Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Marriage, Heaven and the Gospels

First, the scripture. Then, a comment from one Swedenborgian perspective:

Matthew 22:23-33

23 The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him,
24 Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
25 Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother:
26 Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh.
27 And last of all the woman died also.
28 Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.
29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
31 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,
32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
33 And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.
When Jesus said there will be no marriage in heaven, he was referring to a very specific definition of marriage in which, according to Jewish law, which still holds for Orthodox Jews:
  1. A man could divorce a woman for any reason or no reason, and still be within the bounds of ethics and morality
  2. A woman could not divorce her husband. So if he left her without divorcing her, she could not marry another man.
  3. Adultery was something contingent on the marital status of the woman, and not of the man. A married man could consort with a whore if he wished and would not be guilty of adultery.
In short, marriage in the halakhic, Talmudic sense meant meant that the man possessed (owned) his wife as property. This is the kind of marriage you would not have in heaven. But you would have a marriage of equals, or the conjugial love that Swedenborg mentioned.
Also marriage includes reproduction and child rearing. That is the main purpose of marriage. A permanent male-female sexual relationship that did not include child bearing and child rearing would not be marriage in the strictest sense. You might call it permanent sexual companionship or marriage' (marriage-prime), and it would be holy in its own way. 

Here’s a link outlining the difficulties of a traditional Torah marriage, which has not changed since Jesus’ day.

This also explains the Gospel’s restriction of divorce (no divorce except for infidelity) - Jewish law allowed men to divorce their wives for any reason, and it did not allow women to divorce their husbands. This law is almost identical in orthodox Judaism and in Islam today - divorce is something that men do to women, and not vice versa. If wives are their husbands’ property, then it is up to the husband to release (or not release) his property. Property does not release its owner!

So the question regarding the woman who married seven brothers, each dying after the others was - whose property will she be in the afterlife? And Jesus' answer was - no one's. Per the definition on marriage in the minds of the audience, there would be no marriage in the afterlife. Not their kind of marriage. Not even an egalitarian, earthly marriage since that implies childbearing and child rearing. We're like the angels in the afterlife. Do angels marry? Do they exist in space? In time? No, no and no. But they do have something else equivalent to marriage - let's call that marriage-prime, for want of a better word. And they ave their own equivalent of the spatial and temporal dimensions - let us call those space-prime and time-prime.

The problem is reading Jesus' words without understanding the historical context.


  1. A positive (though possibly speculative) case can be made that male-female relationships similar to marital bonds can continue between the redeemed into the next life. This may then also imply a romantic, physical or even sexual aspect in such a relationship. This positive case is made on the rezfamilies website (go to google and search for 'rezfamilies', or just http://sites.google.com/site/rezfamilies/)

  2. Maybe we'll have a meeting of the mind and heart and soul without even touching, in Heaven. The two will become one may occur where our imaginations meet.

  3. Of course we will still hug and kiss one one another.

    1. I love You. Thanks for writing that. if you only know how much that made my day. God Bless You Michelle

  4. Michelle- A meeting of the mind and heart is possible with many people and that is not the same as married love. Yes, that will be there as well.

    I believe that the human form is one of God's masterpieces and I do not know of anything in the physical universe that is more complex or beautiful. In the spiritual dimension we will be more than disembodied minds. We will have a substantial (though not physical) human form that corresponds to (is similar to) our present human form, which is one of God's fundamental ideas that is replicated (with a few minor differences) throughout out globe, throughout the physical universe, and through the after-death dimension of reality.

    That being so, why would real sex be absent between married couples, when it is hallowed here on earth? For animals, sex serves the purpose of reproduction. For humans, it serves the additional purpose of ecstatic marital bonding.

    I have read the Near Death Accounts and the immediate experience after death is of being a disembodied spirit. But that is only the first phase when the mind/soul/spirit separates from the physical body. After the initial phases reported in NDEs, the "soul" enters another matrix of reality. The tangible expression of this association is the spiritual body that is coherent with the other framework of reality. People who have had long after-death experiences report seeing cities of light, gorgeous physical landscapes etc. Of course, you will say that all of that (including the spiritual body) is an illusion. You would be right - the after-death "body" and "world" are a lesser order of reality than God and the soul. But the same is true for the present physical reality that surrounds us, and the physical bodies we currently inhabit. These too are the "field" and the "objects" of experience unlike God and the soul who are the "subjects" of experience.


