Today’s bible study is from the Gospel of Luke 20:38: For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.
Today’s bible verse is very short, yet unusually difficult. It is one of the most difficult verses to understand and put into practice in a meaningful way in our lives. This verse has several different, although somewhat similar, translations. I apologize if this seems a bit like a biblical history lecture; sometimes we have to dig deep and challenge ourselves to learn. Today we shall share some biblical history and research and compare and contrast respected theologians’ commentaries. We may find no definitive answers, yet we may increase our knowledge and comprehension and find a meaningful way to apply this verse to our daily lives.
Clark’s Commentary on the Bible helps us put this into historical setting and context: All live unto him. There is a remarkable passage in Josephus’s account of the Maccabees, which proves that the best informed Jews believed that the souls of righteous men were in the presence of God in a state of happiness: They who lose their lives for the sake of God, live unto God, as do Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the rest of the patriarchs. And one not less remarkable in Shemoth Rabba, wrote, ‘The Lord said unto Moses, Find me out ten righteous persons among the people, and I will not destroy thy people. Here are but seven, where are the other three? If those that are dead do live, remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ So the resurrection of the dead, and the immortality and immateriality of the soul, was not strange or unknown doctrines among the Jews.
Gill’s Exposition of the Bible explains this verse a bit differently, but somewhat similarly: For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living. The Persic version, reads: All these live unto him; namely, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; for though they are dead to men, they are not to God; their souls live with him, and their bodies will be raised by him: he reckons of them, as if they were now alive, for he quickens the dead, and calls things that are not, as though they were; and this is the case of all the saints that are dead, as well as of those patriarchs. The Ethiopic reads: All live with him; as the souls of all departed saints do, and the Arabic version in Acts reads: All live in him; so all do now. Each is worded differently and cites different examples, yet stresses the reality of a God for both the dead and the living.
Wesley’s Notes gives us even more insight by explaining: He is not a God of the dead, or, there is no God of the dead – That is, the term God implies such a relation, as cannot possibly subsist between him and the dead; who in the Sadducees’ sense are extinguished spirits; who could neither worship him, nor receive good from him. So that all live to him – all who have him for their God, live to and enjoy him. This sentence is not an argument for what went before; but the proposition which was to be proved. And the consequence is apparently just. For as all the faithful are the children of Abraham, and the Divine promise of being a God to him and his seed is entailed upon them, it implies their continued existence and happiness in a future state as much as Abraham’s. And as the body is an essential part of man, it implies both his resurrection and theirs; and so overthrows the entire scheme of the Sadducean doctrine.
Regardless of our understanding, one thing is eminently clear, and that is the fact that God is the God of the living. In Him, all are living and no one is dead. In the kingdom of God, there is no death. There is timeless, eternal, everlasting life. Glory be to His holy name and to His Son, Jesus Christ!
References: The People’s New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock, The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur and Concise Bible Commentary, David S. Dockery, General Editor. You might also like to read:
- Broad Brook Bible Study Examiner, Grace Dooley
- Atlanta Christian Living Examiner, Taylor Powell
- Atlanta Bible Study Examiner, Donna Sundblad
- Kentucky Bible Study Examiner, Timothy Edwards
- Daily Bible Guide
- Growing in Christ
- Bible Study Tools Online
- The Jesus Walk Bible Study Series