November 3, 2007

Marriage in heaven? Opinions vary.

Assuming heaven, how can there be marriage in heaven? If you had the power to design heaven, would you have everyone eternally married to whomever they happened to be married on earth?
Q: Billy Graham recently said that he expects to be with his wife in heaven, but I have seen where other so-called Bible experts say that we will not really know each other in heaven. I have always felt that my husband and I will be together forever, and it upsets me greatly when I hear something like this....
The questioner seeks a Christian answer, and the theologian who answers the question gives a complicated and hedging answer, but it includes this quote from Jesus: "At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” (Matthew 22:30.) I can see not wanting to upset the nice woman, but shouldn't she have to give up either her dream of eternal marriage or Jesus?

Or does it depend on what the meaning of "will" will be? Jesus spoke in the future tense, so maybe all that means is that you can't get married in heaven, but if you are already married, it will continue. That really doesn't seem fair to those who die without finding the perfect mate. If you knew eternal marriage was the rule, what would be the better strategy in life: trying very hard to find someone suitable for a really longterm relationship or resisting marrying anyone out of fear that things would eventually go awry?

I'm not attempting to do theology here. I'm just wondering why people are so eager to believe something that would not be good.

And excuse me for using the word "whomever" up there. I know it's a made up word to trick students.

46 comments:

Ron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron said...

again: Why would it necessarily not be good?

Jennifer said...

I've always wondered about this myself. I realize this is the question of a child. But, I'm still curious. What would happen if you lost your spouse and remarried? Presumably, you would love both. What happens when you're all dead and in heaven?

And, separately, why would we presume that we would maintain all of our memories and experiences from our flesh-borne existence?

John Kindley said...

"I'm not attempting to do theology here."

I'll try my hand at a little theology, or at least philosophy -- specifically Platonic philosophy, and more specifically Diotima's speech to Socrates as recorded in Plato's Symposium.

Seems to me everything you like about your mate, and indeed about any potential mate, is found pre-eminently in God. Indeed, the very essence of your mate's existence, i.e. his or her very existence, exists pre-eminently in God. We all participate in the Be-ing that is God, in whom we live and move and have our being. Everything that your mate is exists in God, as does everything else that is beautiful and good in the universe, so why not "choose All," in the words of some saint whose name escapes me, when such choosing is the condition of Heaven, and when by such choosing you have not lost anything that is your mate?

Ron said...

Perhaps it's some Sartrean hell!

rhhardin said...

Rilke Duino Elegy X (original version)

Far too much you belong to grief. If you could forget her--
even the least of these figures so infinitely pained--
you would call down, shout down, hoping they might still be curious,
one of the angels (those beings unmighty in grief)
who, as his face darkened, would try again and again
to describe the way you kept sobbing, long ago, for her.
Angel, what was it like? And he would imitate you and never
understand that it was pain, as after a calling bird
one tries to repeat the innocent voice it is filled with.

Robert Holmgren said...

What if you and your spouse had a touch and go relationship and you're sent off to heaven. Heaven might not seem quite what was expected if you're eternally linked in the afterlife. On the other hand, the atmospherics might induce a more pleasant outcome. Then there is the matter of reuniting the widow and widower after one or the other consumated a second earthly marriage. Perhaps the Mormon's of yesterday anticipated this turn of events.

matthew said...

On their way to get married, a young Catholic couple was
involved in a fatal car accident. The couple found themselves sitting
outside the Pearly Gates waiting for St. Peter to process them into
Heaven. While waiting, they began to wonder....Could they possibly get
married in Heaven?

When St. Peter arrived they asked him if they could get married in heaven.
St. Peter said, "I don't know. This is the first time anyone has asked.
Let me go find out," and he left.

The couple sat and waited for an answer... for a couple of months.
While they waited, they discussed the pros and cons. If they
were allowed to get married in Heaven, should they go ahead with it,
what with the eternal aspect of it all? "What if it doesn't work out?
Are we stuck in Heaven together forever?"

