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Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”
Reading this passage in Luke’s Gospel about how marriage will be done away with hurts. To me it represents all the good things about this world that I care about. Things, which according to the Bible have the word “temporary” attached to them. The Bible often tells us not to dwell on all the things of this life and focus on eternity. Basically what you’re saying is, don’t hold tightly to your life now?Yup. That’s exactly it. And it hurts. Because really, we’re being asked to pick up our crosses, follow Jesus and die to the world and self daily, no matter the cost (John 16:24). But according to Jesus, there will be a final resurrection after death, and this will make up for everything. In fact in the coming New Creation, much of what we enjoy will be present. But one of the best things that this world has to offer; marriage, will be done away with. That hurts. Now I should add at this moment that I’m not yet married. Though, God-willing, I may be one day. But I know what it’s like to really like someone. The idea that I could be married to them now and then have that changed later at the resurrection, can be hard. I’m a hopeless-romantic. Why would God that?
Maybe you’ve read it wrong Yosh. The passage just says they won’t be getting married anymore, it doesn’t say all existing marriages end. Ah, but it does. This where the context helps. In fact, if Jesus were simply saying that people wouldn’t be having weddings anymore, then he wouldn’t be answering the question. You see, what happened was, a group of people came over to Jesus and gave the scenario of woman who had been married 7 times. Each brother had died childless, and according to the law of Moses, she was to marry her husband’s brother in order that he may have children on behalf of his brother. The question then was, to whom would she be married at the resurrection? That’s when Jesus gave his response as quoted above. Not only would there be no more weddings, but all previous ones would be annulled. They can’t continue. Which makes me ask the question “Am I just 1 of 7 guys?” “Will my past relationships be that meaningless in heaven?” How is this meant to be comforting? This used to really bother me. But less so now, because actually, the answer is given there by Jesus. In those verses, is the key to being able to give up everything for Christ, the reason why marriage will no longer be necessary and the all satisfying alternative.
1) Marriage is about Procreation and Intimacy
Like the woman in the scenario illustrates, we all die. And unless there are children, humanity would die out. However, if people are immortal, then they don’t have the issue of death to worry about. No need for procreation. Also, by the time of the future resurrection, the full number of people, predetermined by God to be born, would have already arrived. There’s no need for more.
But that’s not the only reason that marriage exists. There is a real bond and union between husband and wife. A special and intimate exclusivity. How then am I to cope when this marriage is no longer in place? Well that’s where it’s important to see that Jesus’ word’s are not “against” the relationship per se, but rather the function of procreation. Which scriptures seems to imply will mean removing our sexual impulses, all the while keeping the core relationship, which is not destroyed by what Jesus said, but rather enhanced. The key here is the phrase that Jesus said “and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”No longer bound by our sin tainted fleshly humanity, we’ll have new bodies and renewed minds, fully conformed to the image of Christ.
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).”
This is a process (sanctification) that begins here in this life and is completed in the end (Romans 8:28-29). Sanctification is where God transforms us to love Him and others, as we should by making us more like his Son Jesus. In heaven, you will live in perfect righteousness, loving God with all your soul, heart, mind and strength. And this will flow into you love for others. There’ll be no hurt, bitterness, jealousy or selfishness. Just the fruit of the Spirit fully manifested (Galatians 5:20). However, none of us can do that here. Even the best marriages don’t come close. But over there, the love for your husband or wife will increase continually for all eternity. You’ll never feel threatened by the affections your spouse shows others because they will sincerely and completely love you. On top of that, you will sincerely and completely love everyone else!
But what about Romance? No more romantic love? That part bothered me the the most. Remember, I love all that “moonlight, perfect moment, walk on the beach” stuff. It can be sad thinking that I wouldn’t be able to share this with someone. But the resurrection does in fact deal with this issue, and it’s no let down. As mentioned, we will have new bodies. This means new desires where spiritual desires supersede our current natural one’s (1 Corinthians 15:44). Now that there is no need for procreation and we’ll be like the angels, the sexual aspect of romance will be gone (as far as I can see). So, if you think about it carefully, how does romantic love cause you to react towards other? It makes you think about them often. You want to do good things for them. You’re willing to sacrifice for them. You want to give them gifts, surprise them, and make them smile. Basically, the same kind of love you’ll have towards everyone in heaven. And that everyone will have towards you. I truly believe that God blessed us with romantic love on earth, because otherwise, given our sin-tainted human natures, we wouldn’t really show that kind of love towards an individual. In the age to come, the form of romance will change, but its essence will not.
