The gospels and being with your spouse in Heaven
In Luke 20 (among other passages), Jesus is asked about a woman whose husband would die and then, being a widow, she’d be married to another husband (the late husband’s brother), and he’d die and she’d be a widow again, and then…repeat process a bunch of times. Of course, the idea of a man having to marry a brother’s widow is antiquated, but it is very much the case that people being widows and widowers and remarry and that others have multiple spouses due to divorce and that many people die never having been married.
Luke 20 promises us something much greater than the pleasures of Earth, and the wonderfulness of Heaven is repeated elsewhere in scripture (e.g., Rev 21). The idea that we’re released from the imperfections and complications of earthly matters in Heaven is a great and important thing. I get that Heaven isn’t just a much nicer and pain-free form of Earth where we just hang out with our friends from Earth and eat whatever we want and never get sick and never get some annoying pain in our lower back. And as it pertains to marriage, I know Heaven won’t be a place where couples that were married for life will enjoy eternity as a couple while our friends are also happy but nevertheless are eternally single and destined to always be the third wheel when they eat with a married couple in some Heavenly cafe.
I get that God will make all things new and that I won’t have regrets about how Heaven is once I’m there. I get that Heaven will be beyond my earthly understanding. However, to be honest, I do get sad thinking about earthly marriages not being carried forth in Heaven. In my Christian world, I’ve been so used to seeing married couples grow old together and then long for their departed when they became widowed. Both sets of my grandparents were married 50+ years to only each other. My grandpas died before my grandmas. When my maternal grandma died, we’d talk about how she’d be joining my grandpa in Heaven. My other grandma is still alive but suffering from late-stage Alzheimer’s. She isn’t very aware of the current world but she still loves my grandpa and is always talking about rejoining him. My parents are closing in on 50 years of marriage. And after being married for 13 years, I feel closer to my DW now than earlier in our marriage, and the closer I get to her and as the years go by, I feel myself more troubled at the thoughts that our earthly soulmates may not be quite so special to us in Heaven. Logically, I get that Earth is really kind of a dump and that the best things of Earth can’t compete with the worst things in Heaven and that we should hope that God will make all things new, but I can’t shake the melancholy that comes from thinking that our earthly relationships, including marriage, will be more or less negated. I’m sure it will be fine on the other side, but on this side of eternity, it’s hard for me to accept it.
Does anyone else struggle with thoughts and feelings about this?
Offering my perspective to a theological question in a new environment is always a scary thing for me. Our personal answers to these sorts of thoughts is deeply interwoven with the rest of our intimate understanding of God and our approach to Christianity as a whole. I almost feel too new to the site to pitch in, especially on an old thread, but I’d like to offer my thoughts regardless of feeling timid.
I notice that when the Church sees the bridal imagery related to Christ and the Church or even God and Israel they tend to view it allegorically. That the Lord is using what we know to communicate a truth. I believe whole heartedly that our marriage is the allegory… not the spiritual marriage. I think God gave us marriage so that we could have a grid for understanding our relationship with Him and to somehow mystically replicate it.
Consider Hebrews chapters 8 and 9… The writer informs us that the Temple on Earth was a replica of the Temple in Heaven which wasn’t made with human hands. We know that once a year the Holy of Holies on Earth filled with the Presence of God. In the ancient world most religions seem to have believed that their temples converged with heaven, there are many tablets and documents to support this. I believe those similarities as well as the various flood accounts, and all those things familiar to the Bible are fragments of the truth from the time when all men scattered at Babel.
A similar mystery happens in Exodus 24. Moses and the elders climb the mountain on Earth and at some point it becomes the Mountain of God and they see the Sea of Glass in an apparent convergence.
So then, while the Temple on Earth was a replica it was also very much real. In this case replica doesn’t mean fake… Attempt to enter it improperly and you will soon discover that the Cherubim embroidered on the Temple veil really do guard the way back to the Tree of Life.
In my opinion marriage is a replication of our relationship with God and it serves to give us a unique insight into love with an arena in which to practice it.
