Marriage in Heaven: A Response to Randy Alcorn and John Piper

Randy Alcorn

Randy Alcorn

John Piper

John Piper

In a comment posted here, a reader named Eric Breaux asked for my response to a couple of articles by two well-known Christian writers and preachers, Randy Alcorn and John Piper. You can read the articles here:

  1. Do You Think it Is Possible that on the New Earth There Could Be the Essence of Marital Relationships with the Actual Institution of Marriage? by Randy Alcorn
  2. Matrimony No More: Why the End of Marriage in Eternity is Good News, by John Piper

The questions that Randy Alcorn asks in his article are already answered in these articles here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life, which I invite you to read:

Since I’ve already answered those questions, I won’t repeat the answers here.

I also won’t give a point-by-point response to everything said in each article. Rather, I’ll focus on what I see as the primary error of each writer on the subject of eternal marriage. This article is an edited and expanded version of comments in response to Eric that I posted here and here.

Randy Alcorn: Does earthly marriage determine spiritual marriage?

The key error in Alcorn’s article is contained in this quote from his article:

Again, reading Matthew 22, I sense that the whole point is that Jesus gave an answer to the Sadducees that said they were wrong in thinking that earthly partnerships (call them marriage or one flesh or child-bearing relationships or whatever you would call them with your position) will continue in the resurrection.

Alcorn sees that Jesus is saying that earthly partnerships don’t continue in the resurrection. His whole article is based on the premise that earthly marriages don’t translate into heavenly marriages. He apparently thinks that earthly marriages are God-given, when in fact many of them are merely human-made.

What Alcorn doesn’t see is that marriage in heaven is not based on earthly marriages that are about literally becoming one flesh (i.e., having sex) and bearing children. Marriage in heaven is also not determined by whether a priest, minister, or Justice of the Peace declares two people one in marriage. It is not based on whether a couple is legally, ecclesiastically, or socially recognized as a married couple. None of these things matter in the least in the spiritual world. The Sadducees were in error because they had the mistaken notion that earthly marriage would determine heavenly marriage.

Alcorn  repeats the Sadducees’ mistake

Alcorn makes the very same mistake that the Sadducees did. He thinks that earthly marriage determines spiritual marriage. And he thinks that since it would be impossible, for example, for a woman who has been married to seven different husbands here on earth to be married to all of them in heaven, this means there can be no marriage in heaven.

Both the Sadducees and Alcorn have an earthly, physical-minded view of marriage. They think that earthly marriage is the only kind of marriage that exists. Therefore they reject marriage in the afterlife because the conditions of marriage here on earth don’t exist in the afterlife. All of this is covered in the first two of my three articles that I linked earlier.

The reality is that earthly marriage does not continue in the spiritual world. Only spiritual marriage does. And spiritual marriage has nothing to do with whether a person was joined in legal or religious marriage by human beings here on earth. Rather, it is based on whether a couple has been joined together in spirit by God. It is what God joins together, not what humans join together, that no human being is to separate (Matthew 19:4–6). And the marriages that God joins together are marriages of the spirit, not mere earthly, legal, and physical marriages.

God is not dependent upon humans

In response to the Sadducees, Jesus said not only that they were in error because they did not know the scriptures, but also that they were in error because they did not know the power of God (Matthew 22:29).

Alcorn, also, does not know the power of God. He thinks that God is constrained by the marriages we humans make here on earth. He thinks that if our human-made marriages don’t continue in heaven, then there can be no marriage in heaven at all.

Clearly Alcorn doesn’t even believe that God joins people in marriage, because he believes that all marriages will be put asunder. He therefore rejects both the scriptures and the power of God when it comes to marriage. By giving his human judgment that all marriages end at death, Alcorn is violating the Lord’s own commandment that what God has joined together, no human being is to separate.

God is not dependent upon human institutions and human marriages. God joins together the hearts and minds of two people, regardless of the human marriage licenses and wedding ceremonies and social recognition that make an earthly marriage. The marriages that will continue in the spiritual world are the marriages that God joins together. The earthly marriages that we humans make here on earth will cease to exist unless there is also a God-made marriage of hearts and minds between the two people.

John Piper: Is heaven completely different from earth?

My first reaction to John Piper’s article is that his claim that “the end of marriage in eternity is good news” will ring hollow for people who have experienced the deep human connection of spiritual marriage.