However, there is an even better reason why marriage as we know it won’t be needed in heaven. This is the best news for both married couples and single people. Its comfort is the ultimate reason why marriage will be obsolete. The reason is: we will have a relationship with God that trumps all others! Even if no one else got into heaven, you would be no less satisfied, because in Christ, everyone is complete (Colossians 2:10). Which leads to the second point on why the end of marriage won’t be a bad thing.
2) Marriage is about God
This is the part that gets me the most. Jesus said that those who partake of this particular resurrection are the sons of God. Revelation 21:7 describes the new world after human history has been brought to a close, and there our eternal status is confirmed by God who says of us “I shall be his God and he shall be my son.” It doesn’t get any better than that! In fact, there is a single verse that could have answered this whole issue on relationships. Psalm 63:3 “Your lovingkindness is better than life.” There isn’t a thing in this life that compares to God’s love. If you gathered the best that life had to offer, you could truly say of God “Your lovingkindess is better.” Which means, that the person you like, that friend you hold dear, the child you raised and find so precious in your sight, all pale in comparison to knowing God. Jesus even prays in John 17 verse 3 “And this is eternal life, to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
Knowing here is not limited to the kind that says “I know 2+2 = 4” (which I hope you do). In Hebrew, the word “know” also carried the idea of “an intimate relationship.” As it says in Genesis 4:1 “Adam knew his wife Eve. She conceived and bore Cain.” Here the word knew describes the intimacy between a husband and wife in their most private act. And this again is precisely why the end of marriage shouldn’t bring sorrow. Marriage itself was given by God to be a temporary portrait of the eternal life, intimate relationship, between Christ and His Bride the Church (Revelation 19). Because in reality, believers are married/united to Christ (Romans 7:4). He says in Revelation 2:17 “I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” This speaks to an aspect of that individual’s existence, shared only with Christ and them. It’s so mind boggling to think that the intimacy, care and love shown in a husband-wife relationship is but a drop in the infinite ocean of God’s own relationship to us. It really doesn’t get any better. Like Psalm 16:11, a major resurrection verse, says of God “in your presence is fullness of Joy, at your right hand are pleasures forever more.” There with God, we lack nothing. There is no area of your heart left to harbor jealousy, fear (1 John 4:18) or insecurities. This means you will have total freedom to enjoy people without risk of sorrow. Your spouse in heaven will still be a great joy to you, regardless of how many times he or she may have remarried after you have died (even if all 6 other guys were in heaven too!).
Jesus teaching on heaven and the resurrection doesn’t just give us hope for a brighter future, but real everyday truth to help us live. Those of us who have been reconciled to God through faith Jesus, now have eternal life (John 6:47). When we are satisfied and secure in the infinite God, it brings freedom to enjoy fellowship with everyone else. Otherwise, we’ll place a heavy burden of demands and expectations on those relationships that they were never designed to carry. Only God can satisfy the human heart and give us perfect love and assurance. Which is why He sent his Son Jesus to save us from sin (rebellion towards God), in order that we might enjoy knowing Him. Sin is the root cause of all human problems and we need daily rescuing from it. At the heart of sin lies unbelief and idolatry. Unbelief (that God is good) and idolatry (that something else is better) causes us to worship (put at the center and be subject to) things other than God, in our hearts. Once we’re satisfied in God who is infinite, absolute and necessary, we’re free to enjoy others (who are finite, changing and contingent) as gifts from God. In heaven, not only are we complete in Christ, but also, we gain everyone else there. Marriage as we know it may end, but it’s replacement is infinitely better. Not being married will no more subtract from the quality of the relationship, then removing stabilizers makes riding a bike less fun.
Brothers and Sisters, Heaven and the Resurrection are going to be glorious. And if your heart still aches at the thought of this radical change in relationship, remember that God loves you and knows what’s best. At this moment, rest on the words of Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
See you there!
(For more on the issue of “Enjoying God Fully” I recommend reading “Desiring God: Meditations of Christian Hedonist” by John Piper. Piper’s core teachings as put in that book, have changed my life! Read it 😀 You can download it on pdf for free here: http://www.desiringgod.org/books/desiring-god