Will we be married in Heaven? That’s a tough question. And many people don’t really like the easy answer. That easy answer, of course is, no we won’t be married in Heaven. And that’s because Jesus said, The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage …
But is that too easy? Actually, yes, it’s way too easy. Partly because the quote is taken completely out of context. And also because it completely ignores the cultural differences between Biblical times and many parts of the world today. Further, it completely disregards the reason marriage and divorce were even instituted in the first place.
So let’s look into this.
Why does marriage in Heaven even come up?
It’s because Jesus said that in the next life, we will neither marry nor be given in marriage.
And so we assume it means that in the next life, we won’t be married – and therefore we won’t have the same relationship with our spouse. Sure, some Christians will at least say that whatever it is, it will be better. But there’s still that disappointment over not being married.
First, let’s consider that some will be better off without their current spouse. For instance, in the case of domestic violence, where the abusing spouse is non-repentant, that person won’t be in Heaven. Therefore, no marriage is possible anyway. But what does that mean for the spouse that was abused? Is that person “stuck” in Heaven alone, without a spouse? That sounds mean. Translation – it cannot be right. We must be missing something. But what?
Will we be married in Heaven – some Biblical context.
I’m going to use quotes from Mark’s Gospel, although the topic is covered in Matthew and Luke as well. The NIV translation has this issue in a section they subtitle “Marriage at the Resurrection“. And the context in that passage is very important. However, the section before that is also important. The prior passage is actually a lead-in to “Marriage at the Resurrection” and gives even more insight into what’s going on when Jesus says, in the next life we will neither marry nor be given in marriage.
Believe it or not, we’re going to start by looking at the question of whether or not the Jewish people in Jesus’ time should pay taxes to the Roman government, to Caesar. Yeah – maybe a weird starting point, but it matters.
Paying Taxes to Caesar
12:13-17 pp — Mt 22:15-22; Lk 20:20-26
Mk 12:13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14 They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”
But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Mk 12:17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
And they were amazed at him.
What we see here is that the Pharisees are looking to do two things. First – to trap Jesus into saying something they can use against Him. Second – if not a trap, then to have Jesus say something that makes them look good. It may even be that deep inside, they knew that the answer they wanted was not the “right”, as in righteous, answer.
But Jesus knows better. Jesus straight out asks them why they’re trying to trap Him. In the Seven woes, Jesus goes even further on this kind of thing:
Mt 23:25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
That’s not something I want to hear from Jesus. Not on any topic, including this one on marriage in Heaven.
So let’s keep going. Here’s what happens next.
Marriage at the Resurrection
12:18-27 pp — Mt 22:23-33; Lk 20:27-38
Mk 12:18 Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 19 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. 21 The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. 22 In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. 23 At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
Mk 12:24 Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? 25 When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 26 Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ ? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”
Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures …
This question works two ways.
In the case of the Sadducees, much of Jesus’ answer wasn’t even about marriage in Heaven! There were bigger issues. And they had to do with the power of God. As it says, the Sadducees didn’t believe in resurrection. That means the whole question of marriage in Heaven was a non-starter for them. If there’s no resurrection and therefore no “next life”, then how can there be marriage in the next life? No – marriage in Heaven was merely an issue with which they wanted to trap Jesus.
But there was something else in Jesus’ answer that was also directed at the beliefs of the Sadducees. What this passage doesn’t say is that they don’t believe in angels either. Don’t remember that? When Paul was before the Sanhedrin, this happened:
Ac 23:6 Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.” 7 When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.)
Oops. Again, we see that marriage in Heaven isn’t the real question at all. The Sadducees are trying to trap Jesus when they talk about things that they don’t even believe themselves. No resurrection. And no spirits or angels. So the whole question was nonsensical to them. It would have caused quite a stir, and gotten the rest of the Sadducees upset. And it would have brought up a conflict with the Pharisees. In fact, it did just that.
Ac 23:9 There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. “We find nothing wrong with this man,” they said. “What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” 10 The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.