Piper promises some vague undefined joy that will be greater than the joy of marriage, without giving any conception of what that joy will be, or why we should accept his word on this. No matter how hard he labors to convince us that there is some unknown thing in heaven that is far greater than marriage, those who have experienced true marriage love will continue to find his rejection of eternal marriage to be a sorrowful and painful thing.

In short, Piper is laying heavy burdens, hard to bear, on people who have experienced true love—or who long for it.

Is heaven nothing like earth?

Piper seems to think that the joys we have in heaven will have no relationship whatsoever to the joys we have here on earth. He is asking us to believe that nothing we experience here on earth translates into anything that we will experience in heaven. According to Piper, God is just going to erase everything we have done or experienced here on earth, and substitute entirely different things of which we have had no prior experience at all.

If Piper is right, then God is putting us through a colossal waste of time here on earth. Why have us go through all sorts of learning and growing experiences here on earth that have nothing to do with anything we will be doing and experiencing in heaven? It would be like putting children and teenagers through twelve or sixteen years of school and then, when they graduate and become adults, telling them, “Nothing you’ve learned in school has anything to do with what you will be doing as adults.” The whole idea is ludicrous.

Does ice cream become sex?

Piper’s examples confirm that he is thinking that life in the spiritual world as something that has no relationship whatsoever with our life on earth. For example, he says:

The most exquisite sexual ecstasies in this age are like a child’s enjoyment of ice cream. There is as much distance between sexual pleasures in this world and the ecstasies of the spiritual body in the age to come as there is between a child’s enjoyment of ice cream and the pleasures of his marriage bed twenty years later.

But that is comparing apples and oranges. Here, in contrast to Piper’s false analogy, is the analogy that God makes in the Bible:

He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4–5)

When children grow into adults and get married, they don’t stop eating ice cream and have sex instead. Rather, they leave behind their primary relationship with their parents, and have their primary relationship with their spouse instead. As children, they (ideally) had a relationship of love with their parents—and this was a good relationship. As adults, they have a relationship of love with their wife or husband—and this is a far greater relationship. That is why God has us leave behind, not ice cream, which we can continue to enjoy as adults, but rather living in the house of our father and mother, for the far greater relationship of living together with our partner in marriage.

God does not change ice cream into sexual intimacy. God did not put us here on earth and give us various relationships and experiences only to yank all of them away from us after death, and substitute something completely different. Rather, here on earth God gives us earthly versions of all of the same things we will be doing in heaven. And people who are spiritually minded here on earth can get just a little taste of what these earthly experiences and relationships will be like in heaven.

The old faulty Christian concept of heaven

The traditional Christian idea of heaven is that we will spend eternity in rapturous contemplation of God. This is known as the “beatific vision,” and it is the general concept of heaven held to in most of traditional Christianity—Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant. This view of heaven is based primarily on a literal reading of visions recorded in the book of Revelation, such as Revelation 4 and Revelation 7:9–12. These visions picture various creatures and multitudes of human beings all arrayed around the throne of God.

However, the visions recorded in the book of Revelation were never meant to be taken literally. (See: “Is the World Coming to an End? What about the Second Coming?”) They are symbolic and metaphorical visions meant to convey spiritual meanings to readers whose eyes are open to see them. Unfortunately, today’s Christians are focused mostly on the letter that kills rather than on the spirit that gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6, and see my article, “Today’s Christianity: Vastly Void of Truth”).

It is true that in heaven everyone is arrayed around God as a common center. But that doesn’t mean all they do is worship and pray all day. Rather, they live active lives of love and service to one another just as we are meant to do here on earth, all the while turning to God as the center and source of everything they have, everything they do, and everything they are.

Earth is preparation for heaven

Just as our eighteen or twenty years of growing up as an infant, then a child, then a teenager, prepare us for our life as an adult, so our threescore and ten years here on earth prepare us for living in the spiritual world. Children and teens are continually engaged in many activities that they will be engaging in as adults, only it is mostly practice rather than doing the real thing.

Once we reach adulthood, we begin to actually do the sorts of things we played at and practiced as children. If we loved to build things, now we’ll build houses for people to live in. If we loved to learn things, now we’ll teach those subjects to children, teens, or adults. If we loved to play cops and robbers, now we’ll be police officers protecting others from criminals. And so on.