We were added into the Family of the Trinity, not as gods but held in by the power of His grace. Even though we are fully accepted in the family right now, we are also in what would in modern times be considered the engagement phase. The consummation of the Marriage of the Lamb, while I don’t believe is sexual in nature, is the fulfillment of all marriage. Just as Abraham was brought out of his home in search of a promised land in what became Israel, he was also looking for a city whose builder and maker is God… the very city that Jerusalem replicated. When we enter into the fulfillment of the Marriage of the Lamb, the upgrade will be like trying to compare your vacation in Israel to eternal life in His actual Holy City.
Interesting discussion. I went for a quick look at the three passages in the Gospels in which Jesus answers the question brought to him. I was struck by the realization that, IMHO, they do not speak against us being married in heaven. What all three versions of the story say is that at/after the resurrection, people won’t marry or be given in marriage. (i.e. won’t be getting married.) But I don’t understand them to be teaching that we won’t continue to be married to our spouse while in eternity.
That makes me wonder, why do we conclude we won’t stay married if we are married when we died and are resurrected? Jesus’ detractors felt they could stump Jesus with their hypothetical question. But it didn’t. It revealed their ignorance – and mine! It seems Jesus spoke to correct their (mis)understanding of God’s word and His power. But he didn’t say that their understanding of marriage was wrong. Did he?
Unless of course, we consider the possibility that “until death do us part” is taught in the Bible. There is no verse that says that, is there? However, we know that under the law a spouse was bound to their spouse until death. Then they were free to marry again. But that won’t be happening after the resurrection.
So, it could be argued that marriage ends with death, so therefore, there will be no married couples in heaven. I get that.
Yet, if that is what it takes to keep marriages from continuing into eternity, I want to be alive when Jesus comes because then, not only won’t I die, I would get to stay married to Mrs. OWM forever!! 😀
On a slightly different but parallel question, I have always taken this position: I’m always hoping to see my beloved pets again in Heaven. Because I have total faith that Heaven will be far greater than anything I can imagine, I am comfortable believing my pets will be there. If I am wrong, I won’t know it anyway and thus will not be disappointed. (But if I were to believe they would NOT be there and were wrong, think of all the unnecessary sadness I would endure.)
I think there will have to be relationships that are closer than “everybody”. Soldiers go into battle with their unit and return (if they live) irrevocably bound to one another. It is a bond that can be “closer than a brother.” We as Christians are at war her on Earth. The Bible speaks repeatedly about the battle, the race, the fight. When we go home, surely we will have a special bond with those with whom we fought most closely.
And if God has given us physical pleasures for this physical body here in the trenches, as we travel through the foreign land; and he has said we will have a new physical body in the new Earth, would he not have physical pleasures of some kind in store for our new physical body? So I think there will be some “equivalent” or “replacement” for sex. I know most here have argued pretty persuasively against that idea, but I just think there will. It’s certainly not a deal breaker for me! I am certainly not basing my decision to follow Christ on the whether or not he will provide a substitute for sex in Heaven. I’m his either way. If my eternity in Heaven is to be a housemaid in his palace, I’d rather do that than be apart from him! But, the character that God has revealed to me so far in my walk with him just seems like a Father who would have that surprise in store for us.
It is a great mystery indeed. But I am confident in one thing, God will be taking care of all these things in ways we cannot understand in our temporal, fleshly minds. The one who raised Jesus from the dead will raise me to be like the resurrected Jesus. Jesus was recognizable on earth post-reassurection. We know that we were created in His image. So it would be logical we would be raised in similar fashion. But to try to compact an eternal body and an eternal experience in a temporal earthly context is futile. If we love God and Jesus more than any and all earthly beings, and that faith becomes sight, nothing else will matter. The rich man in torment is the one who has realizations, not Lazarus.
11oc and LBD,
I understand your points, well made. But to call marriage an allegory of our relationship with Christ is not correct. In an allegory everything means something. In a spiritual image most things mean something. And the proof of that would be John 14:1-4. I understand that the ancient Rabbis connected the their marriage agreement in a spiritual way that seems to mirror the Christian communion of John 13. But ancient documents like that are still extra biblical and not the Word of God upon which I can process, make logical decisions, and grow towards Christ in maturity, (2 Tim. 3-16-17).
