Will There Be Marriage in the Afterlife?

Given their history, it seems rather strange.  After all, for hundreds of years the Jews lived alongside a race that was totally preoccupied with life after death.  The Egyptians built pyramids that were wonders of the ancient world.  But their sole purpose was to launch their leaders into the next world.

Yet the Jews really had no concept of life after death.  True, they believed in Sheol (aka Hades) but the shadowy, underworld existence of departed souls could not properly be called "life."  For the Jews, unlike the Greeks and Egyptians, the soul really could not have true existence apart from the body.  A human being, in their understanding, did not just have a body.  It was not just a vehicle that the soul drove around town.  No, the body is an essential part of the person.  The body is the person.

So finally, when, about 150 years before Christ, a group of pious Jews called Pharisees came to believe in life after death, they instinctively knew that the body had to be involved.  Salvation was not about being liberated from the body to enjoy bliss as angelic souls, but rather had to mean the resurrection of the body.

The religious establishment of Judaism never bought into this.  To this day, most Jews don't have a definite belief in life after death.  In Jesus' time, the conservatives, which included the priests, were called the Sadducees.  In Luke 20: 27-38 a group of them present to Jesus a scenario designed to discredit this silly belief in the resurrection.  In this world, death of a spouse frees a woman to marry another.  What if she is made a widow six times and marries a seventh.  In the resurrection, all will be alive at the same time — whose wife will she be?

 As they snicker, the Lord Jesus exposes the problem.  They assume the resurrection will be a mere resuscitation, a return to bodily life as we currently experience it.  But Jesus points out our risen bodies will be different that they are now.  Our bodies now are mortal, vulnerable, actually rather fragile.  A lifetime of great nutrition and disciplined exercise can be instantaneously ruined by a sudden rendezvous with an 18-wheeler.

In the resurrection, we'll become like the angels in this way — our bodies will no longer be mortal or vulnerable.  I don't know about you, but for me, that will make quite a difference in my lifestyle and daily routine.  Marriage is a love relationship for sure.  But it is also an institution that is bound up with realities of mortal life.  Reproduction is necessary because we someday will die and so need to raise up replacements to carry on.  In heaven, we won't need to worry about the survival of the species or the family name.  Paying the bills and balancing the budget is a big part of the institution of marriage and family as we know them.  But the bills we work so hard to pay each month just won't be an issue in the hereafter.  Medical insurance is no use when you are immortal.

But there are some things about marriage that will last forever.  Marriage points beyond itself to eternal realities.  God is an intimate and loving communion of persons.  We are made in the image of this triune God which means that we are made for self-giving love.  Marriage is a realization of this vocation as well as a symbol of an even greater love relationship — the marriage between God and His people, Christ and His Church.

So there are things about this life, and about marriage, that will last forever.  But there are also things that will pass away.  The resurrection will be not just more of the same, but a transformation of life, a launching into a new realm of life, a life of eternal love of God and one another that will be more exciting than we can possibly imagine.

Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D.

By

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For info on his resources and pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 800.803.0118.

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  • Guest

    Of course Dr D'Ambrosio is right on with his analysis, however, one paragraph stands out to me as the crux of why marriage will not exist as it does now in the afterlife:

    But there are some things about marriage that will last forever.  Marriage points beyond itself to eternal realities.  God is an intimate and loving communion of persons.  We are made in the image of this triune God which means that we are made for self-giving love.  Marriage is a realization of this vocation as well as a symbol of an even greater love relationship — the marriage between God and His people, Christ and His Church. 

    The only marriage in heaven will be between Christ and His Church.  In heaven the Body of Christ will be perfected in our resurrected bodies. We actually will become the ONE Body in Christ that we strive to attain on earth.  Married couples are the sacrament that most embody the unity of the faithful in heaven.  Marriage is exclusive on earth to the  parties (husband and wife) but in heaven the exclusivity changes to The Church-the Bride, which includes the perfected union of mortal marriages, united to Christ-the Bridegroom. 

    Mortal Christian marriage only anticipates the marriage of the Beatific Vision.  Even on earth the love and unity of the husband and the wife is only perfected in that it is united to the Trinity (the family images the Trinity).  "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has ready for those who love Him"….that is the reality of marriage in the Heavenly Jerusalem.  Clinging to mortal marriage is like pouring new wine into tattered wine skin… sentimental, but not the Glorious Union God deigns for us.

    Despite the above, if my husband predeceases me, I'll long for the day we can be reunited in heaven glorifying God as one.  That prayer will inspire me to heroic holiness.  And, after all the purpose of marriage is to sanctify the spouses. 

  • Guest

    Beautifully stated, elkabrikir.  Nice to see there are people who do think about these things. 

    Actually, I'm writing to demur from the stated position of the academics these days that the Jews had no belief of the afterlife and resurrection from the dead.  From observing the holiness of life of the uneducated, to reading the Bible, I just don't believe that anyone can be motivated to do good and to be holy without the full story outlined in their mind of the history and destiny of mankind.  Just because we have definitions or statements of Faith (the seven sons in Maccabees) only as we arrive at the time of Christ doesn't mean that they weren't aware of these things.  Lack of reliable speculation, and faithfulness to the elements they knew to be true (the body is an integral part of the person) doesn't mean disbelief or rational skepticism. 

