Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Deeply Wounded:
Hi Lee, it’s me again. I am still struggling with how I am single and alone. I saw this article and found it ludicrous. I also cringed because it claims that sin permanently altered marriage, which was originally going to be permanent but now will end because of sin. Would love it if you would respond to this and help heal my deep wounds, if you’ve got some extra time on your hands:
I long for marriage and intimacy and a husband so bad. If this article were true, then I should be extra angry at Adam and Eve for taking away my opportunity to be together forever with my soulmate.
Hi Deeply Wounded,
When people have wrong doctrine in their head, it clouds their vision. In the very first sentence of the article you linked, Pastor Tom Wenig gets Jesus’ words about marriage in the resurrection wrong. And it all goes downhill from there.
Let’s take a closer look. Along the way, perhaps we can exorcise a few more of the false “Christian” demons that have been tormenting you for so long.
Reading the Bible wrongly
In the first sentence of his article “Marriage and the Afterlife,” Pastor Tom Wenig writes:
In my last entry, I spoke briefly about Jesus’s words in Matthew 22, where Jesus states that “in the resurrection” we will neither be married or given in marriage but will be like the angels.
At the resurrection people will neither marry or be given in marriage; they will be like the Angels in Heaven.
Then why does he get it wrong in this follow-up article? Why does he write that Jesus said “we will neither be married or given in marriage,” when Jesus’ actual words were, “People will neither marry nor be given in marriage”?
The Rev. Dr. Jonathan Bayley gives us the answer in his wonderful classic Great Truths on Great Subjects, containing six lectures originally delivered in Brighton, England, in the 1850s. He says:
When we have been used to a certain doctrine, and suppose it to be in a certain part of the Scriptures, we unconsciously quote the Scriptures as we have been in the habit of doing, although, perhaps, mistakenly. Many people quote the Scriptures as they have been used to them, but never have their attention directed to see what the Word exactly says.
What, exactly, does Jesus say?
Let’s look at Jesus’ exact words, in the exact wording of the same translation Mr. Wenig used in his earlier article:
At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. (Matthew 22:30)
There is no issue with the word “resurrection.” It refers to our future rising up from death.
The issue comes with the words “marry” and “be given in marriage.” Each of these is a single word in the original Greek.
The Greek word for “marry” here is γαμέω (gameō). Its primary meanings in the Bible are “to lead in marriage, take to wife,” “to get married, to marry,” “to give one’s self in marriage.” It can also be used of giving a daughter in marriage.
The Greek word for “be given in marriage” is ἐκγαμίζω (enkamizō). Its primary meaning in the Bible is “to give away in marriage: a daughter.” Its secondary meaning is “to marry, to be given in marriage.”
Since the two words are used together here, and the Bible doesn’t waste words, clearly the first one refers to a man marrying a woman, and the second one refers to a woman being given in marriage to a man. This reflects marriage customs in many traditional cultures throughout the world, in which a man is seen as actively taking a wife, whereas a woman is seen as passively being given to a man in marriage by her father, or by her family of origin.
Both words are about the act of getting married. Neither is about the state of being married. In present-day language, one word refers to a groom getting married, and the other refers to a bride getting married.
What does Mr. Wenig say?
However, like most Christian pastors, Mr. Wenig’s vision is clouded by the traditional Christian doctrine that there is no marriage in heaven. He therefore subtly and probably unconsciously misreads the Bible, changing the first word from “marry” to “be married.”
He makes the same mistake later in the article, where he writes:
Jesus said in the resurrection we are neither married or given in marriage, but are like the angels.
In short, Mr. Wenig reads the first word as referring to the state of being married, and the second word as referring to the act of getting married. His entire article is based on the premise that Jesus said we are not married in heaven.
Jesus didn’t say that.
The Bible is not sloppy in its language. If Jesus said that in the resurrection, people “will neither marry nor be given in marriage,” that’s exactly what he meant. When traditional Christian pastors subtly bend Jesus’ words in the direction of their church’s doctrine, intentionally or not, it sends both them and their followers down a path of error.
For much more on what Jesus did and didn’t say, please see:
“Like the angels”
What about Jesus’ final statement in Matthew 22:30, “they will be like the angels in heaven”?
In yet another blog post, “Like the Angels,” Mr. Wenig says:
Jesus’ statement says only this: there will be no marriage after the resurrection and angels don’t get married.
Jesus didn’t say either of these things.
As discussed just above, Jesus did not say there will be no marriage after the resurrection. He said that people won’t get married after the resurrection. There’s a big difference, as shown in the article about marriage in heaven that I linked for you just above. Personally, I have no intention of getting married in heaven because I’m already married.
Jesus also did not say that angels don’t get married.
