Are you in a happy marriage that you hope will continue forever in heaven? Has your beloved husband or wife died, and you hope and pray that you will be able to rejoin him or her when it comes your time to die? Do you long for a loving and eternally growing marriage even if you haven’t yet experienced it yourself?
If so, you are certainly not alone. And the news is better than you’ve been told!
Traditional Christian churches teach that there is no marriage in heaven. In the previous article, “Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?” we looked closely at Jesus’ words to the Sadducees, which is where they got that idea:
The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. (Luke 20:34–36)
That article made these three points, focusing mostly on the first one:
- Marriage in Jesus’ day, and throughout most of human history, was not what many people today think of as marriage: a relationship based on love and a union of mind and heart. Rather, it was a legal and social arrangement that granted certain rights and privileges to married people and their children. These legal rights and privileges are unnecessary in the afterlife. The marriage that doesn’t exist in heaven is legal marriage, not spiritual marriage.
- Jesus simply didn’t say that there is no marriage in heaven. He said people don’t get married in heaven. In other words, his statement was about the act of getting married, not the state of being married. And spiritually, we get married here on earth, not in heaven.
- Jesus says elsewhere that marriage was created by God from the beginning. And what God does is not temporary, but eternal. The human institution of legal marriage that exists on earth is temporary, and does not exist in heaven. But true spiritual marriage is made by God, and is therefore eternal.
In this second article in a series of three, we will expand on the second and third points, which were covered only briefly in the first article. In looking at the deeper meaning of Jesus’ words we will draw on the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772).
Whether or not you have already experienced a close and loving marriage relationship, here is the good news: true spiritual marriage does last forever. And people who long for it will experience it in heaven even if they don’t find it here on earth.
That is, we will experience it if we do the work of spiritual rebirth that is our primary task during our lifetime here on earth. In fact, that is the deeper meaning of Jesus’ words about marriage in the resurrection.
This is a huge topic! But if you truly want a deeper understanding of Jesus’ words, I invite you to settle in for a brain-bending and spiritually challenging read.
Marriage in heaven vs. marriage on earth
Twice in his theological writings Swedenborg discusses Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees’ question as it relates to marriage and the afterlife.
The first is in his most popular book, Heaven and Hell, which includes a chapter on marriage in heaven. In that chapter he says that the angels who live in the various levels and communities of heaven do indeed have happy, eternal, monogamous marriages. But, he says:
Marriages in the heavens differ from marriages on earth in that earthly marriages are also for the purpose of having children, while this is not the case in the heavens. In place of the procreation of children there is the procreation of what is good and true. . . .
We can see from this that marriages in the heavens are not the same as marriages on earth. In the heavens there are spiritual weddings that should not be called weddings but unions of minds, because of the union of the good and the true. On earth, though, there are weddings, because they concern not only the spirit but the flesh as well. Further, since there are no weddings in the heavens, two spouses there are not called husband and wife, but because of the angelic concept of the union of two minds into one, each spouse is identified by a word that means “belonging to each other.” (Heaven and Hell #382b)
This throws real light on Jesus’ words in Luke 20:34–36 about marriage and the afterlife.
We’ll come back later to those strange-sounding parts about “the union of the good and the true” and “the procreation of what is good and true.” For now, notice Swedenborg’s statement about marriage being so different in the spiritual world that angels don’t even use the same words to describe it.
First, married couples in heaven do not have children. This means that all the rights and privileges granted by legal marriage here on earth related to children—being their legal guardians, passing property and assets on to them by inheritance, having them continue the family name and lineage, and so on—simply don’t apply to marriages in heaven. And that is one of the major purposes of the human institution of marriage.
Swedenborg then extends the same principle to everything else that has historically been thought of as “marriage” here on earth. None of the external things (things of “the flesh,” in Swedenborg’s words) that marriages here on earth are concerned with have anything to do with marriage in heaven. In heaven there are only “spiritual weddings,” which are unions of minds.
- There is no marriage license, and no recording in county or state registers.
- There are no legal rights to property.
- There are no legal rights to determine medical treatment or burial for spouses.
- There are no inheritance rights.
- No priest or minister, still less a justice of the peace, officiates at these spiritual weddings in heaven.
- Angels don’t even use the words “husband” and “wife” to describe the partners.
Almost everything we traditionally think of as “a wedding” and “a marriage” simply doesn’t exist in heaven. There is no property, couples do not have children, there is no sickness or death, and even no need for clergy to pronounce that the two are married because God is the one making the union—and in heaven, God is present with the angels directly, with no need for a human representative.
All of this why weddings and marriages in heaven are so different that they really shouldn’t even be called “weddings” and “marriages” as those terms are used here on earth. That would give the wrong impression of what’s taking place. And although many people today do have a conception of marriage that is more like what exists in heaven, as explained in the previous article, when Jesus was addressing the Sadducees’ question two thousand years ago the meaning of “getting married” was exactly what doesn’t happen in heaven. That’s why Jesus said what he did to them.
Now, truth be told, Swedenborg does talk about weddings and marriages in heaven. But to paraphrase what Swedenborg says in other places when he’s having trouble expressing in earthly words the things that exist in heaven: “The words I am using here don’t really convey what things are like in the spiritual world. But since they’re the only words we have, I’ll just have to use them anyway.”
In heaven, Swedenborg says, two people are not considered “married” because of a marriage license and a wedding ceremony as they are on earth. There, people are married for one and only one reason: they are united in mind, heart, and spirit. For more on this, please see: “How does Marriage Fit In with a Spiritual Life? Is There Marriage in Heaven?”
That’s why in his book Marriage Love, published in 1768, Swedenborg wrote:
There is a real marriage love that is so rare today that people do not know what it is, and they hardly even know that it exists. (Marriage Love #58)
As Stephanie Coontz’s book Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage shows, Swedenborg was not being hyperbolic when he said this. He was simply reporting a sociological fact: that marriage as it existed right up to his time in the 18th century had nothing to do with mutual love or any inner union of minds and hearts. People simply did not know that anything like real, spiritual marriage existed.
And yet, that is precisely the sort of marriage Swedenborg says exists in the afterlife. It has nothing to do with childbearing, property, inheritance, social status and privilege, or any of the reasons for which people “married and were given in marriage” in Jesus’ day and throughout most of human history.
Jesus was not saying that marriage as many people today think of it—as a relationship of love and inner connection between two people—does not exist in heaven. When Jesus used the word “marriage,” no such idea would have ever occurred to any of his listeners. Jesus was saying that marriage as the people of his day and age thought of it—as a legal, social, property, and inheritance contract—does not exist in heaven.
And that is precisely what Swedenborg tells us based on his experience of marriages in heaven. What people have thought of as “marriage” for thousands of years does not exist in heaven.
Spiritual marriage happens on earth, not in heaven
Now let’s take Jesus’ words to a deeper level. First, let’s look at it from the point of view of spiritual marriage between two people, which is the union of two minds into one.
When Jesus said, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage” (Luke 20:34–35), in addition to saying that what his hearers thought of as “getting married” doesn’t happen in heaven, he also said that when it comes to real, spiritual marriage, that happens here on earth, not in the afterlife.
Remember, Jesus did not say, “People aren’t married in the resurrection.” He said, “People don’t get married in the resurrection.” So if the union of two people into one is created by God as the Bible says, and is therefore an eternal union, this means that according to Jesus’ words, two people get spiritually married here on earth, not in heaven.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “What if I don’t meet my soulmate here on earth?!? What about all that stuff you said about people meeting and marrying in the afterlife in the article, “Can you Fall in Love in Heaven if you Haven’t Found Someone on Earth?”