    The liturgy, after all, goes way back into pre-deluvian days, and it wasn't full of prophetic words and definitions, but prophetic actions, symbolic motions that led the mind and spirit to ponder what the Messiah would accomplish.  Christ in the readings from this past Sunday, I believe, mentions that Moses taught the resurrection by teaching that Yahweh was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who still live.  News to those Sadduccees, who prided themselves on their line stretching back to David and his high priest Sadok.  The Pharisees were a reform movement from the time of the Maccabees, that wanted to stimulate others to cherish the traditions of their Faith, and therefore, to more explicitly state them.  But this belief is clear in the life of all the Old Testament Fathers.  The Sadduccees, by posing the question in the form of Seven husbands, seven being the symbol of the Covenant with God, were saying with a superior attitude to Jesus, see, the Covenant covers it all, this is the way it has always been by God's design and ordinance, and you are never going to get control from us, because you can't get around that fact.  In effect, we are in control of the Covenant, and the Covenant is permanent.  Jesus points out to them the purpose of the current life, that is, to lead to the next and what is permanent.  This is the duration of life that defines us, where we must make ourselves with God's grace, into the loving, self-sacrificing image of God, where it is all as expendible as Abraham's son if it does not lead to that more perfect union with the Elohim. 

    Prior generations may not have had our current penchant for defining everything, but they did have and contemplated and cherished their Faith and its truths as real, and they knew through that Faith.  Unlike the Sadduccees, they did know and have Faith in the Power of God, and the Scriptures.  They contemplated, and unpacked the mutifacted meaning compressed in God's word and Actions, and its implications.  The Word of the Lord enlightens the eyes, giving Wisdom to the simple. 

    Their emphasis was on living in His Grace, following His Laws, and being faithful to Him in His People.  With all our enlightenment, has anything changed in that regard?  Yes, actually, one thing.  The sacraments give us the power of that Grace, and entrance into the Life of Christ. 

  • Guest

    Very well said, Elkabrikir.  A few years ago I cried at the thought of not continuing the marital bond with my husband in Heaven.  Now I have moved past that, and I realize that it was my way of holding on to the familiar and resisting change, despite the fact that the change will be better than anything I could ever imagine.  As you said, it doesn't mean that we won't have a bond with our earthly spouses in Heaven, it will just be a more inclusive bond.

  • Guest

    “for to Him all are alive."The reading from the book of Maccabees tells us that the seven sons and their mother really believed in eternal life; their torturous deaths one after another put us in awe of such faith and hope. They died 200 years before the Sadducees of the second reading, who still doubted the resurrection of the body.The Sadducees thought they saw in incongruity between the teaching of eternal life and the Torah. They were letter of the law people, and they only acknowledged the first five books of the Old Testament as inspired. Jesus and his followers accepted other Scriptures. (Paul, speaking of the OT, tells us “all Scripture is valuable for teaching” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17). These questioners asked about levirate law concerning marriage to indicate that they saw a problem: if the law was right and if Jesus and the other Scriptures were also right– whose wife would this poor women -who had lost seven husbands and remarried seven times- be when she got to heaven? Jesus let them know that there is indeed bodily life after death, but that people don’t get married in heaven. We marry/procreate on earth as a participation in God’s ongoing creation. We believe and hope that we will see and know each other in heaven.  Our bonds of love will continue, but marriage/procreation will not.

  • Guest

    The Saducees do seem to be similar to the leftist power brokers of today, but Jesus also said of the Pharisees, "Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.

  • Guest

    God loves you .

    Hmmm – HMMMMMM!

    After fifteen years of the likes of me, and now having had her truest, greatest reward with God and His saints and angels for twenty-five years – would my late wife really want to think of herself as ‘married’ to me?

    I often thought that ‘she coulda done better than me’; I still do! But, clearly, she does now have better – the BEST – what would returning to marriage give to her that she has not been granted?

    I will settle for return to the grand pleasures of our friendship. We can share the unimaginable bliss of our wedded eternity with our Beloved Bridegroom.

    Remember, I love you, too .

    In the Suffering of Christ, and in His hope of His Resurrection,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

  • Guest

    Before sin and death entered human reality, The Lord told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply.  Before sin and death entered human reality, He created them male and female.  God created our bodies, and through the plan of salvation has redeemed our bodies.  For these reasons, I continue to believe that after the second coming, and the resurrection of the body, and the descent of the Heavenly Jerusalem, that we will live, male and female, as the Lord intended Adam and Eve to live in Eden before the fall — in a state of holy, perfected, faithful, fruitful marriage.  Yes, we will live in the presence of the Lamb.  Yes, we will live in the bliss of union with the creator, but I see no reason why a redeemed marriage in any way precludes these things.  This is not a sentimental attachment to earthly marriages.  Those vows end with death.  But in our resurrected bodies, I believe there will be holy, perfected marriages, because that is how our Lord created us. 

  • http://rezfamilies.googlepages.com rezfamilies

    In case anyone is still reading, 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.

    Below are some websites that make this positive case (across Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant strands of Christianity). Each website does deal with the marriage pericope of Mt 22 to a lesser or greater degree -
    1. http://rezfamilies.googlepages.com
    2. http://www.ewtn.org/library/Marriage/zmarrheavn.htm
    3. This book
    Whether you find these arguments convincing is ultimately up to you.

  • http://rezfamilies.googlepages.com rezfamilies

    In case anyone is still reading, 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 my website – to access it, go to google search and type ‘rezfamilies marriage in the resurrection’, and my website will be shown. All interested visitors are welcome.

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