My great uncle lived to be 99. I learned recently he had two wives after aunt did, all of whom predeceased my uncle. Assuming they all went to heaven, this is my question: Do earthly bonds of matrimony continue in paradise? In uncle Jim’s case, would he then have a harem?
This is a really easy question to answer and a really hard question to answer all at the same time. It’s easy to answer because Jesus responds to an almost identical question in the Scriptures. It’s a hard question to answer because many people frequently don’t like the answer.
Jesus Answers the Sadducees
Jesus was asked very nearly this exact same question in Matthew 22:23-32 (Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40). Jesus was approached by the Sadducees, a group who did not believe in the resurrection. They were, undoubtedly, trying to trap Him. His answer to them, and my answer to this question, is found in Matthew 22:30, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”
Marriage is Permanent, but not Eternal
Marriage on earth is intended by God to be a permanent relationship (Genesis 2:22-24; Matthew 19:4-12). Jesus’ very clear teaching is that with the exception of adultery on the part of one of the marriage partners, marriage is a permanent covenant here on earth. While the permanent marriage bond is God’s standard, that does not preclude forgiveness and restoration for everyone who repents of any deviation from this standard. Combining these two teachings of Jesus leads us to the conclusion that marriage is permanent, but not eternal.
Now for the Hard Part
The limited duration of marriage that the Bible teaches sometimes engenders a negative response from people who understand it. I understand this response. For many, if not most people, their relationship with their spouse is the most meaningful relationship they have ever had or that they can ever imagine. The idea that it will one day come to an end is sad.
But what if, as awesome as your spouse is, you had access to something better? I don’t mean that stereotypical middle-aged man trading his middle-aged wife for a newer, younger model (yes, that’s intentionally offensive, because that scenario is offensive). Our relationship with our spouse, and all our meaningful relationships are gifts that God gives us here on earth so that we can enjoy an approximation on earth of the type of fulfillment we will experience when we get to heaven.
Revelation 21:3-4 tells us that when we get to heaven we will be in the presence of God and that He will wipe away our tears, and that there will be no more mourning, crying, or pain.” When we get to heaven, every longing and desire we have every had that has been left unfulfilled will be satisfied. I don’t mean that you will get that luxury, European sports car you’ve always wanted. But the true need that that car represents will be fulfilled by having returned to the source of our origin, to God himself. Our interpersonal needs will no longer be mediated by the gifts that God gives us here on earth, like friends and spouses. Rather, we will be transformed completely into the image of God that He stamped on humanity at the beginning of creation.
So, while we might experience sadness at the thought that our marriages will no longer be relevant in heaven, we can rejoice that we will experience something far better.
Now, before you go out and start devaluing your spouse, remember that a life partner is a gift from God (Proverbs 18:22). We should express our gratitude to God for the incredible gift that He has given us on our journey of faith and life.
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