Keep in mind that we’re talking about spiritual marriage, not material-world encounters and weddings. And spiritual marriage is something that happens within each one of us, and between two people inwardly. Meeting in person and getting married in heaven (or in a genuine marriage here on earth) is the result of a spiritual wedding that has already taken place within the souls of the two people.
Real marriage vs. earthly marriage and divorce
Let me explain.
The only way two minds, hearts, and spirits can be united into one is if the two people actually are at one with one another inwardly. “Soulmates,” or spiritual marriage partners, are two people whose souls go together. And they go together because they inhabit the same spiritual “space,” meaning they share the same spiritual and moral character and values.
By now we humans know from a century or more of hard experience that you really can’t put together two people who don’t actually go together. Oh, you can try. But before long it will become blindingly obvious to the couple, and probably to everyone else, that there is no real marriage there. There is no union of two minds into one.
It used to be that people stayed together anyway due to heavy financial, social, and legal penalties and repercussions that came down upon people who divorced. Today, with less onerous legal and social strictures on divorce, people who really don’t go together inwardly commonly do split up.
Yes, some people think that’s a bad thing. But whether it is good or bad, it is a real reflection of the fact that the divorced couple did not have a union of minds. They did not have a spiritual marriage.
In the spiritual world, Swedenborg says, married couples who don’t belong together in heart, mind, and spirit simply break up and go their own ways. The high divorce rates these days that so many traditionalists lament exists precisely because our human societies here on earth are beginning to see marriage more the way it is seen in the spiritual world, and are no longer accepting marriages that aren’t real marriages.
Real marriages develop here on earth
Spiritually, people “marry and are given in marriage” when their character and values develop to the point where the two of them are a match for each other in heart, mind, and spirit. This is something that happens here on earth, regardless of whether the two people actually meet on earth.
Spiritually, by the time your lifetime on earth is finished you are already married to someone who is your soulmate, even if you’ve never met that person. And if you haven’t met that person here on earth, all that happens in the afterlife is you meet her or him, and realize that this is the person you’ve been married to in spirit all along.
If you then have a ceremony or celebration in the spiritual world, that’s just frosting on the cake. That’s why Swedenborg says it really shouldn’t even be called a wedding. The wedding, which Jesus calls “marrying and being given in marriage,” has already taken place spiritually. It happened when the two of you grew together in spirit in the course of your lifetimes here on earth.
You see, it is here on earth that we develop into the person we will be to eternity. It is here on earth that we have the experiences, and make the moral and spiritual choices in the course of those experiences, that determine the type of person we will be forever. It is here on earth that we become the person who is a match in mind, heart, and soul for another person whose spiritual journey here on earth has brought him or her to the same spiritual place that we live in as a person.
In short, it is here on earth that we become the specific person, of a specific spiritual character, who is married to the spiritual character of another person whose spiritual journey has led them to the same place in spiritual life.
That’s why even if you never meet or marry your soulmate here on earth, by the time you leave this earth you have already gotten married to that person spiritually.
God is preparing someone for you
That is one of the deeper levels of meaning in Jesus’ statement, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage” (Luke 20:34–35). When we lift our minds up to a higher level, and read Jesus’ words as being about spiritual marriage, the meaning is that spiritually, people do not get married in heaven, but here on earth. That’s because it is here on earth that we become the person who is united in mind and heart to another person who is traveling on the same spiritual path as we are, toward the same spiritual destination.
If you have not yet found that person here on earth, take courage and have faith! God is already leading someone along life’s journey whose path will join yours. The two of you will meet—if not here on earth, then in the hereafter. Here is how Swedenborg expresses it in Marriage Love #229:
For people who yearn for real marriage love the Lord provides someone similar, and if someone similar is not available on earth, he provides someone in heaven. The reason is that the Lord provides all the marriages based on real marriage love. I have heard angels describe how marriages are provided in heaven, as follows.
The Lord’s Divine Providence over marriages and in marriages is most detailed and most universal because all the joys of heaven well up from the joys of marriage love like sweet waters out of a flowing spring. This is why it is provided that the pairs for marriage love are born. Under the Lord’s watchful eye the two are continually being raised and prepared for their marriage, both the boy and the girl being unaware of it. Then, when the time comes (she is a woman of marriageable age, and he is a young man ready to marry), they meet somewhere as if by fate and see each other. Right away, as if by some instinct, they know that they are partners, and as if from some inner voice the young man thinks to himself, “She’s mine,” and the young woman thinks to herself, “He’s mine.” After this has sunk into both their minds for a few days they decide to speak to each other, and they become engaged.
The angels said “as if by fate,” “instinct,” and “inner voice”—even though this means by Divine Providence—because it seems that way while they are unaware. But it is actually the Lord who opens their inner similarities for them to see.
But are you really married in your soul?
Before you start jumping for joy and shouting, “Hurrah! I’m already married even if I don’t know it! My partner is just waiting for me!” I have just a little bucket of cold water to throw over your head.
The reality is that you may or may not already be married in your soul. You may or may not have a spiritual partner and soulmate waiting for you. That’s because you may or may not have already become a person whose spiritual character causes you to be married in your soul to another person of similar spiritual character.
Only people who go to heaven, Swedenborg tells us, live in happy, loving, eternal marriages.
In hell, there is no such thing as marriage. Only temporary couplings, or households in which two people are continually at war with one another—similar to the scene portrayed in Jean-Paul Sartre’s classic existentialist play, No Exit. In Sartre’s compact masterpiece, three damned souls are kept in a room with one another in the afterlife not by any bonds of mutual love and affection, or even by locked doors, but by their mutual desire to seduce and torment one another—yielding the famous aphorism, “Hell is other people!”
For people who are self-absorbed, greedy, lecherous, and power-hungry, hell is other people—not to mention their own hellish character. And if we don’t do the work here on earth of not being that type of person, then we will also not be married to anyone in our soul, and we will not have any eternal marriage with a soulmate in heaven.
In short, if we don’t do the work of being spiritually reborn here on earth we won’t be in heaven in the afterlife. We’ll be in the other place. And that means we won’t have a soulmate, because we’ll be too focused on loving ourselves, money, or power to love another person as a partner and soulmate.
For more on this process of being spiritually reborn and becoming our eternal self here on earth, please see these articles:
- Heaven, Regeneration, and the Meaning of Life on Earth
- What does Jesus Mean when He Says we Must be Born Again?
- What does it Mean to be Baptized with Water, the Holy Spirit, and Fire?
Only when we do the inner work of becoming a good, thoughtful, and loving person can we become a person who is married in spirit to another person who has traveled the same journey of spiritual rebirth and growth.
Becoming married in our soul
You see, spiritual marriage is not just something that happens between the souls of two people. It is something that happens within the soul of each of the married partners. That’s what Swedenborg was talking about with his strange-sounding words about “the union of the good and the true.”
And for that marriage within our individual soul to happen, we must become spiritually “married” to God.
Let’s unpack these ideas one at a time.
Becoming married to God
Our marriage union with God is a common theme in the Bible. In fact, heaven itself is often compared to a wedding or marriage union. Here are some examples. Click the reference at the end of each brief quote to read the full story in the Bible:
As a young man marries a young woman,
so will your Builder marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so will your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:1–5)
“Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion.” (Jeremiah 3:1–4:4)
“In that day,” declares the Lord,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master.’” (Hosea 2:14–23)
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.” (Matthew 22:1–14)
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” (Matthew 25:1–13)
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. . . . Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb! (Revelation 19:6–9)
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. . . . One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:1–22:4)
What does it mean to be married to God?
Put simply, it means to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” as Jesus commanded us (Matthew 22:37). We already know that God loves us with all God’s heart, soul, and mind. When we return God’s love, we are married to God in our soul, in a spiritual and metaphorical sense. For more on how to do this, please see the article, “How do I Love God with my Whole Heart?”
