Inwe read: “But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead but of the living.” This word of Jesus also appears in the twelfth chapter of Mark. And in the gospel according to Luke, who also records this incident, we read in : “Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For He is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto Him.” These words of Jesus, appearing in all the above-named gospels, are a quotation from the Old Testament, , where we read: “Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.”
We need not doubt the fact that the words of Jesus which constitute the subject of this essay are a proof of the bodily resurrection. Our Savior speaks these words to refute the unbelieving Sadducees who denied the resurrection of the dead. Besides, in the immediate context of these words (and this is true of all three gospels), Christ speaks of the resurrection of the dead. In fact, the words of Ex. 3:6 are actually quoted as a proof of our bodily resurrection. We read in: “Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush.” It is therefore an established fact that is a proof of the bodily resurrection.
The context of Matt. 22:31, 32, verses 23-33 is well known. We read of the coming of the Sadducees to Jesus. They quote from Moses to prove the absurdity of the resurrection. Concerning the Sadducees we, because of the nature of the subject of this essay, must be brief. They were the “moderns” of Jesus’ day. They denied the resurrection of the dead, and in Acts 23 we read that they also rejected the existence of angels and of the spirits. Their attempt in Matt. 22 to establish the absurdity of the resurrection is well known. We need not quote it in detail. It is evident that their reasoning is wholly carnal, earthly, and that they consider not the power of God. They conceive of the life of the hereafter as being identical with the life of the present. And they know not the power of God who will change and transform all things so that we, in the hereafter, shall be as; the angels of God in heaven. Of course, we shall be as the angels of God in the sense that, because of the heavenly life, we shall neither marry nor be given in marriage. Thereupon our Lord quotes to these unbelieving Sadducees from that very Scripture, the book of Moses, to which also they had referred, declaring unto them that the word of Ex. 3:6 is a conclusive proof of the bodily resurrection.
At first glance this reference of Christ to Ex. 3:6 in Matt. 22 might appear strange. One might almost be led to ask the question whether this is the strongest proof which could be quoted from the Old Testament in support of the bodily resurrection. We merely read in Ex. 3:6 that the Lord speaks of Himself as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. The words in Matt. 22:32, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living”, are not a quotation from the Old Testament, but Christ’s own exegesis of this quotation from the second book of Moses. The quotation proper merely declares that the Lord is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. One might perhaps call attention to the distinction between the Old and the New Dispensations, that the light of the resurrection did not shine as clearly then as it does now, and that therefore the proof of Ex. 3:6 may be considered the best proof under the circumstances. It is, of course, true that the light of revelation shines more clearly now than in the Old Testament. It is a fact Hat, historically, the resurrection of the dead into heavenly glory did not become a fact until the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. We should bear in mind, however, that the multitude, according to Matt. 22:33 was astonished at Christ’s doctrine. Jesus’ selection of Ex. 3:6 must therefore undoubtedly be regarded as a choice selection by the preeminent exegete of all time, Jesus Christ, our Lord and chief prophet.
Some would merely interpret this passage from Ex. 3 In a figurative sense of the word. The Lord would then merely declare unto Moses, His servant, that He is the same God that He was to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He will reveal Himself unto Moses and unto Israel in the same manner that He revealed Himself unto the three patriarchs. God was merciful, faithful, and mighty in His dealings with them. Moses may be assured of the same faithfulness now. This is, of course, in itself true. However, if this be the sole interpretation of Ex. 3:6, one may well ask himself the question, “But how, then, does this passage prove the resurrection of the dead?” If Moses receives from the Lord the assurance that He will deal with him and with Israel as He did with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, why can he be hopeful with respect to the future? Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are dead. And they died as strangers, without having received the promise! Why then, should this be particularly assuring? We must certainly have something more here than merely a figurative expression.
