Is There Marriage in Heaven?

Is There Marriage in Heaven? September 15, 2012

Are there marriages in heaven? The most obvious answer would seem to be no, based on Jesus’ words to the Sadducees as recorded in Luke 20:27-38, Matthew 22:23-32, and Mark 12:18-27. Here’s the Luke account:

But certain of the Sadducees, who deny that there is any resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if someone’s brother die having a wife, and he die childless, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed to his brother. There were therefore seven brothers, and the first took a wife, and died childless. And the second took the wife, and he died childless. And the third took her, and likewise the seven also, and they left no children, and died. And last of all the woman died also. In the resurrection therefore, whose wife of them is she? for the seven had her to wife.” And Jesus answering said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but they who shall be accounted worthy to obtain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; for they cannot any more die; for they are equal to the angels, and are the sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”

It seems fairly straightforward – Jesus clearly said that there was no marriage in the resurrection. But Emanuel Swedenborg, whose works inspired the founding of the New Church, claims to have seen married couples in heaven. Because of the apparent contradiction, some people have labelled the New Church teachings on eternal marriage as anti-scriptural.

At first glance the charge seems justified. But looking closer at Jesus’ response, it becomes clear that this isn’t quite as cut-and-dried as it first appears. Some of Jesus’ response to the Pharisees is puzzling – He says those in the resurrection neither marry nor are given in marriage “for they cannot any more die.” Why would the possibility of living forever have anything to do with whether or not they marry or are given in marriage?

It’s not just New Church scholars who have asked that question. And taking a step back, it becomes clear that Jesus is here addressing a very specific question about a specific kind of marriage – namely, a marriage as a legal contract under the law of Moses.

To understand this, it’s necessary to understand why the Sadducees were asking Him this question in the first place. The Sadducees “deny that there is any resurrection.” They were asking Jesus a question about marriage in the resurrection not because they were curious, but because they wanted to prove that there could not possibly be a resurrection at all.

According to the law of Moses, if a married man died before having children, his wife would marry the man’s brother – and any children they bore would bear the name and lineage of the original husband. The “marriage” in this case was a legal contract establishing heritage, and ensuring that the original husband’s name would be carried on into the next generation – that his life would be carried on through “his” children, even though they were born from his brother.

The trap that the Sadducees laid, then, was that the law of Moses required the woman to marry multiple men – but the same law forbade a woman from marrying several men while all were still living. If there was a resurrection, then the woman could not help but break the law of Moses; and to the Sadducees, this implied that the very idea of a resurrection was contrary to Scripture, and so was not possible.

But Jesus responded that “they who shall be accounted worthy to obtain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; for they cannot any more die.” What does not dying have to do with not being married? If we’re talking about marriage as a union of souls – two becoming one flesh – then not much. You could live forever and still be in union of souls. But if marriage is a legal contract to ensure that a family name is carried on through children, then suddenly it does become relevant whether a person will die again. If they no longer die, then a marriage to carry on the family name is no longer necessary. Marriage as that kind of legal contract is no longer a reality.

Jesus’ response addresses marriage as a legal contract – which is what the Sadducees were asking about – but it says nothing about marriage as the union of two souls. If that’s what the Sadducees had been asking about, the answer would have been easy: the woman would be married to the man she’s truly become one with. But that’s not what the Sadducees were asking about. Note that they could just as easily have asked, “Which of his wives is Jacob married to?” but they didn’t, because according to the law of Moses it was fine for Jacob to have had multiple wives. Their question specifically rested on the idea of the Mosaic law continuing to be in effect in the resurrection, and specifically about the Levirate marriage.

The kind of marriage that Jesus spoke of in contrast to the Mosaic marriage was a different thing entirely. He said, “On this account shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall be into one flesh. Wherefore they are no longer two, but one flesh. What, therefore, God has joined together, let not man put asunder,” and “Moses, because of your hard heartedness, permitted you to send away your wives; but from the beginning it was not so.” The ideal of marriage was that of Adam and Eve – not a legal contract but a union of souls. It is marriage, but in a sense so different from the idea of the Sadducees as to not even be deserving of the same name.

And so when Swedenborg wrote about marriages in heaven, he clearly stated that they were something different from marriages as a legal contract or marriages for the purpose of having children in this world:

Marriages in heaven differ from marriages on the earth in that the procreation of offspring is another purpose of marriages on the earth, but not of marriages in heaven, since in heaven the procreation of good and truth takes the place of procreation of offspring….All this makes clear that marriages in heaven are not like marriages on earth. In heaven marryings are spiritual, and cannot properly be called marryings, but conjunctions of minds from the conjunction of good and truth. But on earth there are marryings, because these are not of the spirit alone but also of the flesh. And as there are no marryings in heaven, consorts there are not called husband and wife; but from the angelic idea of the joining of two minds into one, each consort designates the other by a name signifying one’s own, mutually and reciprocally. This shows how the Lord’s words in regard to marrying and giving in marriage (Luke 20:35, 36), are to be understood. (Heaven and Hell 382)

Swedenborg does elsewhere describe those heavenly relationships as “marriages” because that is the best way to describe them in “this world” terminology, but he continues to distinguish between merely natural marriages and spiritual marriages, or the union of two souls.