Piper is mistaken about heaven in general, and about marriage in heaven in particular, because he thinks heaven is going to be something that has no relationship whatsoever to anything we’ve ever experienced here on earth—except maybe church. He thinks God is going to take away everything we’ve experienced and learned here on earth, and replace it with something completely different.

But that’s not how God, or heaven, works. God gives us an apprenticeship here on earth so that we can practice the things we will be doing to eternity in heaven. That apprenticeship includes human relationships such as marriage.

Heavenly marriage is greater than earthly marriage

What is true is that all of the things we do and experience here on earth, including marriage, will be far greater in heaven than they are here on earth. We will then be in our spiritual bodies, living in the spiritual world, unconstrained by our heavy physical bodies and by the dead and unresponsive nature of physical matter. For people who have had real marriages here on earth, marriage in heaven will so far surpass what they have experienced here on earth that they will indeed think of it as being all new (see Revelation 21:5).

However, this doesn’t mean marriage will be an entirely different thing in heaven than what it is for spiritually married people here on earth. Rather, it means that good marriages here on earth will be raised to a whole new level in heaven, just as everything else we do and experience here on earth will be raised to a whole new level in heaven.

When little children play house, it can be a lot of fun. But actually being a married couple living in your own home is a whole order of magnitude greater than our games as children. Playing house looks forward to actually being married and making a home together with a husband or wife. It has many of the same elements in rudimentary form, but it is not the same as what young adults experience when they get married and make a home with their partner. In the very same way, the marriages we have here on earth will be raised to a whole new level in the spiritual world.

Piper’s primary error

In short, Piper’s primary error is in not understanding the relationship between our life here on earth and our life in heaven. Piper thinks that heaven will be something completely unrelated to our life here on earth. Apparently he thinks we’ll spend eternity in the celestial equivalent of a Sunday worship service, and that everything else we have done all week will simply vanish into thin air.

The reality is that heaven takes our entire life here on earth and raises it to a whole new level. This includes marriage, which is the closest and deepest interpersonal relationship (as compared to our relationship with God) that we humans are capable of.

Our life on earth is a preparation for our life in heaven. Everything we do and everything we experience and all of the relationships we engage in are preparations for the spiritual and heavenly versions of those same things.

When we arrive in heaven, like the little children who played house and then grew up to experience the reality of married life as adults, we will experience the far greater spiritual reality of everything we have done and all of the relationships we have experienced here on earth. That includes the relationship of marriage.

For further reading:

About

Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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Posted in Sex Marriage Relationships, The Afterlife
26 comments on “Marriage in Heaven: A Response to Randy Alcorn and John Piper
  1. Brian says:

    I thank you for this. I have read Alcorn’s book on Heaven and he seems to agree with Swedenborg on many things in terms of life in Heaven being similar to earthly life except in a glorified state. When it comes to marriage, of course, no agreement. It was your website that “saved” me when it came to marriage. I searched for answers after my wife died and all you said rang and rings true in my heart! My wife died and I wanted to know I could be with her in Heaven as husband and wife, and traditional christian views took away all hope. I asked you a question about remarriage in the past and at I time I felt I wanted to die. Just wanted you to know I no longer want to die but when it’s time I will feel no sadness in heading to my heavenly home. Thank you, Lee! Your website is helping me change my life….and for the better!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Brian,

      I am very happy to hear all of this. Being separated from one’s partner in love is never easy. I’m glad our website has helped you to find some comfort and hope in the midst of your pain and grief.

      About Alcorn and Piper, I’m sure they say many good things that are helpful to their followers. But on this subject they are badly mistaken, and their false teachings bring heartbreak instead of help to those who are looking for hope after their partner in marriage has died.

      I should add that my analysis in the above article is based solely on what they say in their linked articles, and on the general patterns of traditional Christian thought. I have not read any of their books. Honestly, I find it hard to read most books by traditional Christian theologians. Yes, there are some interesting thoughts and ideas sprinkled here and there in them. But it is delivered in the context of far too many teachings that I find unbiblical, false, and depressing. And some of the things they say make me downright angry at how the beautiful teachings of Jesus Christ have been so distorted and destroyed in today’s “Christianity.” In order to keep my blood pressure down, I mostly avoid reading traditional Christian books.

      I’m sure I’ve recommended it to you before, but if you want the real story about the afterlife, and what your wife is now experiencing, please do yourself a favor and read Swedenborg’s book Heaven and Hell. (The link is to my book listing and review.)

