Marriage - Resurrection
Part Eight - Marriage After the Resurrection
When dealing with the question of marriage after the resurrection most believers will quickly point out that there will be no marriage after the resurrection. They base this on the words of Jesus when He responded to a trick question put forth to Him by a group of Sadducees. This account is recorded in the first three gospels (Matt. 22:29-32; Mk. 12:24-27; Luke. 30:24-28) and it addresses the law of the Kinsman Redeemer. The arguments for no marriage are as follows:
1) In the resurrection they will neither marry nor are given in marriage (Matt. 22:30). Jesus is referring to the two most common ways a couple enter marriage. In the first, the couple falls in love and the man seeks permission from the girl’s father to marry her. This can be seen when Samson has his father make arrangements to marry a Philistine girl. The second way refers to an arranged marriage and was probably the most frequent method practiced in Biblical times. Jesus states that neither of these methods will be practiced after the resurrection thus indicating there will be no marriage.
2) We will be like the angels (Matt. 22:30). The angels in heaven were all created at the same time and thus do not reproduce. There are as many angels today as there was in the first week of creation. This has led many to think that because angels do not have physical bodies and are thus neither male nor female, this indicates that our transformed bodies will also be sexless – we will all be the same.
3) If a person is married to two or more mates in this life, whose mate will they be after the resurrection? This could be a challenging problem that even the Sadducees were aware of.
4) We will be the bride of Christ and as such we will be married to Him for all eternity. There will be no marriage between believers or Saints of God.
5) There is no mention of resurrected Saints being married or reproducing either in the Millennium or in the New Heavens and Earth.
These arguments look very convincing and many accept them as fact and move on to other things. However, for whatever reason, this explanation never seemed to work for me. I was taught it in church and in Seminary but I never could get a peace about it and it was only after many years of Bible study that I began to see a biblical alternative to this position. I do not say I have all the answers because I do not. However, the Bible gives us additional material that I believe needs to be considered in this issue other than the account in the gospels.
1) The Words of Our Lord (Matt. 22:29-32; Mk. 12:24-27; Lk. 30:24-28): These three accounts of our Lord’s answer to the Sadducees may not be as clear on the matter of marriage after the resurrection as they might at first appear. To correctly understand what Jesus is saying we must consider the context of Jesus’ answer. The Sadducees approach Jesus with a question they think He can not answer. Remember the Sadducees were “sad you see” because they did not believe in the resurrection. They were the “liberal” theologians of Jesus’ day. The question they asked was probably one they commonly used to stump the Pharisees when debating the existence of the resurrection.
They refer to the law of the Kinsman Redeemer. According to this law, the land owned by a family must remain in the family. It was not to be given away or sold to another. It was to be an eternal inheritance entrusted to the family. To maintain this family inheritance, the first born male must produce a male heir in which to pass on the family land and inheritance. If the first born male died before fathering a son, his closest of kin was to marry his wife in order to produce a son in the firstborn’s name thus preserving the family name and inheritance. It is therefore this law that serves as the medium for the Sadducee’s trick question.
A man marries but dies before he can produce an offspring to carry on the family inheritance. It was required that the wife be given to the next oldest son who would father a son in the name of his brother to receive the inheritance. The story is a sad one because the wife is married to all seven sons and all die before a child is conceived. After the sons die so does the woman. The Sadducees now ask the Lord, “in the resurrection whose wife does she become for all seven had her as a wife?” Let us keep in mind that they are looking at this from the point of the Kinsman Redeemer. In other words whose wife will she be after the resurrection in order to produce an heir for a future inheritance and who will the other 6 marry?
Jesus response was three fold.
First, they do not know the Scriptures: this question should not even be raised for the Old Testament clearly taught there would be a resurrection. This supposed problem does not change the reality of the truths of God’s Word.
Second, they do not acknowledge the power of God: This supposedly impossible problem is nothing to the power of God. The problem of whose wife she would be is nothing to the God who created all things from nothing.