  5. Hug and kiss one another? Big whoop. Good Lord, I'm tired of prudish Christian who are so frightened of sex that the "sideways hug" is the best physical contact we can hope for in heaven.


    If that's all that some people hope for -- great. Go stand in the "hugs only" line. Me, I hope for and believe in something more. I don't believe that God, the very author of sex, will leave that OUT of eternity. To do so implies that it's just been so corrupted, God can't redeem it.

    And Michelle -- How do we "hug and kiss" one another without touching, I wonder? Air hugs and air kisses? So are we eternally French then? Sighh ..... the standard Christian view of heaven sorely lacks imagination and I say this AS a Christian. I know Christians more interested in "good pizza" in heaven than what the male/female interactions will be like. Whatevs. Enjoy your pizza. I'm hoping for more.

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    2. Thank you Tracey! It's refreshing to finally hear someone express something that has been bugging me for decades. I don't think the "no marriage in Heaven" doctrine as we know it today existed all the way back to the First Century church. At some point church leaders started treating their congregations like ornery adolescents with "one thing on their mind", and adopted a very negative view of sex in general. This attitude and shared belief translated into their view of Heaven. Also, does anyone but me find it odd that Jesus would teach about something as important as our sexual identity in Heaven in a mere rebuttal to a question meant to heckle him? As an "oh, by the way" kind of answer? Yet, that single verse of scripture seems to be the cornerstone of the "no marriage in Heaven" doctrine. Also, I believe this doctrine hinges on a mis-interpretation of the phrase "given in marriage", which refers to a practice that was common at the time of Christ in which marriages were arranged between the groom's family and the father of the bride. The bride herself had no choice. So most people interpret the verse to mean "In the resurrection they will neither marry nor be married". An accurate interpretation is "In the resurrection they will neither marry nor be given in an arranged marriage". Two VERY different meanings. Jesus was speaking in the future tense. He didn't say we won't *be* married in Heaven, he said we won't *get* married there.

  6. I made a big mistake when getting married. I desperately desired a true soulmate, a marriage meant to be, I went for the wrong relationship. I so badly want it right someday somehow, with a uncertain future, and looming rapture, I almost have given up on my dreams. Heaven was a place safe from the flames of Hades but that was about it. Gold streets and pearls do not interest me. I will gladly walk on a woods dirt trail 'anyday' with someone I have only dreamed about my whole life it. That is my treasure Please pray that I can believe in this beautiful teaching again. ps: I hope the single persons can find these unions in heaven as well. Thanks tracey for Your big Dreams. <3.

    1. Tom ~ Thanks for your comment. I'm a married woman who is childless not by choice. According to this post, I guess I don't have a "real" marriage, which is not germaine to the point I want to make.

      The point I want to make is this: The Bible is clear that in heaven, the blind will see, the lame will walk, etc., right? They will be made whole. For a blind person, the evidence of being made whole would be sight. For a deaf person, hearing. So am I to assume that as a childless not-by-choice Christian woman, there is no healing for me? If there is no marriage -- or soulmate-type parings -- if there is no physical sex because we just have "substantial but not physical human forms" (based on comment above), then the people who subscribe to that viewpoint are saying that there is no healing for someone like me. I won't have children because I won't have sex. That's the heaven that awaits me, I guess, if I buy into this viewpoint. I'll watch the blind, the lame, the deaf, the paralyzed, the disabled all get healed around me -- complete with empirical evidence of their healing -- and yet, the infertile like me will -- what? -- just be "told" they're healed, like getting a certificate from the Wizard of Oz? I don't suppose many people think of this because most are not infertile and most have children, if they so desire, so they don't know what it feels like to be "unhealed" in this area and being told of a future heaven where they're STILL unhealed. (Or, again, just "told" by Jesus, "Hey, your uterus works fine now." Gosh, thanks, Jesus!) That would be like putting a blind man in a pitch black room and telling him he can see now. In a heaven devoid of a physical body, devoid of male-female pairing, and devoid of intercourse, the infertile are eternally unhealed and eternally on the outside looking in. How that's any different from the life I'm living now, I do not know, but it sure doesn't sound like "heaven" to me.

