66) is to be understood spiritually as the new covenant creation for us today – post AD 70. But then out of the other side of Mr. Gentry’s mouth, somehow (2Pet.3 – which is likewise the promise of Isa.65-66) is to be realized in a physical materialistic way!?! This is no less of an hermeneutical and exegetical nightmare than Dispensational interpreters of this passage.[8] 


1)      Jesus rebukes and corrects the false teaching of both the Sadducees and the Pharisees concerning the resurrection and the age to come. In similar fashion to the Pharisees Jesus uses the Torah to rebuke the Sadducees’ view of the afterlife and the age to come. He likewise corrects the Pharisees misunderstanding of the Mosaic law’s function in raising up children in the age to come. 

2)      Futurist’s such as Chuck Hill have to resort to the use of arbitrary traditions among “normative Judaism” to read into the text a physical resurrection of corpses at the end of time in this passage! So why doesn’t Mr. Hill believe in the “normative Judaistic” understandings of a nationalistic Messianic kingdom on earth in Jerusalem – that MacArthur and Dispensationalists teach?   And Mr. Hill as well as all futurists on this text ignore:

3)      That the “this age” of the passage is addressing the old covenant “this age” awaiting the Messianic or NC “age to come,” and not the NC age “this age” awaiting the “age to come” of the “perfect state” of the afterlife and purified planet earth. And,

4)      Jesus and the N.T. writers taught that the coming resurrection in the age to come – was “about to” and “on the point” of coming, not an event some 2000+ years away. Scripture interprets Scripture and once again futurism is found wanting in the exegetical arena. 


[1] Cohen, Boaz, Everyman’s TALMUD, pp.357ff., Dutton pub. 1949


[2] Frost, Samuel, Exegetical Essays On The Resurrection of the Dead, p.102 & p.104, The Truth Voice pub. 2004. 


[3] Sproul,R.C. The Last Days According To Jesus When Did Jesus Say He Would Return?, p.188, Baker Books pub. 1998.


[4] Sproul, ibid, p.139-140 emphasis MJS


[5] Sproul, ibid., p.99, emphasis MJS


[6] Mathison, Keith, When Shall These Things Be? A Reformed Response To Hyper-Preterism, p.97-98, P&R pub. 2004. This section written by Charles E. Hill. 


[7] MacArthur, John, The Second Coming Signs of Christ’s Return and the End of the Age, pp.71-81. MacArthur employing the same logic of Charles Hill, feels comfortable in interpreting OT kingdom passages in a earthly nationalistic way just as “normative Judaism” taught.   


[8] See my other articles critiquing Gentry’s contradictions on (2Pet.3/Rev.21-22/Isa.65-66).  If Peter can “expand” a literal interpretation to 2 Peter 3 and John gives a spiritual interpretation to Isa. 65-66, then I guess Gentry shouldn’t be a critic of how dispensationalists abuse OT quotes in the NT!


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Mike Sullivan