“Why can’t we be married in heaven?” she asked. These words came from a wife to a husband, but they are the unspoken thoughts of many happily married men and women of the Lord. Marriage and family are unquestionably important, even world shaping. However, the Bible is clear in the new heavens and new earth no one but God will act as a parent and Jesus explicitly tells us apart from the marriage of the church to the lamb of God no other marriage will exist in the resurrection. The only relationships in this life that will carry over into the forever kingdom will be our connection to other Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ. Our department at work, club in school, or small group in church will cease to be in the way that it was even if God in His grace saves all of those we know and love in such groups. I will not get a Facebook invite for a Trussoni family reunion in ten thousand years or at least I will be equally as likely to get an invite to the Smith family reunion. This might seem disappointing, heart breaking, even depressing. We define so much of ourselves in these relationships and we especially venerate family. One of the most common responses to the importance I place on family discipleship is some form of the claim that family is temporary. Some think encouraging parents to participate in less church functions when doing so allows more family discipleship is futile and worldly. Despair or parental negligence might seem understandable when marriage is momentary and our families will fundamentally change, but that reaction actually misses the point of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 22. In Christ our families truly are eternal and that beautiful bond between a godly husband and wife will only be made infinitely more incredible.
This is far from a written sermon, but briefly let’s look at scripture. Jesus’ famous words about the temporary nature of marriage come in a discussion with the Sadducees recorded in Matthew 22:23-33. It’s important to understand the basics of the Sadducees to understand this interaction. The Sadducees were a Jewish community in the first century that in some ways is seen as a rival to the Pharisees. The Sadducees only largely accepted the first five books of the Bible as authoritative and they were known for denying the resurrection that both King David and the Biblical prophets so eagerly anticipated. Though it’s far too simplistic of a comparison some have made parallels between the Sadducees and modern Mainline Protestants. In this passage the Sadducees tried to stump Jesus and prove the concept of the resurrection was ridiculous. The conundrum the Sadducees proposed to Jesus is ironically rooted in Mosaic law. Moses who the Sadducees loved taught that when a man dies his brother was supposed to take on the widow to make sure she is not financially destitute and to ensure the dead man might have an heir. The Sadducees gave a hypothetical example where this passing down of a wife after death happens seven times in succession and after all seven husbands had died the repeated widow dies. The Sadducees ask Jesus who will be married to her in this supposed resurrection. The point they were trying to make in their question is that the idea of the resurrection brings more questions than any kind of solution. If you believe as many nominal Christians do that marriage lasts for eternity this is actually a pretty baffling question.
Jesus responds both to their question and their underlying theology. Jesus tells them they are wrong because they don’t know either the scriptures, (which after the Law teaches the resurrection clearly) nor do they understand the power of God. The last part was not insignificant or haughty language. The Sadducees didn’t understand how powerful God is, they had a limited narrow view of the divine. This point will illuminate all else Jesus says. Jesus tells the Sadducees marriage won’t exist in the new heavens and new earth; we will be single (for lack of a better term) like the angels are single. He doesn’t mean this as a letdown, this is about the power of God. Jesus doesn’t tell us marriage ends when the resurrection comes because the resurrection is worse, it will end because the resurrection is better and provides us experiences that can only be understood through trusting in God’s incredible power.
What then is this better thing that replaces marriage? Spiritual family apparently must be. Jesus himself actually taught that those who trust in Him are presently and forever will be more his brother and mother than those who were his physical brothers and mother. Jesus’ brothers would eventually trust in Christ and after doing so they began to see themselves more as part of the spiritual family of God’s people than as physical brothers of the Savior of the world. This bond is meant to be one fulfilled in the kingdom, one where we together become the bride of the bridegroom and feast together in the house of Zion. In 2 Corinthians the apostle Paul tells all the Christians in Corinth that in the resurrection the believers in Corinth will celebrate a bond with Paul and his friends far more than they ever could have in this life. Each of these people who barely knew each other in comparison to their biological family will be joined with each other unlike any bond they had ever known. This is true of everyone in the kingdom towards everyone in the kingdom. Every bond between people in this life if rooted in Christ will only be infinitely strengthened in the new heavens and new earth. We will have a relationship deeper than the best marriage possible in the resurrection with every Christian who has ever lived. How is this possible? Only by the power of God.
If we know Jesus, our family both spiritual and physical is in a way eternal. Men, your wives will be your sister and your sons will be your brothers but even this sibling relationship will be a far closer bond than you ever had in its different form. For Christian families, death is more a metamorphosis than an end to your relationship. The hard truth though is any bond with someone who trusts in themselves rather than Christ will sadly dissolve. Our hearts should break knowing our lost spouse or child will be forever disjointed from us though joy will reign down even after we sit with this difficult reality. This should compel us to pray constantly and share the gospel clearly with lost family members. We were given hope in Christ when we He brought us to Him and so we must always remember there is a hope available for all of our lost loved ones even when they resist over and over.
Disciple your kids and enjoy your marriage not because you only have a few decades to do so, do this because that unity you plant will by God’s grace continue to sprout up in ten trillions years and onward. In a billion years we will reflect on our favorite family trip in the first earth while walking through paradise with those we loved in 2019 AD but love so much more in 20,00,019 AD. The Bible doesn’t give us the specifics that would surely blow our minds but I wonder if I’ll share some beachfront penthouse with Danielle for a million years and then camp in the woods with John Knox for a million years only to room with Danielle again a few trillion years later without losing knowledge or love of my best friend and bride presently. Your family devotions could turn your kids into brothers and sisters with remarkable faith legacy in the kingdom. Your inside jokes with the Christians you love deeply will be hilarious in the kingdom. If we cling to the Rock of Ages closer than any other relationship we have and our loved ones do too, we will rejoice with our eternal family for eons.