There probably hasn’t been a loving spouse who has faced the death of a beloved husband or wife who hasn’t been consoled by the thought of seeing that precious loved one again some day. Those of us who believe in the Word of God and have the hope of resurrection can know that the end of this life is not “goodbye forever,” but only a waiting period until we meet once again in the glorious life to come. And yet this hope is somewhat tempered for the grieving widow or widower by the commonly held belief that there is no marriage in the afterlife. This view is based on the statement of Christ given in the story in Matthew 22, Mark 12, and Luke 20. Yet is this really what Christ was saying? Will those whose marriages were such a success and whose love and devotion to each other mirrored the love of Christ for His people not be allowed to restore that marriage and continue that love in the life to come? Will they be forced to relate to and treat each other just as they would everyone else? This doesn’t seem quite fair, and raises a significant question about the resurrection.

Let’s tackle this problem head on and see what the Bible truly has to say on the issue. First, let us consider Matthew 22: 23-33. Many people get all excited here and insist that this passage proves there is no marriage in Heaven. This is not even talking about Heaven, however, but the resurrection before the Kingdom when many of the very Jews who were standing there would rise from the dead and take their place as the nation of priests in God’s government. I remember arguing about this passage with a man who claimed it taught that there is no marriage in Heaven. I asked him if there was then any marriage in the Kingdom, and he said that he supposed that there was. I found his statements rather devoid of reflection. These men would have been talking about the Kingdom when they spoke of the resurrection, and the Lord would have replied in kind. Let us examine carefully what is said.

First off, this is an attack on the idea of the resurrection. The Sadducees taught that there is no resurrection, and their indulgent lifestyles reflected their belief! Now, they offer to Jesus the standard argument that they no doubt used quite often to silence the Pharisees. No doubt it will work on Christ as well, they reason.

This story is rather out of date, as it has to do with laws and marriage arrangements in effect in that time and under the law. Let us make up a modern day story that would be somewhat equivalent. Suppose a young girl who believes in the Lord Jesus goes out and marries a man who also believes in Him. They live together as a couple for several years, after which he dies. She mourns for him for a time, but after a course of years recovers from it and, meeting another man who believes in the Lord, marries him as well. They live together for an approximately equal amount of time as the first marriage, and then, as her first husband did, her second also dies. Again she mourns for a time, but again she eventually meets another man who is a believer and marries him. This goes on for seven husbands, after which she also dies. No significant event marks out any of the marriages, as there are no children in any of them, they all last about the same amount of time, and none of the husbands survives the woman. Now which one of these men would she be the wife of when they rise from the dead, if there is indeed a resurrection?

Of course, these men did not recognize what Paul pointed out in I Corinthians 7:39, that a woman was only bound to her husband by the law as long as he lived. If he was dead, the marriage ties were over! This is what the law said, and these men, being teachers of the law, should have known it, but they did not. A woman in such a circumstance would have to REmarry in the resurrection before she would be married to ANYONE, since her death erased all marriage ties. And she could as easily marry a new man altogether as one of these men she had been married to before! This is what the law would imply, and these men should have known it.

Jesus is quick to tell these men that they are mistaken. Their problem, as He states it, was that they both did not know the Scriptures, and did not know the power of God. Let us all strive to be guilty of neither of these!

In the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels of God in heaven. Since we do not know how the angels’ marriage arrangements work, this statement does not help us much. Marrying is what a man does when he proposes to a girl and marries her, and giving in marriage is what a father does when he arranges a marriage for his daughter.

As for the resurrection, God is so sure of it that He speaks of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as if they were alive already. It would be good if we would speak likewise, knowing that our own resurrection is as sure as the sun rising tomorrow.

But so far we have only considered Matthew 22. This passage has parallels in both Mark 12 and Luke 20. Let us look at them for a moment.

Mark 12 has little to add to the argument that is not already in Matthew 22, but in Luke 20 we have an extra line added to Jesus’ argument that can help us to understand it. In Luke 20:34-36 we read,

And Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”

If we would take this argument as meaning what most teachers say that it means…that is, that there is no marriage in the resurrection…then we must ask ourselves why Christ included the phrase, “nor can they die anymore.” If that was indeed His argument, then this phrase makes no sense. Why the fact that men will be undying in the resurrection would have anything to do with whether they marry or not, and whether they are still sexual beings or have become neuter beings, I have yet to hear any Bible teacher explain. This information would seem to be superfluous, if this is indeed the argument our Lord was attempting to make.

The other faulty part of this argument, I believe, is the belief that the angels are neuter beings, and therefore this passage is saying that we too will be neuter beings in the resurrection. If one would ask why it is believed that angels are neuter beings, this passage would be given as the proof. Therefore, we know that we will be neuter beings in the resurrection because this passage says that we will be as the angels, and we know that the angels are neuter beings because this passage says we will be like them in the resurrection, an argument which almost seems like circular reasoning to me.

The idea that the angels are neuter beings seems to me to be flawed. First of all, we know nothing of the marriage arrangements of angels. To claim that we know that they are neutral beings is only claiming to have knowledge that we do not have, something which Christ was admonishing the Sadducees for in this very passage! And since in Genesis 6:1-2, Jude 6-7, and other passages we seem to see the angels having sex with human women, the claim that they are neutral beings seems to me to be unfounded. How their sexuality is to be acted out according to God’s plan is a matter about which we know very little.

However, the passage in Luke does give us a clue whereby I believe we can arrive at a proper interpretation of this argument in all three of the gospels. The words, “nor can they die anymore,” shows that what the Lord was setting forth here was not the fact that they cannot marry in the resurrection, but why the problem the Pharisees were setting forth would be a moot point in the resurrection.

