Will there be marriage in heaven?
But not the kind that usually comes to mind. Let us explain.
A Frenzied Debate
The religious scene of Jesus’s day was a diverse mash of language, politics, and theology. Groups included Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Essenes, Hellenists, and more. The two most powerful of these parties were, of course, the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
The Pharisees, the majority party, represented the common man and stood for Jewish purity. They layered massive numbers of religious rules to protect the heritage they loved. One might assume that this personal austerity led to dull theological reflection, but quite the opposite is true. The Pharisees were fascinated by the supernatural: angels, demons, and the afterlife were all subjects of great speculation. They had even concluded that the joys of marriage continued beyond the grave for God’s faithful people.
The Sadducees were altogether different. Though fewer in number, they wielded far greater political clout. They were also cynics, openly scoffing at Pharisaical fantasies of the afterlife. The Law, they claimed, nowhere promises life beyond the grave much less marital bliss. And so, debates raged between the two parties with at least one of them landing at the feet of Jesus.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke each record the event (in chapters 22, 12, and 20, respectively). The Sadducees took the initiative, coming to Jesus with a schoolboy question: If a woman is widowed and remarried multiple times (up to seven times in their example), to whom will she be married in the resurrection? The question, of course, is disingenuous. The Sadducees are attempting to undercut the Pharisees’ view of the resurrection by pointing to its logical absurdities. It seems they fully expected Jesus to agree with something like the following, “As your question so vividly illustrates, something that convoluted could never exist.”
Jesus, of course, says nothing of the sort. His bluntness was as startling to them as it is to the modern reader: “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:29-30). If the Sadducees had simply meditated on one of their favorite passages, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Matthew 22:32; see Exodus 3:6), they would have realized that God is the God of the living, not of the dead.
As for the Pharisees listening in, they too stood condemned. The Pharisees were wrong about the nature of the resurrection — men and women will not be married in heaven. And the Sadducees were wrong about the fact of the resurrection — there will, in fact, be a resurrection.
Now, let’s go back now to the opening question of this article, “Will there be marriage in heaven?” We answered, “yes.”
How is it that there will be marriage in heaven when Jesus seems to deny it categorically in Matthew 22? Let’s answer that question inductively with three points.
A Doctrine Explained
First, Jesus refers to Himself as “the Groom.” In Matthew 9:15, while answering a question about fasting, Jesus says that his disciples do not fast because he, the Groom, is with them (see also Mark 2:19-20).
Second, in heaven, there is a wedding for Jesus, the Groom, the Lamb of God: “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure” (Revelation 19:7ff). Jesus, the Groom, holds a wedding feast in heaven for Himself. But, that raises an important question: Who is this Bride to be given to the Lamb? That question brings us to our third point.
The Bride of Christ is the collected people of God from every age: “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:2-3).
Putting these points together, we can conclude that in the eternal state, the saints will not marry one another for they will already have another, the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. There is one marriage in heaven, the people of God given to the Lamb of God.
Conclusion for Utah’s LDS Context
Much like the Judaism of Jesus’s days, the LDS Church is both right and wrong. The LDS Church is right to teach that there is an eternal existence beyond the grave. But, when the LDS Church begins to assert Celestial Marriage, Exaltation, or Divine Progression, they are in grave error.
Joseph Smith, for example, says that Temple Marriage qualifies a person to become a god:
And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant …. Then shall they become gods, because they have no end; therefore they shall be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then they shall be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then they shall be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them. (Doctrines and Covenants 132:19-20)
God, for His part, disagrees. “I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:5-6).
If you’re a born-again Christian reading this, please memorize Isaiah 45:5-6. It is a passage that needs to be lovingly shared with every Latter-day Saint.
But if you’re a Latter-day Saint reading this article, I would first like to say thank you for making it to the end. I would beg you not to get angry with these words; I would beg you to try to make sense of it all. Compare Isaiah 45:5-6 with D&C 132:19-20 from your own Quad. Go deep into LDS explanations to see if you can reconcile them. Take a journey of personal discovery – go on a truth quest. God promises, if you do, you’ll find it. God wants His truth to be found (Isaiah 45:18-19).