Traditional Christians such as Mr. Wenig believe that angels are a separate race of beings. They believe that angels were originally created in heaven, and that some of them fell from heaven and became demons instead. (None of this is biblical, of course). Angels are deathless beings. For angels, there is no resurrection. When Jesus says that in the resurrection people neither marry nor are given in marriage, from a traditional Christian perspective this must be talking about people, not angels.
Even from a traditional Christian perspective, it is incorrect to say that Jesus said angels don’t get married.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark (12:24–25) give a shortened version of what Jesus said. We get a better idea of exactly what he meant in the fuller version of his words given in Luke:
Jesus replied, “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, New International Version)
However, this translation doesn’t quite capture the flow of the original Greek. Here are the same verses in the traditional King James Version
And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
And once more in Young’s Literal Translation:
And Jesus answering said to them, “The sons of this age do marry and are given in marriage, but those accounted worthy to obtain that age, and the rising again that is out of the dead, neither marry, nor are they given in marriage; for neither are they able to die any more—for they are like messengers—and they are sons of God, being sons of the rising again.”
(“Messengers” is a literal translation of the Greek word for “angels.”)
You see, “and they can no longer die” does not quite capture the οὔτε γὰρ (“for neither”) in the original Greek, which signals that Jesus is moving on to a new thought in verse 36.
In the resurrection we are like the angels not because we don’t get married, but because we never die.
Traditional Christians commonly lose focus and switch over to thinking that the passage is about marriage in heaven. But Jesus himself was laser-focused on the real question raised by the Sadducees: whether there is a resurrection. That’s what Jesus’ reply is all about.
The Sadducees said that we die, and that’s the end of it. Jesus said that those who are worthy of the resurrection do not die, because they are like the angels.
More reading the Bible wrongly
Unlike Jesus, Mr. Wenig quickly loses focus, and gets farther and farther off track. He has no excuse for this. In the second sentence of his article he says:
The true focus of that discussion with the Sadducees was that there was such a thing as the resurrection of the dead.
But then he throws it all away in his next two sentences:
For those of us who don’t doubt that, our focus shifts to the topic of marriage in the afterlife. So let’s concentrate on that topic.
As Mr. Wenig himself had just said, that’s not what Jesus was talking about!
The whole point of the passage is that the Sadducees did doubt the resurrection of the dead. In fact, they flatly denied it. Jesus did not allow himself to get side-tracked into side issues. He kept the discussion on its true focus, death and resurrection, as his wrap-up clearly shows:
But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Matthew 22:31–32)
The very fact that some Bibles add the heading “Marriage in the Resurrection” to this story in the Gospels shows that the translators and editors—who are mostly traditional Christians—have missed the point of the story.
Why would the Saducees ask about marriage in the resurrection when they didn’t believe in a resurrection? No, they were concocting an elaborate hypothetical situation involving the law of levirate marriage to argue that there cannot possibly be any life after death.
Jesus’ words do have some bearing on marriage in the afterlife, as my article linked earlier, and its sequel, “Marriage in the Resurrection: The Deeper Meaning,” show. But because traditional Christians’ vision is clouded by their doctrine that there is no marriage in heaven, they just keep on misreading what he said. They keep thinking it’s all about marriage in heaven when the whole conversation is about death and resurrection.
Even their widely read translations of the Bible subtly misrepresent what is said in the original languages, not because they intend to translate it wrongly, but because the wrong doctrines in their head cause them to unconsciously bend their translations in the direction of those wrong doctrines. That’s why it is necessary to go back to the original Greek (or Hebrew) and examine exactly what it says.
Does Paul say that marriage is only for this life?
Mr. Wenig goes on to misread yet another passage in the Bible. He writes:
In Romans 7, Paul confirms that marriage is a bond for our current stage of life. He says:
For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.
That context makes marriage sound like something undesirable. That is not Paul’s intent. He is talking about the application of God’s Law to our salvation and uses marriage as an analogy.
This is a bit of a thicket. Let’s untangle it.
The “law of marriage” that Paul is talking about here is not God’s law, but human law. Paul is referring to the principle common in the legal systems of many cultures all around the world that a legal marriage ends when one of the partners dies. At that point, under the laws of most nations and cultures, the surviving partner is free to remarry, and this is not considered adultery. Or in Paul’s words, a woman whose husband dies “is released from the law of marriage.”
And yes, he is using this earthly law of marriage as an analogy in his argument that Christ has freed us from adhering to all the strictures in the Law of Moses that Jewish people must obey as part of their religious life. He is saying that just as legal marriage ends with the death of one of the spouses, so the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and our own spiritual death and resurrection in Christ, frees us from the old written legal code of Moses. You can read the entire passage in Romans 7:1–6 (and Paul’s argument continues on from there).