So – maybe we should consider the religious beliefs of the Pharisees and Sadducees while we’re looking into what Jesus said about marriage in heaven. Seems like a good idea to me.
Marriage in the Old Testament
The first use of some form of the word “marry” in the NIV version of Old Testament is this one:
Ge 4:19 Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. 20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute. 22 Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.
Obviously, this is the same thing as what Jesus was talking about in Luke, right?
Sorry. Not at all. Let’s look at what was meant by the original Hebrew and Greek words that we translate as marry. But before we do that, remember that to Jewish people – who were the audience in both cases – word meanings were much more broad than they are today.
To the Jewish people, if a word had multiple possible interpretations, all of them were considered possibilities – and only the ones that were impossible were ruled out. Today, we tend to look at what we call the “best” interpretation and automatically rule out everything else, even if it is possible. In a sense, it’s necessary with the Bible. If English (French, Spanish, Etc.) words were put in for every possible cultural variation, then the Bible would be unreadable. And really, really long.
So we don’t do it. But at the cost of losing much of the rich understanding that the Jewish people of the time would have had.
Marry – in Genesis
With that in mind, here’s a look at all the things the Hebrew word we translate as marry could mean.
3947 יָקַח, לָקַח, קָח [laqach /law·kakh/] v. A primitive root; TWOT 1124; GK 3689 and 4374 and 7774; 965 occurrences; AV translates as “take” 747 times, “receive” 61 times, “take away” 51 times, “fetch” 31 times, “bring” 25 times, “get” six times, “take out” six times, “carry away” five times, “married” four times, “buy” three times, and translated miscellaneously 26 times. 1 to take, get, fetch, lay hold of, seize, receive, acquire, buy, bring, marry, take a wife, snatch, take away. 1A (Qal). 1A1 to take, take in the hand. 1A2 to take and carry along. 1A3 to take from, take out of, take, carry away, take away. 1A4 to take to or for a person, procure, get, take possession of, select, choose, take in marriage, receive, accept. 1A5 to take up or upon, put upon. 1A6 to fetch. 1A7 to take, lead, conduct. 1A8 to take, capture, seize. 1A9 to take, carry off. 1A10 to take (vengeance). 1B (Niphal). 1B1 to be captured. 1B2 to be taken away, be removed. 1B3 to be taken, brought unto. 1C (Pual). 1C1 to be taken from or out of. 1C2 to be stolen from. 1C3 to be taken captive. 1C4 to be taken away, be removed. 1D (Hophal). 1D1 to be taken unto, be brought unto. 1D2 to be taken out of. 1D3 to be taken away. 1E (Hithpael). 1E1 to take hold of oneself. 1E2 to flash about (of lightning) Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
Wow. What a difference a cultural view or the word makes. Look at all the times that very same word is translated as something like buy, take, steal, acquire, snatch, Etc. That kind of thing is abhorrent to us today, at least in may parts of the world. But it does still happen in others. However, since Americans don’t like to think of it that way, we remove our discomfort by just translating it as “marry”, and let the reader come to their own conclusion as to what it means.
And yet, is that a valid thing to do? Let’s look at a series of events that most Christians should be familiar with.
Jacob Marries Leah and Rachel
After Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, 15 Laban said to him, “Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.”
Ge 29:16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”
Ge 29:19 Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.
Ge 29:21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her.”
Ge 29:22 So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. 23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her. 24 And Laban gave his servant girl Zilpah to his daughter as her maidservant.
Ge 29:25 When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?”
Ge 29:26 Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. 27 Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.”
Ge 29:28 And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29 Laban gave his servant girl Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maidservant. 30 Jacob lay with Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.
Really? This is about marriage. With one man and two different women. And Jacob had to work for the father to get both of them. Even worse, for twice the length of time since there was trickery and deception involved.
Let’s make one more thing clear as well. The translation used above, the 1984 NIV, uses the words “lie with”. It’s the nicer way of indicating what the 2010 NIV says – make love to. Actually, the Hebrew word is even more graphic. We just make it nicer so as to not offend us.
