This question has often been asked by married people. Some are hopeful that such will be the case, while others are fearful that they might be eternally saddled with their spouse. My wife has asked me that question on a number of occasions (though I am not sure if she likes the idea of us being forever married or not!). As part of being human, God has created us to have many kinds of social relationships, so this is really a pretty good question. But maybe we should rephrase the question and ask “will we be married in eternity?” In approaching an answer to this personal and practical question, there are a number of things that should be factored in. There are four preliminary observations that I would like to make.
#1 – There are three distinct phases in the future life of the believer.
- Death or Rapture—As we presently live our lives, we know that eternity lies ahead of us. Life on this earth for the believer in Jesus will end in death, or hopefully, the rapture event (that sudden, supernatural removal of the Christian to be with Jesus Christ). In either case, the believer will be in heaven. If it is the rapture that removes us, then a resurrection body will be received at that moment. If it is death, then we are taken into the Lord’s presence in heaven, but there is no resurrection body received. That body is received at the rapture. The point is that between now and the future kingdoms of God (millennial and eternal) there is a time of transition about which we know very little, and that includes the matter of marriage.
- The Millennial (Messianic) Kingdom—The 1,000 year of Jesus Christ on this present earth will be a kingdom rule that will include people in their physical bodies. Many or all of these will be married and this allows them to reproduce, thus populating the messianic age. These have made it alive through the time of tribulation and marriage will be part of their experience in Christ’s kingdom. An example is seen in Ezekiel 44:22 where priests, who serve in the Millennial Temple, are given guidelines about their marriages. But in the Millennial Kingdom, there will be believers from all the ages who have now been resurrected and who will have resurrection bodies. There is no mention of a marriage relationships of these who are in resurrection bodies. However, in the Millennial kingdom, there are males who have resurrection bodies, such as King David and the 12 apostles (Ezek. 34:23-24; 37:24-25; Jer. 30:9; Matt. 19:28). So males do exist (suggesting females will also). And we know from 1 Corinthians 15 that the resurrection body, though different in many ways, is the same body. If there are males, then it is highly likely there are also females.
- The Eternal Kingdom of God—This phase of the future kingdom of God is spent on the earth, which is why God will create a “new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 22:1). It is stated that God will “come down” to the earth and dwell among His people. It is intriguing to think about what life will be like in that setting. A critical word that this verse uses is the word “new” (kainos). God is going to make all things “new” (21:5), including the “new” earth (22:1). The word carries with it the idea of something that is “fresh” but not strangely different. This would tell us that the new, eternal phase of the kingdom of God is most likely a fresh version of the old creation. This would take us back to Genesis 2 where man, woman and marriage were all part of the original idea of God.
#2 – The idea that everyone in the future kingdoms will be similar or identical in nature or form (homogeneous) is simply not true.
There is a prevailing thought (even among some theologians) that all people will be the same. We are just part of the glorified glob of saved humanity that will forever be the same and do the same things forever. We will be sort of like chocolate chip cookies produced and packaged in a factory; all look alike with the identical shape, color and even with the same number of chips. But that is not true. As an example, in the eternal kingdom of God, on the new earth, there will be both kings and nations (Rev. 21:24-26). This simple statement reveals that there will be differing ranks/status among people, and also that the human race will be subdivided into kingdoms. One has to wonder if there are kings, could there not be (as is normally the case) queens as well? And isn’t it logical that these nations will be further subdivided into tribes, clans and families?
#3 – Genesis 1 and 2 revealed God’s “very good” plan for this earth.
Whenever we interpret the Book of Revelation, we must keep in mind God’s original plan in the creation recorded in Genesis. This “plan A” was declared by God Himself to be very good, and Revelation is seen as God restoring (and even upgrading) the original plan. And in the original creation, social relationships, such as marriage, were part of human experience.
A problem we face is that Adam and Eve sinned too quickly and so we don’t know what an expanding unfallen human race would have looked like. If sin had not entered into the human experience, then the human race would have multiplied into great numbers, and divisions of some sort would have naturally come about; such as, families, clans, tribes and nations.
#4 – Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22:30 does not exclude the idea of marriage.
The cynical Sadducees had presented Jesus with their cutesy question about a woman who legitimately married 7 brothers, according to the levirate marriage law. No child was born was born after the first brother married the woman, and, therefore the Law, stated that the close relative should step in and marry the woman and raise up offspring (to be credited to the dead brothers’ account). In their story, she ended up marrying all 7 brothers with no children ever being produced. And so they wanted to know who, of the seven brothers, would have her as a wife in the resurrection. Jesus rebuked their ignorance and stated that “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven.” The life in eternity indeed will be different in many ways, and the lack of reproduction is one of those differences. In the eternal kingdom, since there is no death, there will be no need or place for procreation (otherwise we might find the human race going through the Adam/Eve failure again). Procreation, which was designed for the first creation, in the marriage relationship, will not be part of the resurrection life which is the focus of His answer. Jesus is not declaring that there will not be close, loving, personal relationships in the future kingdom. Procreation will not be part of resurrection life which is not the same thing as saying that marriage will not be part of resurrection life.
SOME POINTS TO CONSIDER IN ANSWERING THE QUESTION
First, the redeemed human race will not be one uniform whole. We will not be just a large mass of sameness. The fact that there are kings and nations in the final, eternal phase of God’s kingdom informs us that we will be divided into national groups. Within nations there is always further subdivisions; into tribes or clans or families. This raises the prospect that marriage might well be part of those subdivisions. If so, the loving, close relationship that God originally intended could well be part of the scene, apart from the aspect of reproduction. Remember that jealousy, selfishness and anger which damage and destroy marriages today will not be part of human experience there. So for those who live in dread that they might be married to a substandard spouse, you need to reflect on the fact that sin and the flesh will no longer be part of human life. Then and now are not the same.
Second, God designed marriage, before the Fall, as part of His “very good” plan in Genesis, designed to better the lives of unfallen Adam and unfallen Eve. And, apart from the need for procreation, why could this not be included in His design for mankind in the future? Surely there will be some sort of close, personal relationships provided for mankind.
Third, getting back to the Sadducees for a moment. Their ridiculous question does raise the matter of the complexities produced by divorce and by death. Numerous questions come to mind, such as what happens if a person has had more than one spouse? I can’t answer that because I have no idea. But not being able to answer this question does not mean that God cannot answer it. Just like we wonder what happens at the resurrection to physical bodies that no longer exist (completely disintegrated in the ground, or eaten by a school of piranhas, or totally burned up). What will happen to these folks at the time of resurrection? I can’t answer that one either, but my guess is that God can and will. No one misses out on the resurrection. And, by the way, remember Jesus did rebuke those Sadducees for their real ignorance on the matter of the power of God. And we might add, the wisdom of God. Because we can’t explain something does not automatically mean that God is stumped by it as well.
And fourth, the Apostle Paul’s extended discussion of the resurrection body, in 1 Corinthians 15, informs us that it will be the same body (male and female too?) and yet there will be some differences….same but changed. Luke 24, gives us some descriptions of the resurrection body of the Lord Jesus, which confirms what Paul is teaching. So there seems to be a lot of significant carryovers into the resurrection body which we will dwell in for all eternity.
And so, while we can’t give a definitive answer to the question, “will we be married in heaven?”, we can say that close, loving, social relationships were always a part of God’s plan for His people. And this we believe will very much be part of life in the future, forever kingdom of our good God. I do think we will be thrilled and amazed by what He has prepared for we who are His children, born into His family by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. It’s gonna be good!