How are we as Christians to interpret Matthew 22:23:32 In heaven there will be no marriage

Before i start, A caveat…

i have not posted the question below in an attempt to find fault with any Biologos belief. It is a genuine question searching for a variety of views in order to hopefully find something I have not thought of before when searching for a solution to what seems to be a dilemma for Christianity. A dilemma that on the surface, appears to be at odds with our original purpose in being here on this world in the first place.

Ok to the Question…

I have long been puzzled at Jesus statement in Matthew 22 “in heaven there will be no marriage or giving in marriage”.

I find it difficult because the way in which the bible claims we came to this world was through the institution of marriage. Adam and Eve were joined as one and designed to bear children. God even told the animals to be fruitful and multiply…it would appear to me that consistency says he expected that of us as well. So why the apparent change after the redemption of man back to God in the future when the plan of salvation reaches its conclusion?

In Matthew 22, in response to a very curly question by the jewish spiritual leaders, Jesus shoots down their question with the claim that in heaven there will be neither marriage nor giving in marriage. We will simply live like the angels.

29 Jesus answered, “You are mistaken because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 In the resurrection, people will neither marry nor be given in marriage. Instead, they will be like the angelsc in heaven. 31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what God said to you: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’d? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

The theological position I take with the angels in heaven is that they do not procreate…this was an important distinction between angels and men. God made us very very special. Having said that, if we are made in the image of God, surely his desire to produce us means that procreation is an heavenly thing and not removed in the future heaven as a result of sin?

How do those according to the Biologos world view, approach this statement by Jesus in Matthew 22?

(include biblical references to support your position)

The Bible doesn’t say any such thing. It only says they do not marry. I think it is quite possible that angels can make other angels. But it seems likely they would do it in much the same way as God created them – with no males and females, let alone marriage, involved in the process.

No the distinction (from the book of Hebrews) was that angels were servants of God and human beings are the sons or children of God. And clearly this was not a matter of employment or circumstance but of their very nature.

Yes… but you have not hit on what makes us special at all. It certainly isn’t the ability to procreate. Even bacteria and worms can do that.

No… being made in the image of God does not mean that God is like us in every way. It has to do with us being God’s children. Yet God is infinite and we are finite so it is an eternal parent-child relationship – where becoming more like God is a task that takes forever.

There is no “Biologos worldview.” Biologos is just an organization founded by scientists who have embraced Christianity – seeking to explain why science and Christianity is not in conflict despite what this American cult is pushing contrary to the rest of worldwide Christianity.

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I think we miss Jesus’ point if we focus too much on marital states in the New Creation.

Look at the whole context. In v. 15-22 the Pharisees try to trap Jesus and make him look like a hypocrite. They make this strange alliance with the Herodians, a political group in favor of Roman rule and ask a question about paying tribute in front of a crowd who was probably politcally opposed to Roman rule. Jesus amazes the crowd with his answer. The point of including this was to show how Jesus skillfully handled opposition.

Then in v. 23, the Sadducees (the Jewish political party that was always fighting with the Pharisees) comes to take a turn trying to trap Jesus with a hard question that will make him unpopular with the crowd. They didn’t even believe in the Resurrection, this hypothetical is meant to show him up. They also didn’t believe in angels. (all their beliefs came from the Penteteuch, not any other Jewish Scriptures.) They are basing this hypothetical on a strict interpretation of the Law of Moses and the point is to show that the belief in the Resurrection is stupid because it would create situations that force people to violate Mosaic Law. Jesus refuses to engage on their terms and side steps the question by pointing to the Sadducees own lack of attention to the Scriptures and then affirming the reality of what he knows they don’t believe in, the Resurrection and angels. The point of the whole response about “in Heaven there is no marriage” isn’t to teach doctrine about the after-life, it’s to let them know their question is flawed and their beleifs are wrong. Again, the crowd found this way of handling the trap they were trying to set amazing. Matthew isn’t including it so that we have some nugget of special insight about marriage in Heaven, he’s including it to show what kind of teacher Jesus was and paint the picture of increasing opposition that is going to climax in his betrayal and execution a few chapters later.

