Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Eternal Marriage - What is the Biblical Support?

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints we know there will be those who are married even after death (D&C 131:1-4). Yet many non-members find this hard to believe. Particularly those who are religious tend to come to see even loving sex as a bad thing that God tolerates, rather than extols. For example, the Catholics hold up what they term "the Blessed Virgin Mary" as being superior, claiming she never had sex at any time during her entire life, and that Jesus was an only child. And their priests and nuns don't marry either.

And while Protestantism claims its support of sex within marriage, claiming it to be clean, if you want to find their true feelings just propose that Jesus followed God's command and was married, and watch the reaction. "How could God stoop so low," is how they respond in their thinking. They can accept he could stoop to be born, to eat, to drink and even go to the toilet. But suggest him having sex and their real feelings are apparent. So what does life and the Bible really say in support of loving sex, having children and doing this eternally? And what are those things that confuse people on this subject?

I should first present that the greater good a thing can do and be, the greater evil can be done by the same principle. Thus while sex is a good and wonderful thing when performed for the right reasons, in an entirely loving way, it can be the cause of enormous evil when the opposite applies. And everything in between will be exactly that - in between total good and total evil. Thus people's perception of the goodness of marriage is affected by their deep seated perception of the righteousness or evil of sex. To those who see sex as something lesser than a totally righteous act, talking of eternal marriage seems to be talking of an eternity of performing an unrighteous act. And I can only recommend to such people that they prayerfully re-evaluate sex. I have a link at the top of the page called "sex problems", which I'd advise you click, read and apply.

Sadducees Question
Many have been of the opinion that there is no eternity of marriage, being confused by a conversation between Christ and the Sadducees. The Sadducees presented a question of a woman who's husband died. The Law of Moses states that the oldest brother of the dead man must take her to wife (this commandment was given to ensure the wife was looked after upon the death of her husband - remembering they had plural marriage, so it made no difference if the brother was already married). The Sadducees posed the brother dying also and through seven brothers, with this occurring with them all. Then the woman dies. So who should be her husband in the resurrection, they questioned?

Matt 22:20-30 "Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven."

When this says "in the resurrection" the word "in" is translated from the Greek word "en", that is also translated as "at" (by implication "at that specific time"), in the Bible. So that gives us a clearer understanding of the statement, in that he is saying that there are to be no marriages performed during the process of the resurrection itself.

Those deciding that this opposes marriage in heaven are making assumptions of things beyond what the text actually says. The text tells us that angels in heaven aren't married. The first assumption they make is that angels are the only beings in heaven other than God. It doesn't say that no one is married in heaven. Nor does it say that the woman in question isn't married in heaven. What it states is that there is no marriage performed at that point. Jesus has presented that the Scriptures answer the question and that people don't get married nor give anyone in marriage when resurrected to change the answer already given in the Scriptures.

Jesus has pointed out that they have made the error of not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God, in asking this question. So what did their Scriptures (the Old Testament) tell them to answer the question? Does the Old Testament say that no one is married in heaven? No. To the contrary. They tell us that the wife in the discussion wouldn't be removed from her original marriage (ie her first husband - as they are "one flesh" Gen 2:24). The fact that the brothers had to marry her after his death doesn't detract from this. No one gets married in heaven including angels in heaven (ie those in the lower 2 degrees - as the highest degree are Gods, not angels). All marriages will be performed on earth before the final resurrection. And no changes will be made thereafter, it would seem.

Jesus said concerning marriage, "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." Matt 19:6

Note that Jesus has said, "they are NO MORE TWAIN." That means that these two perfect people (he was speaking of Adam and Eve) NEVER again will be separate. It was an eternal union.

So when Jesus talks of them not understanding the power of God what did he mean? How would God be demonstrating power by doing nothing? He is saying that the power of God is demonstrated in maintaining this joining together of the husband and wife even beyond the grave and at and beyond the resurrection.

Anyone claiming this is stating no marriage will exist at all in heaven would therefore have to demonstrate where Christ was quoting this from in the Old Testament. And then demonstrate HOW this lack of action would prove the power of God. Are we to propose that he is proving his power when he can't sustain that oneness (that he has declared) beyond the grave?

Is Marriage for an Inferior Class?
Matt 19 contains a discussion which is also often misunderstood, leaving some feeling that marriage is for some spiritually inferior group. Christ was discussing divorce with his disciples. He states in verse 8 that divorce was not done until Moses, and it was given only because of their hardness of heart. He then goes on in verse 9 to state,

"And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery."

Verse 10 then has his disciples posing that if the case be so with the man then it isn't good to marry. Christ's response gives some the mistaken idea that he is stating it better not to marry at all, in spite of God's initial commandment in Genesis. But the disciples stated "IF the case be so with the man." What case? The case just proposed in the statement Christ made, where a man divorcing his wife and marrying another would be guilty of adultery. And where a man marrying a divorced woman would be committing adultery.