Another month passed. St. Peter finally returned, looking somewhat bedraggled.
"Yes," he informed the couple, "You can get married in Heaven."

"Great!" said the couple. "But we were just wondering; what if
things don't work out? Could we also get a divorce in Heaven?"

St. Peter, red-faced with anger, slammed his clipboard on the ground.
"What's wrong?" asked the frightened couple.

"OH, COME ON!!!" St. Peter shouted.
"It took me 3 months to find a priest up here!
Do you have ANY idea how long it'll take to find a lawyer???"

Bissage said...

Don’t know about spouses but it’s well-established that we’ll have to leave some things behind when we shed our mortal coil.

That's an abiding truth that cannot be impressed upon our minds too soon.

Christy said...

Great story, Matthew.

Rather a progressive POV from Jesus, don't you think. "[W]ill neither marry or be given in marriage" recognizes that marriage was then a business contract between parents, not a love match.

Philip Jose Farmer has an interesting take on this in his Riverworld series. In the first, To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Captain Sir Richard Frances Burton ends up with Samuel Clemens wife, or vice versa, I forget which. Would Charles Dodgson have loved the adult Alice Liddell?

Lavinia Grace said...

I do genealogy, and search along with some LDS cousins for a long lost great uncle. He and his wife (their ancestor) divorced and she remarried twice more. I asked my cousin how the reconciliation in heaven would work -- after all, we have here one divorce and two more husbands.
She looked at me and laughed, and explained, "It's HEAVEN. It all works." And somehow I knew for a believer what heaven really is -- perfect and not something we earthlings could possibly understand.
'nuff said.

AJ Lynch said...

Did anyone see the idiotic news story the other day? It reported on some loon who claimed "someone who is alive today will live to be 1,000 years old". Of course, that spurred the following questions:

Yikes, how many years would you have to work? You could have a good marriage but was that good enough to last 1,000 years? Would crime go up or down when a murderer was facing a life sentence of hundred of years? And jeez if we thought social security was in trouble today, how broke would it be when one was collecting benefits for (?) hundreds of years?

Jeff with one 'f' said...

Don't worry. Ann, when you go to Heaven you won't find yourself re-married to your ex.

You will, however, find yourself in the company of many happily deceased men wearing shorts for a very comfortable eternity!

Balfegor said...

Re: Christy:

Rather a progressive POV from Jesus, don't you think. "[W]ill neither marry or be given in marriage" recognizes that marriage was then a business contract between parents, not a love match.

How . . . how is this progressive? Isn't that just the conventional understanding of marriage across myriads of cultures for thousands of years? I mean, isn't that why families paid, you know. Dowries and brideprices?

On the main topic, shouldn't the words "until death do you part" in the traditional marriage vows have given the questioner a hint that maybe her marriage wouldn't last beyond death?

Balfegor said...

And for that matter, don't traditional Anglican ceremonies have that bit where the priest asks who gives this woman to be wedded?

I'm just not seeing how this is progressive. It is, in fact, the foundation of Western marriage traditions. It's like anti-progressive. The polar opposite.

Trooper York said...

Everyone is trying to get to the bar.
The name of the bar, the bar is called Heaven.
The band in Heaven plays my favorite song.
They play it once again, they play it all night long.

Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.
Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.

There is a party, everyone is there.
Everyone will leave at exactly the same time.
Its hard to imagine that nothing at all
could be so exciting, and so much fun.

Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.
Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.

When this kiss is over it will start again.
It will not be any different, it will be exactly
the same.
It's hard to imagine that nothing at all
could be so exciting, could be so much fun.

Heaven is a place where nothing every happens.
Heaven is a place where nothing every happens
(Heaven,Talking Heads)
(They had a very messy divorce)

Pogo said...

The answer is likely yes ...and no.
Applying an understanding based on the rules of the world to an incomprehensible heaven seems to me a naive conceit.

It's much like a young child asking to be reassured that when they are grown up they can still live with you at home. The truth is beyond their ken, so you take pity and say yes.

George said...

Hellbound?