This doesn’t make any sense to me as some kind of logical premise. God did not procreate to create us and biological fertility is not part of the image of God. Lots of image bearing humans don’t have children. Why doesn’t it make sense that the adopted family of God is complete in the Eschaton? Procreation involves biological processes of physical maturation and those same processes eventually result in aging and death, which will be done away with.

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In my worldview… the physical universe is necessary for the creation of God’s children. And I do not think our resurrected spiritual bodies (1 Cor 15) are chemical or biological. I think there is still plenty of room for family relationships… but perhaps without all the hormones and biological drives of our biological nature of our physical bodies. So I think it is quite possible that some things will be significantly different. On the other hand, I think Paul and Jesus makes it clear that we can expect the resurrected spiritual body to be more capable rather than less… so I would be reluctant to conclude that there are things we are simply unable to do.

Good point. And yet simply to say that their reasoning is flawed and their understanding is wrong is to say something about the afterlife. But… it could only be to refute the restrictions implied in what the Pharisees argued rather than the addition more restrictions.

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Immortality + reproduction is a destructive combination. If you want a livable universe, you cannot have both. Think of it as a math exercise - what happens if a population reproduces with a steady rate and there are no deaths?

I believe that Jesus meant exactly what he said. There are no marriages and no reproduction after resurrection, when we are immortal. Probably no sex either. For a human living in the mortal body, it may sound boring but the sexual desire is tied to the hormonal play in the mortal body. When the mortal body dies, the sexual desires caused by hormones die.

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Supernature is propagated from nature. There can be no breeding in Heaven, or what’s Earth for?

As mentioned I don’t think he was presenting any actual insight into the restored heaven and earth. I felt he was simply poking at their rejection of the afterlife.

After all how does it align with these verses.

Isaiah 65:17-25
New American Standard Bible
New Heavens and a New Earth
17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing
And her people for gladness.
19 I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people;
And there will no longer be heard in her
The voice of weeping and the sound of crying.
20 No longer will there be in it an infant who lives only a few days,
Or an old person who does not live out his days;
For the youth will die at the age of a hundred,
And the one who does not reach the age of a hundred
Will be thought accursed.
21 They will build houses and inhabit them;
They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They will not build and another inhabit,
They will not plant and another eat;
For as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of My people,
And My chosen ones will fully enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They will not labor in vain,
Or give birth to children for disaster;
For they are the descendants of those blessed by the Lord,
And their descendants with them.
24 It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will listen. 25 The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will do no evil or harm on all My holy mountain,” says the Lord.

Those verses mention procreation and even death on a restored new heaven and earth.

We read other verses that imply eating and drinking with Jesus. Does that mean plants will keep growing. Will they be pollinated by immortal butterflies? Will all mushrooms disappear or will they still be around? Tons of questions that are just not answered.

So as far as I know the Torah never says anything about the restored world and sex in the afterlife. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection and only read the first five books. So when they asked the question, he gave an answer that went against what it says in a book outside of that.

So they could either agree with him because they did not believe in marriage in the afterlife either since they reject it all together and they could not disagree with him because they did bit accept the verses from Isaiah.

But nothing there has anything to do with actual afterlife doctrine.

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You aren’t alone being troubled by this ‘characterization’ of afterlife. I’ve heard other friends puzzle over this one, wondering what it could mean. And Christy already gave a good answer above about how we are misguided to try to use this particular passage in that direction. I.e. - wondering about the status of marital relationship in the fully realized eschaton - the Kingdom finally and fully come.

I think we do have other scriptural insight available (which I will not attempt to marshal here for the purpose of this post - I think any adept Bible reader will recognize the scriptural themes present, and their multiple points of contact - mainly from the New Testament) that does help us envision fulfilled relationship and the nature of our true selves as found in Christ. One can’t help seeing these passions expressed in writings like those of Lewis and MacDonald; whose hopes and visions of some of this I find quite contagious and surely a shadow or foretaste of something quite heavenly that is worth all pursuit, or that we could think of as the treasure for which we sacrifice all other treasures. I think the question some have about marriage could have at least a beginning of an answer in these sorts of visions. [warning: some adult marital themes may be used in the following.]