Christ then goes on to explain that this is a hard concept for most people in this situation to follow (verse 11), and presents that those divorced people would be better off to remain unmarried (verse 12). I should personally say in regard this that it seems possible that an entire spiritual re-birth may alter this situation. There are those divorced people who have been instructed of the Holy Ghost to re-marry years later, and after great change has occurred. I would therefore recommend serious and prayerful consideration of the application of this to each individual. But he definitely seems to oppose the idea of someone getting a divorce and just going out and marrying someone else, IMO.

Paul makes some comments that also confuse some people, in regard not getting married. This issue I have discussed before relative to Paul being married, but will repeat the main points here.

1 Cor 7:1 "Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman."

1 Cor 7:7-8 "For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I."

The problem with reading this is that we have only one side of this conversation. What were the things that they had written to him that he was answering from the viewpoint of? I would present to you that this conversation is the same as that which Jesus had with his disciples concerning the divorced. Paul, having previously been a dedicated Pharisee, would have been married. The law of Moses declared that leaders were to be married. It was a commandment. But his wife would have been an equally devout Jewess, who would have been horrified by his change of religion.

Therefore these "unmarried" he is referring to, that are best not getting married, are those who are divorced. Widows are already married and sealed to a husband for eternity. It is an interesting philosophy he is presenting that they would be better to involve themselves in spiritual work rather than re-marrying. It does have some sense to it. I should further point out to those unaware, that he has stated that these ideas AREN'T commandments (verse 6), but ideas he is presenting as advice. Verse 2 should also be read in considering these ideas.

However (returning to the subject) he isn't presenting that previously unmarried people don't get married or that marriage is for those who can't control themselves (as verse 2 may leave people with that opinion if not understood in the context that it is speaking to the divorced).

So what are God's feelings on Marriage?
"Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." Heb 13:4

In the beginning God gave Adam and Eve a blessing, and in that instructed that they are to produce offspring (Gen 1:27-28). So the very first recorded instruction to mankind was to have children. Here we have two perfect people (in the sense that they had not transgressed at this point) being given that child bearing is a thing that perfect people would do. Therefore child bearing isn't for some imperfect class of people, as some propose.

Therefore as perfect people in the beginning were given child bearing as a primary function of male-female relationships, should we consider it surprising that God would have this continue to be a primary function of male-female relationships? And should we consider it so surprising that it would continue to be the primary function of male-female relationships when we are brought back to that perfect physical state again by resurrection?

Gen 2:18 says in regard to Adam, "And the Lord God said, it is not good that the man should be alone..."

This clearly presents that it isn't good for a perfect man (which Adam then was) to be without a wife.

Paul states, "Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord." 1 Cor 11:11

Paul further states that a woman must have a husband above her in her relationship with God.

1 Cor 11:3 "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God."

In other words to the man it is God through Christ. But to the woman it is God through Christ, through her husband.

1 Pet 3:7 mentions that husbands and wives are "heirs together" of the grace of life.

Therefore we have all this talk of the oneness of husband and wife, that God has made them one flesh and they shouldn't be separated, that they are "no more" twain but one, that the woman must have a man to be in the Lord, that it isn't good for a perfect man to be alone and that both are heirs together of eternal life. Weighing that against the other side were we have nothing stating that the oneness of flesh of a married couple is to be extinguished afterwards. So Biblical support comes out strongly in favour of the concept of eternal marriage to those obtaining perfection.


Bryce Haymond said...

Great analysis! I agree completely. Marriage between a man and woman is ordained of God, and is central to the Creator's plan for his children.

ACatholicGuy said...

Very interesting post, but I think you misunderstand the Catholic teaching on human sexuality. The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a holy covenent, and it is in fact one of the seven sacraments of the Church. It is a wonderful earthly reality that mirrors a heavenly one. And the marital act (sex between spouses that is open to life), is a holy, and even sacramental, act. Marriage (which includes having and raising children) is the vocation to which most people are called by God. The fact that the Church also teaches that God also calls a minority of people to a celibate life in wholehearted service to God and His people does not mean that marriage is therefore not holy. Again, it's a Sacrament, and the Sacraments are the focal point of Catholic spiritual life.

Doug Towers said...


Thanks for the supportive comments. It is an interesting yet so often misunderstood concept.


An interesting perspective. You seem to be posing that there are separate callings, and that each is equal.

So I would pose some questions, not to attack your thoughts, but to explor your ideas further.

Wouldn't you see the reverance given to those who are living a celibate lifestyle as being superior to those who aren't?

And if I posed that Christ chose a lifestyle that included marriage, would that really be accepted as an equal idea to the concept that he didn't?

ama said...

Great Post! I like the interpretation of the biblical scriptures. I have some family memebers who have been confused by some of these exact scriptures.

My question to acatholicguy is if marriage is one of the 7 sacraments, why isn't it necessary for the priests to enter into this sacrament?