Once again, Mr. Wenig is reading the passage as if it’s about marriage when it’s really about the Law, death, and resurrection. Paul simply uses legal marriage as an analogy to make his point about these subjects.
Legal marriage is an earthly, human institution. Just because humans have bound two people together in legal marriage, that doesn’t necessarily mean God has bound them together. As shown in my two articles about marriage in the resurrection, legal marriage has nothing to do with marriage in heaven. That’s the main practical point Jesus was making with his words about not marrying or being given in marriage in the resurrection. In heaven, there is no legal marriage of the sort Jesus’ listeners would have understood by the word “marriage.”
Paul does not say that marriage is a bond for our current stage of life. Christian pastors who misread Paul’s words this way are missing his point due to the same old false doctrine clouding their vision.
Did Adam and Eve ruin eternal marriage for all of us?
Having already misread one Bible passage after another, Mr. Wenig writes:
Marriage originally was conceived as a permanent and joyful union.
So far, so good. Mr. Wenig believes that God did intend marriage to be eternal.
Then he goes off the deep end:
Since Adam and Eve lived before sin and were created to never die, marriage would have been a part of our permanent condition. Sin not only altered our relationship with God, it damaged our relationship with each other, and apparently changed the plans God has for us. Marriage still remained a positive and honorable bond, but it would no longer be without challenges; nor would it remain a permanent condition.
Oh, boy! Where do we start?
Apparently Mr. Wenig thinks Adam and Eve’s disobedience took God by surprise, and sent God back to the drawing board. Because if God did know that Adam and Eve would disobey, and that from then on marriage would not be a permanent condition, God’s original plan for marriage to be permanent would have had no meaning, since it would apply to . . . no one.
Apparently either God is not all-knowing and couldn’t plan ahead, or God is not all-powerful and humans can cancel God’s plans.
That is not the God of the Bible:
Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, “My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.”
From the east I summon a bird of prey;
from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.
What I have said, that I will bring about;
what I have planned, that I will do. (Isaiah 46:9–11)
If God’s original plan was for marriage to be a part of our permanent condition, then that is still God’s plan. And what God has planned, that God will do.
Were Adam and Eve created to never die?
Traditional Christians are mistaken in thinking God originally created humans to live forever on this earth, and that it’s only because of Adam and Eve’s sin that we die.
When God talks about death in Genesis 2 and 3, he is not talking about physical death.
Either that or God was wrong, and the serpent was right.
Here’s what God said:
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Genesis 2:16–17, italics added)
Here’s what the serpent said:
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4–5)
And here’s what happened when Eve, and then Adam, ate from that tree:
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:7–8)
God said that they would die “in the day”—or in common English, on the day—that they ate of it. The serpent said that they would not die. If God was talking about physical death, then God was wrong and the serpent was right.
The entire passage has nothing to do with physical death. Adam and Eve were created to die physically just like every other human being. The death they died on the day they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was a spiritual death. It was the death of their innocence. Suddenly they were aware and ashamed of their nakedness. They covered their nakedness and hid from God because they knew they had done wrong.
We humans were never, from the very beginning, meant to live forever on this earth. God created us to live out a lifetime on earth, and then move on to our eternal home in heaven. These early stories in Genesis are not about our physical life on earth, but about our spiritual life and our relationship with God. See, for example: Which Tree is in the Middle of Your Garden?
God’s plans for us do not change because of our actions. From the beginning, God planned for us to live forever in heaven, and for us to be married forever in heaven. People who stubbornly refuse God’s gift of eternal life and eternal marriage will indeed find themselves out in the cold. But for people who accept God’s love and wisdom into their mind and heart, and follow God’s commandments in their life, God’s plans remain the same yesterday, today, and forever.
What God joins together, nothing can separate
We could continue examining the rest of Mr. Wenig’s post, but he only digs himself deeper and deeper into the muck of speculation and error. Some of it is truly strange! And none of it is worth listening to, because it is all error piled upon error.
In the end, like other traditional Christian preachers, he promises that we will experience some vague undefined relationship in heaven that will be better than marriage. And just like the others who say this, his words ring hollow to anyone who has experienced the deep joy of real spiritual marriage.
Fortunately, they are all wrong. Their false doctrines have clouded their vision, rendering them unable to read and understand what the Lord says to us in the Bible.
When God joins two people together in marriage, nothing—not even death—can separate them.
This article is a response to a spiritual conundrum submitted by a reader.
For further reading:
- Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?
- Marriage in the Resurrection: The Deeper Meaning
- Marriage in Heaven: A Response to Randy Alcorn and John Piper
- Marriage in Heaven: A Response to Jack Wellman
- How does Marriage Fit In with a Spiritual Life? Is There Marriage in Heaven?
- Real Marriage vs. Legal Marriage
- Will Happily Married Couples be Together in Heaven?