Swedenborg expresses it this way:
A spiritual wedding means being linked with the Lord, something that happens on earth, and if it has taken place on earth, it has also taken place in heaven. The wedding therefore cannot be repeated in heaven, nor can they be given in marriage again. This is the meaning of these words, “The sons of this world marry and are given in marriage. But those judged worthy of reaching the other world neither marry nor are given in marriage.” These people are also called by the Lord “the sons of the wedding” (Matthew 9:15; Mark 2:19); and in this passage [Luke 20:27–38] “angels,” “sons of God” and “sons of the resurrection.” (Marriage Love #41:2, italics added)
This passage from Marriage Love is taken from Swedenborg’s second key statement about Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees question as it relates to marriage and the afterlife. It is too long to quote in full in this article, but you can read the whole thing here.
In other words, heaven itself is a state of eternal marriage between God and God’s people. And God’s people are all people who have accepted and returned God’s love during their lifetime here on earth, and who therefore go on to live eternally in heaven.
Becoming married within ourselves
Now let’s unpack Swedenborg’s earlier statement about “the union of the good and the true.”
There is another type of spiritual marriage that we must develop within ourselves here on earth if we are to be spiritually married in heaven. That marriage is a marriage of “the good and the true” within ourselves—or in less abstract terms, a marriage of our heart and head, or of our desires and our beliefs, or of our love and our wisdom.
This may be easier to see by giving examples of what it is not to have an inner marriage of head and heart.
Let’s say we feel in our heart all sorts of love and compassion for the homeless, but we’re totally inept at actually doing anything constructive about it because we have no idea how to go about it. We may hand our change to beggars on the street every day as we pass them—and every day they take it to the liquor store, get their bottle, and ensure another day of homelessness for themselves. Simply feeling compassion for people doesn’t get the job done. To actually help the homeless, we need to learn something about why they’re there, and take intelligent, constructive action that actually improves their situation. Handing a buck or two to a homeless person is easy. Doing something that actually helps them out of homelessness is much harder. And it requires engaging our head in a very rigorous way. Just having love and compassion by itself will not accomplish anything good and constructive.
On the other hand, let’s say we know all about the situation of the homeless, how they got there, the political, financial, sociological, and physiological forces that cause homelessness, and everything else related to those men and women huddled on street corners and under bridges. We may have even written and published an amazing scholarly paper about homelessness and its causes and solutions. But let’s say that in reality, we don’t give a damn about the homeless. For all we care, they can just freeze and die, because they’re a @#$% nuisance, and they should just get out of my way and get a life! All the knowledge in the world won’t do us or anyone else any good if we feel no love in our heart for the people that we know all about.
These are just two common examples of how it’s necessary for our head and our heart to work together for us to be a truly good and spiritual person, and for us to do things for our fellow human beings that are actually good and helpful.
For anything in us to be real and full, it must engage both our head and our heart. We must both love it and have a solid understanding of it. Without both working together, there is a basic disconnect within us that leads either to no action at all or to no good, useful, and constructive action.
Making that connection between our head and our heart, or between what we love and what we learn, is the primary task of our spiritual growth here on earth. We must develop both our capacity to love God and our fellow human beings and our knowledge and understanding of how to express that love in good and constructive ways.
Inner marriage is necessary for interpersonal marriage
Developing this marriage of “the good and the true,” or of head and heart, within ourselves is also necessary if we ever hope to be in a good and loving marriage with another human being.
How attractive is someone who is all affectionate and lovey-dovey, but is an incompetent fool who never even bothered to learn any marketable skills, and who therefore must be supported either by you or by charity and welfare?
How attractive is someone who is highly competent and professional, and a whiz at making lots of money, but who is cold and heartless and gives you no love, affection, sympathy, and support in your daily tasks and personal struggles?
What we find attractive in other people is a sense that both their head and their heart are engaged in everything they do. And if we wish to be in a loving relationship with another person in which there is mutual attraction, each one of us must engage both head and heart in the relationship—and in our work, our goals, and our life in general.
It is the inner marriage of head and heart that makes it possible for us to be in an interpersonal marriage with another person.
And that inner marriage is something that we must accomplish during our lifetime here on earth. Once we die and go on to the spiritual world, it’s too late.
To read Jesus’ words in an even deeper sense, we must “marry and be given in marriage” within ourselves in this age, on this earth, because in the age to come—in the afterlife—we will no longer have the opportunity to create that marriage of head and heart. If we don’t do it here on earth, it will never happen at all.
This also means that if we don’t enter into the heavenly marriage within our soul here on earth, we will never get married to another person to all eternity. That’s because we will not have become a person who can be married to another person.
In short, God will provide a soulmate and true spiritual marriage partner for us either here or in the hereafter if we do the work here on earth of developing the “spiritual marriage” within ourselves of putting our head and our heart together to love God above all, and love our fellow human beings just as much as we love ourselves—and do this in thoughtful, intelligent ways that actually benefit other people and harmonize our actions with God’s will and God’s laws.
What about Jesus’ statement that in the afterlife “they are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36)—meaning there are no human parents and children in heaven?
What about Swedenborg’s statement in Heaven and Hell #282b that though angels in heaven are married and have a sex life, they do not bear children, but that “in place of the procreation of children there is the procreation of what is good and true”?
Swedenborg tells us that although after death people do at first recognize one another as father and son, mother and daughter, this type of relationship gradually fades away, so that eventually everyone in heaven views one another as brothers and sisters, and sees God as their common parent.
And Swedenborg also tells us that although there are many people in heaven who care for and raise children who have died until those children grow up and become angels themselves, angel couples no longer have biological children of their own. That can happen only here on earth.
And yet, this doesn’t mean that marriages in heaven are barren. Instead, Swedenborg says, there is “the procreation of what is good and true.”
That sounds pretty abstract and philosophical. But you have to realize that Swedenborg was a scientist and a philosopher before he became a religious seer. His mind was very much at home with abstract, philosophical thinking.
For the rest of us, though, what is “the procreation of what is good and true”?
Put simply, it is all the wonderful growth in mind and heart that we gain through our relationship with our partner in marriage. And it is all of the good things our married life motivates us to do at home, at work, in our neighborhood, and so on—good deeds that make life better for ourselves and for everyone that our words and actions touch.
A good, loving, growing marriage is inspiring! It gives us ideas and energy to become a better person, and to show more practical love and kindness to our fellow human beings. It inspires us to learn and grow, to become better at our job, and more thoughtful toward the people around us.
The “children” of spiritual marriages both in heaven and here on earth are all of that new growth in love, understanding, and practical good deeds for our fellow human beings. That’s what Swedenborg means with his rather strange and abstract-sounding statement about marriages in heaven not producing physical children, but “the procreation of what is good and true.”
What Jesus was really talking about
So what was Jesus really talking about in his statement about marriage and the resurrection?
Here it is in a nutshell:
- Jesus did not say that there’s no marriage in heaven. He said that people don’t get married in the afterlife.
- In a literal sense, his words mean that what the Sadducees (not to mention the vast bulk of people throughout history) thought of as “marriage”—a legal and contractual relationship to secure property, financial benefit, family lineage, inheritance, and social status—does not exist in heaven.
- When it comes to spiritual marriage, being “married and given in marriage” is something that happens during our lifetime here on earth, within our own souls, through learning and growing in love and understanding, and through focusing our life on loving God and loving our fellow human beings in good and practical ways. If we don’t get married spiritually within ourselves here on earth, we will never get married in the afterlife—not with God, not within our own souls, and not with an eternal partner and soulmate.
So what Jesus is really saying to every one of us is:
Do your work here on earth!