@slipthegrasp I am always happy to be among believers as they disagree so gently!
I’m trying to understand your point about John 14 as your proof text? My position would actually hold John 14 as a “slam dunk” supporting text for Bridegroom imagery.
Going to prepare a place in your father’s house is exactly what many of the Hebrews did during their year long “engagement period”. The “friend of the Bridegroom” (John Baptist) even went and helped set it up with her parents.
I took a gander and saw a very brief mention in “Zondervons Illustrated Background Commentary” for John 1… I’ve seen more extensive academic works on this but I’d have to go spelunking through my library.
But if anyone cares to whet their whistle with a small taste you can peruse this link. The layout looks ancient 90’s and does not instill confidence BUT the writer appears to use some references at the bottom of the page. http://www.biblestudymanuals.net/jewish_marriage_customs.htm
Note that I only quickly scanned this document for key points I was looking for and did not read it closely.
Biblical wedding parallels are extensive and not coincidental.
@slipthegrasp – whether one chooses to say the parallels are allegorical or just analogous, doesn’t matter to me. I would not define an allegory as having to have direct meaning of every part to something else. Consider the following definition: “As a literary device, an allegory is a narrative in which a character, place, or event is used to deliver a broader message about real-world issues and occurrences.” OR: “a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.” I don’t interpret either of those definitions to mean “everything means something”. I take it as the story on whole relays a greater meaning. But we are not here to debate literary word meanings. 😉
I’m not here to debate at all really. But I will share my thoughts more fully, as not to be misunderstood. It seems to me that the idea of earthly marriage pointing toward the heavenly relationship between Christ and His church is really inarguable, since the comparison is drawn from scripture itself. Whether it was Jesus who seized upon the Rabbi’s customs to illustrate His message, or the Rabbi’s had received instructions that have been lost to antiquity – I don’t know. But the fact that they do parallel, and Jesus used them to His advantage when describing how he would return cannot be discounted as simple coincidence. I have done quite a bit of study on the topic and the deeper I got, the more evident it became that this was not just some random thing. Paul, who was a self-described expert in the law, also drew the same comparisons and mixed the metaphors in his letters to the church, the bride of Christ.
In my estimation, if you were to draw the picture, we as the church here on earth are in the “betrothal period.” In which we can still stray and be adulterous, as Israel was. It is our job to be found waiting patiently for the return of the bridegroom, washed and clean, loyal to our betrothed to whom we agreed when we washed ourselves in baptism in His blood (remarkably similar to how the bride was to be ceremonially clean, bathed in the waters of a Micvah or “living water”, for her groom before the marriage.) The parallels are indeed extensive…
@ElevenOclock – I remember that document and read it in my studies on this subject, among many others. For me, seeing these pictures come together was faith-building. It illustrates the genius of God for me. It’s like something you hide, for someone you truly love and loves you, to find. If someone who cares not for you finds it, they won’t know what it is or understand the significance. But them that do love you, they are thrilled when they find it. Even the most devout legalist must find a way to answer scriptures that make the direct comparison:
- Eph 5:25-32 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, (26) that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, (27) so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (28) In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (29) For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, (30) because we are members of his body. (31) “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (32) This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
- 2Co 11:2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.
- Rev 19:7-9 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; (8) it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. (9) And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.
And these are not to touch the many ways God has used marriage to demonstrate to us His intentions – like Hosea and Gomer, and numerous others. To me, to discount the depth of the parallels of marriage on earth and the divine relationship is missing an opportunity at one of the greatest blessings to one’s faith. John 14 is but one small piece of the puzzle IMO. In fact, for me, it is a smaller piece among the many.
I am not a pre-millennialist by any means. I don’t think there is any predicting when the bridegroom will come. Jesus himself said that only the father knows. If Jesus doesn’t know, how should I expect to have any inkling? But I do think these things are written for our better understanding of how God wants the relationship to be, and one day, THAT day, it will be, fully.
And I wish it were today…..