And yet, is this whole scenario not incredibly offensive? Do we think this is what God really considers righteous or the way we should live?
Keeping in mind that Jesus’ questioners were the people who believed that only the first five books of today’s Old Testament is their Scripture (the Sadducees), does He not also need to correct the belief that this is what marriage was supposed to be about? That this isn’t what God had in mind for when two people become one?
Marry – in the Garden of Eden
Yes, what we read of the Garden of Eden is in Genesis. But it’s also before the fall. So I separate it out.
Let’s go back to my last question: is this what God had in mind for when two people become one? Let’s look at that thought.
Ge 2:18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Ge 2:19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
Ge 2:23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
Ge 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.
There are two really big differences here, before the fall.
For one, there’s no Hebrew word that gets translated as “marry”. It’s about a man and a woman being united. Here’s what’s behind the Hebrew word that we translate as united.
1692 דָּבַק [dabaq /daw·bak/] v. A primitive root; TWOT 398; GK 1815; 54 occurrences; AV translates as “cleave” 32 times, “follow hard” five times, “overtake” three times, “stick” three times, “keep fast” twice, “… together” twice, “abide” once, “close” once, “joined” once, “pursued” once, and “take” once. 1 to cling, stick, stay close, cleave, keep close, stick to, stick with, follow closely, join to, overtake, catch. 1A (Qal). 1A1 to cling, cleave to. 1A2 to stay with. 1B (Pual) to be joined together. 1C (Hiphil). 1C1 to cause to cleave to. 1C2 to pursue closely. 1C3 to overtake. 1D (Hophal) to be made to cleave. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
That’s so much different from what we saw earlier, that got translated as marry in the Hebrew language and culture. This one is about two people following and overtaking each other, being joined, and abiding as one. It’s mutual. It’s not the man buying the woman, or working to get her, or just taking her away.
The other difference, this was something God did. And it was something that was part of God’s plan. But as we know, this was also before the fall. After the fall, then “marriage” is something completely different than what God originally intended. It’s also something very different from what people in many parts of the world think of when the word marriage is used.
Granted, the current definition isn’t what God had in mind either. And that leads to the next question.
marry – what Jesus said
So, what did the Greek word that we translate as marry in Mark 12:25 mean? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage.
First – “given in marriage”, which is only one Greek word.
1061 γαμίζω, γαμίσκω [gamisko /gam·is·ko/] v. From 1062; GK 1139 and 1140; AV translates as “give in marriage” once. 1 give in marriage. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
Well, that nice and generic, isn’t it? What about the word that gets translated as “marry”?
1060 γαμέω [gameo /gam·eh·o/] v. From 1062; TDNT 1:648; TDNTA 111; GK 1138; 29 occurrences; AV translates as “marry” 24 times, “married” three times, and “marry a wife” twice. 1 to lead in marriage, take to wife. 1A to get married, to marry. 1B to give one’s self in marriage. 2 to give a daughter in marriage. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
Equally generic and lacking in explanation. That’s probably because both words come from the same root word, which is equally generic.
1062 γάμος [gamos /gam·os/] n m. Of uncertain affinity; TDNT 1:648; TDNTA 111; GK 1141; 16 occurrences; AV translates as “marriage” nine times, and “wedding” seven times. 1 a wedding or marriage festival, a wedding banquet, a wedding feast. 2 marriage, matrimony. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
Why is that? With all the rich language and details that usually accompany words, why is this one so lacking in details?
The culture of marriage
For a possible answer to this, let’s look at some cultural concepts.
Matrimony. Christian marriage, though it claims to be based on the natural law, differs from earlier practice, whether Jewish or pagan, and also from modern secular usage, notably in the dignity it has sought for the woman and the life-long nature it ascribes to the marriage bond.
We’ve seen a bit on the cultural issues, but we’ll get deeper into that shortly.