Don’t slack off and waste the lifetime God has given you, expecting that everything will be hunky-dory in the afterlife, and you’ll have happiness and bliss regardless of what you do here. Use your time here wisely. Focus on the things that truly matter: love, learning, and engaging in useful service toward your fellow human beings in your work, your home life, and your social life.
During your lifetime here on earth, do the work of becoming a person whose head and heart are “married” and working together to love and serve God and your fellow human beings. Develop the strength and integrity of character, and the depth of love and understanding, that makes you a truly human and loving being.
If you focus and develop your life in this way, and enter into a spiritual marriage relationship with God, within yourself, and with your fellow human beings here on earth, then in the afterlife you will find yourself as a child of God among the angels.
And if God hasn’t given you a partner here on earth, God will give you that partner in the afterlife, because God has been preparing the two of you for each other from the moment you were born.
In the next article we’ll give a straightforward and heartening response to the plaintive cry of men and women who have experienced a good and loving marriage here on earth, and are heartsick at the traditional Christian teaching that their marriage is only “till death do us part.” You can read it here: “Will Happily Married Couples be Together in Heaven?”
This article is a response to various comments and questions by readers here on the blog, and to a spiritual conundrum submitted by a reader, as quoted in the previous article.
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?
- If You’ve been Married More than Once, Which One will you be With in the Afterlife?
- How to Know if Mr. or Ms. Right is Right for You: Pointers from Gloria and Emilio Estefan
- Heaven, Regeneration, and the Meaning of Life on Earth
Great post Lee!
In 1 Corinthians 7:14, Paul talks about marriage between a spiritually well person and a spiritually dead person.
Do you think that marriage on Earth may also serve as a form of charity? i.e. One person has achieved the internal marriage of head and heart and then seeks to achieve the same in their mate.
Because I have observed marriages where usually the man is well presented and courteous in public. But I have discreetly observed the man’s disrespectful treatment towards the wife in private.
Which makes me think of Genesis when God created women to be helpers of men. Many women soak up a lot of anger, frustration and neediness of their partners just as a sponge. Over time, the roles seem to reverse.
This seems to be some sort of charitable relationship that God created on earth. A relationship that changes over time.
Which makes me wonder ‘Without such charity, can there be love?’
Thanks. Glad you enjoyed the article!
Marriage is a complex thing. We can’t really tell other married people what they should and shouldn’t do. We’re not in their shoes, and we don’t know everything about their marriage that they do.
However, I would caution against the idea that in “unequally yoked” marriages, one spouse can fix or save the other. Certainly they can be a positive presence, and do their best to lead their spouse in a positive direction. However, in the end, each individual must make his or her own choice as to whether or not to follow a good and spiritual path. Spouses cannot make that choice for their husband or wife.
It is a common error both in women and in men to think that they can “fix” their husband or wife. Going into a marriage with that attitude is a really bad idea. As I said in my article, “What if My Partner and I Have Different Religious Beliefs? Can Interfaith Marriage Work?” if you cannot love and accept your partner as they are right now, even if they never change their beliefs or character, then you should think very carefully about committing your life to that person.
If you’re already married to that person, and can’t accept them the way they are, you’re in a serious predicament. Thinking you can fix them and make them the way you want them to be is almost always a major mistake. On the other hand, I don’t believe we’re called to just bend over and take whatever abuse our spouse feels like dishing out on us.
Some people (both men and women) stuck in that predicament opt to be patient and hope their wife or husband comes around in time by their own choice. They continue to love and support their wife or husband through it all, with that hope in mind. Others come to the conclusion that the relationship is irreparably broken, that no real marriage exists or can exist, and seek to exit from the marriage. I believe that is a choice that each individual must make for him- or herself.
Although we are certainly called to patience and charity, we are human beings, not God. It is not our job to fix everyone else’s problems. For many of us, there comes a time when we must preserve our own physical and emotional safety and wellbeing, and leave to God’s care the person who has been hurting us.
Thanks for the reply Lee. You say
> Although we are certainly called to patience and charity, we are human beings, not God.
Well to clarify my point of view. I believe in many ways, one must become like God in their lifetime.
Just as God choses people who are weak, lowly and humble; We too once we have achieved the internal marriage of head and heart, choose someone who is weak,lowly and humble.
I say this out of three points
1) we usually pick partners on merit while God does not pick men and women on merit
2) To be loved back in return is a bonus. The greatest in the kingdom of God are those that primarily give love. Because God himself gives love far more than he receives
3) there are many women and men on earth who are born destitute, ‘ugly’, handicapped or broken in spirit. There is great healing in them being choosen and nurtured by a charitable mate who could have picked anyone else. Because Jesus himself was born into a poor and destitute family.
And this is what I view marriage as. In the past, men and women were given in marriage. Many times, this was a charitable act of high status man choosing to give his all to a woman. Today we marry out of merit. This is self serving. A lower form of love.
Marrying mates on merit has led to great levels of narcissism and hypocrisy in our society.
I even believe that Eve was created for Adam as a challenge. After God had proved his love for Adam, Adam in turn had to love Eve in the same way.
I don’t say that everyone should be charitable in who they pick but only the ones that are capable of being charitable.
Thanks for clarifying further.
On the matter of “marrying out of merit,” I agree that this is not the right way to go about picking a mate. Real marriage is not based on finding a “high-quality” mate. It is based on finding a mate who is one with you in heart and mind. And while we may (and should) highly value that person, it is the oneness of mind and heart that makes the marriage, not the “value” or “merit” of the person.
Another way of saying this is that those whose choice of partners is based on the potential mate’s status, reputation, prestige, money, and so on are barking up the wrong tree. They will likely come to regret their choice, even if they never really understand why it went so wrong.
About “becoming like God,” I would say, rather, that we are to become more like God. If we think we are going to be “godlike” beings, that is most likely based on hubris, whereas the proper stance toward God is one of humility, and of recognizing that “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways, and God’s thoughts than our thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9, slightly paraphrased).
If we think we are going to be in a relationship with our partner that is like the relationship that God has with human beings, then I would say that we are falling prey to hubris when we should take a stance of humility.
I am aware that Paul speaks of the man as the head of the woman as Christ is the head of the church. But Swedenborg says that in the spiritual world, that representation lasts only on the wedding day. On that one day, the man represents Christ and the woman represents the church. But that is only a symbolic representation—which is probably what Paul was responding to in his writings. After the wedding day, and for the rest of their lives, both the man and the woman together are the church, and both together have a relationship with God as “the bride of Christ.”
Perhaps sometimes the type of relationship you describe may work. But I would caution against forming such a “charitable” marriage in which the dynamic is that one partner is “healing” the other. Most likely the relationship that results will not be a marriage relationship, but a therapeutic relationship. And there is an inherent inequality in a therapeutic relationship. One is the healer, the other is the healed. One is in a position of greater power, the other in a position of lesser power.
For a marriage to be a real, spiritual, and eternal marriage, there must be oneness of mind and heart. This means that the two must be a match for each other, and must be on an equal footing, in a relationship in which the love, understanding, and character of one is a match for that of the other, and the love, healing, help, and growth flow equally in both directions. Yes, there will be times when one takes the lead, followed by times when the other takes the lead—similar to the act of walking, in which the two feet alternate in moving ahead of the other. But on balance, in a real marriage, the two partners will be on equal footing.
In a “charitable” marriage such as you describe, that is highly unlikely to be the case. One will be primarily the helper, and the other will primarily be the helped. And neither one will really be able to think of it as a full marriage. The “charitable” one will see his or her spouse as someone he or she must help along rather than being a real partner with, and similarly the “destitute, ‘ugly,’ handicapped, or broken in spirit” one will see his or her spouse more the way a patient sees a physician or a counselee sees a counselor than as a real partner in marriage. Neither one of them will have a real marriage relationship.
