The Pharisees did not start out in as bad a condition as they were when Christ encountered them. They originally separated from the national corruption or their day to rededicate their worship to God in purity. Unfortunately, they began to rely of formulaic means until the outside of the cup was clean, but the inside was filthy. But back to our story. Around 260 years before Christ there was a president of the Sanhedrin by the name of Antigonus who also taught law at the divinity school in Jerusalem. A common theme in his lectures was service to God should be through love and reverence, and not through expectation of rewards. There is not much to argue with in this contention, but a follower of his took it a step or two further.
His name was Sadoc, from whence the sect of the Sadducees arose. Sadoc made inferences from Antigonus’ teaching that rewards and punishment would be meted out in this life, and there were no rewards in the afterlife to be earned. It followed that, conversely, there was no punishment to fear there either, and in one more nudge he dispensed with the afterlife altogether. This explains why when we meet the Sadducees in the Bible tempting Jesus we are told they did not believe in the resurrection (Mat 22:23).
There was, according to their doctrine, nowhere to be resurrected to, and consequently neither angles, nor spirits, existed. Their cannon of scripture contained only the five books Moses; no prophets, Psalms, or Proverbs, as the Pharisees possessed in their cannon. And so within the Pharisaical society of religious men arose another sect of religious men who questioned and discarded the scriptures that disagreed with their new ideas. How familiar does that sound?
We have our Sadducees come back again today (e.g. Rob Bell). They question the Bible on the existence and purpose of Hell. They may have claimed in the past that there concern was the repulsive effect preaching about Hell had on people who would otherwise become Christians. Of course, that is an example of how contorted the mind of the Sadducee is. To become a Christian means to be saved, and we are not only delivered from this present evil world (Gal 1:4), but saved from the penalty of our sins which is eternal punishment that begins in—Hell.
The real motive in dispensing with Hell for most Sadducees is they are not comfortable with its looming reminder that they are not saved from it; as they are not Christians in the sense of the word—saved.
They are more or less Christian philosophers. Not possessing a regenerated spirit to nourish, they are picking and choosing from cannon those things that tickle their flesh.
Some contend that there are scant references to the afterlife in the Old Testament and this casts enough doubt on the doctrine to question and dispense with it. As if there existed a standard by which if God did not repeat Himself a certain number of times it may be presumed He wasn’t serious. Perhaps He was only talking out loud to see how a particular concept sounded, and we just happened to over hear Him brainstorming. These guys haven’t got it, and they probably aren’t ever going to get it. They are blind in both eyes, and Satan is happy to employ them as diversions.
We may predict that it won’t be long before today’s Sadducees begin removing from their shelves whole books of scripture, as the Sadducees before them did. Would it be wrong of me to do them a small favor and recommend where they should start? I think not. They are under the sway of the evil one, and would have none of my counsel anyway. First, remove the book of Isaiah. There are too many inconveniences in that book for Sadducees; like the ones found in chapter 26 wherein not only the afterlife is treated clearly, but both the first and second resurrections are put forth (Isa 26:19, 21).
Interestingly, the second resurrection should actually be of the utmost concern to the Sadducee. Then there will be summoned most, if not exclusively those, whose names are not written in the Book of Life. They will be called forth from Hell which, though as terrible a torment as that will be, is only a holding cell pending the second death. Then they will be judged, striped of mortality again, and cast into the Lake of Fire prepared for the Devil and his angles to spend all eternity in (Rev 20:15). Then the Sadducee, who dismissed Hell in this life, as sore a torment as it will have been for them, may actually look back and miss Hell.