      • Brian says:

        Yes. I have already downloaded the Heaven and Hell e-book from Amazon and 3 other books by Swedenborg!

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brian,

          Ah, good! If you have any questions as you read, please don’t hesitate to ask. Swedenborg is a deep pool of wisdom. It may take a little while to get acclimated. But as you do, things will start making more and more sense.

  2. Shattered says:

    Hi Lee, thanks a lot for one more essay/article concerning marriage in the afterlife. Which topic could be more important than this? (For me there is none.)

    Quote from your article:
    “But that’s not how God, or heaven, works. God gives us an apprenticeship here on earth so that we can practice the things we will be doing to eternity in heaven. That apprenticeship includes human relationships such as marriage.”

    Unfortunately, the portrayed “divine mechanisms” for eternal marriage are making me rather sad and desperate now.
    As I already mentioned (https://leewoof.org/2012/10/09/does-suicide-work/#comment-34774), I lost my wife by sudden death. She was only 48 years old (me 53), and we expected to have many decades ahead for not only growing old together happily, but hopefully also growing more together spiritually.
    Marriages have ups and downs over time, and Christian faith was not a central part of our loving marriage, since my wife, as Japanese, is also lacking a respective religious/cultural background.
    Now 10 months after her passing, I miss and love my wife more than ever, and I feel not only being ripped off my love of my life, but also being ripped off the possibility to grow spiritually together with her.

    I only found out about Swedenborg in my desperate search of hope for a continuation of our marriage in the afterlife. I only found out about all this after my wife died.
    So the horrific separation that occured with the death prevents us to improve our marriage, to grow spiritually together.
    As I mentioned, I’m committed to my wife as long as I will live (and beyond). I want to be faithful to her, and I rule out any new romance on earth.

    But what if our marriage is (not yet) considered spiritual …is there anything that I can still do, now as a widower?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Shattered,

      Yes, I remember reading your painful story in your comment a few months ago. Here are a few further thoughts that might help:

      First, if you’re concerned that you and she did not come from the same religion or faith, this may or may not be an issue. For more on that, see:
      What if My Partner and I Have Different Religious Beliefs? Can Interfaith Marriage Work?

      While being of the same faith is usually a good thing for a marriage, it is not so much the intellectual beliefs inculcated into us by our religious teachers, but rather the underlying values and outlook on life that we have adopted for ourselves, and that we live by, that really matter. In thinking about whether you and your wife are a good match spiritually, the important thing is whether you shared common values and a common outlook on life and how to live it. If you shared these things, then particular religious tenets that you may have differed on are not such a big issue.

      Further, people’s spiritual life is not the same as what church or temple they attended and what beliefs they were taught. Church attendance and religious rituals are only helps (ideally) to our developing a spiritual life. Our real spiritual life is expressed here on earth especially by the way we treat our fellow human beings as an expression of the thoughts and desires and motives of our heart. If we seek to love our fellow human beings in practical ways of serving them and doing good things for them in our job and in our everyday life, then we are developing our spiritual life even if we may not feel that we have a specific spiritual path in life.

      Yes, it is good to have beliefs about God, spiritual living, and the afterlife. There are many articles about these topics here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life. But the most important thing is how we treat our fellow human beings. See Jesus’ own teaching about this in Matthew 25:31–46.

      Finally, for now, as I say in various articles here, death does not separate the spirits of two people who are married in spirit. It only separates them physically. Though you can’t reach out and touch your wife with your physical hand and body, she is still with you. She is still sharing your spiritual journey. As you walk your path here on earth, she is walking it with you in the spiritual world.

      It’s important to understand that it is the core motivation of our life, which Swedenborg calls our “ruling love” or “dominant love,” that determines who we are, where we are headed, and whom we are one with in spirit. Even if you end out having several more decades here on earth than your wife did, if you and she are one in spirit because you share the same ruling love, or core purposes and values in life, then you will continue traveling together in spirit until you can be fully reunited when it comes your time to move from this world to the next.

      I hope these thoughts are helpful to you.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Shattered,

      Though it was meant to be implied in my last comment, I’ll get a little more specific in your question of what you can do now, as a widower.

      First, continue to live your life, as hard as it may be without your wife by your side. Keep doing your job, keep taking care of your affairs, and keep providing for your personal needs now and in the future, no matter how empty it may seem here on earth. However your heart may be feeling, it is important to keep your hands busy and your feet moving forward. Since you are still here on earth, there is still work for you to do.

