Luke 20:34-40 (NASB):

34 Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and the women are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 for they cannot even die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 37 But as for the fact that the dead are raised, even Moses revealed this in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 Now He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him.” 39 Some of the scribes answered and said, “Teacher, You have spoken well.” 40 For they did not have the courage to question Him any longer about anything.

Jesus is talking about the resurrection (a future event), yet verse 38 says "for all live to Him" (present tense). I would've expected instead "for all will live to Him" (future tense). Similarly, "but of the living" could've been worded as "but of those who will be alive again", but it wasn't. Why is verse 38 in present tense and not future tense?

  • Do you think it is a similar problem for "but of the living"? Shouldn't that be "of those who will be alive again"? Mar 5, 2021 at 22:50
  • @AnthonyBurg - Good point. Yes, that could've been written in future tense too (but wasn't).
    – user38524
    Mar 5, 2021 at 23:01
  • Those are factual or truth statements: God is not the God of deads but living. Those are alive in heaven, not dead. He is saying they are alive. He says, God is of the living- meaning stop worrying about questions about the dead (or dead fleshly Qs like marriages in heaven), focus on this life. It is a wordplay on the question about dead- to jump on the spiritually the dead and living.
    – Michael16
    May 22, 2021 at 16:53

2 Answers 2


Truly excellent question with some very subtle undertones. The answer to the question hinges on the meaning of the Greek:

πάντες γὰρ αὐτῷ ζῶσιν. [Literally, "all for to him live"]

The various version can be classified into two camps as to the way this phrase of translated:

  1. "For to Him all are alive", eg, NIV, NLT, BSB, CEV, GNT, NHEB, WEB
  2. "For all live to/unto/for Him", eg, ESV, KJV, NKJV, NASB, CSB, HCSB, ASV, LSV

The distinction is critical: Meaning #1, "For to Him all are alive", means that, even though people are actually dead, God can make them alive at any time; this will be done at the resurrection of the dead.

Meaning #2, "For all live to/unto/for Him", is ambiguous enough to include meaning #1 but could also mean that:

(a) people have lived their lives to honor God (b) People owe their lives to God as per 1 John 5:11, 12 and Acts 17:28.

For what it is worth, I believe that meaning #1 is closer to the Greek grammar; I think this is also true because Jesus is discussing dead people (ie, Abraham , Isaac and Jacob) who while dead, are, as far as God is concerned, are as good as alive because God can readily (and will) raise them at the resurrection as described in 1 Cor 15.

The resurrection is interesting because at the resurrection of the body, God is not dependent on existing matter which usually completely gone - God raises people depending only on God's power and memory of them which, like God, is eternal. (How else could it be done?)

  • Jesus depicts Abraham as in some sense 'alive' in the story of the rich man and the beggar (Luke 16:19-31). Do you think this story was more like a fable Jesus was telling to illustrate a point, or can we say Abraham is 'alive' in some sense at the moment Moses is speaking? In other words, what is the context we're working with as far as the current status of Abraham, et al.? Mar 6, 2021 at 17:17
  • Do you have any references for your preferred interpretations of meanings #1 and #2 above, or are these what you've come to yourself? Mar 6, 2021 at 17:18
  • 1
    @AnthonyBurg - The references are what I quoted above from the various versions - my preferred understanding is my reading of the Greek. Many of the commentaries are either divided or unsure or vague.
    – Dottard
    Mar 6, 2021 at 20:38
  • The parable of the rich man and Lazarus has nothing to do with the state of the dead which I explain fully in a 10-page exegesis on the parable which is in the supplementary materials section of my work on what the Word of God Says about Life, death and Life Beyond Death. Free download from livefaith.tv Jun 20, 2021 at 21:29

Luke 20:38 New International Version

He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive."

of [the] living,
ζώντων (zōntōn)
Verb - Present Participle Active - Genitive Masculine Plural

are alive.”
ζῶσιν (zōsin)
Verb - Present Indicative Active - 3rd Person Plural

The Greek present tense indicates continued action, something that happens continually or repeatedly, or something that is in the process of happening.

They are not in the future tense. They are in the present tense and in the present continuous sense as well. To God, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are alive and acting.

What is the concept of time to God?

Exodus 3:14

God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM.

Hebrews 13:8

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

God created time and therefore cannot be bounded by it. God is timeless and eternal. He sees the past, present, and future all at once.

  • How does this relate to the resurrection? Jesus is making an argument for the resurrection, and his interlocutors seem to be impressed. Are you saying the resurrection is outside of time? Mar 6, 2021 at 18:35
  • God will raise them up at the last day. After that, time is eternal.
    – user35953
    Mar 6, 2021 at 19:07
  • " time is eternal." What does this mean? Mar 6, 2021 at 19:08
  • Good question. I don't know exactly what it means except that the nature of time will change.
    – user35953
    Mar 6, 2021 at 19:11
  • Time will not cease to exist, there is no Biblical basis for that thought. It will simply never end. Jun 20, 2021 at 21:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.