Is marriage eternal and will it exist in heaven?
The First Marriage
When God created the heavens and the earth and declared “it was very good” (Gen 1:31), everything was in a state of perfection. Death had not yet entered into human history and perhaps even the creatures He created may have then had eternal life, but only one thing was not good was that man was alone. God had “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27) but Adam needed someone, as we all do, because we’re created for relationship, so “the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man” (Gen 2:20-21). All Adam could say was “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Gen 2:23). As a result, God joined the man and the woman together, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen 2:24-25). Of course the fall would eventually happen and paradise would be lost…at least for several thousand years.
Leave and Cleave
There are some important words describing the joining of Adam and Eve. One was that the man was supposed to leave his father and mother, and since Adam or Eve had no parents, we know that God was saying that the two were to leave their own families to create a new one, and that meant, leave their families out of their own marital affairs. Sadly, many divorces have resulted from in-law interference. The couple’s parents were in effect, commanded to stay out of the new couple’s marriage so that they would not create problems from without. Another key word was that the man should “hold fast to his wife” and the two would become one flesh, or one single-unit family as one new family. The word “hold fast” is actually one word from the Hebrew (dabaq) which means “to cling to, to stick to” as if they were both glued permanently together. And to become “one” flesh is better understood if we see what the Hebrew word for “one” (“’echad”) means, as “one in number,” so they are no longer two in the sense that they have now become one in purpose, union, and destiny. God married the first couple and He intended it to be forever, at least until death would part them.
Jesus on Marriage
On the question of marriage, the “Pharisees came up to [Jesus] and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’” (Matt 19:3-5)? Jesus also said “they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt 19:6). So the idea of marriage is that what God has joined together, He intends to stay together. The Greek word Jesus used for “joined” (syzeugnymi) literally means “to fasten to one yoke” like you would join two oxen on one yoke. As such, they are to both carry the load together and work toward the same direction and for the same purpose. This means they’re not two anymore, but now “one flesh.” Divorce among the first century Jews was so common that many of the men had several wives in their lifetimes, and they would divorce their wives over simple little things like burning his dinner or saying the wrong thing in public. That’s why Jesus warned them that “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (Matt 19:9). The Pharisees already knew this, but they were only trying to trip Jesus up (Matt 19:3). They didn’t really care about divorce and remarriage. They only wanted to cause Jesus to say the wrong thing, but He said exactly what was true in quoting Genesis. They were to remain married forever, at least until one of them died.
No Marriage in Heaven
Next, the Sadducees came to test Jesus to cause Him to stumble as they also asked him about marriage, asking, “If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother” (Matt 22:24-25), so they ask Him, “whose wife will she be” (Matt 22:27). The interesting thing is that the Sadducees didn’t even believe in the afterlife or miracles or eternality, so Jesus corrects them by saying, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Matt 22:29-30). Marriage is not eternal in the sense that after a believer dies they remain married in heaven, rather, they are like the angels in the sense that they no longer marry or are given in marriage. Marriage is a death—till-you-part arrangement here on earth, but in heaven, the marital relationship will cease. That doesn’t mean that husbands and wives won’t have a relationship in the kingdom, but that they will have a different relationship in the kingdom, and they are no longer bound to one another for life. Their relationship will never end, but it’s certainly going to change.
God is the originator of marriage and He intended it to be forever, at least in this life. It is only in the event of unrepentant and ongoing adultery that a man or woman is freed from their marital arrangement. A person who’s spouse has committed adultery and has refused to repent of it and stop, is free to divorce and remarry, although the person they marry must either be in the same situation or must have not ever married. Of course, there are exceptions like when physical abuse occurs. The abused spouse should leave for their own personal safety and protection. God would not expect a married spouse to remain where they are if they’re being physically abused. The same goes for any children in the home that are sexually or physically abused. The non-offending spouse should take the children to another, safe location, and the abuser should be reported to the police and face the full penalty of the law. The only thing that’s eternal is for believers who were married is eternal life, and it’s only for those who’ve trusted in Christ. All other things will pass away, but the children of God, never will.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.