      That work includes not only your occupation, whatever it may be, but also your spiritual work and spiritual tasks.

      In seeking out understanding about where your wife is now, and whether there is a future for your marriage, you have already embarked upon one of the important pieces of the spiritual path: learning. I would recommend that you make a regular habit of learning new things about God, spirit, the afterlife, and what it means to live a good life that leads to heaven. There are many (over 300!) articles here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life that you can read and learn from.

      Given your particular situation, I would also recommend getting and reading a copy of Emanuel Swedenborg’s book Heaven and Hell. This is the best and most comprehensive account of the spiritual world ever written. It will help you to know and understand where your wife is now, and what she is experiencing there. You might also want to visit the Swedenborg Foundation’s Heaven and Hell Community on Facebook. There is a lot of excellent material there.

      The third thing I would recommend is committing yourself to doing at least one good deed for another person each day. This can be in the course of your work, or around your neighborhood, or anywhere you interact with people. The life of heaven is a life of active love and service to other people. Doing good deeds for others is not only practice for eternal life, but it brings a little bit of heaven into our life right here on earth. There is no better way to get outside of our own pain and grief for a while than by doing something that will help someone else and brighten their day. It may feel like hard work at first, but keep at it, and you’ll see a change coming over your life.

      Remember that through all of this your wife is still with you in spirit. As you find some meaning and some satisfaction in your continued life here on earth, she will be feeling those feelings with you, and will find happiness in knowing that your life still has some meaning, purpose, and goodness in it. Every good thing you learn, think, feel, and do here on earth is bringing a sense of happiness, satisfaction, and joy to your wife in the spiritual world. Even if it may be hard to do these things for yourself, do them for her, and know that you are showing your wife the love that you feel for her in your heart.

      • Shattered says:

        Let me reply, Lee, by emphasizing again that I’m very grateful that you sacrifice your precious time extensively to address mine, Brians, and others fates, and I’m well aware that our individual issues are a bit derailing the addressed “Piper/Alcorn-topic”, so I apologize for that.
        “In order to keep my blood pressure down, I mostly avoid reading traditional Christian books.”
        Yes. This traditional view, which was also brought to and sometimes forced on me by “well meaning” fundamentalistic Christian friends, was one reason that I became generally estranged from faith in the past. I became more or less an agnostic, who was still “on the search”.
        Everything that is found on your website resonates so much more than the fundamentalist counterparts. Not because it is always “easier”, let alone opportunistic, but because it is filled with well meaning spirit and love instead of threat and punishment.
        Unfortunately it’s rather impossible to accidentally stumble accross the concepts of Swedenborg in daily life. As I said, I only found out about it (your extensive website, and Swedenborg Foundation/”Offthelefteye”) when I searched the web for help and solace in my darkest moments after the loss. And dark it still is.
        I read many, many articles from your site, watched uncountable episodes (on u-tube) from “Offthelefteye”, and also partly started reading in “Heaven and Hell”; a smaller and easier to read book https://swedenborg.com/product/life-death/ gave me a good introduction to it. Also https://swedenborg.com/product/god-let-happen/ was a good read related to my situation.
        I also resonate very much with your tolerant take in the article you – above – pointed to (“…Can Interfaith Marriage Work?)
        My wife and I were still in the very beginning of the common spiritual search – we expected many decades more to share on earth and “were not in a hurry” – and thus not yet settled in that common faith. If there is harmony and happiness, why bother about faith, so to speak…
        Anyway, my wife was(is!) the most warm-hearted and caring being, and eventhough she was not explicitly of Christian faith, she was living those very values in daily life. And our hearts are matching perfectly, so I really regret extremely that not more common time on earth was given to us to consolidate what is founded on deep love.
        So good to know that Swedenborg was of the opinion, that all people with a good heart and living an honest life have the possibility to get a place in heaven, also this is something in striking contrast to the ignorant (even selfish) view of fundamentalistic Christians.
        My present lonely life, and this scary anticipation of more years to live on earth are still keeping me in a desperate prison. I feel like being robbed of my life.
        A previous existence of two loving people was replaced by an excruciating solitude. Permanent happy togetherness was replaced by permanent silence. This is so intense (in a negative way) that I would still welcome death any moment, and I doubt, that this will change over time.
        That said; I took the advice, from my inner voice, from you, to start volunteering. Because I (very early) retired from work in aviation (ATC), where the skill to do the job expires as quicky as the respective licences, I could not go back there. But in my almost daily volunteer work now I get to see many people suffering from age and medical issues/disabilities, and bringing some service to them also brings back some gratefulness, and a smile here and there. A small useful step in the right direction, I guess.
        I know, even living a few desperate decades on earth are a mere blink of an eye in relation to eternity, yet this outlook is overwhelming.
        So I still take it day by day (until I can’t), I don’t dare to look into the future.
        Thank you for your consolation and advice!