Thirdly, they will not be given in marriage or taken in marriage: Jesus states that giving and taking in marriage will not take pace for we will be like the angels. Since the “giving and taking in marriage” is referring to the need of producing an heir, in what way will the resurrected Saints be like the godly angels? Jesus gives us the answer in the following verses. We will be like the godly angels after the resurrection in that we will not need to be married to produce an heir because we will never die. We will be immortal even as the angels are immortal. If you are immortal (will never die) then there is no need an heir to pass on land and inheritance. It will always belong to you.
This is the point that Jesus makes when He declares “I am (presently) the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I am not the God of the dead but of the living.” Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will not possess the land through an heir, they will possess it themselves in the resurrection.
This point is further driven home when we examine this account as recorded by Luke.
Luke 20:34-37, “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.” NKJV
In light of the order of Luke’s words, Jesus ties the phrase “nor can they die anymore” with being like the angels. This seems to be the one common denominator between the angels and resurrected man.
If Jesus’ answer is in view of the Kinsman Redeemer law, in essence He is declaring that the resurrected Saints immorality would make this law null and void. There will be no need to marry to produce an heir. Jesus, however, does not rule out the possibility that at some point in the future the resurrected Saints will marry. If they do marry, this time the marriage will truly last an eternity. Some would argue at this point marriage would be meaningless as the Church age Saint will not produce children. Even if this be true, let us remember that the creation of mankind as male and female and the institution of marriage as a whole have a much greater purpose than just the reproduction of offspring.
One further note should be made on this account. It says we “will be equal to the angels as sons of God.” In what way are we going to be equal to the angels? The angels have no physical body but we will after the resurrection. “We will be equal to the angels.” I believe means that we will be equal in the sense of eternal life and will have full access to all the powers and abilities that angels presently possess since we are all the Sons of God.
2) The Bride of Christ: It has been pointed out that we will be married to Christ and after the consummation of the marriage in heaven, there will be no need for marriage for the resurrected saint. This in itself does not exclude the idea of marriage between a man and a woman. Remember, there was a lot of marrying going on in Israel in the Old Testament when God called Israel His Wife (Hosea 2:2; 12:12). The use of the imagery of marriage to describe God’s covenantal relationship to Israel and Christ’s covenantal relationship to the Church does not mean that our relationship is identical to marriage in every way. It is identical in the fact that we enter it through a covenant and it is a relationship of eternal sacrificial love. From that point on, human marriage differs in many ways.
3) Thirdly, it never says that we will be neither male nor female after the resurrection. I know of no Scripture that declares that. If we refer to the fore mentioned passages to say we will be like the angels and thus neither male nor female, then we will be adding to the passage something it does not say. No where in the fore mentioned passage does it say that angels are sexless nor is there any mention of this else where in the Scripture. Likewise, if angels are sexless, to be like them would require us to be without a physical body. However, the Bible is clear that we will have a physical body for all eternity.
4) Fourthly, the body of Jesus that went into the grave is the body that came out of the grave. It had the same male voice it had before it went into the grave. Mary recognized her Lord’s voice at the tomb following the resurrection. Jesus showed them the nail prints of his hands and feet. They all recognized him as being the same person physically that He was before He died. Now if all the other features of Jesus’ body were preserved in the resurrection why would we not expect that His gender was preserved as well? If in the resurrection of Christ His whole body was resurrected and transformed as a male body then since He is the first fruit of the resurrection we can expect to keep our gender in the resurrection to come (1 Cor. 15:23; 1 John 3:2)
There are several facts that would lend the idea that Jesus was still male after the resurrection of His body. First of all, the Scriptures draw an analogy between the first Adam and the second Adam who is Christ. Both were men and both were representatives of the whole human race (1 Cor. 15:20-23, 45-49; Rom. 5:12-21). God originally created that this world would be ruled by a man, Adam, the representative of the whole race. For someone to fully restore the throne stolen by Satan He would have to be fully human even as the first Adam was. Likewise, 1 Tim. 2:5 declares the humanity of Christ. If Christ is not presently a human man but rather a genderless being, He no longer is human. To strip the unique qualities of male and female from humanity is to make them no longer human! We may also refer to the fact that Jesus is viewed as the groom or future husband of the Church. The word for groom or husband is always used of someone who is male in gender (Rev. 21:2) and this idea of maleness is carried over in His names such as “Son of God”, “King of Kings, Lord of Lords,” and in the gender of the pronouns used in reference to Him.