So in general, I would say that entering into this sort of relationship is a mistake. If a person wants to help the less fortunate, that is very good and noble. But it should not be confused with a marriage relationship. That person should become a doctor or counselor or charitable volunteer, and help others to his or her heart’s content, while marrying someone who is an equal spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually.
This is not to say that able-bodied people shouldn’t marry handicapped people, or beautiful people shouldn’t marry ugly people, and so on. Real marriage is not based on physical characteristics, but on spiritual characteristics. Physically handicapped and physically unattractive people can be just as intelligent, loving, thoughtful, and mature as physically whole and physically attractive people can be. And people who can look beyond physical appearances to the spirit of the other person may very well find that someone with real physical limitations is a spiritual match for them.
In such a relationship, the physically handicapped or physically unattractive partner will have no need to feel that his or her partner married him or her out of pity or “charitable impulses,” but can feel like a full, equal partner in the marriage, even if stuck in a physical body that doesn’t fully express the real equality of spirit that exists between the two people.
Is it wrong to enter into the sort of “charitable marriage” that you describe? Perhaps not. As I said earlier, maybe sometimes it can work. But I still tend to believe that it will not really be a marital relationship, but a therapeutic one. And these are two very distinct types of relationships.
In short, I don’t think it is wise to play God when it comes to marriage. It is much better, I think, to marry someone who is a real match for us in spirit, and to do our charitable work for the less fortunate from the emotional foundation of being married to someone who is our equal, and who can help and support us just as we help and support him or her.
I completely agree that one can never become like God. And you are right that charitable marriages are not ideal marriages.
For me, I try to understand concepts from a God point of view before contrasting it with the human view of it. As you rightly bring it up with Isaiah 55:9, it is not readily discernable.
And it has taken me a while to understand ‘love’.
If you ask the world to describe the greatest act of love, they may say it is dying for your loved one or sharing all you have with your loved one. But I believe the greatest act of love is voluntarily going into debt with a loved one even though you are capable of repaying the debt many times over.
For example, A man lends another man $5 and then goes on to boast about this great ‘sacrifice’ to everyone. The lender even tells the other man that he can keep the $5 as a gift. The greatest act of love in this case is the debtor saying to himself that though he could repay the lender a million times over, he would willingly choose to remain in the debt of gratitude to the lender. So that the lender may continue to feel important and righteous in their relationship.
And this is how I view God’s marriage to humanity. In the old testament, though we were barbaric and crude, God said that he would accept human offerings like animal sacrifices, circumcision and tithes. These were worthless token payments but God allowed these to make us feel righteous and important. In the case of Job, as if God now owed him a good life for his token works.
God slaves over us and in return accepts whatever little we have to offer him as full payment for the relationship. As described by the widow’s offering in Mark 12:41.
Jesus himself came down to be beaten up, spat on and to be made to look inept.
In all these cases, Jesus and Jehovah knew what full payment truly was but never spoke about it.
In the same way was marriage described in the bible. The man with great wealth and resources must become the slave to a woman. The woman was herself until that point in the marriage, a low value, liability for her father and to society.
In the same way is God’s marriage with man. God has handed over stewardship of the world to man. To become self righteous Gods themselves all while man is just a sack of dust.
I find Swedenborg may have not fully understood such kind of voluntary slavery of the debtor.
The afterlife is when God reveals his marriage to each one of us just as Jesus described the bridegroom and the many brides (all of us).
The marriage that we understand of today is an earthly understanding that we try to apply to the afterlife. As far as the after life is concerned, I believe the bible supports God’s marriage to man more than man’s marriage to his earthly partner (swedenborg view).
A charitable marriage will cause great pain to the worthy debtor but it is the greatest act of love that mirrors God’s love for us. Of course in some point in time, the debtor reveals who they truly are but the lender has already known it all along.
I have reached a point in life where I am humbled by God. I have come to realise his true charity to us. It is difficult to accept it but in turn, we become like God as the serpent described in the garden.
Thanks for your follow-up thoughts.
However, I see our relationship with God very differently than what you have described here. In particular, I believe that the “debtor” and “payment” dynamic has been vastly overemphasized by traditional Christianity, and especially by Protestantism, in line with its relatively new satisfaction and penal substitution theories of atonement. These theories simply are not based upon the Bible, but were invented by human beings a thousand or more years after the Bible was written, as I have pointed out in other articles here.
About your example of a man not paying back the $5 gift so that the one who made that gift can boast about it, I would see that as a case of enabling bad behavior (bragging, self-righteousness, and ego-gratification) rather than engaging in a charitable deed. If I were the one who had received the $5, I would by all means return it immediately in order not to provide any pretext for that sort of evil and unchristian behavior.
Similarly, I do not believe that God gives us free gifts so that we can brag and boast about how great we are. That is a complete misuse of God’s gifts to us—which should instead create in us a sense of our own humility and dependence upon the Lord for everything we have and everything we are. “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5).
I do not see the Bible saying that the things we do are “payment” of any kind for gifts that God has given us. Rather, the gifts God gives us are meant to inspire us to freely give gifts to others as well from a willing and loving heart.
Similarly, the sacrifices of the Old Testament were not “payments” or “penalties” for sin, despite the NIV’s shockingly bad translation of the relevant passages in Leviticus. Rather, they were intended to bring the worshiper back into line with God’s will through following God’s commandments by offering the prescribed sacrifice to God, indicating a heart willing to recognize its error and rededicate itself to following God.
God neither needs nor requires any payment from us. Rather, God wants us to freely attribute and offer to God everything good and true in us, and in fact, our entire life, not because God needs any kind of payment for God’s gifts, but because God knows that in doing so, we will achieve our own greatest happiness and blessedness.
God is the ultimate giver who expects nothing in return, as Jesus taught by metaphor and example. “Payment” really has nothing to do with it. Our relationship with God is not a business transaction. Those “Christian” teachers who have reduced our relationship with God to contracts, payments, and penalties have utterly missed and cheapened the nature of our relationship with God. That whole line of thinking is an awful, awful travesty of the teachings of the Word of God.
I am not mincing words here because I believe that Protestantism, especially, has utterly destroyed the teaching of Jesus Christ and of all of the Apostles through its superficial and short-sighted human “transactional” interpretation—or really misinterpretation, of the words of Paul, which has caused it to almost entirely ignore the teachings of Jesus.
In fact, I recently discovered that many traditional Christians, especially Protestants, actually believe that Jesus’ teachings were largely for pre-Covenant (meaning pre new Covenant) times and are superseded by the new Covenant that is fully expressed only in Paul’s writings (which such Protestants have, of course, completely misunderstood). This view is expressed, for example, in this question on Christianity StackExchange: “What is the basis for the belief among some Protestants that Christ’s teachings do not apply to us today?” It is astounding to me that many Protestants have the temerity to clearly and explicitly reject the teachings of Jesus Christ due to their horribly false doctrines. But it certainly does explain why their teachings are so completely contrary to what Jesus Christ taught in the Gospels.
I would strongly urge you, Rohan, to complete the process of extirpating those old, false, human-invented doctrines from your mind. They are pure inventions of unenlightened human minds. They are utterly contrary to the plain teachings of the Word of God, and of Jesus Christ himself. And they lead to the vitiation of our understanding of every aspect of our spiritual life and our relationship with the Lord.
Our true relationship with the Lord has nothing to do with contracts, penalties, and payments. God has absolutely no need of any payment for our sins. God doesn’t even need to forgive or cancel or satisfy such payments due, because no such payments were ever due to God in the first place. God does not want payment or satisfaction for our sins. God wants us to repent from our sins, and to stop sinning. That is the message of the entire Bible, both Old Testament and New.
