My dad died a few months ago. Mom misses Dad and was discouraged about Mark 12:25 which her paraphrased Living Bible improperly rendered “will no be married” in heaven. I wrote the following to comfort my Mom.
Giving talks in Steubenville Ohio and stayed up until 2:00 AM doing a bit of work on this. I know it is important to you since Dad’s death as you look forward to eternity and speculate about relationships in heaven. It is important to me too, knowing I want to be with Janet in heaven.
It is the “Living Bible” translation – which is not a translation but a paraphrase – that renders the words “they won’t be married.” The paraphrased Living Bible takes great liberties and is quite inaccurate.
The King James Version renders it:
“For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.”
New American Standard Bible says:
“For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”
New International Version (NIV) says:
“When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”
No reputable translation translates this in a way to deny there are people continuing in love with earthly spouses. The original Greek language says there is no giving or taking in marriage. In other words, there will be no weddings in heaven.
Interestingly it says that before the flood the people were “marrying and giving in marriage” until the flood came. But after the flood Noah and his wife in the ark were still married :-)
There will be male and female distinctions in heaven. Jesus appeared as male after his resurrection. Mary is seen in heaven as a woman (Revelation 12:1). Marriage will be known in heaven since the Church is the Bride and there will be the great marriage in heaven with Jesus the Bridegroom and the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).
The Pharisees set up a trap for Jesus in Mark 12:18-27. They propose a situation with seven brothers. The first marries a wife and dies with no children. The second brother “takes” the woman to procreate children for his brother. This was the law of the Jews — a brother must take the wife of his dead brother to preserve his brother’s name in the land by propagating offspring for him with his widow.) This happens seven times. Who’s wife will she be in heaven.
The woman who was the wife of the seven brothers did not marry the seven brothers. She married the first and was given to the six in order to procreate children in the name of the first. All their children would be credited to her first husband who was her true love and spouse.
Jesus is not intending to teach on relationships in heaven but he is refuting the Sadducces’ denial of the existence of angels and the resurrection. He is cleverly eluding their question and in no way denies husbands and wives will know and love each other in heaven. This is not a treatise on relationships in heaven but a clever response to his opponents about the existence of the supernatural world.
The purpose for marriage was companionship and procreation. The propagation of children and the population of the earth was God’s plan for marriage on earth. The meeting of sperm and egg will not be needed in heaven.”Marital love” to produce children will not happen in heaven so marriage in that sense will not exist. But that does not eliminate the continuance of earthly relationship.
We will recognize each other in heaven just as the three disciples recognized Moses and Elijah on the mount of Transfiguration and John recognized Mary in heaven (Rev 12:1).
Family and matrimony are very important in Scripture and the way God fashioned the universe and created man and woman to be one flesh. There must be spiritual discernment here. The reason why the Jews buried family members together is because they will rest together in heaven. There is a spiritual permanence to family. And an extraordinarily strong spiritual permanence to matrimony. This is why it is described as “one flesh”.
We will not know and love less in heaven – we will know and love more. And can we comprehend that God would command us to love each other down here and would expect us to forget or deny that love in heaven?
Nothing in Scripture leads us to believe that relationships between spouses will be eliminated. There is every reason to believe relations will be maintained in heaven though for different reasons – enhanced reasons which we will understand when we get there.
We cannot understand our new spiritual bodies and heavenly existence any more than a caterpillar can comprehend what it will be like to be a butterfly. We cannot anticipate how personal relationships will flower in glory any more than acorn can anticipate standing 50 feet tall.
I’m convinced you and dad will have a wonderful and much better relationship. It will be different. We cannot even comprehend how much better or more in love we’ll be with our spouses, any more than an unborn baby can speculate about the taste of a delicious steak dinner.
Referring to Jesus’ words J. Vernon McGee writes, “This doesn’t mean that a man and a woman who were together down here can’t be together in heaven. They won’t be together as man and wife. They are not establishing a home up there, nor are they raising children. That’s the thing that He’s saying to them here.”
Marriage is an earthly word to serve an earthly purpose. Marital relationships, on the other hand, will transcend time because love is forever. Faith and hope will pass away but love will never pass away (1 Cor 13:13).
Dad is sitting in his favorite chair having coffee with Our Lord Jesus waiting for you to arrive to love you better than ever before. In the meantime he is praying for you and very intent on your we’ll being.
(Thanks to De Maria for suggestions and insights which I have included)