Others would lay the emphasis upon the little word “am” in the expression: “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” The very fact that He is their God must imply that they exist. God cannot be the God of someone that is not. If it be, therefore, true at the burning bush that the Lord is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the wholly warranted conclusion must be that they are alive. Besides, is it not true that Jesus’ own interpretation of these words leads us into this direction? His exegesis of the passage is that God is not a God of the dead but of the living. Hence, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must be alive. According to this interpretation of the text, then, all emphasis must be laid upon the little word “am”. How could the Lord at this moment be their God were it not for the fact that they were living. However, how can this text, when understood in this light, serve as a proof of their and our bodily resurrection? We grant that they are not dead but alive. Yet, this does not alter the fact that their bodies are in the grave. They are alive, therefore, only in principle. Does this passage merely refer to this? But our Lord quotes these words to prove that the dead shall be raised. We read in Luke 20:38, do we not, “Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, etc.”? Why is Exodus 8:6 a proof of our bodily resurrection?
Exodus 3:6 is a proof of our bodily resurrection, not because of the emphasis upon the word “am”, but because of the fact that the Lord is our God, and therefore because of the relationship wherein God’s people stand to the Lord. Jesus does not say that God is the God of the living, but that He is the God, not of dead but of living. Let us look at this text again in the light of its historical context. The Lord is about to call Moses to lead His people, Israel, out of the Egyptian bondage into the Canaan which He had promised them. He introduces Himself to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must be regarded here as also representing the Israel of all ages, so that the promise given them is meant for all the people of God. They are called in this passage the father (the singular “father”) of Moses, and stand therefore at the head of all the people of God. The fact that God is their God, our God, does not merely prove their present existence at the time of the burning bush, but also their ultimate entrance into Canaan, not the earthly Canaan (for Abraham sought a heavenly country), but the heavenly Canaan, the city that has foundations.
Jehovah, the unchangeable and living God, is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, yea, of all His people—therein lies the certainty of their hope of the resurrection into everlasting life. The relationship between God and His people necessarily demands this resurrection into eternal glory. That, God is our God surely means that we are His people, that we are of Him. And even as there is affinity between a child and his father, so also there is an affinity between Israel and the God of their salvation. This same thought is beautifully expressed by the prophet, Habakkuk, in: “Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine holy one? we shall not die, O Lord, Thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, Thou hast established them for correction.” God Himself is the living God. As such He knows Himself and has fellowship with Himself from everlasting to everlasting. At His right hand are pleasures even forevermore. He knows and fathoms and loves His own infinite being as the Triune God and exercises the most blessed fellowship with Himself eternally. This must also determine the relationship wherein God’s people stand to the living God. Even as the Lord eternally knows and loves Himself so He also has known and loved a people, who eternally will live unto Him and the glory of His name. To be His people signifies that we are of Him, born of Him, receive life of His life, have been willed and created and received by Him that we may share and taste the blessedness of His fellowship even forever. His love and His promises and his life are eternal even as He Himself is eternal. The very essence of the living God, our Maker, requires therefore that the people of His choice and grace shall receive eternal glory and be raised out of this death into the unspeakably blessed life of His eternal covenant.
This receives further emphasis in the passage from Exodus 3 if we bear in mind that it is the Lord, Jehovah, who reveals Himself to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac and of Jacob. This God, who proclaims Himself to be our God, who has formed us to be His people that we may live to the praise of His Name, is Jehovah, the I AM that I Am, the unchangeable, faithful God of His covenant. With Him is no change or shadow of turning. If He therefore proclaims Himself to be our God He is everlastingly our God. If He loves us He loves us with an everlasting love. His promises are eternal and therefore sure. He can therefore proclaim unto Moses that He is still the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that they live even now, and that they shall live and receive the inheritance which the Lord Jehovah promised them.
In this light we also understand the terrible character of the Sadducees’ denial of the resurrection, and the reason, why the Savior, quoting this passage as proof of the bodily resurrection, silences them by exposing their wickedness. To deny the resurrection of the dead is equivalent to a denial of the living God. Denying the resurrection we deny His promises, the eternal character of His love and grace, the fact that He has a people who will live to the eternal praise of His name. It is the denial of the living God Himself. Then surely the Lord would be ashamed to be called their God, if in this life we are the most miserable and without the hope of the resurrection. Our relation to God is a living relation, a relation of eternal life. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, inasmuch as He Himself is the living God. And they shall live forevermore.