Early Hebrew law, which was founded on marriage by purchase, assigned a low status to the woman, who became in effect the property of her husband, though he could not sell her (Deut. 21:14; cf. Ex. 21:7 f.). The woman could neither own nor inherit property and had no rights of divorce, while the man might divorce her for some ‘indecency’ (Deut. 24:1 RSV). Polygamy was practised, sometimes with the consent of the wife, as in the case of Sarah (Gen. 16:2), that the bond might be preserved, but in later Judaism there was a growing realization that monogamy represented the ideal.
Let’s take a scenic journey through marriage customs / facts in the Old Testament before proceeding any further. It’s a bit long. But I encourage you to stay with me here – and what “marriage” was all about, and how it changed, in Old Testament times. The information below is from the Baker Encyclopedia of The Bible.
Marriage, Marriage Customs
Union between man and woman, sanctified by God as a means of maintaining family life. The idea of marriage was ordained by God in his instruction to Adam that a man should leave his father and mother, and he and his wife should be as one flesh (Gn 2:24).
Yes, the idea of “marriage” in a general sense. However, as we saw, after the Fall, it’s not the actual letter of what God intended that initial union of Adam and Eve to be like.
As Hebrew society developed from the nomadic to the agricultural and village stage, the customs involved in marriage became more complex. Ritual functions such as feasts, processions, and dances were added. In the Christian period marriage began to be regarded as a sacrament.
One thing to note about nomadic and agricultural lifestyles is the need for many children. This was true even in the U.S., fairly recently in the mid-west, because the family was involved in running a large farm. Lots of family members were needed – meaning lots of children were needed.
Several forms of marriage are referred to in the OT, the earliest of which seems to be based on a matrilineal (where lineage is recorded through the mother, not the father) principle. Although there appears to be some evidence for this in the Middle Bronze Age and in the early monarchy, it is difficult to be certain about the matter, despite the importance in Egypt, and perhaps elsewhere, of the role of the mother in determining descent.
For many of us, one or both of our parents won’t even be in Heaven. So the concept of tracing lineage through either our father or mother would leave huge gaps. In Heaven, we will be children of God.
Jacob remained with the family of Laban because he was working for him until the bride-price had been paid. Laban inferred that the children of the marriage were his children and part of his clan (Gn 31:26, 43). At first glance it seems strange that Jacob, having already worked for 14 years for his brides, should remain voluntarily for another 6 years (v 41). He may have been fearful of vengeance from Esau (27:42–45) or he may have felt that his contract with Laban bound him permanently.
We looked at this earlier, where Jacob had to essentially buy two wives in order to get the one he really wanted. That may actually still happen in some societies, but imagine that happening in many parts of the world today.
In Heaven, as children of God, Jesus “paid” for us with His blood, His life. Whatever kinds of relationships we have with other people, there will be no need for us to “buy” them.
Gideon had a concubine who continued to live with her family (Jgs 8:31), and her son considered himself part of his mother’s clan (9:1, 2). When Samson wished to see his Philistine bride he visited her where she lived with her own clan (15:1, 2). It is noteworthy, however, that of these few available examples, Gideon was dealing only with a concubine and Samson with a foreigner. Neither man became part of his wife’s family.
Again – not something Christians consider being acceptable today. But it was done back then, and Jesus had to address it.
Generally, the bride left her parents when she married and went to live with her husband’s clan, as Rebekah did (Gn 24:58, 59). The phrase “to marry a wife” is from a root meaning to “become master” (Dt 21:13), and the wife frequently treated her husband and referred to him as master.
Some men might want to go back to this, but once again, it was a practice that was against God’s will and Jesus addressed it as well. Keep in mind, Eve was a helper, and corrected something that wasn’t right when Adam was alone. Adam was not Eve’s master. Evidence of this simple truth is the interaction between the two of them when Eve convinced Adam to eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That exchange would not have taken place in that manner if Adam was the master and Eve had a slave type relationship to him.
Jesus is our Lord and Savior. Once in Heaven, we won’t need to be saved again, since there’s no temptation and no sin there. However, the reality of God’s sovereignty over us, and everything, won’t change.