5) Fifthly, in the account of the changes to the body of the believer at the resurrection in 1 Cor. 15, nothing is said about a gender change. Likewise, when I get to heaven, if my grandmothers are no longer women, will I recognize them as the ones who I knew in this life? Our gender does play a role in who we are and how we are recognized.
6) Finally, Christ came to restore to man what man lost in the garden. We have no concept of how different life is today from what it was in the garden. Our minds, sight, hearing, strength, abilities were all suppressed by the curse of sin. In fact, every aspect of our being and our lives is affected by the curse of sin (Rom. 8:18-25). Therefore no one has ever known what marriage was originally created to be like, a true and complete harmony of two unique creations brought together as one by the Creator God. Those who have been happily married still can not imagine what marriage would be like if sin and its consequences were totally removed. In my way of thinking, if God created a perfect world with perfect human beings in a perfect relationship, why would He toss this away with the transformation at the resurrection? We would never have the opportunity to experience all of the beauty of God’s perfect original creation.
Now when we talk about the Lord restoring things to man that he lost due to sin, we see no problems talking about our transformed bodies having perfect vision, perfect hearing, perfect taste, perfect smell, perfect physique and etc. We see no problems talking about living in a perfect world where animals live in harmony with man and nature just as God created it. We have no problem with eating, learning, singing, walking, talking, smelling, tasting, hearing, touching but when it comes to the issue of marriage and sex we for some reason feel that aspect of the original creation will be left out in the resurrection and restoration of creation.
Let me clarify things. I personally do not believe there will be any marriage and sex from the time of the resurrection to the beginning of the new earth and heaven for the resurrected Saint. During that period we are committed to the service of our Lord in ruling and reigning with Him. However, I see no reason to believe that we will not be married and be sexual beings in the eternity to come. You say what about the person who was married to two or more mates in this life?. Remember that when we enter into eternity, the former things will pass away (Rev. 21:4). Possibly this wiping away of the former things will erase our remembrance of who we were previously married to so that we have a fresh start.
In December of 2003 I discovered to my dismay that I was diabetic. It runs in my family and someone forgot to tell me about it. To say I used to love donuts and wedding cake is an understatement. I can almost taste them thinking about them. Since that time I have had to give them both up. One of my cousins when learning I had the family “curse” wrote me the most dismal letter implying that life was pretty much over for me. I wrote him back and ask him what he was talking about. Sure I have to follow a strict die and have to stay away from certain foods I love but what’s the big deal? It isn’t forever! When I am transformed at Christ’s coming I can eat those foods again. I know the donuts in heaven will far exceed the ones on this earth in quality and taste and I will be able to eat them again! I am only giving up these things temporarily. I guess I see that for all things that are a result of the curse which deprive us of what God originally created as good. Yes we may not be able to be married in this life, or to walk and run, or to see, or eat certain foods but that is all temporary. I believe when we reach eternity we will be fully restored to human life as God originally created it to be
Finally, anyone reading this should be made aware that this is my perspective on this matter. I am probably in the majority on this. There are many good scholars who would disagree with my position. I say this only to let you know that this is one of those matters that we will probably have to wait until the day of the resurrection to get the final answer. If God does away with marriage, I know that He will replace it with something far better and we will not miss it. However, I think what I have shared is compelling evidence to leave the matter open until our Lord returns.