As I pointed out above, once you have died you are not married to anyone. Anyone who is resurrected is therefore single. And being single the matter of who will be married to whom becomes a legitimate question. So Christ sets forth why this will not be a problem. First of all, men neither marry nor are given in marriage in the resurrection. These two systems of pairing people off, both marriage by choice and marriage by the arrangement of parents or guardians, are the only methods of choosing a marriage partner that have been consistently used down through the millennia. However, both of these systems are flawed. First of all, marriage by arrangement is flawed because of parents or guardians who may care more about themselves or advancing their own positions than they do about their children. Secondly, marriage by choice is flawed because young people often are led astray by their own passions, desires, and emotions, and therefore marry ill-advisedly. We tend to look down with such superiority on societies that still arrange marriages, thinking that we are so advanced by having our young people choose their own marriage partners. Yet the fact of so many divorces and so many failed marriages shows us that we have no cause for boasting, as our system of choosing a mate has turned out to be an abject failure. Not that arranged marriages would fix the problem, for, as I said, this system too has its faults.

But Christ has some good news for us here. In the resurrection, we will no longer marry, nor will we be given in marriage. So how then are we married? Notice that it does not say that there is no marriage in the resurrection, only that men do not marry or give in marriage. So who does? And the answer, I believe, is God. God arranges all marriages, God gives away in marriage, and it is by God’s choice that all marriages take place. There is no more making a choice based on selfish reasons…there is no more making a choice based on your emotions and not your reason…for God Himself arranges and plans all marriages. Thus human error, which so often plagues our marriages today, is done away with.

But what of that inexplicable argument about, “nor can they die anymore”? This is easily answered by the argument I have just set forth. You see, there are two major problems today that are instrumental in breaking up even the best of marriages. One of them is human error in choosing partners. But the other is death. It doesn’t matter how much a couple loves each other, it doesn’t matter how good of a match they are. If one of the two dies, then that is the end of the marriage. But this is not true in the resurrection. Not only is human error not a factor, but death is eliminated as well. This will result in marriage being what it was always meant to be…a wondrous act whereby two individuals are made into one flesh. No longer will “one flesh” be torn apart by sin and selfishness. No longer will death rip one dearly loved partner away from the other. In that day, the mess that is modern marriage will be cleaned up at last, and two individuals will be free at last to become one flesh the way God always intended for it to be.

So how will God go about marrying people in the afterlife? I’m sure I do not know. He certainly wouldn’t have to be in a hurry…with all eternity to do it…but I doubt he would wait overly long…probably this would go on a case-by-case basis. I have no doubt that He will almost immediately recreate some marriages…there are some people whom we can have no doubt are already as close to one flesh as we can get in this life, and I think that we cannot imagine God not reunifying the wonderful thing that death had torn apart. But He will be under no obligation to do this, and in many cases He will not repeat the same error that had been made in this first life. But then an infinite number of options will be open to Him. We can imagine couples who had lived millennia apart in the first life, suddenly being brought together by God as a couple in the new life of that day. We can imagine people who didn’t even speak the same language suddenly being united in the day when tongues will cease. We can imagine people who never lived through childhood, or who never had the chance to marry in this life, being given at last the chance to participate in a God-planned marriage. And we can imagine those who never had a family or anyone to love them being given not only a wife or husband but a family of their own, a blessing they had never before experienced. For the Scripture says of God that, “He setteth the solitary in families.” What a wonderful time that will be!

So one last question remains to be asked. Why do so many seem to think that it is so strange or unthinkable that there might be marriage in the resurrection? After all, it was God Himself who said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Why would God change His mind? Why would something that He has already said is not good suddenly become good again?

There are several errors that I think lead men to believe that marriage in the afterlife is unthinkable. The first is that our future existence is in some sort of spiritual form. If we do not have bodies, then we certainly cannot commence a physical union. This idea (which basically denies the resurrection by stating that spirits, not men, will be resurrected) is one that I have dealt with at length in other messages. The second error is that everything in the afterlife must be vastly different than it is now. I have found people who seem to cling to this idea…that everything now is somehow bad and will be eliminated in the resurrection. I agree that many things now are flawed, but I believe that the Scripture teaches that in the life to come these things will be FIXED, will become what God had originally intended them to be, not that they will be done away with.

The third wrong idea is that sex is somehow dirty or sinful. This slanderous idea seems to have its origin in the evil one, who, as I Timothy teaches, likes to forbid to marry. But this is totally untrue. God created sex, and He pronounced all His creation as “very good.” The fourth wrong idea is that marriage is not even desirable. This might be held by those who have been in nasty marriages, and who now feel that they would be much better off if they didn’t need anyone. This idea is wrong, however, because God Himself has stated that we do need a helpmeet. The solution is to fix marriage, not to eliminate it. I feel for those who have suffered so in bad marriages, but I do not believe that this means that marriage should be eliminated. Nor do I believe that God will give up on it just because we have. He created it, and He still has a plan for it.

The final error is that we will be the Bride of Christ in the resurrection. First of all, there is no such thing in Scripture as a “bride of Christ,” “wife of God,” or any other imaginary phrase like this. God has often used the figure of a husband and wife to describe His relationship to His people Israel or even to His ekklesia, but He also describes the city of Jerusalem as His bride. To take these statements as eliminating marriage in the afterlife is foolish. He told Israel that He was an husband to them, and this hardly meant that none of them could marry or have sex forever after! It is foolish to imagine that marriage to God would eliminate actual marriage between human individuals, even if the concept of our being the Bride of Christ were a Scriptural one, which it is not.

So these are both my thoughts on marriage, and on the argument Christ made in Matthew 22, Mark 12, and Luke 20. I hope they will help you clarify your thoughts on these passages. God bless you in your further study of His Word.

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