The Bible says nothing about any supposed payment required for our sins. Even the famous, vastly misunderstood passage, “for the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) says absolutely nothing about any payment required for our sins. Rather, it says that our sins will result in the “wages” of death. Protestant theology (and Catholic theology of the last thousand years) have completely reversed Paul’s statement into something it simply does not say.
In fact, the more I have studied Protestant theology in recent years, and listened to the doctrinal beliefs of particular Protestants with whom I have spoken and debated, the more I have realized that Swedenborg was simply stating a fact when he said that today’s Christianity has so utterly falsified the Word of God that not one single truth is left that has not been distorted and falsified. That’s what I covered in the article, “Today’s Christianity: Vastly Void of Truth.”
Again, I would strongly urge you to clear out the last vestiges of that false, human-invented doctrine from your mind, read the Bible with fresh eyes, and understand what it is actually saying.
And when it comes to marriage in the afterlife, the fact remains that Jesus simply did not say that there is no marriage in the resurrection. That is a human idea added on to Jesus’ words. And it is false, just as everything else that traditional Christianity teaches is false, or falsely understood.
(I do understand, however, that since Swedenborg’s time some parts of traditional Christianity have in some cases backed off from false doctrines that they had formerly held to. But so much falsity still remains, especially in the fundamental doctrines of the various Christian churches, that I continue to believe that traditional Christianity in general is a seedbed of misunderstanding and wrong thinking.)
Lee thanks to your writings, I have let go of many protestant beliefs. I absolutely do not believe in the payment or penalty doctrines of traditional Christianity.
I am only exploring a relationship between man and God. And then a relationship between man and their spouse.
As described earlier in the first comment, I believe we are in a charitable or therapeutic relationship with God. Because
1) God is not bettered by a relationship with us. Only we are.
2) God picks us out of no individual merit. Clothes and feeds us. We are destitute without God in all realms. God can choose anyone even stones.
3) God makes us feel important and righteous in a relationship with him. God does not boast about how puny we are in this relationship (except for the book of Job). But our righteousness is token righteousness. God deemed Lot righteous even though he offered his daughters as sex slaves. And so with Solomon and Saul. Our works on our own are like filthy rags.
Yes so we do get bettered by God in our lives. But this comes from humility.
You can preach to an atheist about love your neighbour and they will accept it. But preach to an atheist about Love God and they will highlight the charitable nature of the relationship.
And yet you seem to look down upon therapeutic relationships in your reply to my comment.
So coming back to marriage.
The book of Matthew talks about the need to get involved in therapeutic relationships with others including inviting poor people to your feasts, forgive your brother 77 times 7, lend without expecting a return, turn the other cheek,etc.
So I ask the same question with marriage. If we have achieved the oneness of head and heart, should we not also seek to be involved in a therapeutic relationship without a future spouse? Even though it may cause us great pain?
The discples asked Jesus who then can marry and Jesus said with God all things are possible.
So I question whether it is necessary to evaluate whether you and your future spouse need to have the same direction before agreeing to marriage as highlighted in your article?
I’m not saying therapeutic relationships are wrong. I’m saying that providing therapy to another person is not a good basis for a marriage. None of those passages in Matthew say that you should marry the poor people that you invite to your feasts, or marry your brother whom you forgive, and so on. They are about your general relationships with other people, not about your specific relationship with your spouse.
Yes, some of what those stories say does apply to the marriage relationship. You should forgive your spouse seventy times seven times. But that is a mutual commandment. If one of you is doing all the forgiving, and the other is incapable of forgiveness, that is not a good and healthy marriage relationship. Similarly, it is good for married partners to be in a mutually therapeutic relationship with one another. But if one of you is doing all the therapy on the other, who is only receiving but not providing therapy within the relationship, then that is not a good and healthy marriage.
Marriage is not intended to be a relationship that causes great pain because the person you marry is incapable of a truly mutual relationship with you. Yes, marriage is a tremendous forum for spiritual growth. But it is meant to be a forum for mutual spiritual growth between two people who are a match for one another in heart, mind, and spirit.
Once again, we are not God. God can give, give, give without needing anything at all in return. God wants us to return God’s love not because God needs it, but because God knows that when we return God’s love, that is when we can be fully human, fully ourselves, and fully happy.
We humans, however, do need love—and not only God’s love, but the love of other people. We humans are not the infinite source of all love, as God is. Unlike God, we humans require the love not only of God, but of other people in order to have cohesion and integrity as human beings. Without it, we will wither and die. And especially, we need to feel the love of another human being who loves us more than anyone else. That’s the way God created us, so that “they are no longer two, but one flesh.”
Real love is not only loving another person, but being loved in return. Real love is mutual. Even our relationship of love with God must be mutual if it is to be real. If God loves us but we do not love God, then there is no mutual relationship; the love is all one-sided, and we mostly reject God’s love. And that mutuality is necessary regardless of whether God needs our love.
How much more, then, must our relationship with the one who shares our house, bed, and heart be mutual!
So once again, I would strongly advise you or anyone else not to enter into a relationship thinking that it’s your job to heal the other person regardless of whether you receive any healing in return. That is a prescription for a very untherapeutic relationship of two unequal people who will be unequally yoked. It is a relationship that will ultimately fail to heal either partner, because marriage simply cannot be an unequal, one-way relationship. Such “marriages” are destined for failure as marriages.
Yes Lee, you are right in that love has to be returned.
And yes you are right in that we have unique and different relationships with God, with a spouse and with a neighbour. I believe I was trying to put them all in the same bucket.
I was trying to explore why God foreknew Adam was lonely before he created Eve.
It led to believe that there is some form of inadequacy in a relationship with God.
I believe that the relationship Adam had with God was like a destitute woman marrying a rich husband. For Adam to feel truly valued, he had to be the stereotypical man in the relationship. The leader, the big decision maker and the provider.
Adam was not able to attain these qualities in a relationship with any of the animals God showed him nor with God.
So therefore, you are right in saying that we will have spouses in the afterlife.
If Adam felt adequate in paradise and in his walk with God then I suppose the inadequacy will exist in the afterlife without a spouse.
Above you wrote, “And that inner marriage is something that we must accomplish during our lifetime here on earth. Once we die and go on to the spiritual world, it’s too late.” This line of thought continues. So what if they don’t fully develop, but both are still in love with the other for many year and never got a chance to start that relationship because one died?
Then you wrote, “In short, God will provide a soulmate and true spiritual marriage partner for us either here or in the hereafter if we do the work here on earth of developing the “spiritual marriage” within ourselves…”.
I was a bit confused here. They almost sound contradictory. The reason I ask is because I have a friend who is in love with a man, they’ve known it for many years, but situations did not allow them to be together. He just recently passed and she’s very worried that he’s changed his mind or maybe they won’t be together in the afterlife because of the above reason.
Life is complicated. In many of these situations, only God knows for sure, and we humans find out only with the passage of time.
But the basic idea is that our character and direction as a person is determined by our life, choices, and actions here on earth. That doesn’t mean we stop growing, learning, and developing as a person in the spiritual world. Rather, it means that in the afterlife we will continue in the direction we set for ourselves here on earth. So even if we don’t fully develop here on earth, we will still have set our course and direction here, and will continue to develop in that direction in the afterlife.
I can’t say whether in the afterlife your friend will be with this man that she loves. But I can say that if the two of them are traveling in the same direction toward the same destination, they will be together in the afterlife even if she may still have work to do here on earth.
