Question: Marriage, like family as a whole and government systems, is an institution made by God. Would it be too much conjecture that marital relations last beyond the grave for believers? It would be rather awkward to meet one’s “former spouse” during heavenly celebrations. What will the relation with one’s spouse be in heaven, if two Christians pass away?
To answer this question a distinction needs to be drawn between the institution of marriage and the condition of being married. As far as the institution goes, marriage is a covenant relationship established by God that is intended to provide and protect a monogamous, lifelong bond between one man and one woman. Therefore, upon the death of a spouse the surviving spouse is free to marry.
1 Cor. 7:39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord (cf. Rom. 7:2).
But marriage is far more than a covenantal institution. Marriage is a state of being, a fact that both society and often the church are ignorant of. From the very beginning, God established marriage as a union between a man and a woman that transcends laws and institutions. As it says in Genesis:
Gen. 2:24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
The word we translate “united” comes from a Hebrew word meaning “to glue.” Picture several sheets of paper glued together with super-glue. What happens if you try to separate the sheets once the glue has cured? This is the picture of a man and woman united together in marriage. They have not simply signed a legal contract; they have “become one.” Even the phrase “one flesh” means more than sexual union; it is a word image portraying a new entity. Those who were two are now something else—they are one new entity.
This is why the Sadducees were so off the mark when they ridiculed Jesus for believing in the resurrection of the body.
Matt. 22:24-28 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”
Jesus’ response that they neither knew the Scripture nor the power of God regarding this issue (Matt. 22:29-30) points up the biblical truth that there is indeed a resurrection, and that the two who have become one will enjoy that union throughout eternity. There will be no more marriage ceremonies in heaven (Matt. 22:30), but the believing husband and wife will share together the gift of eternal life:
1 Pet. 3:7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life…
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