Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Anna:
If a widow remarries after Death of her husband, which one will she be with in her afterlife?
Thanks for the good question, Anna.
I’m sorry if you had to go through the death of a husband. This is not only a difficult and painful experience, but it’s also one that can cause us to rethink our whole life and character. That’s especially so if we had a good and loving relationship with the husband—or wife—we lost. Moving on to a new marriage means becoming a different person than we were before in at least some ways. We must form a new relationship with a different person, and adapt ourselves to that new relationship.
Which love is real?
Probably both of them.
But we can be married to only one person in heaven.
So which will it be?
The basic answer is: the one we are then closest to in spirit.
Let’s take a closer look.
An ancient question
You are far from alone in asking this question.
Two thousand years ago a group of skeptics asked Jesus the same type of question—though they brought it to a ridiculous extreme. You can read three versions of the question and Jesus’ response to it in Matthew 22:23–33, Mark 12:18–27, and Luke 20:27–40.
The people who asked this question were not interested in marriage in heaven. They were trying to argue that the whole idea of an afterlife is ridiculous. Jesus’ response focused mostly on the reality of the afterlife. But he also said that the legalistic relationship that they called “marriage” does not exist in heaven.
Unfortunately, Christians ever since have thought he was saying there is no marriage at all in the afterlife. For more on this question, see the article, How does Marriage Fit In with a Spiritual Life? Is There Marriage in Heaven? And for a much deeper and more detailed look at Jesus’ words about marriage in the afterlife, see a series of three articles starting with: Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?
Here’s the short version: God created man and woman to be married, and to be complete in one another. We don’t change and become a completely different type of being just because we die. The same fundamental human love and desire to join with another person here on earth continues with us into the spiritual world.
With that in mind, let’s move on to the question of who we will be married to in the afterlife.
Marriage is first a union of souls
From a purely biological perspective, marriage doesn’t exist. There is only mating.
Though some other animals besides humans do mate for life (and many humans do not mate for life), no other animal gets married. Even without bringing God and spirit into the picture, marriage is a social and legal arrangement that doesn’t exist outside of human society.
But from a spiritual perspective, marriage is much more than that. In the Gospels, Jesus said:
But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.” “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. (Mark 10:6–9)
Marriage, as God designed it, makes two human beings into one. And though that does mean we become one physically in the act of lovemaking, everything God does starts with God and spirit, not with flesh. When God joins us together, it is first of all a spiritual union. In other words, it is a union of two souls, hearts, and minds into one. In a real marriage, the social, legal, and physical union flows seamlessly from the spiritual union that makes two souls into one soul.
That is why especially in the higher heavens, a married couple is commonly called “one angel.” From a distance, they may even appear as a single person.
In short, genuine marriage starts with our deepest soul level, and unites us from there all the way down to our bodies.
This is the marriage that exists in heaven—something those ancient materialistic skeptics, who asked Jesus their crazy hypothetical question, could not even conceive of.
We are eternally the person we are inwardly at death
What, then, determines who we will be married to eternally in heaven?
Our spiritual character, and the spiritual character of the one who will be our eternal partner.
And what is our spiritual character?
It is what we love most, what we truly believe in our heart, what we do with our life based on those loves and beliefs.
Each of us has—and is—a unique set of loves, beliefs, and skills. That is why we take on various careers, professions, and purposes in life.
What do you love most?
- Is it money, power, or pleasure? If so, you might want to reconsider the direction of your life.
- Is it God’s presence in your life, and service to your fellow human beings in your own unique way? If so, then the particular way you love God and serve your fellow human beings will set the course for your eternal life in heaven.
Of course, this can and does change during the course of our lifetime here on earth.
The whole purpose of our life on earth is to give us an opportunity to consider the various directions we might go, try out the ones that look good to us, and make a choice over our lifetime about what we love most, who we want to be, and what we want to do with our life. (For more on this, see “Heaven, Regeneration, and the Meaning of Life on Earth.”)
During the course of our lifetime here on earth, we develop into the angel we will become. All of our experiences, choices, and actions in life become a part of the complex, multifaceted person that we are.
What matters most is not the particular things we have experienced or done at various times in our life. What matters most is the choices we make in response to them, and the person we become as a result.
At the time of our death, we have made all of the choices we are going to make here on earth. We have become the person we will be in eternity.
It is this character that we have formed through our lifetime on earth, and up to the time of our death, that will determine who we will be married to in heaven.
Our various partners reflect our developing self
Many, if not most of us go through more than one relationship. Many people have been married more than once, either through the death of a spouse or through separation and divorce.
If we look back over our various relationships, and reflect on why we were with each partner, we may be able to discern how each relationship expressed something of our character at that time. As we went through changes in our beliefs, attitudes, and goals—and in our general level of maturity—we moved from one partner to another.