If she has truly internalized her love for this man, and holds that in her heart, she will continue to move toward him during the rest of her lifetime here on earth. And her main job is to do the work of growing and developing as a person so that she can be a partner to him in eternity. That’s nothing different than what she should be doing anyway: growing in love, understanding, and practical good deeds. That’s how we become angels.
If it turns out that God has someone else in mind for her, then that too will unfold with the passage of time, either during her lifetime on earth or after she passes on to the spiritual world. But this will not be something forced upon her. God won’t rip her away from a man she loves and push her into a relationship with someone else. Rather, she will follow her own heart, and that will lead her to the man who is right for her, whom God has been leading her toward all along because God knows what is in her heart, and God knows who she will be happiest with in eternity.
If she is sure in her heart that this man is the one, then she can live her life with that in mind, and do the work of spiritual growth that is still in front of her here on earth so that she will be prepared and ready to join with him when it comes her time to pass on to the next world.
How can we know or tell if we are on the right path spiritually? Is there a way to test or examine ourselves. How perfect must we be? We all fall short and sin. How can you know your on the right path to salvation?
That is a very good question.
In fact, it’s not always easy to tell whether we are on the right path spiritually. Sometimes we are far too hard on ourselves, and think we’re far worse people than we actually are. Other times we’re far too lenient on ourselves, and make light of wrong thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that we really should root out of ourselves and our life.
However, here is one way we can test ourselves to get some sense of whether we’re on the right track:
We can ask ourselves, “What do I enjoy thinking, feeling, and doing? What am I actively drawn to? And what do I recoil from and find displeasing and distasteful?”
If we are are traveling along the path of spiritual rebirth as Jesus taught, we will more and more find that when we express love to other people and do good deeds for other people, we enjoy it. It makes us happy to make other people happy. We more and more gain our joy and satisfaction in life from serving other people and giving them help, comfort, happiness, and joy.
On the other hand, people who are not traveling along the path of spiritual rebirth that Jesus taught will find it burdensome and distasteful to show love to other people and do good deeds for them. If we find that we express a kind word or do a good deed for other people only with great reluctance, and find it unpleasant, that is a warning sign that we are traveling in the wrong direction.
It’s really not a question of “how perfect we must be.” Rather, it’s a question of whether we are traveling toward perfection (which is God) or away from perfection. We will never be perfect. Only God is perfect. But God sets the ideal of perfection before us so that we will continually travel toward it instead of away from it.
I could go on, but instead here are some articles that go into more depth on what it means to love God and the neighbor, and to travel on the path of spiritual rebirth and regeneration:
I hope this helps.
I’m not sure how well I’m doing. I don’t hate anyone. I hope god wont cast me off into hell. I’ve always been afraid that I won’t measure up.
I understand. Here’s another article that you might find helpful: “If You Think You’re Going to Hell, Please Read This First.”
Spiritually, people “marry and are given in marriage” when their character and values develop to the point where the two of them are a match for each other in heart, mind, and spirit. This is something that happens here on earth, regardless of whether the two people actually meet on earth.
So people that die in childhood can’t marry because this match develops in this life? That’s what this paragraph Is saying?
Fair question! But no, that’s not what it means.
In the case of children who die, their basic character is also set at the time they die, and they grow to adulthood with the same innocent character they had as children. They do, of course, develop in knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom, and so they become adults rather than children. But they do not lose their childlike wonder and innocence as most people who grow up on earth do. For people who die in later childhood, such as in their teenage years, some of that innocence has already worn off, and their character is modified accordingly, according to their life and experiences on earth up to the time they die. But no one who dies before the age of adulthood and self-responsibility goes to hell; they all go to heaven.
Once people who die as children or teens reach young adulthood they meet someone whose character matches theirs, and are married just as those who die in adulthood are. The younger they die, the simpler and sweeter their marriages are. The older they die, the more complex and nuanced their marriages are, based on how much their character had developed on earth before they went to the spiritual world and completed their maturing to adulthood there.
God, who sees all, does prepare us right from birth for our eventual partner. And that’s true whether we die as infants, children, teens, or adults.
Are you say devorse is ok? What about in the case of children being involved? Isn’t it better for kids to grow up with both there parents in the same household?
I wouldn’t exactly say that divorce is “okay.” Divorce is a mess! But sometimes it is the best option available.
Children do make it more complicated. And if a couple can stay together reasonably amicably in order to raise their children to adulthood, that is a good thing. However, it’s not doing the children any favors to raise them in an atmosphere of conflict and hostility between their parents. Sometimes it is better even for the children for the marriage to end so that at least the children can finish growing up in a more peaceful atmosphere.
These are tough decisions that only the people facing them can make based on their own particular situation.
Where are Swedenborg’s claims about angelic marriages supported in the Bible? Or for that matter Sartre’s about Hell(though I don’t think Sartre meant to imply that was literally in hell, you seemed to take it that way). It seems your idea kind of falls apart if Swedenborg’s claim can’t be supported. Also your view on divorce seems to contradict that of Jesus.
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and questions.
In answer to your first question, about the biblical support for marriage in heaven, please read the first two articles in this series, which are also linked at the beginning of the article:
The simple fact of the matter is that Jesus did not say that there’s no marriage in heaven. But it’s all explained in those two articles, so I won’t repeat it here.
I’m not quite sure what your question is about hell. But people take an awful lot of things in the Bible literally that were meant to be taken as parables and metaphors. Jesus continually spoke in parables. To take everything he said literally is a major mistake. When he spoke of hellfire, weeping, and gnashing of teeth, he was speaking in parables, not literally.
About divorce, a real answer will have to await a future time when I write an article about divorce and the Bible. For now I’ll simply say that Jesus was addressing very different times and cultures. For the people in the cultures he was speaking to, divorcing a woman would most likely force her into prostitution. So for a man at that time to divorce his wife was literally to make a prostitute (“adulteress”) out of an honorable woman. It was a very wicked thing for him to do if his wife was faithful to him and had not committed adultery.
How can someone who’s mentally unstable and can’t operate in society and say locked up in mental institution contribute to society?
Should this situation be covered by Jesus words that those that are given much in this world much will be expected in return? whereas people that were given less, less will be expected?
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Luke 12:48)
Yes, that principle applies. God doesn’t require of us things that we aren’t capable of doing.
No I understand that scripture meaning those who are married here on earth are no longer counted worthy to partake in resurrection & the life to come?
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and question. But where does it say that those who are married here on earth are no longer counted worthy to partake in the resurrection? That’s just not what it says. Please see the previous article in this series:
Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?
Fantastic articles and interpretation of Gods word. I feel like so many of our leaders and teachers today have really twisted this idea of Jesus’ amazing and complex response to the Sadducees and religious leaders of that time. I feel like God’s intention of Marriage is clearly so much more complex and deeper than our understanding of Marriage is. It is so evident by the use of it throughout the scripture in correlation with Jesus and His relationship to the church(true believers of Christ). There are so many references to Him being the groom and believers being the bride. This idea clearly has nothing to do with binding contracts and/or materialistic associations, but is so much deeper and more meaningful. What a beautiful depiction to see marriage used in that way in the scripture, as being a believer myself, who is happily married. I have always believed that God’s idea of marriage is so much deeper and more fulfilling than anything we could ever imagine here on earth. The idea and the spiritual weight that it carries will always out-rank our worldly definition and understanding of it. Thank you for sharing and clarifying what I also believe to be, what Jesus was describing marriage to be and not be, by that complex answer of His. Praise God for wisdom!
Thanks for stopping by, and for your thoughts, which I enjoyed very much. I’m glad you found these articles helpful and inspiring! Yes, there’s much more to marriage than many of today’s religious leaders recognize. And of course, there is infinite depth in Jesus’ words about marriage. These articles only scratched the surface.
Hi. What about people who remarry and are widowed?