"Graham Worries Heaven Might Be Wrong Place For Him"

rhhardin said...

Actually, from the point of view of religion as the poeticization of ethics, heaven is the result of something happening.

So the idea that nothing happens in heaven is more of a logical constraint, which is to say not a real constraint. Otherwise expressed, nothing happens is interchangeable with eternal. So it's where you go when nothing happens any longer.

It's a figure for a common experience, of being in heaven over something.

Say you're in love.

Trooper York said...

We swear it on the bible
If wanted on the Koran
It's always good for trouble
To have a holy ghost

We have made the decision
There is forgiveness, if you need
But this is not in this world
You have to wait and wait

There is no - no other way
You can't just believe what you want
No other way - no no
You can read it in the book, what's good or bad

Heaven is there where hell is
And hell is down on earth, oh yes it is
Heaven is there where hell is
And hell is down on earth, oh yeah

You shouldn't kill your brother
Except if he doesn't know what's right
If he can't love your heaven
Ah, it's a mercy for him to die

And that it's so much better
Than to live without redemption
This is easy to do so
And you can read how it works

All you need - is the holy ghost
Oh, he will comfort you
No other way - no no
That's how they're cheating you
And make believe what's good or bad

Heaven is there where hell is
And hell is down on earth, is it heaven or hell
Heaven is there where hell is
And hell is down on earth

Down on earth, oh yes it is
Is it heaven or hell

I'm sure we all know them
Those perverts, they're everywhere
Mmh, we're talking straight about facts
You know deep inside what's right or wrong
And the world stinks, and the paradise is now a sewer
And they sell shit for gold
And you have to take what you've got

Heaven is never in heaven -
and hell is down on earth
Heaven is there where hell is -
and hell is down on earth
Hahaha, heaven is never in heaven -
and hell is down on earth
Heaven is there where hell is -
and hell is down on earth
Heaven is never in heaven -
and hell is down on earth
Heaven is there where hell is -
and hell is down on earth
Hahahaha

Heaven is there where hell is
And hell is down on earth, oh yes it is
Heaven is there where hell is
And hell is down on earth
Oh, don't you think that heaven is there where hell is
And hell is down on earth, tell me is it heaven or hell
Heaven is there where hell is
And heaven is down on earth, hahaha
(Accept 1999)

Palladian said...

Forget marriage in heaven... every day is Christmas in Heaven!

Fen said...

If there is indeed a "heaven", it is beyond our understanding. Try to imagine a new color. The concepts of human relationships and marriage will be irrelevant.

Finn Kristiansen said...

I think commentor Kindley (7:07am) puts us in the right direction.

So many of the things that we find enjoyable on earth, whether found in a spouse, the smile on a child's face, a great meal, a beautiful red sky setting over NYC, those are supposed to be mere indications of all that is a part of God and his yet hidden creations.

And in the way that a toddler first sips soda, and licks his lips, wild eyed and wanting more, that is our life here. But we never realize, mere children, that the soda is just one bad example of a cornucopia of taste delights that we will learn to appreciate and enjoy as we grow (unless we live in Appalachia).

So too marriage becomes the small sip of something more joyous that God will put to us later.

By all indications from scripture, we won't marry. But that does not necessarily preclude God from changing his mind, or devising a different method, or us having no desire to marry anyway.

It's just on earth we cannot imagine not having our spouse as spouse there, or that there is something really greater than what is found in marriage.

All those feelings and warmth and comfort we get from marriage, the loyalty and trust, we will get from everyone, which each person's personality putting a slightly different overlay to the love dispensed.

God, in theory, is love. And marriage was his object lesson in how close our relationship can be to him.

Chip Ahoy said...

