Yesterday, I ran across the post, “Will there be nations in the new creation?” In it was the line:
My instinctive reaction is to say that if we will not marry or be given in marriage at the resurrection, surely nations will be a thing of the past as well.
I wanted to revisit this idea simply because I wrestle with this, and I suspect there are other people who do too. Mostly because I love my wife dearly, and the idea of her not being my wife, and I not being her husband, in heaven, is, well… not heavenly.
The idea comes from the passage in Mark 12. The religious leaders are trying to trick Jesus. First, one group asks him the famous question about taxation and Caesar: “give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s.” Second, the Sadducees try to out-logic him with regard to the resurrection. They pose a hypothetical situation in which one woman ends up being the wife, in sequence, of seven brothers. So, in Heaven, they ask, whose wife will she be?
Jesus’ answer rumbles through to today: “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven.”
That seems to put the nail in the coffin.
Or, does it? After all, Jesus also said, just two chapters earlier in Mark 10 (speaking on divorce), “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” It seems odd that God, who makes a big deal about this commitment, would then “divorce” the two at death.
In the passage, Jesus says “will neither marry nor be given in marriage.” I may be reading into this my own personal thinking, but the whole example the Sadducees set up is very much from the viewpoint of “whose property” will the wife in question be? Who will she belong to?
I posed the question to N.T. Wright once upon a time, and his response (pointing me to his book, “The Resurrection of the Son of God”) was, briefly: the example in question was about the continued propagation of the family–and in the life to come there would be no need for further propagation. It’s not about the relationship between two people, and the Mark 10 passage seems to affirm this relationship so strongly there’s no reason to suppose it wouldn’t continue past death. (Of course, there’s sticky issues regarding people who have been married multiple times, and so a mystery to all of this.)
I write all this to simply say, if you wrestle with the idea of not having a relationship with your spouse after death, well, I don’t think the Mark 12 passage IS the nail in the coffin. God has this way of bringing “dead” things to life in greater and more real forms than ever before.