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. In response to your question, try these articles on for size:
Short version: A person who has been married more than once will be with whichever one is closest to him or her in spirit. Or if none of the earthly spouses were a good fit, he or she will find a new and eternal marriage partner in heaven.
And for people who are widowed, if the marriage was a good and close one, the one who died will wait on the other side for the one who is still living on this earth. Death does not separate them in spirit, even if it separates them physically.
I hope this helps. Please feel free to continue the conversation or ask any other questions you may have.
Hm. Your article seems to be suggesting that we become angels in the afterlife. “Angel couples no longer have biological children of their own.” We’re humans who will be given glorified bodies, not angels. We become “like” angels in that we’re not married in heaven in the levirate understanding of marriage, not that we *are* angels or become angels. We will be as God intended us and created us to be: humans.
The concept of no longer procreating is heaven is a hard one for me to accept, as a woman who is childless not by choice. If there is indeed some kind of eternal union, which I choose to believe, it makes no sense to me that procreation would be essentially “verboten” or unnecessary. Is heaven made up exclusively of the necessary and not the pleasurable and joyful? Is it a Motel 6 with just the basic amenities or a luxury suite at the Plaza–to use some earthly references? The descriptions of heaven don’t seem to bear that out, do they?
But if procreation isn’t allowed, then it looks like the childless and infertile are the only people who aren’t healed in the resurrection. The blind will see. The deaf will hear. The lame will walk. These are the proofs of their healing, right? Physical healing requires proof. The people Jesus healed in the Gospels all had evidence of their healing. Joni Eareckson Tada, who is a quadriplegic, talks about longing for the day when she can “pole vault over the Pearly Gates.” Why? Because she’ll be healed and that would certainly be one huge proof of her healing!
So what would be the proof of healing for the infertile or childless? A child, right? That’s the biblical model–Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, et al. But, no, this is *always* where these heavenly speculations stop short and lose me, written, as they all must be, by people with children. The topic will stretch far enough to include the possibility of eternal unions–which goes against most traditional, unimaginative, short-sighted Christian teachings–but never far enough to include children. Nope. That’s the line in the sand, for some bizarre reason I’ve yet to understand. Just realize that when you’re saying that, you’re essentially saying that the infertile and childless will *never* be healed. You can’t say we’ll be healed without evidence of that healing. Doing that would be no better than putting a blind person in a pitch black room and insisting they can see.
I’ve had thoughtless people tell me, “Ohhh, you’ll be so full of the joy of the Lord that it won’t matter to you anymore.” How silly and shallow. Would you say that to a blind person, a deaf person, a paraplegic, a cancer patient? “Ohhh, you’ll be so full of the joy of the Lord that it won’t matter to you if your Stage IV lung cancer is healed.”
“Ohhh, you’ll be so full of joy of the Lord that it won’t matter to you if you’re stuck in a wheelchair for all eternity.”
That’s insensitivity on an insane level, but people somehow think it’s okay to say this to a childless person. (Which only goes to show how woefully misunderstood and ignored this issue is within the body of Christ. I could tell so many stories about the collective Christian ignorance on this topic. It’s deep and wide and intransigent and shameful. There is no worse place for solace for the childless than the institutional church.) But I’ve gotten these kinds of unsatisfactory, unthinking, and callous responses many times and, frankly, I find them so infuriating that I have to bite my tongue and walk away. Such responses violate–on a basic, foundational level–the very IDEA of a heaven.
The way I see it, we’re left with three possibilities then:
1) The childless and infertile won’t be healed in heaven. No kids. We will live eternally on the outside looking in, denied this basic human dream of children. In that way, heaven will be no better than earth. Maybe worse, because it’s eternal. This doesn’t seem like the God I know.
2) The childless and infertile will be healed in heaven but with no proof, like the blind in the pitch black room or the Wizard of Oz giving you a crummy certificate. We’ll just be gaslighted into believing we’re healed despite what our own eyes may show us. This also doesn’t seem like the God I know.
3) The childless and infertile will be healed in heaven and the evidence will be — ta da! — children, just like it was in the Bible. This seems like the God I know, the God of the Bible, who creates and heals and redeems all things in heaven.
My only hope is to believe the latter; otherwise, heaven is hell for the childless like me.
Hi ThousandMile Stare,
Thanks for stopping by, and for your thoughtful comment. I am very sorry to hear that you have not been able to have children as you wish and long to do. It is a hard burden to bear.
Ironically, right now I am writing a post responding to a “Christian” writer who claims that the Bible says there is no marriage in heaven—and of course, no children, either. He is wrong on both counts. The above article and the previous one cover the question of marriage in heaven. About children in heaven, please see:
If We Don’t Have Children while Alive, Will We Be Able to Have Children in the Afterlife?
It is true that no biological children are born in heaven. It is not true that there are no children to raise in heaven. Every day, tens of thousands of children die. Some of them are infants. Some are toddlers. Some are young children. Some are teens. Every single one of those children needs parents in the afterlife.
Any woman (or man) who did not have children here on earth will be able to raise as many children as she (or he) wants to in the afterlife. And in heaven, it won’t matter whether they are biological children, because there biology is replaced by spiritual kinship.
So please don’t despair. You will not miss out on the opportunity to raise children in the afterlife.
Even the experience of giving birth will not be gone, though the “children” born of angel couples are not physical ones, but spiritual ones, which are new births of love, understanding, and wisdom. But that’s a whole different subject—one that is not so easy for us to wrap our head around here in this physical realm.
About people becoming angels, please see:
What is the Biblical Basis for Humans becoming Angels after they Die?
I hope this helps. Meanwhile, our thoughts and prayers are with you.
One area not addressed are long time married couples who seem to have a loving relationship and hope for continuance in Heaven. However, early in the marriage, one of the partners had an brief affair and while the affair is long over and the third party married someone else, there is still a deep love by the partner for the third party. If all are accepted into Heaven, who are reunited/spiritual relationship? It sounds like the long term marriages on Earth are over because of stronger bonds elsewhere.
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and question. In response, please give this article a whirl:
If You’ve been Married More than Once, Which One will you be With in the Afterlife?
I know that’s not the exact question you’re asking, but I would say that the principle involved is the same. If, after reading it, you still have questions or thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave another comment.
If you are married to Christ in heaven, why would you even have the desire to be married to anyone else? He fulfills all our desires and needs. In heaven, in such close proximity to him, how could we possibly desire anyone or anything else?
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and question.
People are not individually married to Christ, either here or in heaven. Whenever the Bible talks about the bride of Christ, it is always talking about the whole body of believers. The Bible never says that we are individually married to Christ. Christ is not the greatest polygamist ever. Christ has one Bride. That Bride is the Church, which is the fellowship of all people of faith.
Hi Lee, what do you make of this.
What I find most interesting in it is that the author, echoing Chrysostom, seems to believe that husbands and wives will be together in the afterlife, though without the physical aspects of marriage. This is at least better than thinking that husbands and wives who loved one another dearly will be parted by death, as in the traditional Western wedding vows. Chrysostom’s “Letter to a Young Widow,” which the article refers to, ends with these words:
The final words, “then there will be a union of soul with soul more perfect, and of a far more delightful and far nobler kind,” could almost have been written by Swedenborg, who said that in heaven there are not “marriages” as we think of them here on earth, but unions of minds between two people. The difference is that Swedenborg saw this union of minds, or souls, as being expressed in a union of bodies just as it is here on earth, only without biological reproduction resulting.
So to answer your question, I think the author of the article, from his Orthodox perspective, has not rejected eternal marriage altogether, as Western Christians have, but still does not have a full understanding of what the union of marriage is—specifically, that it is a full union, and not only a spiritual union.