"Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead."
Modern liberals are quick to accuse Bible-believing Christians of being Pharisees. And while that may be true to some extent, they primarily misunderstand the true nature of the Pharisees: The Pharisee's main fault, other than their hypocrisy, was that they preached a works-based salvation apart from Jesus Christ. In other words, follow the rules, and you will receive the afterlife and the resurrection from the dead, even if you outright deny Christ.
While casting these accusations at others, however, liberals tend to miss the true nature of another group that was equally repugnant to Jesus: The Sadducees, who quiet frankly, bore an eerie similarity to modern liberal beliefs. Like modern liberals (and especially leftists), the Sadducees were more concerned with politics than with religion or Jesus, denied the Word of God as being true and inspired, consisted of primarily the wealthy and "elite" aristocrats of society, and most importantly for this post, lived for this life only, giving little if any thought to an afterlife. Although the Pharisees get all the "press" today, the Sadducees were equal opportunity offenders in Jesus' own day. In fact, not only did the Sadducees square off with Jesus often, but they joined the Pharisees in receiving this stern rebuke from John the Baptist, whom Jesus called the greatest man ever born of woman:
"You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Matthew 3:7 ESV)
You see, whereas the Pharisees had a tendency to add to the law (without necessarily following it themselves), the Sadducees had a tendency to relax or remove the requirements of the law that they didn't want to follow. Thus, while the Pharisees motivations were questionable (at best), at least they were living with eternity in view. But the Sadducees also fell short (and were severely rebuked) because they lived as though this life was all that there was.
Lest you doubt that last part, remember the Sadducees attempt to "trick" Jesus with their question about the woman who married seven brothers. (Matthew 22:23-33) Moreover, that wasn't a one-off event. Quite to the contrary, the Sadducees' denial of the resurrection was so core to their identity and beliefs that it became perhaps the main point of their on-going feud with the Pharisees.
Indeed, the magnitude of this dispute between the Sadducees and the Pharisees can be seen very clearly from an event that happened near the end of Paul's life, as recorded in chapter 23 of the Book of Acts. Leading up to this event, Paul was brought before the religious council of his day (the Sanhedrin) because he was preaching the Gospel. The council was initially united against him, but when Paul realized that the council was a mix of Pharisees and Sadducees, he was able to turn them against themselves with one simple statement:
6 But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”
7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. 8 For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both. (Acts 23:6-8)
As this passage makes clear, the Sadducees unquestionably did not believe in the resurrection. And because they had no concern for the afterlife, they did not live with eternity's values in view. The same is true not only for many liberals and leftists today, but sadly, for many professing "Christians" as well.
On the political hard left, we have a band of anarchists trying to create a godless utopia on Earth, lawless thugs who are willing to use any means necessary to accomplish their goals. They're even willing to kill and destroy property to get rid of any perceived racism, not realizing that they make themselves murders (Revelation 22:15) and thieves (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) in the process. They seek to create a man-made "heaven" of inclusion on Earth, not realizing that, unless they repent and believe the Gospel, their own godless actions will ultimately serve as a basis of exclusion from the only place that will truly be free of racism, that being heaven itself. But from their point of view, which again is similar to that of the Sadducees, their position is somewhat understandable. (And to be clear, leftism is essentially a modern cult religion.) After all, if there wasn't an afterlife, then why would you live with eternity and the judgment in view?
While generally less extreme than the hard left, many liberals (both politically and spiritually) live the same way. Many will focus on Christian ethics, or the Beatitudes, or Jesus' summation of the entire Old Testament / Mosaic Law as hanging on the two greatest commandments. They seek to create a world of peace, so that we can live our best lives now. But yet, they fail to realize that none of the things they pursue can spare us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; Colossians 3:5-6; Romans 2:5) as the judgment for our sins (Romans 3:20), which we have all committed (1 John 1:8). And perhaps more importantly, despite all of their admonitions to "just love" others, they neglect the greatest loves of all: love for lost souls, love for the Gospel, and most importantly, love for Jesus Christ Himself, which includes obedience to Him and His words (John 14:15, 21, 23-24).
Fundamentally, almost everyone on the hard left, as well as most modern liberals, reject God in one form or another. At the most extreme, they outright deny God's existence, or deny that Jesus is the Son of God, the Blessed Second Person of the Trinity. Others claim to have a belief in Christ, but disregard various clear teachings from His Word and instead choose to do what seems best to them in the moment. (This is not surprising. Indeed, the very definition of liberal means "open to new behaviors or opinions and willing to discard traditional values." In other words, modern liberalism teaches that everyone is free to do "what seems right in his own eyes," even if God has called an action evil, since liberals essentially live as if there is no divine King for us to one day answer to in eternity. As a result, you end up with a Democratic Party that claims to hold the moral high ground even while booing God at their own convention.)
And so, and much like the Sadducees, liberals and leftists fail to live with eternity's values in view. (To be fair, many conservatives do the same things, especially those who are focused on money and "professional success" in this life.) But the Biblical model -- and mandate -- is exactly the opposite of these things. As Jesus Himself warned, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25) That hardly sounds like a command to live your best life now.
So, as A.W. Tozer famously said, let us all "live with eternity's values in view." If we were to live with a focus on eternity, how different would our lives look? Would the left still be trying to build a godless utopia on Earth? Would many on the right still be trying build our own personal suburban fiefdoms, focused more on financial success than on sowing the Word of God? Would we all stop our shameless acts of self-gratification? Would any be ashamed of sharing the Gospel? (Romans 1:16) Would so many still be afraid to preach Christ and to confront sin (including our own) due to a fear of being rejected by man? (Galatians 1:10 -- read that one please.)
As Christians especially, we are to live for Christ, and to live with eternity's values in view. We are to put both cowardice and our own best interests aside, and truly live for Him, regardless of the cost to us. And to anyone else who may be reading this, I invite you to cast your cares on Him, to turn from your wicked ways, and to put your trust in Christ for your salvation both in this life and as well as in the next. And after doing so, then live your faith out by burning your life out for Christ. To borrow from C.T. Studd's famous poem, "Only one life, twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last." We would all be wise to keep those words in mind.
Or, perhaps more bluntly, consider the prayer of Presbyterian preacher Jonathan Edwards: "Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs!"
How different would our lives -- and the rest of this world -- look if we all did the same?
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"For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God." (Acts 20:27)