        • Brian Sonnenberg says:

          Shattered, you have spoken eloquently in a way I could not, and you speak for me as well.  My time with my wife was 7 1/2 years, but my love for her was as if we had been married 70 years. There was so much more for us to improve upon spiritually together that we are now not able.   I deal also with the guilt of knowing I squandered many an opportunity with my wife to spend time together and mutually guide spiritually.  This yearning in our hearts for our wives, this yearning to meet again in the next life and be united together again to continue the journey, gets squashed by the well meaning, but hope crushing, sentiments of Alcorn and Piper.  I am so happy Lee brought this article to us to address this.  None of my christian friends believe there is marriage in Heaven. Maybe it takes a loss of a spouse to turn the light bulb on and think deeply about this.  I did for me.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Brian,

          Yes, when someone loses their spouse, the whole “no marriage in heaven” thing becomes a whole lot more real—and a whole lot more intolerable. I’m sure Alcorn and Piper mean well, but the traditional “Christian” beliefs about marriage that they’ve been taught, and that they teach to others, is highly destructive.

          I am glad that you and others have found solace here. Sooner or later the message will get out to the wider world, and we’ll put an end to the errors of an old and corrupted “Christianity.” Meanwhile, for those who search, the answers are available.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Shattered,

          You are very welcome. This is why Annette and I run this website. And your situation certainly is on-topic for the above article.

          I’m glad to hear that in the midst of your darkness you’ve moved into volunteer work, and are keeping yourself occupied and useful. Nothing can take away the pain altogether, but since you’re here whether you like it or not, at least your life can have some meaning, and your wife in the spiritual world can see that you are moving forward. That’s what’s important.

          Yes, our entire lifetime here is but a blink of an eye compared to eternity. And while it’s intellectually helpful to contemplate that, as you say, it doesn’t take away the sting. Think of a toddler whose entire attention is focused on what’s happening right now. If that toddler is hungry, having Mom or Dad say that supper is just an hour away is about the same as saying that it’s going to be forever until there’s something to eat! That’s how it is for us viewing our eternal future in heaven from the perspective of our life on this side of the Great Divide. We’re all just toddlers compared to our future selves in heaven.

  3. Brian says:

    Lee, you say our deceased wive’s spirit is with us. I have a concern, in fact, a concern I just shared with someone today! It is that I have had only one dream of my wife since she died last year. We were seating ourselves on a train. I told my wife I would be right back I had forgotten something in the car. When I returned the train was gone. I called every stop the train was to stop. Every police department told me they could not locate her. The final place I called informed me that she was gone I would not see her again. Ever since then I have had no dreams of her. It bothers me especially because her spirit is still supposed to be with me. Might it indicate we aren’t the soulmates I thought we were? That makes my eyes well with tears.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Brian,

      That certainly is a disturbing and depressing dream. I can’t deny that! I wish I had some definite and comforting answer for you. Unfortunately, I don’t have God’s eternal and infinite vision. I really can’t say if your dream means that you and your wife have departed from each other spiritually, or if it is just a dream about the hard experience of having her depart from you physically, and the fears of eternal separation that go with it. I would tend to think it is the latter. You’ll have to search your own soul about that.

      Meanwhile, I wouldn’t allow one dream, or the lack of further dreams, to determine your whole belief and feeling about your relationship with your wife. Consider the years you spent with her, and what those years mean. That is more important than any dream, as scary as the dream may be.

      As to why you haven’t had further dreams of her, I don’t have a good answer for that either. Life is complicated. Sometimes our soul is tested in ways that are not pleasant at all. About all I can say is that it’s important for you to keep living your life. Some answers come only with the passage of much time and experience. Life is an unfolding thing.

      • Brian says:

        Good advice. I needed to hear that. I do take some solace that Swedenborg states we will have a true soulmate in Heaven if we want to be married. So, I know, somehow, someway, it will all work out in the end. It’s just my heart hopes it is my deceased wife. I will let the passage of time and experience instruct me. Thank you for that.