So let’s look at the theme of that final heavenly banquet feast - already quite an image invoking a whole lot of our present physical needs for sustenance; will we really be needing physical sustenance from harvests and to partake of flesh from killed animals when we are fully clothed in such new bodies as we are given? I think not - and yet our pleasure and ‘rightness’ in having and sharing such sustenance with each other now is what we have as a kind of downpayment, a kind of mental ‘handle’ given to help us begin to know a character of hope: do you see how much you long for all this? All this will pass away, but that same sort of longing and satisfaction will find its fulfillment in something - someone - the true bread that is so much higher. And what is true of food, will be true of every good provision we are meant to enjoy in this life, and what higher provision are we given than our relationships with others, culminating in Christ? So for those curious or apprehensive about marriage - first of all; if you’re worried that a good thing will have suddenly disappeared, then be assured that scriptures seem (I think do) show us quite the opposite: not only will there be marriage, but it will finally be realized in its highest and best form: the marriage feast of the Lamb. Our earthly marriages (to the extent that we enjoy good in those) are foretastes of something to come. And the bad parts of those - the abusive parts, hateful parts, broken relationships etc - all of those things will be the banished residue of true love gone bad - or failure to materialize in the first place. But all such failure doesn’t negate the truth of something we sensed at some point that we deemed worth chasing after, even if we chased after faulty copies of it. I think even our earthly sex lives show this, and show it well. Those of us fortunate enough to have tasted of good and strong love know that one doesn’t (in matured love) simply love their beloved because of the shape and substance of their physical body. In true love one doesn’t love a person because of their body, but one loves that body because it belongs to that person - your beloved. For 99% of us the body won’t be something particularly always ideal as some sort of attractor in its own right - and for the 1% that may have such temporary cultural worship of that sort - they won’t be having it for long. They will only have it for a very short window of their lives, and the poverty of such “love” is revealed to be its very antithesis, a lack of love that is yet in desperate want of the real thing. Marriages that remain based in mere carnality turn out not to be lasting marriages unless they can quickly find their better footing in deeper relationship and real love, not love of objects or objectified bodies.

And here is where some of the worry also intrudes: we have these worries about an afterlife which, in some imaginations is reduced to a dreary “forever” in which we imagine our earthly lives (and marriages) complete with our faults, foibles, impatience, boredoms and such all get magnified out for us in what might seem to be then a horrifying eternity (the whole ‘I wish I’d at least brought a magazine’ meme showing the bored robed figure standing on a cloud.) But this is to confuse our present wants and needs (including our present marriages - and their earthly, often but not always pro-creative purpose) with eternal pre-occupation. I do happen to think that we are given a foretaste of our eternal preoccupation, but that will be in the best of our relationships - all of them - and restored and reconciled forms of ones broken; and who knows - but an infinite variety of new ones to be had! And the jealous possessiveness we now are constrained by in our present mortal frames with their zero-sum, O-so-finite reservoirs of energy and attention will no longer be a limitation. In Christ, all will “possess” all - though there will be no such thing as possession; why would that even be needed? Perhaps for some this initially might sound more like hell - a hardened or embittered recluse from humanity may want nothing more than peace, quite, seclusion, and the like. And fine! Who among us doesn’t also rejoice in solitude for whatever seasons of need. But I’m also pretty certain that the most jaded recluse has had something early in their human experience that caused them such recoil, and that when that something gets a taste of healing and reconciliation, their spirit will rise again to rejoice in restored relationship as was always intended, and to revel in what it was so long denied. I think all of this vision is found in Christ as we are drawn closer together by being drawn toward him. It isn’t about the merely carnal aspect of our marriage appetites here and now, though even that is an echo of something good when it has its footing on real and lasting love rather than the mere carnality of it. And while I know some of the great authors like to see this world as a mere disposable sacrifice for the real one to come after, I’m not sure that is even the best or scriptural way to see it - though I acknowledge they have quite a reservoire of passages that speak in such ways - I can see where they draw that view from. But there is something unhealthy about “writing off” this present creation in favor of a new one. Yes - it is true that for many among the bitter or suffering, this present life, such as it is for them already got ‘written off’ by the circumstances forced on them - blessings robbed from them by evil. And I’m not about to begrudge them their hope in something better - something eternal. Lazarus languishing on the rich man’s doorstep won’t finally be denied his only hope. What I’m saying is that if we who have at least some token of blessing to be thankful for, if we take Paul’s language too far and think we can just “write off” our present temples (bodies) and our present creation around us, then we’ve already failed any such test as may concern something better later. He who is not faithful with some small and temporary bit of blessing or ‘riches’ here and now - how could they then be trustworthy with greater riches later? This isn’t a testing ground to see if we can dispose of it to greedily move on to something better. It’s a training ground to help us appreciate the possiblities of what all those better riches could be! And I think our relationships with each other - marriage relationship, familial relationships, intimate friendships, even rivals and enemies! - all of those should be helping us see the possibilities of what could be, and should spur us to working toward cultivating all of it here and now - leaving our ‘gifts’ at the altar as we turn instead to pursue, repair, and cultivate relationship that will finally be fully realized in a heavenly vision in God’s presence. That is, I believe and hope, what Christ has on offer for us, and that is a vision worth holding to.