      I'm believing in more. I'm believing in a God who heals ALL and withholds no good thing from his children -- including male-female relationships, including sex. He made men and women for each other, if Adam and Eve are any indication, and he figured out pretty early on that man (Adam in the beginning) actually needed the companionship of someone *his own kind.* Even living in the very presence of God, Adam needed and was given someone extra, a soulmate. What does that mean for eternity, I wonder?

      Hold on to what you dream of heaven, Tom. God is big enough.

    2. Tracey, In Swedenborgian theology "substantial" does not mean "less than physical". The resurrection body is quite like the physical body and is capable of deeper sensations and greater mobility. There is intercourse, but no childbearing. Here's the link to what Swedenborg said in this regard - read what he says about "ultimate delights" (you know what he means :-)


      God bless,


    3. Well, it's been three years since your reply here, but I thought I'd post this anyway. Perhaps I'm unfamiliar with the verse that says there's no children in heaven and you can help me out on that. I am familiar with this verse, though:

      “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."

      How does the "no children in heaven" idea jibe with this verse?

      Apart from that, as I already said in a previous comment, my husband and I are infertile and childless not by choice, so when you say "no children in heaven" with such certainty, you're also saying with certainty -- perhaps without realizing you're saying it -- that "infertile people will be the only ones unhealed in heaven."

      Really? So everyone else with a physical malady is healed and made whole with empirical evidence thereof but the infertile are not? And the solace we get from the "church" is this: "Well, you'll be so full of the joy of the Lord, you won't CARE about that anymore." Okay. Let's say that's true and if it's true, it needs to apply equally across the board, doesn't it? So the blind will remain blind, the lame will remain lame, the deaf will remain deaf, etc, and their solace will ALSO be "you'll be so full of the joy of the Lord, you won't care if you see, walk, or hear anymore."

      But ... problem: The Bible doesn't say that. It says the exact opposite.

      So I guess I'm wondering WHY healing will apply to every one BUT the infertile and why we're offered bromides like "Oh, you'll find your bliss in the presence of the Lord" as a consolation prize. I'm sorry. I guess I see a Creator who will continue creating for all eternity and allow us to create (and procreate) as well. Yes, it's speculation, but, in my opinion, it's the only thing that jibes with a God who makes ALL things new.

    4. Tracey, I don't now what you think of me. I pray for you from time to time because I know you're suffering. We all are in different ways. I would hope that, at least in spirit, we can put aside any misunderstandings we had in the past, because you and I are really on the same side. We think the same and believe the same.

      I think the standard Christian teaching on no marriage in Heaven is destructive on many levels. It creates a class of people who are better than everybody else -- those who "had it all together" when they were young, married young, had children and had the full experience. Those who were late, behind in life, didn't succeed in school, didn't get jobs, etc., who had to forego marriage alltogether or who married late in life -- those people are not a part of that "upper class". It doesn't end there. Many people get married and find out that they can't have children, or are financially unable to afford children. Some people have children who are so far apart in age that they have no meaningful sibling relationship. The list goes on and on. "No marriage in Heaven" teaches that those who didn't have the full experience will never have in Heaven what was lost to them in life.

      Think of it as a plane ride where some people get to ride First Class and the rest of us have to ride coach... and we're told by the pilot that "in Heaven" we'll never get to ride on airplanes again. It's kind of a crude analogy but it's the same thing.

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  9. I want to add something to what I've already said. Many people make the argument "In Heaven our numbers are full and there's no more death, so therefore no need of sexual interaction since it's purpose is reproduction". Does that mean there's no flowers in Heaven because there's no plant death and therefore no need for seeding? Do people have fireplaces in their homes without needing them for heating? We have and do many things that have multiple purposes; to say that something is going away because it no longer serves a particular purpose is short-sighted at best. To presume that God is too little to redeem the very core of His design for man and woman on the Sixth Day of Creation because of a little sinful corruption is to believe in a very little God indeed.

    Everything in nature has the fingerprint of God's design for male and female attraction; flowers, the north and south pole of a magnetic field, the attraction of positive and negatively charged ions in clouds resulting in lightning, the orbit of electrons around a nucleus with the same number of protons. The Bible, both Old and New Testament, is filled with verses that speak of the holiness of the marital union. Yet a single grossly over-quoted and mis-interpreted verse is used to argue that God is going to take all of that away? Wrong.

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