One final note: it is not only Swedenborgians (and Mormons) who entertain the possibility of marriage (or something spiritually analogous) continuing in the resurrection. Eastern Orthodoxy allows for that possibility; several Protestant Bible scholars have made similar arguments to the one I make above (e.g. Ben Witherington in Women in the Ministry of Jesus); and even some staunch Calvinists hold it out as a possibility. So although it’s a different interpretation of scripture than many Christians are used to, it’s by no means unheard of, and it is not  anti-scriptural. In fact, to me it seems more in line with the core teachings of scripture about what happens in a true marriage: the two become one.

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  • Pete

    Just curious, why would the union of a man and a woman in heaven be limited to just spiritual ? WE know that after the resurrection both men and women will still have their bodies (glorified) and souls, just like they are on earth. So why can’t there be union of both body and soul ?

    • Delphi Programmer

      Exactly! I know it’s been ages since I’ve been here, but as I read your post I can’t help but to comment. We are raised with glorified bodies, “from glory to glory”. God created the pattern of human beings being male and female and having a love relationship between male/female partners that is special. That was His original design, and the Bible says that God doesn’t change, “He is the same yesterday, today and forever”. So it makes perfect sense that we’ll have a union of body, soul and spirit just as we do on earth, but far greater than our experience on earth because it is purified and without sin.

      • Geoff

        Hey, Delph! Just wanted to say hello once again and I hope things are fine.

        • Delphi Programmer

          HI! I’m doing okay. Things are slow on my Marriage IS in Heaven Facebook page, but all and all I can’t complain.

  • Steven Cohen

    I appreciate reading a new viewpoint, but it seems illogical to me. Jesus said two things. 1) there is no marriage in heaven and 2) he explained the reason why (because nobody dies).

    However we interpret the reasoning for the lack of marriage, it doesn’t change the truth that marriage will not be done.

    To use an analogy: 1) Mom says I can’t have a cookie and 2) the reason is because it will spoil my appetite. Now, if I can prove to a third person that it will NOT spoil my appetite, or that my appetite is irrelevant, it does NOT automatically follow that Mom gives me permission to eat a cookie.

    One possible reason that lack of death is a reason to prohibit marriage, is that the marital bond can never be dissolved. You are stuck with that person for ETERNITY. That sounds more like hell.

    • Delphi Programmer

      Your answer is very pat. First of all, if you’re going to take Jesus words at face value and interpret them literally, then you have to take everything that is believed about Heaven from literal words in the Bible. For example, the Bible never actually says ther is no sex or romance in Heaven. That is derived from the logic that sex without marriage is sin, the is no marriage in Heaven, there is no sin in Heaven, so there is no sex in Heaven. But understand that that is human logic, there is no scripture verse that actually says “there is no sex in Heaven”.

      If you’re going to take the Bible literally, then you have to do so across the board. If you’re allowed to interpret, then you’re allowed interpret across the board. You can’t have it both ways.

      If you interpret what Jesus said, he was talking about mariage as a legal contract to establish heritage. That form of marriage is no longer needed because there is no death. If we won’t have romantic partners in Heaven, then why did God create Adam and Eve to begin with? He created them BEFORE there was sin. He said it is not good for a man to be alone BEFORE sin. He gave Eve to Adam BEFORE sin. If they had never eaten the forbidden fruit they would have lived together forever.

      Furthermore, why is sex (or a heavenly equivalenet to it), “falling in love”, being in a male/female love relationship, or whatever you want to call it, no longer “needed” in Heaven and therefore not allowed? (I’m trying to avoid the word “marriage”)

      The Bible says we will have a feast in Heaven, but by the same logic isn’t food “no longer needed” since we’ll live forever and obviously won’t starve? Why would we have one thing without the need of it, but not the other?

      • Steven Cohen

        Hi! Keep in mind I am not arguing that there is sex, or is not sex, in Heaven. I simply don’t know. Further, I can’t be confident that I am right about any of the most simple truths of God. Which makes me unable to argue any doctrinal matters with you.

        I was simply pointing out the logical fallacy in your statement. Refer above to my cookie example pointing out the logical flaw.

        But It doesn’t mean your conclusion is wrong. A person can hold the correct conclusion even if he arrives there fortuitiously despite faulty logic. It’s like guessing the right answer on a multiple choice test. You select “c” and you are right. But later you find out your reason for selecting “c” was totally misplaced.