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Lord God, hear my plea! If there’s to be procreation in the world to come, O God! let the menfolk have their turn! For all eternity. Once was more than enough for me.

@adamjedgar, to add to the excellent points above, in Genesis 1:28 Adam and Eve received these commands:

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

# Current World Population (approx. 2022/12/14, 08:11 EST)
8,005,353,586

If this is the purpose of being given in marriage (and I think it is), the roll of marriage to fulfill this command has been completed. The job has been more than done. Yet people keep making more.

Haven’t women’s bodies been burdened and worn enough already? To think of bearing children through all eternity makes eternity feel unbearable. After the birth of my only bio-child, I felt despair in the (nice modern, clean, comfortable) delivery room (where I received the benefits of an epidural, good care, more than adequate food and outstanding care for my daughter). “Good God! Only one?! To get more I have to go through this all over again?!” I praise God for my then completed infertility. Adoption is a blessing not only to the child but the parents, particularly the mother.

In Hebrews 4:9-11 we have assurance of rest for the people of God. There is no rest in pregnancy or labor.

9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. 11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

While I see no purpose in continuing procreation in heaven, I see it as a horrible, eternal burden for those who do the bearing. Let us enjoy the Sabbath that God has for his people.

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Interpreting the descriptions about life in the future Kingdom of God is tied to our interpretation of what happens in the future.

Those who believe that the second coming of Jesus is followed by a 1000-year long peaceful time on Earth connect the descriptions to this kingdom and time period, the time between the first and second resurrections. Is it exactly 1000 years or some other long time period, that is not crucial. The point is that until the final judgement, there will be reproduction and death on this planet, even in the 1000-year long kingdom where Jesus will be the King.

Those who do not believe that the 1000-year long kingdom on Earth will happen have a harder time to interpret the descriptions about the life in the kingdom. If these descriptions are positioned to the time after the final judgement, we end up with all sorts of problems.

I just look at it like this. They don’t know. None of them really know. If they did, they would have presented it in a non ambiguous highly symbolic way. The prophets in the OT did not know and if a Jesus did know, it was not relevant to his answer. Neither one was speaking about actual doctrine or a snapshot of the future .

thank you so much for this, what a great passage of scripture that addresses this issue directly.

food for thought.

A very valid perspective Kendel.

A good point about the population of the earth…be fruitful and multiply in order to attain a populated earth certainly does make sense. Having said that, if all of this command pointed to something that was before the documented fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden, how did God plan on “culling the numbers” once population had been achieved? Was God planning on killing off or are we falling into the trap of predestination in that God intentionally meant for Adam and Eve to sin as a population control mechanism (this would be theological heresy for sure and the saints would come in screening at any inference of such a thing)

On your final point about childbirth,
I would make the observation, childbearing before the fall of man was not a burden for women…the bible very clearly narrates that pain in child birth would be a direct consequence of sin. It definitely is identified as an after sin consequence in the Genesis account.