Hebrew genealogical lists indicate that descent was reckoned through the male line (Gn 5; 10; 36:9–43; Nm 1:1–15; Ru 4:18–22; 1 Chr 1:1–9). The important right of naming a child, indicating power and authority over that child, was exercised almost equally between father and mother in biblical references (cf. Gn 4:1, 25, 26; 5:29; 35:18; 1 Sm 1:20; 4:21; Is 8:3; Hos 1:4, 6, 9). Sons were frequently named after their fathers and were identified with them.
Again, we will be children of God in Heaven.
The father was the authority figure in the home in a patriarchal society. His wife and children were regarded as his possessions in somewhat the same way as his fields and cattle (Ex 20:17; Dt 5:21). He had the right to sell his daughters (Ex 21:7; Neh 5:5), and even had the power of life and death over his children.
The thought of owning a wife and children is completely contrary to Christian beliefs. And the practice of selling children is detestable today. So is the idea of killing the children, no matter what the reason. The thing is though, some get around that by saying an unborn child isn’t a child yet.
Obviously, this kind of thing won’t happen in Heaven. People don’t agree on whether or not there will even be “children” in Heaven. Without getting into that discussion, let’s just say that if there are kids, they won’t be sold or killed.
The father was responsible for providing for the family, for ensuring their financial welfare, and for furnishing security for them. Business decisions were generally left to him, though they may possibly have been discussed with his wife. The husband even had to give consent to his wife’s promises, otherwise they were invalid (Nm 30:3–16). The ease with which a man could terminate a marriage by divorcing his wife also shows the measure of his authority in the family (Dt 24:1–4; cf. 22:13–21).
In the U.S. and other countries, this was largely true until very recent times. It very much describes the relationship between my parents. It’s certainly not the norm today though.
A levirate marriage was instituted to preserve a family name and inheritance. When a man died, the responsibility for maintaining his widow and any children that she might have fell upon her husband’s closest male relative. The order of responsibility is set out in Deuteronomy 25:5–10. Normally the brother of the deceased husband living with the clan was expected to enter into a levirate marriage with the widow. If she was childless, the firstborn of the new marriage was regarded as a child of the deceased. Levirate marriage was also known to the Canaanites, Assyrians, and Hittites.
Since there will be no death, this is a scenario that just won’t happen in Heaven.
The original instruction to Adam was that a “man … cleaves to his wife” (Gn 2:24). Hebrew laws generally imply that a marriage with one wife is the most acceptable form of marriage (Ex 20:17; 21:5; Lv 18:8, 16, 20; 20:10; Nm 5:12; Dt 5:21). Although this seems to have become the norm by the time of the monarchy, a king such as Solomon did not follow Hebrew traditions in this matter. In the postexilic period (the period of Jewish history between the end of the exile in Babylon in 538 b.c. and a.d. 1) marriages were predominantly monogamous, although they were being terminated increasingly by divorce. In the NT period monogamy seems to have been the rule, although persons such as Herod the Great were polygamous. Christ taught that marriage was for the lifetime of the partners, and if a man divorced his wife and married another woman during his previous spouse’s lifetime, he committed adultery (Mt 5:27–32).
As it says, Jesus corrected the thinking that these unacceptable practices were actually OK with God.
Marriage generally took place with those who were close to the immediate family circle and it was imperative, therefore, that limits on acceptable consanguinity (being descended from the same ancestor) should be imposed. (We now know why, but at the time the people didn’t realize the genetic problems that resulted if they rules weren’t followed.) In patriarchal times a man could marry his half-sister on his father’s side (Gn 20:12) and this continued to be the case even under David (2 Sm 13:13), although it was specifically forbidden in Leviticus 20:17. As there is some contradiction between the marriage laws of Deuteronomy and those in the Law of Holiness (Dt 25:5; Lv 18:16), it is possible that there was some modification of the stricter levitical regulations. Marriages between cousins such as Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob with Rachel and Leah, were common. When a close relative was interested in marriage, it was almost impossible to refuse (Tob 6:13; 7:11, 12). Moses was the offspring of a marriage between nephew and aunt (Ex 6:20; Nm 26:59), which would have been forbidden in Leviticus 18:12, 13 and 20:19, as would Jacob’s marriage with two sisters at the same time (Gn 29:30).