        So I don’t quibble with your conclusions, just your reasoning. Another flaw I see is your statement ” If you’re going to take the Bible literally, then you have to do so across the board.” Really? Why? The bible is such a complicated book, made up of different styles of writing, by different writers. There’s historical parts, there’s poetic parts, there’s prophecy, there’s metaphor, and the list goes on. I do take some of the bible literally, I believe Jesus was an actual person, not just some allegorical or fictional person. However, I do NOT believe the whore of revelation is a literal person who rides a literal beast. I would bet you also agree with me. So it is possible, and advisable to use wisdom to discern the meaning of a passage.

        I happen to prefer non literal interpretations of the bible, it just speaks to me that way. I take the entire Adam/Eve portion as allegory. I perceive the garden as representing the Earth, Eve as representing the Jews, Adam representing mankind, the tree of life as the crucified Jesus, the fruit which it bears as being everlasting life, the tree of knowledge representing idolotry/antichrist and it’s fruit representing death.

        So its an allegory for the story of the whole bible itself. Follow me on this path: First God creates the Earth (Eden) and he makes mankind (Adam) to live in it. From all of mankind (Adam) God separates out a tiny clan for himself (rib from Adam) and matures it into a special nation (Eve). This special nation is Israel, a nation of Kings and Priests unto God.

        However, that special nation of Kings and Priests falters by falling into idolotry (Eve eats the fruit). And if God’s Kings and Priests can’t function, sin and death spreads to all of mankind (Eve gives fruit to Adam). However, there is hope for redemption, because Jesus was nailed to the cross (tree of life) giving the promise of everlasting life (fruit). But Israel (Eve) and mankind in general (Adam) will have to wait for God to make that opportunity (fruit from tree of life) available to them. In the meantime, both Adam and Eve (all of mankind) will have to eat earthly food, which they produce themselves, from the sweat of their face (live in suffering conditions).

        My own inkling about marriage, is that marriage represents a greater spiritual truth. It’s like the jews slaughtering their passover lamb. They slaughtered a literal lamb, but it foreshadowed the eventual sacrifice of Jesus which had spiritual significance. So it is with marriage. The joining of a man and woman foreshadows the greater spiritual truth that Christ (the head) will spiritually join faithful believers to himself (the body). And the two shall become as one. The ecstasy of sex represents the joy God offers.

        Once the slaughter of Jesus was accomplished, there was no longer any need for further lamb sacrifice–that was just a shadow, a symbol. So God took away the temple, rendering further sacrifices impossible. And just the same, when God’s heavenly body is assembled (Jesus with his faithful chosen), there is no longer any need for the shadow of human marriage. When the spiritual reality is accomplished, the token which foreshadowed it is not needed. So God takes the institution of human marriage away.

        • Delphi Programmer

          I know it’s been ages since I visited this page, but I thought I’d stop in.

          In response to your last post, I would only say this: Jesus said, “They will neither marry or be given in marriage”. That is not the same as saying “there is no marriage”. Jesus did not say that and the Bible did not say that. I know it sounds logical to go from A to B, and I may be walking a fine line and splitting hairs, but not getting married is not the same as not being married.

          Being “given in marriage” means being given to an arranged partner, which scarcely exists today let alone in God’s perfect world. It doesn’t mean to be in a state of marriage, or “spoken for” as modern church teachers interpret it. So, Jesus said we won’t marry (choose a partner) or be given in marriage (have one chosen for us by a parent). That doesn’t mean we won’t have God-chosen partners, as Eve was Adam’s God-chosen partner, with whom we have every aspect of the relationship we had with our earthly spouses, including the sexual aspect (or whatever Heaven’s equivalent to it is). It certainly doesn’t mean we won’t have a deep love relationship with our spouses, but will simply “recognize them” in Heaven, the way we recognize the clerk at the grocery store — as so many Christians like to say, ad nausium!

          • recentwidow

            In the Mormon Church, it is taught that when Jesus said “there is no marriage nor giving of marriage IN THE RESURRECTION,” He (Jesus) meant that those decisions must be made BEFORE one is resurrected. Jesus never said couples who were married on earth were not married in heaven, and it would make no logical sense for God to establish the pattern of marriage on earth if it wasn’t meant to continue in Heaven. (REMEMBER WHERE THE BIBLE SAYS “AND WHAT GOD HATH JOINED TOGETHER…LET NO MAN PUT ASUNDER”??)
            Therefore, Jesus said there would be no marriage performed in or AFTER the Resurrection, and the resurrection is an ordinance. Before the ordinance of resurrecting anyone happens, they must declare their marriage before God. (so there is still time to change your mind.) Married couples who are resurrected together shall remain together forever, but no marriages will be performed AFTER someone is resurrected. Those decisions must be made in advance of becoming an eternal resurrected being. Mormons refer to this as Eternal Marriage.