All good thoughts though, and that is the purpose of my question…to glean as many different thoughts on this as I can find. All of what I have read so far has been very enlightening.

My personal take on heaven is that we are in for surprises that will fulfill scripture in ways we are now totally incapable of imagining! In Flatland 2d square cannot understand or imagine 3d. I think trying to understand what God has allowed us to see of the future is critical to our living well in time, but I suspect my ability to see that truth is severely limited ( by God ‘s design) I have to accept there’s more to God’s future for us than we can even imagine. Great is our Father God

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It is speaking of heaven AND earth. And Paul says the resurrected bodies are not of the earth. So yes life and having children will continue in the new earth but not in heaven where biology clearly no longer applies. After all, lions are biologically incapable of eating straw.

The visions were not provided with time stamps. The prophet did not know whether the promised peace would come after 10, 100, 1000 or 10000 years. What we can do is to put the different events in a relative order. C comes after B that comes after A. The order is necessarily an interpretation, sometimes unsure but we can deduce the order of some of the described events with some confidence.

The second coming of Jesus happens before the final judgement. What is the time interval between these two events is unsure, Revelation suggests that it might be >1000 years. After Jesus arrives on Earth, he will establish a kingdom. It is possible, even likely, that some of the visions or messages of prophets tell about this time period.

It is also likely that the descriptions of the future peace on Earth include symbolic images. Wolf grazing with a lamb is a mental picture that can be understood as a symbolic image, not a statement about the biology of wolves. In theory, it could be possible that wolves and lions would turn to grazers but that would demand heavy genetic manipulation. Would wolves and lions be the same species after that?
By the way, the subspecies of lions that lived in the Mediterranean area has disappeared, total extinction. A mental picture where (extinct) lions eat straw in the area of Israel is probably just a symbolic picture, not biological reality.

What we do not know is what happens after the final judgement. Revelation includes a short description of events after the judgement but the description could be symbolic language. Those of us who will experience it will see it when it is reality. Now we have so few hints that we can hardly even speculate.

Sure. But it never says that humans go up to heaven. It says heaven , the holy Jerusalem, comes down to earth. The verses i posted and the verses from revelation each mentioned heaven and earth. They are both about breaking free of exile. Isaiah was about coming through exile and revelation is about coming through Roman exiles and persecution.

Not in the Old Testament but in the New Testament including the words of Jesus, it certainly does.

I don’t think so. The kingdom of God comes to the earth. But earth and heaven do not become one and the same thing. It is a new heaven AND a new earth precisely because there are both. The earth is a womb for the creation of God’s children, but the spiritual heavens is the greater reality.

I found the podcast series on heaven and earth by Tim Mackie very beneficial. But never said it’s the same thing, said they overlap.

But nothing says humans go to heaven.

This is the course. When I did it it was a workbook. But there are several hours worth of podcasts associated with it .

Incorrect. It is true that the primary focus is eternal life and the kingdom of God (which by the Lord’s prayer will be on earth as it is in heaven). But the kingdom of heaven is also spoken of and going to heaven is also a part of Jesus’ teaching as well.

John 14:2-3 Jesus goes to prepare a place in the house of God and Jesus promises to come back to bring us there. And Acts 1:11 says clearly that where Jesus went is to heaven.

Philippians 3:20-21 our citizenship is in heaven and we only wait the transformation to be like Jesus.

1 Corinthians 15 the resurrected body is of heaven and not of the earth.

Luke 15 describes the angels carrying Lazarus away to some place else even if it doesn’t mention heaven by name.

Luke 23:43 Jesus says to one of the men hanging next to him that today he will be with Jesus in paradise.

2 Kings 2 specifically says Elijah was taken to heaven. So it is not even completely true that this is absent from the Old Testament.

But of course the Bible never says that all humans go to heaven when they die, because that wouldn’t be true… would it?

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