    • Shattered says:

      Brian, first let me say that I’m very sorry about your loss. We’re in very similar shoes…
      And I believe you should not be too concerned about the (admittedly painful) dream. Beside that; it appears to be very common that people in intense grief have no (or very seldom dreams) of their lost beloved partner.
      It applies also to me; I beg my wife every night to “visit” me in the dream, but rarely I remember something in the morning when waking up.
      Dr. Jonathan Rose (Swedenborg Foundation) had the thought that this could be “to protect” the grieving person.
      You find a link to the respective “Offthelefteye”-clip in this post:
      https://forums.grieving.com/index.php?/topic/14390-dreams-visitations/&tab=comments#comment-181271

      As long as a dream is not a real “visitation”, I think even weird or painful contents must not be taken tko seriously.
      In trivial, normal dreams, the subconciousness is often presenting stuff from daily life in a mixed, weird way, and deep thoughts or emotions can be wrapped in a symbolic language of the dreams.
      Our brains (and hearts) are still in such a shock, the body is still flooded with stress hormones, so it is no wonder that dreams may be at times (nightmarish) roller coaster trips.

      • Brian says:

        Thank you Shattered for your kind thoughts, reassurance, and wisdom. It is the old “misery loves company” deal, but it helps me to know that you, also, have experienced this dearth of dreams or visits from your deceased wife and you obviously deeply love her.

  4. Brian says:

    I purchased the NCE editions that Dr. Rose was involved with and find it readable. I am enjoying OffTheLeftEye on Youtube. Who needs network TV! LOL

  5. William Low says:

    Beautiful insights and interpretations of life and scripture. I recently lost my wife of 31 years and have been looking for any insights into heavenly marriage. My early Christian upbringing and Church affiliations only looked at the black and white of the scriptures and not the spirit involving marriage in heaven. Thank you for your service in expanding minds and souls. I will definitely look into re-reading Heaven and Hell. I had forgotten all about it until reading your posts. I read it when I was a teenager. Strange how fate guides us through our journey. Thank you again.

    • Lee says:

      Hi William,

      Sorry to hear about your wife’s departure from this plane of life. I’m glad you were able to reconnect here to your early reading of Heaven and Hell. Yes, God works in mysterious ways. My more detailed consideration of Jesus’ statement about marriage in the resurrection are in the third and fourth articles linked at the end of this one. Meanwhile, you are in our thoughts and prayers.

  6. “We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in heaven, will leave no room for it.”

    • Lee says:

      Hi architecturefortomorrow,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for the C.S. Lewis quote. This is likely where Piper got his mistaken “ice cream” analogy, though Lewis speaks of chocolate instead, and handles it more deftly than Piper. However, they are both wrong, because neither one of them understands the nature of spiritual marriage, or really, the nature of the spiritual world.

  7. DelphiPro says:

    Thank you so much for such an insightful article. You are definitely a lone cowboy out there in a church world hostile to the idea of any kind of marriage or soul-coupling in heaven. I love what you say about ice cream not turning into sex. That’s actually a variant of a C.S. Lewis analogy about children and chocolate. He says that the child is worried that he won’t “have chocolate when having sex”. I hope he didn’t mean that literally. I make the point numerous times that people can and do continue to enjoy chocolate (or ice cream) years into their active love/married life. In fact, for some people it even outlasts it. It’s ironic that the number one product sold as gifts for the holiday that celebrates love is — chocolate! Or, I like to say that if God takes chocolate away when people fall in love then Godiva didn’t get the memo.

    My only contention is that you seem to indicate in your rebuttal of Randy Alcorn, you seem to imply that the “worldly” aspects of marriage (sex, love-making, children) will not be a part of the spiritual component, and I tend to like to believe that God will somehow preserve every good thing, as He created it in Eden. In your second rebuttal of John Piper, you nail it! There, you seem to allude that God will have a heavenly form of every good experience (including sex) that we had here (Is Heaven nothing like earth?), and that his claim that we should accept a vague “something better” is a shallow promise to many. I commend you for the time and research that went into this, and for a great job challenging these people! Many are troubled deep down by what they have to say on this topic. Your words are very comforting.

    • Lee says:

      Hi DelphiPro,

      Good to hear from you again. I’m glad you enjoyed this article, and thanks for your kind words.

