I am widow and a believer in Jesus Christ. . . . I am so lonely without my husband of 38 years, we did everything together, even in the ministry. Will we be together in heaven? Jesus told the religious leaders that there will be no marriage in heaven. I miss my husband so much, my life without him has been turned upside down. Many tell me move on with my life and find someone else. He was my soulmate. Please help me understand! Thank you. I still trust God and love him.
Very Sad Widow
As I said in that first article, contrary to popular belief Jesus did not say that there’s no marriage in heaven!
The second article, “Marriage in the Resurrection: The Deeper Meaning,” goes into much greater depth on Jesus’ teaching about marriage in the afterlife. If you want all the nitty-gritty details, or you’ve been told by your minister or priest that there’s no marriage in heaven and you’re skeptical of anyone who says otherwise, I invite you to read those two articles.
In this third and final article in the series, I’ll simply deliver the good and comforting news to this Very Sad Widow, and to every other widow and widower who dearly loved a partner in marriage—not to mention everyone who is happily married and is deeply troubled by the words in the traditional Christian wedding vows, “till death do us part.” That news is:
Your marriage will continue after death. You will live with your beloved husband or wife forever in heaven. The two of you will continue to grow together in love, understanding, happiness, and joy to all eternity. Death has no power over what God has joined together.
In his book Marriage Love, originally published in 1768, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) provides a detailed description of what happens for married couples after death. In the rest of this article we’ll quote and expand upon a few key passages from that book about man, woman, and the afterlife, and what happens there for happily married couples.
We are still male and female after death
Traditional Christianity commonly presents angels, and humans after death, as sexless, ethereal beings who no longer engage in interpersonal relationships such as marriage, but instead spend eternity totally absorbed in never-ending rapturous praise and worship of God.
Not so, says Swedenborg:
People live on as people after death, and people are male and female. Maleness is one thing and femaleness another in such a way that one cannot change into the other. Therefore a man lives on as a male and a woman as a female after death, each a spiritual person. (Marriage Love #32)
In modern terms, we would say that our gender identity is a fundamental part of our identity as a person. Being male or female is not just an incidental add-on to our personality. It is central to who and what we are, and to how we think and feel about ourselves. If our gender identity were taken away and we became sexless beings, we would no longer be ourselves.
Swedenborg simply brings that reality to its logical conclusion: if God created us male and female, so that our maleness and femaleness is an essential part of who we are, then we will continue to be male and female after death.
This means that we will have all the same thoughts, feelings, desires, and ideals as we do as men and women here on earth—including the romantic and sexual ones.
Swedenborg goes on to say that the particular kind of love and character that makes us the unique person we are also continues on after death. We continue to be exactly the same person we were before, with the same loves, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. Nothing about us changes except that instead of having a physical body equipped for life in this material world, we have a spiritual body equipped for life in the spiritual world.
And yet, our spiritual body is so much like the body we have here on this earth that we will hardly be able to tell the difference. It is every bit as solid, warm, alive, and huggable as our physical body. And it has all of the same parts and organs, both external and internal.
This means that men still have a fully male body, and women still have a fully female body. And in case that’s not clear and explicit enough for you, yes, men do still have male genitals and all the rest of the physical parts and organs of a human male, and women do still have female genitals and all the rest of the physical parts and organs of a human female.
In short, after death we remain fully male or female, both psychologically and physically.
Sexual love continues after death
This means that we also continue to feel romantic and sexual love.
Love for the other sex, especially, continues after death, and so does marriage love for people who come into heaven. These are the ones who become spiritual on earth. Love for the other sex remains with people after death because then men are still male and women are female, and masculinity in a male is masculine in all of him and in every part of him. The same goes for femininity in a female. And every particular—in fact, every little detail—of them offers union. This disposition to unite has been implanted from creation, so it is always there, and this means that the one yearns and longs to unite with the other.
After all, people were created male and female in this way so that the two of them could be like one person, or one flesh. And when they do become one, taken together they are a complete person. Without this union they are two, and each is like a divided or half person. Now, because this attraction hides deep within each particle of a male and each particle of a female, and because the ability and the drive to join together into one is in each particle, a mutual and reciprocal love for the other sex remains with people after death. (Marriage Love #37)
If after death we remain male and female as God created us, how could it be any different? What would be left of our maleness and our femaleness if we did not feel a love and desire to be united together in love?
And so once again, Swedenborg simply takes the reality of our gender identity as a core aspect of our self to its logical conclusion. If we continue to be male or female after death, we will continue to have all the sexual and marriage-related loves, drives, and desires that we feel here on earth.
Furthermore, the type of sexual or marriage love that we choose and grow into here on earth also continues in the afterlife.
If as adults we choose to live a promiscuous life of sleeping around with multiple partners, cheating on our husband or wife, and focusing mostly on our own physical gratification and pleasure when it comes to relationships and sex, we’ll continue to be the same sort of person after death—which means that we will never be in a real, spiritual, eternal marriage.
But if as adults we choose to value love, faithfulness, commitment, and oneness of mind and heart with our partner and soulmate, then our loves and feelings will continue in the same way after death, and we will live eternally in a happy marriage relationship with our soulmate.
If we are married to the wrong person here on earth, or have been married several times, that will all get sorted out so that we end out with the person who is truly one with us in spirit. For more on how this works, please see the article, “If You’ve been Married More than Once, Which One will you be With in the Afterlife?”
True marriage never ends
For people who are happily married to their true spiritual partner here on earth, after death their relationship picks up right where it left off, and continues on to eternity. In fact, when one partner dies before the other, as usually happens, spiritually the relationship is not even interrupted. About such couples whose souls are united, Swedenborg writes:
The two of them are not even separated by the death of one, since the spirit of the deceased husband or wife continues to live with the husband or wife who is not yet deceased. This continues until the other one’s death, when they meet again, reunite, and love each other even more tenderly than before because they are in the spiritual world. (Marriage Love #321)
And so to very sad widows and widowers everywhere, who have lived in a deep, loving, and happy marriage with your partner, I can assure you that your husband or wife is still with you. If you feel his or her presence at times, that is not an illusion or a hallucination. He or she really is still living together with you in spirit.
And when it comes your time to move from this world to the next, you will rejoin your beloved soulmate. Then, as the classic fairy tales all say, the two of you will live happily ever after.
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.
For further reading:
- How does Marriage Fit In with a Spiritual Life? Is There Marriage in Heaven?
- Is There Sex in Heaven?
- Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?
- Marriage in the Resurrection: The Deeper Meaning
- 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?