Many of us found one we felt we could spend the rest of our life with. Some of us were blessed to have that ideal become a reality in a loving, lifelong marriage.
For many others of us, though, that was not to be. Some of us entered marriages that turned out not to have the soul connection that makes a true and lasting marriage. Others simply grew away from our partner. Still others did have a good and loving marriage, but lost our husband or wife to premature death.
Those who lose a beloved spouse to death while there is still much life to live face a difficult choice.
Will we seek new love, and remarry?
That is a very personal choice. No one else can make it for us. If you’ve been through it, you know all of the conflicting thoughts and feelings that go into it.
Those who make the choice to remarry, and who believe in eternal marriage, will naturally think about which of their loves they will be with in eternity.
What happens to us when we die?
So let’s get to it!
When we first die, after the initial experience of leaving our physical body and being welcomed into the spiritual world, we settle into a life very much like the one we had lived previously on earth. This can last anywhere from a few days to a few decades.
Most of us are probably in this first stage for a period of some years. This gives us time to get together with our husband or wife and settle back into a life together similar to the one we had in the world.
Here on earth, we learn to put on a face for the world. We often pretend to be someone we are not for social and practical reasons. This habit of ours continues right into that first stage in the spiritual world. We may be so used to acting like we are a certain type of person that even we ourselves don’t know who we truly are inside.
However, in the spiritual world, as days stretch into weeks, years, and sometimes decades, our true inner character is gradually opened up. We can no longer pretend to be someone we are not. Our real inner thoughts and feelings begin to show through.
This is our second stage after death. By the time it is over, we cannot say anything we do not believe, or do anything that isn’t what we really want to do. (For more on the stages we go through after death, see “What Happens To Us When We Die?”)
Once our true inner character has been revealed, we are prepared to discover who will be our true, eternal partner.
Who will we be married to in heaven?
Here on earth, our marriages are not always based on who we truly are inside. We may marry for social or financial reasons. Or we may not have a clear sense of who we are, and marry someone who looks attractive to us for reasons we don’t think out very deeply.
If we are not truly one in spirit with our husband or wife at the time that we die, we will probably still get together with them again during that first stage after death. However, as our own and our spouse’s real inner character comes out, it will become clear that we don’t belong with this person. At that point, the marriage will break up. As on earth, this can happen either by the husband leaving the wife, or the wife leaving the husband, or by a mutual decision.
If we have been married more than once, we will have the opportunity to meet and get together with each of the people we were married to. We may even live with each of them for a time in order to find out whether we have a real spiritual connection with one or another of them. This can take place during that first stage after death, when we are still figuring out who we truly are inside.
Eventually, though, it will become crystal clear to us exactly who we are, and exactly who our various partners are. This happens in that second stage after death, when our true inner self comes out.
At that point, it will become as plain as day who we truly belong with. Knowing our own real character, and seeing the real character of our various partners, we will see which one of them has grown in the same direction we have grown, and shares our deepest loves and beliefs. Or we may find that our true love is not any of our previous partners, but someone new.
Whoever it is, that is the one we will marry and spend eternity with.
Were our previous marriages real?
Does this mean that all of our other marriages and relationships were not real?
Not necessarily. Remember, our life here on earth is a process of growth, development, discovery, and decision about who we are and who we want to become. At one stage of our life we may very much love the partner we are with. But then the two of us may move in different directions, and part ways.
If our husband or wife died and we moved on to another marriage, that doesn’t necessarily mean the earlier marriage wasn’t real. It may be that in heaven we will return to our earlier love. Maybe that person actually was our true spiritual partner. Or maybe we have moved on from that stage of our life, and we are no longer a match for one another.
For each person it is different. If you’ve been married more than once, I can’t say which one of your marital partners you will be with in heaven. Only you can discover that for yourself.
What I can say is that whoever it is, it will be the right person for you.
God loves us, and wants to give us every happiness. If we long for a true, deep, loving, exciting, eternal marriage with someone who shares our deepest thoughts and feelings, God will provide that for us.
Which one will you be with in the afterlife?
The one with whom you have become one in spirit through your lifetime here on earth.
With that person, now an angel, you will become one angel. With that person you will continue to grow in love and understanding forever.
With that person you will share your life, your passions, your ideas, your work, your play—and yes, your marriage bed—to all eternity.
This article is a response to a spiritual conundrum submitted by a reader.
For further reading:
- How does Marriage Fit In with a Spiritual Life? Is There Marriage in Heaven?
- Can you Fall in Love in Heaven if you Haven’t Found Someone on Earth?
- Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?
- How to Know if Mr. or Ms. Right is Right for You: Pointers from Gloria and Emilio Estefan
- Viktor Frankl on Meaning through Relationship: It’s All About Love and Understanding
- Heaven, Regeneration, and the Meaning of Life on Earth