This is similar to one of the questions the cadets from the temple would attempt to hound Jesus. It's an old Hebrew chestnut, the sort of thing regarding Mosaic law they liked to hash out concerning unions made in the material world translated into spiritual unions. Since then the church became complicit in this unfortunate likening of human associations with divine associations by dragging God into human marriage by making it one of the sacraments. The cadets questioned Jesus, "But whose wife would she be?" [in the afterlife, having lost a husband without issue then taken the brother as husband, according to Mosaic law, and then then next brother and then next and so on through 7 brothers, it's actually a very long question so one can see it coming a mile away] The master answers, "You error in your questioning because you understand not the kingdom of the father. I keep telling you in the kingdom of heaven there is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither man nor woman " Then he went on to elaborate because his followers were never satisfied. I have pity for Carol's confused ideas about the kingdom of God, a present reality, a future hope, a transcendental kingdom of supernatural origin, and the confusion resulting naturally from a religion developing around the personality of Jesus. Does Carol see this life as akin to the kindergarden of her spiritual existence? She has an eternity of post graduate work. If heaven is so perfect as supposed, individuals should find themselves well matched when mustered into spiritual corps.

Maxine Weiss said...

"Attendees are required to email"

Newsflash: Nobody tells Maxine Weiss what to do, or how to do it.

If Althouse won't accept an RSVP right here in this Comments Section....then it's her loss.

I don't know about anyone else, but I won't be manipulated into sending an email to someone that I otherwise have absolutely no relationship to.

If Althouse can't communicate all the relevent information, time, locations etc--- through these comments...that's her problem!

Love,
Maxine

Chris said...

"Jesus spoke in the future tense, so maybe all that means is that you can't get married in heaven, but if you are already married, it will continue."

No, the context is a question about someone who had been married to several people who had each died. So current marriages don't continue after the resurrection.

Bissage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bissage said...

(1) We were all talking about the highbrowtitude (or not) of Diane Keaton here but I couldn’t think of a good enough introduction to link to this movie so I’m doing it right here, right now. Good enough introductions be damned!

(2) And I can’t think of any good introduction to link to this song but I’m doing it anyway because I’ve got a home on high and I ain’t nothing but a stranger in this world.

(3) Can you believe there’s not one cruddy video on the entire internet of Van Morrison singing Astral Weeks?!

(4) But if you Google “ecstasy” you get a gazillion links for some kind of medicine or something. Boy oh boy, kids these days!

Bissage said...

Maxine, your 12:58 was actually pretty funny!

Christy said...

Balfegor, I'll admit my brain wasn't operating on all cylinders this morning (I had to rework a Sudoku twice that I normally do quickly,) but I thought I was saying that Jesus recognized that spending eternity with someone picked out by the parents would not always a heaven make. By progressive, I meant that heaven wouldn't be bound by the traditions of millennia.

And how absurd is it that, as a non-believer, I'm even participating in this discussion?

Eli Blake said...

I AM married for time and all eternity!

I'm a Mormon, and our church is very clear that this can be done, so long as it is the spouse that we take here on this earth and make the commitment to here. The meaning of the scripture quoted is that people cannot be GIVEN in marriage in heaven, but if they are sealed on earth in an eternal ceremony they remain sealed in Heaven (Ephesians 1:13)

Tim Sisk said...

I am a pastor though I wouldn't claim to be a theologian despite my advanced degree in theology. I would say talking about heaven is much like two acorns trying to conceive what life will be like as a tree. They know it will be wonderful, but can't imagine how different their perspective will be because they can't imagine how different they will be themselves.

Maxine Weiss said...

I can assure you all---if you ever get a letter from me it will be on my own personal monogrammed, freesia-scented stationery, writtin in my beautiful sloping cursive.

Email is not my thing.

Maxine Weiss said...

Actually, I still enjoy sending Telegrams.

The romantic urgency of wiring my harried scrawl over land and sea....as my intended breathlessly devours each word....

Now that's what I call a classic form of communication.

Balfegor said...

Re: Christy:

And how absurd is it that, as a non-believer, I'm even participating in this discussion?

Pish posh! I'm an atheist myself.

Re: Maxine:

Actually, I still enjoy sending Telegrams.

Ah, the venerable telegram. I remember my alma mater informed me of my acceptance by telegram. Never sent one myself, but it's nice to know they're still around.

Blake said...