          • Delphi Programmer

            Isn’t it true, though, that Mormons believe in children being born in the afterlife (i.e. in one of the three kingdoms). Therefore, if there are no marriages performed after the resurrection, then it would mean that none of the children born then would be allowed to marry either. That makes no sense from the standpoint of how God designed humanity and His purpose for creating mating partners to begin with.

            It’s been awhile since I’ve studied Mormon theology so I may be rusty in some of my assertions.

    • Eric Breaux

      You didn’t pay any attention to the fact that Jesus is referring to two different things, neither of which indicating that marriage will be abolished. Ignoring the fact that Jesus was talking about buying women for convenient home living will not change the context of what he said.
      Your analogy makes no sense because we have historical data showing that this verse is not what it would seem to our culture initially, whereas your comparison has a straightforward statement that does mean exactly what we would think.

      • Delphi Programmer

        You’re absolutely right. To elaborate a little, I’m assuming you mean the type of marriage the Sadducees were talking about bears little resemblance to what we think of as marriage today. In those days marriages were legal contracts establishing heritage and property rights.

        Also, if you parse Jesus’ words carefully he is saying there are no “man made” unions in the resurrection. On earth, where we are not in the direct presence of God literally, we have to choose our own partners. We either marry (find our own partner) or are given in marriage (have a family member select one for us). In Heaven God chooses our companions so there is no more need for US to marry or be given in marriage. God does the marrying.

        • Eric Breaux

          That’s an interesting perspective.

  • TheGreat Seeker

    actually sense you are bringing the law into it God says with Ecc 9:6 all your love will be no more. Not something different. So that guy is wrong with what he saw. The bible clearly says Gods ways live forever and he is not the God of the dead. He told this world to place your eyes on heavenly things and not to desire things that turn to dust, or ware a thief can come and steal. Can marriage be stolen by a thief???ADULTRY??? Does it turn to dust as God says with ecc 9:6 YES. So dead as per the Law widows can remarry and God can join a great many people upon each of your wife’s(husbands) as one flesh. When God said neither can they die any more he is angry because all you are is the book of ecc, dead and dying in your own ways lost in the flesh and the lust of it. What is our own ways??, how a man looks at a woman(vise versa) and how a man finds her fine? have you noticed how other men can find the same woman attractive as we have a sharing gang bang sex appeal? God does not gather men on a woman like he did with Solomon, Solomon was just a man lost in his own ways with the many fish in the sea. To find Gods ways you have to bring the beast nature humans have and their many before the Lord and seek for his righteousness and kingdom to be added unto you as you seek for heaven. That is the power of God as it is written also in matt 22:29 which you all do not know. Death will be coming to you all and all you families saith the book of ecc, Jesus came and saved your soul not your families, because of sin and your own ways and your lost mindset how you should be all screaming and screaming in hell there is punishment for grace. 1 Cor 7:33 also says MARRIAGE IS OF THE WORLD…nothing of heaven. God would not line them up each of you in death if it was in heaven saying how holy it is widows can remarry. You can remarry for your ways are dead and dying. Gods ways there is only one, there is many fish in the dead sea with the dying human nature of our own ways. If you are going to preach heaven you have to be against “widows”, for my God is very holy and he would not line them up your heavenly bride shouting how he can join as one flesh PART TIME up her, as the foolish Mormons do and you can have her holy back after the lord of hosts wipes it widow off.

    and if you can understand this it is SEEK YE FIRST, NOT 2nd the kingdom of God, as the great destroyer is so hard pressed for everyone to lose your virginity. There is a way for heaven but in my eyes you are all lost and dying.

  • Delphi Programmer

    If anyone wants more information about marriage in Heaven, please visit my Facebook page “Marriage IS in Heaven”. I have a collection of videos and links to articles about this topic that shed a different light. I also refute some of the “canned” church teachings on this topic.

  • Cha Rob

    There are no marriages in heaven..? Makes sense..Because most marriages on Earth are sheer Hell …You cant have something like that floating around Heaven .Can You ?

    • Delphi Programmer

      What makes you think that in Heaven we’ll be “floating”?

      If it’s like hell to you it’s because you chose the wrong one!

      • Cha Rob

        Well we must be floaters if we are in heaven because heaven is high in the sky,,,I don’t think that our souls come equipped with jets tied to them ,,,also 50% of marriages break up another 20% live in misery but stay together,,,SO choosing the wrong one is easy,, we are are all fooled by that saying ,,Happy ever after,,,,Those two words seem to change who the living together,,courting couple are ,,, Those two words are ,,I DO