Maybe this is something to think about, related to science and the Bible? God knew all along what would result from too much inbreeding. It took us thousands of years to “learn” that God was right way back in the beginning.
Marriage within the clan or tribe was considered ideal, although marriage with another Israelite family was quite acceptable. Concern was often expressed, however, about marriage with foreigners, as this tended to dilute the strong links with the Hebrew heritage, and could endanger the religion of the covenant people if foreign wives introduced their family members and children to strange gods.
Seems like at least parts of this weren’t really followed: dilute the strong links with the Hebrew heritage, and could endanger the religion of the covenant people. Whether it was through marriage or just because the people wanted to do the same things as the non-Israelites, the people often wandered away from God’s teachings.
Of course, in Heaven, this won’t be a problem.
It is difficult to estimate at what age young people married. A boy was considered to be a man by his middle teens, and late in Jewish tradition this transition was celebrated by the bar mitzvah, which generally occurred when the boy was 13. It seems most probable that Mahlon and Chilion were still quite young when they died (Ru 1:5, 9) from some unspecified illness. At the time of his death, Absalom was about 20, but he had been living in his own house for the previous five years, and may have been married (2 Sm 13:19). In point of fact there were possibly quite different average ages for the marriages of the sons of kings and for other people. Subsequently, minimum ages of 13 for boys and 12 for girls were set.
Yes, we find these ages to be way too young. However, the reality was that life expectancy was significantly shorter than what we have today. In any case, death won’t be a problem in Heaven.
Normally the young man’s parents chose the bride. The resulting discussion about the marriage occurred between the groom’s parents and the bride’s parents, and often neither of the young people was consulted. It was not essential for the eldest in the family to be married first (Gn 29:26). When Abraham decided that Isaac should be married, a servant was sent to choose a bride from among Abraham’s relatives in Mesopotamia. The servant made contact with the bride’s brother (24:33–53) and it was only afterwards that Rebekah was asked to give her consent (vv 57, 58). If her father had still been alive, it would have been unlikely that her consent would have been asked at all. Caleb arranged the marriage for his daughter (Jos 15:16), as Saul did for Merab (1 Sm 18:17, 19, 21, 27). When Samson wished to marry a Philistine woman, he asked his parents for her (Jgs 14:2, 3). Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Marriage, Marriage Customs. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, pp. 1405–1410). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
These arranged marriages not only didn’t include the ones getting married, God wasn’t always consulted either. In spite of the desire to maintain purity of the religions that was described earlier, they did marry pagan women. Certainly God never approved that.
However, it also deviated from the first union – Adam and Eve. God put them together, to help each other. In many (most?) of the arranged marriages, it wasn’t about God putting the husband and wife together to help each other, or to bring glory to God. It was about prolonging the family and or bringing wealth to the family.
Yet another issue for Jesus to correct.
All of this leads us to the next excerpt from where we left off with cultural issues.
In His teaching about matrimony Jesus was concerned to restore it to its original place in God’s plan of creation (Mk. 10:6–9; Mt. 19:4–6), and insisted therefore that divorce (allowed to the husband by Mosaic law) was contrary to God’s will. This negative attitude to divorce, found also in the Damascus Document from *Qumran (CD 4. 20–5. 6), is based on a positive ideal of the marriage relationship as God’s gift in creation (cf. Gen. 2:18). Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., pp. 1060–1061). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
OK – so Jesus was concerned to restore it (marriage) to its original place in God’s plan of creation.
That’s all well and good. However, does it also mean that Jesus was trying to tell us that marriage would be exactly the same in the next life? In other words, can we look at Adam and Eve and then say that it’s the template for life in Heaven? One man and one woman united forever, in the same was as Adam and Eve appeared to be in the Garden of Eden?