      Yes, the comment from “architecturefortomorrow” just above clued me in to the C.S. Lewis “chocolate” connection when I went looking for the source of the quote in the comment. I got a good chuckle out of your quip that Godiva obviously didn’t get the memo!

      About the concern you express, I presume it’s in response to this statement of mine early in the article:

      What Alcorn doesn’t see is that marriage in heaven is not based on earthly marriages that are about literally becoming one flesh (i.e., having sex) and bearing children.

      If so, what I meant to express there was not that there are no “worldly” or “physical” aspects of marriage in heaven, and especially not that there is no sexual intercourse in heaven. On that, please see:

      Is There Sex in Heaven?

      Short version: Yes, there is sex in heaven.

      Rather, my meaning was that the physical and worldly aspects of marriage are not the basis of marriage in heaven. Marriage in heaven is based on an inner oneness of minds between the two partners, not based on sexual desire, procreation, and so on. In heaven, having sex is an expression of marriage, not its driver as it often is here on earth.

      As for bearing children in heaven, that’s a little more complicated. According to Swedenborg we do not bear physical children in heaven; that takes place only here on earth. But we do bear “spiritual children.” For more on this, please go to the article, “Marriage in the Resurrection: The Deeper Meaning,” and read the sections under the headings “Marriage in heaven vs. marriage on earth” and “Spiritual children.”

      However, although according to Swedenborg no new human beings (babies) are born in heaven, that doesn’t mean there is no child-raising in heaven. All of the babies, children, and teens who die here on earth need angel parents to raise them in heaven. And unfortunately, due to the appalling conditions in so many places here on earth, and due to the tenuous and risky nature of life here on earth, there are all too many young ones who are not able to complete their growing up years here on earth. This means that there are plenty of children needing parents in heaven for those angels who love to raise children.

      Once again, thanks for your thoughts. I’m glad the articles here are helpful to you, and I hope these further thoughts clear up your concerns a bit.

    • Lee says:

      Hi DelphiPro,

      P.S. Yes, I’m a lone cowboy even here in Wyoming, the Cowboy State! 😀

  8. DelphiPro says:

    Thanks so much for your response! It’s great to get feedback. Yes, you clear up my concerns. I only wonder why a brilliant man like Swedenborg, who live at the end of the 18th Century, has remained so obscure. My father, a lifelong born-again Christian, had never heard of him. I think I read somewhere that he had the IQ of a genius.

    • Lee says:

      Hi DeliphiPro,

      You’re welcome. And yes, though there has been some dispute about it, Swedenborg has commonly been placed among the top IQs of all time.

      Certainly, based on his scientific theories and discoveries, he would have been famous if he hadn’t “gone off the deep end” in his mid-fifties, claimed to have visited the spiritual world regularly for nearly three decades, and spent the rest of his life writing about theology instead of science.

      And his theology didn’t exactly square with the reigning theology of the times—or even of today.

      For both of these reasons, he was heavily attacked (or just ignored) by the reigning scientists, philosophers, and theologians, to the point where admitting to reading and liking Swedenborg became an academic and ecclesiastical death sentence. Therefore after the nineteenth century, when everyone who was anyone had read at least some Swedenborg, he slipped into obscurity.

      However, his writings did have a pervasive influence on Western culture, even if that influence is largely unknown today. And as the influence of traditional Christianity wanes, and more and more people become “spiritual but not religious,” agnostic, or atheist, he is beginning to be known again—albeit it is not a great groundswell by any means.

      Plus, reading Swedenborg and accepting what he says means taking responsibility for our own life and doing a lot of unsparing introspection and hard personal work. Many, if not most people just don’t want to put out that kind of effort. It’s much easier just to “believe in Jesus” and think you’re saved because Jesus paid for your sins so that you don’t have to. Or to float along on wispy “New Age spirituality” that’s mostly about saying, “Oh wow, man! Coooool!!!!” Neither one requires much personal commitment and work to actually become a better person.

      That, in my opinion, is the primary reason Swedenborg isn’t better known today. The bulk of people would rather take the easy way out . . . until they experience some personal disaster or their life just becomes untenable, and they start looking for real answers.

      That’s why Annette and I maintain this website. So that those answers will be available for people who have reached the point in their journey where they want and need real answers, not marshmallow fluff or outdated and false dogma, and are ready to do the personal work required to have a real spiritual life.

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Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

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