Balfegor,

I don't think telgrams are still around, are they? This link suggests not.

Blake said...

An alternate view, from Loudon Wainwright III:

There'll be lots of drinking in heaven
Smoking and eating and sex
What you didn't do in this life bad for you
Will be totally cool in the next

In heaven there'll be beer for breakfast
At lunch its sangria and wine
The gazpacho for dinner
Is made with paint thinner
And the morning hereafter feels fine

Blake said...

Hmmm. So, deep down, even a lot of religious people think the purpose of marriage is to make them happy.

Steven said...

Jennifer --

What would happen if you lost your spouse and remarried?

That is, in fact, the exact question Jesus was dealing with. To quote three of the Gospels:
--------

Mark 12:
Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and put this question to him, saying, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us, 'If someone's brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.'

Now there were seven brothers. The first married a woman and died, leaving no descendants. So the second married her and died, leaving no descendants, and the third likewise. And the seven left no descendants. Last of all the woman also died. At the resurrection (when they arise) whose wife will she be? For all seven had been married to her."

Jesus said to them, "Are you not misled because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God? When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but they are like the angels in heaven."
--------

Matthew 22:
On that day Sadducees approached him, saying that there is no resurrection. They put this question to him, saying, "Teacher, Moses said, 'If a man dies without children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up descendants for his brother.'

Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died and, having no descendants, left his wife to his brother. The same happened with the second and the third, through all seven. Finally the woman died. Now at the resurrection, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had been married to her."

Jesus said to them in reply, "You are misled because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven."
--------

Luke 20:
Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to him, saying, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us, 'If someone's brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.'

Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless. Then the second and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her."

Jesus said to them, "The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage."
--------

E. Cliff said...

A proverb from the far East goes: 夫婦は二世(の契り)師弟は三世親子は一世 .

The bonds (or noose for the more cynical variation) between husband and wife are for this world and the next, those between teacher and pupil last for three worlds (usually thought to mean the previous, this, and the next), and the relationship between parent and child is of this world only.

Maxine Weiss said...

Did Instant Messanger put the Strip-o-gram out of business ?

Western Union, perhaps. But, I'm sure there are still plenty of private Messenger Services that will send out to anywhere.

Remember in Shakespeare's time?, when a message was preceded by trumpets heralding the news.

My missives certainly demand at least as much, if not more, festivity surrounding their lofty presentation.

Fondly,
Maxine

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Balfegor: Just to let you know the Catholic Church views marriage differently than other Christians. No one gives the daughter away. The priest doesn't "marry the couple." No. The bride freely gives herself to the groom and he freely gives himself to the bride. The priest or deacon merely witnesses the exchange of vows on behalf of the Church. If properly made, it is indissoluble. One more upside: the marital union [sexual] is a sacrament. Sex is holy.

Trooper York said...

This is correct. Sex is hole-ly. It the location of the hole that causes all the controversy

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Trooper: If you're looking for the offending line, it's behind you.

Finn Kristiansen said...

I think we have the answer. Extrapolating from all the comments, including Eli's (the irrelevant to marriage Ephesians 1:13 aside), Mormons, and only Mormons, will be married in heaven, but since also, the scriptures say there is no man or woman and we will be as the angels, I can only conclude that there will be same sex, or same entity marriage...AMONG THE MORMONS. Which is ironic given the stance Mormon's probably have about gay marriage on earth.

Whoda thunk it. Heaven as Mormon San Francisco.

The rest of us will be sitting about single, sipping coffee, eating organic food, taking photos of sunsets on our billion megapixel digitals and, well, calling on our cells to friends in hell to see what's up. ("It's hot, but it's actually not a dry heat" they will say from inside the oven of their own iniquity).

Unknown said...

A positive (though possibly speculative) case can be made that
male-female relationships similar to marital bonds can continue between the redeemed into the next life. This may then also imply a romantic, physical or even sexual aspect in such a relationship. This positive case is made on the rezfamilies website (go to google and search for ‘rezfamilies’, or just http://sites.google.com/site/rezfamilies/)