Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I am grateful to God ֠whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did ֠when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.
I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.
Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that 'if a man's brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.' There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her."
Jesus said to them, "Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong."
While some of Jesus' remarks about marriage leave us rather baffled, he clearly affirms that a heavenly future is open to us. We will rise from the dead, in such continuity with our earthly existence that what we do on earth our joy or punishment in the hereafter. Yet, we will be radically different, and so will the entire earth be transformed. Yesterday, 2 Peter announced "new heavens and a new earth" and the Book of Revelation speaks of "no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the former world has passed away" (Rev 21:4).
Even marriage and family will be different, transformed, yes, but hardly destroyed. If earthly existence affects our heavenly life, one expects that marriages and families will have a strong impact as well, since love is the determining factor. Our final judgment will be decided on whether or not we fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, comforted the sick, visited prisoners (Matthew 25:40). If love for strangers and for the ministers of the gospel is so rewarded and so remembered, then surely the love and self-sacrifice in marriage and family life, also.
Another affirmation of marriage is seen in 2 Timothy in Paul's warm testimony to Timothy's family. "I find myself thinking of your sincere faith, faith which first belonged to your grandmother Lois and to your mother Eunice, and which is in you also" (2 Tim 1:4-5). When Paul was awaiting his death by execution and martyrdom, he had a grateful memory of the family ties of his disciple Timothy.
Whether human beings can hope for an afterlife has intrigued people from earliest times. It occurs in today's gospel, when Jesus is approached by the members of a party in Judaism, the Sadducees, who did not believe in life after death. The Sadducees recognized only the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, as Sacred Scripture, and they saw no evidence in those five books to suggest that there was a life beyond this earthly life. They approach Jesus as someone whom they know has a different view on this issue to themselves. The scenario they put to Jesus indicates that eternal life would be simply an extension of this earthly life. But Jesus' reply suggests otherwise. "When they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry; no, they are like the angels in heaven."
Life in heaven is not just a continuation of life on earth; it is qualitatively different. In his first letter to the Corinthians St Paul speaks about this life beyond death in terms of transformation. "We shall all be changed." In that same letter he states that "love endures"; love endures into eternity. Our love for the Lord and for each other will be perfected in heaven, even though it will be expressed in a very different way to how it is expressed on earth. We can be sure, therefore, that because of the transformation that awaits us we will be more like the person God wills us to be and always intended us to be.