I got a call at 5 :30 am that my dad, who is 88, was being taken to the hospital with heart issues. I just got back from the hospital ( he's doing OK). As the passage is about resurrection, I thought it is appropriate to talk about that.
Jesus was talking to a group who were distinctly non-mystical - for them, the Law was a way to live, here and now, and death would be the end. Jesus refutes that, saying "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." At this time most of the Jewish people believed that when God intervened, in the "Day of the Lord" when He came to Jerusalem (see chapter 19), defeated their enemies (see chapter 23), established His kingdom (see 19:11), that the righteous would be raised from the dead, to live again on earth. Until that time the faithful dead were asleep in the shadowlands. They did not believe that somehow their "souls" without their bodies, would go off to heaven: that was a Greek notion.
Jesus affirmed the resurrection of the dead - and a few days later, he became the first - the forerunner. He was not disembodied, or a "spirit" - he had a new, resurrected body, but one that could eat and talk and - so significantly - bore the scars of his suffering. The scars were not forgotten, wiped away - they were part of his resurrected body.
I believe that we have been confused by Greek philosophy about the idea of heaven. The biblical concept is that we are not souls who have a body - but that we are embodied spirits, and that we will have new bodies, bodies like the Lord Jesus' resurrection body, bodies that will live on a new earth, with Jesus and with one another. (If you want to know more, I recommend N.T. Wright's "Surprised by Hope." It is the best book I have read in the past year.)
I believe and am convinced that the best is ahead of us. As C.S. Lewis wrote: "All their life in this world, and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page; now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better that the one before."
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