John Wants to Marry Ruthie in Heaven
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 22:30a (Holman) “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor
are given in marriage . . .”
When I told Ruth I was working on a sermon about no marriage in Heaven, I said I was going to title it, “No Sex in Heaven.” She immediately screamed, “No!!” One interesting dynamic about being married 43 years is; you know how to get each other’s goat. I laughed till my side hurt. Not to be outdone, she fired back, “Honey, if there’s no marriage in Heaven, who will do your hair?” I didn’t have a good comeback. She laughed till her side hurt.
The Sadducees foolishly felt they had trapped Jesus. They said if one bride had married seven brothers in succession, each could claim her as a wife after death. Since such polygamy is of course impossible in Heaven, their only conclusion was; there can be no resurrection. Jesus, totally unruffled, answered them clearly, saying words we still need to hear today.
“In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage.” The error of the Sadducees is still common. Many err, thinking Heaven will be a polished-up form of Earth; everything there will be as it is here now, only improved. Truth is; Heaven is not a carbon-copy continuation of Earth, but a different, distinct reality. This is hard to learn. We think of Heaven in terms of Earth. For instance, we try to understand eternity through the lens of time.
In a way, we have no other option. Since this world has been our only existence, we have no other reference point to use to ponder ultimate actualities. We envision in light of what we know, but we must try our best to realize realities here are but a foreshadowing of what lies beyond death.
One example, Earth’s temple was a building. Heaven has no special buildings, but does have a temple. The earthly temple foreshadowed not a carbon copy, but a better, different kind of temple, a Person, God Himself.
The earthly blessings we enjoy here point to other things better and different there. This includes marriage. Matrimony is not a cookie-cutter pattern of what is to come, but is a foreshadowing of much superior realities.
Marriage, when done God’s way, is, next to being saved, the greatest relationship in the world. This intended bliss is what foreshadows Heaven. Heaven is one happy marriage, with Jesus being the Bridegroom, and each of us being a bride (RM 7). Thus marriage as we know it will not exist in Heaven.
Many of us cannot imagine perfect happiness in the absence of being married to our current spouse. I know I will not be married to Ruth in Heaven, but if I do not love her there as much as I love her here, there is no resurrection of me at my innermost essence.
Since marriage on Earth points to something better in Heaven, I must believe I will not love Ruth less there, but will love all others more. There will be no exclusive relationships in Heaven. All interactions will be inclusive and perfect. The emphasis in Heaven will not be physical contact, but spiritual fellowship. Our love will be perfect, no selfishness, jealousy, sin, or clutching. The joy of companionship we enjoy here will never stop.
Marriage covers two important essentials in this lifetime that will be eliminated in Heaven. One, the need to reproduce. Marriage is given to us to let our race continue. God told us to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28).
In Heaven, procreation will not be needed. Death will be no more. There was a first person. There will be a last one. When death dies, the need for births will die with it. Here “it was necessary that cradles took the place of coffins” (Powell); a tug of war ever exists between life and death. We fear receiving the call at midnight, hearing the diagnosis of cancer, and feeling pain in the middle of our chest. No more of this in Heaven. We sing about the bells of Heaven. Fortunately, none of them will ever ring a funeral knell.
Two, our individual shortcomings. Adam was insufficient in himself. He needed a separate person, a helper appropriate for him. My Grandpa Marshall said, “Son, marry a woman who has buttons where you have button holes.” This won’t be needed in Heaven. We’ll each be personally adequate.
In this existence, marriage is given to help us handle our weaknesses and shortcomings during life’s hard times. Our vows well say, “For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health.” We promise we will faithfully do this “Till death do us part”. Some say marital commitment will be the number one issue in the 21st century for believers. Did we really mean what we said at the altar? Due to our living longer, after Alzheimer’s and dementia have stolen our spouse for years, we will learn if we meant it.
I do not claim to have all the answers to our understanding of Heaven, but I do know it will be infinitely better than we can ever imagine. Here we only have grand glimpses and glimmers of what life will be like there.
Let me illustrate. Years ago Ruth and I saw one of the most beautiful sites in the world, the scenery around Guilin, China. Our tour-boat ride up the Li River was out-of-this-world beautiful, breathtaking at every turn. We did not know what kinds of trees were planted by the river, what was being planted in the fields, who lived in the homes, or what each town was named. Not knowing every little detail did not diminish our enjoying a larger view.
Paul’s explanation helps. He said the earthly would be swallowed up in the celestial. I think of it this way; one of my favorite flowers is a white petunia. The petunia seed is not nearly as beautiful as the bloom, but it is present, swallowed up in the flower. Even so our life here is but an ordinary seed that will be swallowed up in a totally different, extraordinary body.
Matt. 22:30b “. . .but are like angels. . .”
Jesus undermined the Sadducees’ refusal to believe in angels. He did not try to prove the fact, or argue in its favor. He assumed it, and referred to angels often. God give us grace to know when to debate, and when to wait.
When we die, we do not become angels, nor do we worship them. Rather, they and we will share certain traits. Angels have many traits we want to share, but I think the specific emphasis here is their focus on God, as opposed to others. In Heaven, we will be focused on God rather than each other, including our former spouse. We’ll enjoy Him. I always struggle with this. I want to rest in him, but mine is a Jacob-heart, a restless spirit that too often struggles to achieve in my flesh, rather than resting in His grace.
This unrest in me is doomed; it will end. A day is coming when I will stand before the throne in sacred, deliriously happy, worship, adoring Jesus.
You and I will join the angels in gazing on the Father’s face. We will see why some of them cover their eyes, as if to highlight the fact He truly is too wonderful to see. We’ll study Him with wonder in adoration undiluted.
We will praise God as angels do, and ask them about the never-ending nuances of His beauty. Like awestruck children, we will ask, “What about that? What about this? Awesome. I don’t know what to make of it. Wow.”
Our focus will be gladly riveted on Him. We will serve Him without distraction. Often my mind wanders in prayer, and I pray like this, “Lord, keep me from what happened to Peter when the rooster crowed. I remember when a rooster attacked me. Grandma beat him off me with a broom, and Grandpa shot it when he got home–Wait!! I’m praying here. Where was I?”
These idiotic disruptions will end. I anticipate the day when my focus will be where it always should be, on God. “Even so, come Lord Jesus”.