There are problems with that approach.
“marriage” versus “marriage” versus “union”
We have three words and three scenarios that we looked at.
- The Greek word written to convey Jesus corrective words about marriage.
- The Hebrew word written to convey actual practices of the Hebrew people in the Old Testament.
- The Hebrew word written to convey what God intended for Adam and Eve in Eden.
We’ve taken a long look at the cultural practices.
We’ve also seen that Jesus was correcting a number of things that the Jewish people, and the Sadducees in particular, had wrong. Jesus correct their views on resurrection. Also on angels. And even His statement on marriage was a correction. Yes, it was also a statement on what Heaven would be like. But Jesus never actually gave a crystal clear, this is what’s going to be in Heaven statement.
Instead, Jesus told parables. For instance:
The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast
Mt 13:31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.”
Mt 13:33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
Mt 13:34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 35 So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:
“I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”
Yes – parables. The passage talking about “marriage in Heaven” isn’t a parable. It’s an answer to a trick question. Therefore, we have to be very careful about drawing conclusions from this brief statement about marriage.
So before we do that, let’s look at the third word in our list – union.
As we saw in the cultural look at marriage, two people getting married and having children was about procreation. Continuing the human race. And we are told by Jesus that the OT people did it wrong. They didn’t consult God. And while we’d like to think that today’s Christians are doing it “right” – sorry to say but we aren’t.
We don’t fit Jesus’ ideals either. About half of all marriages in the U.S., Christian or not, end up in divorce. And there are lots of marriage counselors, for both Christian and non-Christian couples. Need I say more? Just in case, don’t forget that Jesus said No one is good—except God alone. No marriage is even “good”, let alone perfect, in God’s eyes. Enough said.
That begs one really huge question. If our lives in Heaven are eternal – no death – where’s the need for procreation to preserve the human race? Answer: it’s gone.
Our concept of marriage, which we never actually got right in the first place, won’t be there either.
For some people, that seems “wrong”. But like I said – we don’t want to be in the position of telling God that He’s wrong. There’s a place for people who do that.
For others, like me, what will be there is a scary proposition. Indications are that it’s about relationships. Primarily a relationship with God. And I think that’s awesome.
But also relationships with people – more open and intense than anything we can imagine from this life. That’s the part that scares the heck out of me. I’m an intensely private person. I don’t like intensely personal relationships. I’m afraid of what people will do to me if they know me too well. And yet, I look forward to having something that I’ve never really had here in this life.
It’s scary to me. It’s like walking on water. But then, remember how that went:
Jesus Walks on the Water
14:22-33 pp — Mk 6:45-51; Jn 6:15-21
14:34-36 pp — Mk 6:53-56
Mt 14:22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Mt 14:25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
Mt 14:27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Mt 14:28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
Mt 14:29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Mt 14:31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
It didn’t go so well for Peter.
But that was here, on this earth, in this life.
In the next life, there won’t be a lack of faith. And there won’t be doubt.
But I can imagine, even now while I’m writing this, Jesus is trying to tell me, You of little faith, why did (do) you doubt?
Of course I don’t need to be afraid. It’s going to be amazing.
I’d think Jesus has the same words for you, regardless of what your fears / doubts may be about this topic of marriage in Heaven.
Remember, God’s way of saying “hello” to us in the Bible seems to be by saying, “don’t be afraid”. Don’t be afraid. Don’t worry. Whatever we think won’t be happening in Heaven, if it’s really not there – whatever is there will overshadow our thoughts in this life by so much that it won’t even matter.
We should just take all of Jesus’ words from the scene above and apply them to our fears about what Heaven might be like.
Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.
You of little faith,
why did you doubt?
|↑1, ↑2, ↑3, ↑4, ↑5||Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.|
|↑6||Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Marriage, Marriage Customs. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, pp. 1405–1410). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.|
|↑7||Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., pp. 1060–1061). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.|