This question was asked to Jesus by a group of Sadducees. This sect of Jews (along with the Pharisees, Zealots, and Essenes) developed during the 400 years between the Old and the New Testaments. The Sadducees were strict materialists and did not believe in the resurrection or angels (Matt.22:23; Acts 23:7). They were often opposed to the work and teachings of Jesus.
They mentioned a situation with the question. A man (married, no children) died, then his brother married the widow, then that brother died, then the next brother assumed the responsibility and so on until all seven brothers did the same, and finally the wife dies (Matt.22:24-27). Their question: whose wife shall she be in the resurrection, for they all had her (Matt.22:28)? The situation involved instructions from the old law (Deut.25:5-9). Their question seems far-fetched, nonetheless, Jesus uses the occasion to teach important concepts.
Jesus responds to these men in several ways. First, he says, “you do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matt.22:39). Scripture teaches a lot about the power of God (e.g. creation, miraculous events such as crossing the red sea, etc.) and likely here, the Lord is focusing on the power of God which will be displayed on judgment day. Daniel 12:2 says, “Many who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some to everlasting life and some to everlasting shame and contempt”(cf. John 5:28,29; John 11:25). No wonder faith increases the more we read and study the Bible. Therein is where we learn about the power of God.
Then, the Lord says, “in the resurrection, they are neither married nor are given in marriage, but as are the angels in heaven” (Matt.22:30). He explains the nature of our bodies in the resurrection, that is, in the next life. Our bodies will be spiritual bodies (I Cor.15:44,50), like unto Jesus’ body (Phil.3:21). There will not be physical relationships or physical things in heaven, but we will be as the angels. This emphasis should motivate us to be spiritually minded (Rom.8:5,6; Phil.3:20)) and set our affections on things above (Col.3:1-2). The things above involve primarily the presence of God, worshipping Him and serving Him forever in a place that doesn’t have pain, crying or death (rev.21:4).
Finally, Jesus refers to an incident in the Old Testament, Exodus 3:6. This is the time God presented Himself to Moses from the burning bush and said, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” At that time, of course, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had passed from this life, but were still very much alive. The Lord comments, “God is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Matt.22:31-32), clearly teaching that we live on and on after life on earth is over.
Lessons from this occasion are many. We should honestly seek the truth and not be argumentative. Jesus is the master teacher and uses every occasion to teach the truth. Judgment day will be a great day and full of hope. The future resurrection of our bodies on that day is real. Life after death is what we are living for; this world is not our home. Since the future life will be entirely spiritual, we must not lay treasures up on earth (Matt.6:19-21). Our relationship with God takes priority over family members. We do not become angels in the next life but will continue to be fellow servants with them as we work for our Creator forever and ever (Rev.22:9). –David