Marriage in the Resurrection

A sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. MAT 22:30


Famous teaching, apparently about marriage, but it’s not.

It’s actually about the resurrection.

It’s about what you need to do to get ready for heaven,

It’s about what you can do during life in this world so that you will be ready for eternal life in heaven when your earthly body dies

It’s about living a life in this world that unites the will and the understanding (also known as regeneration) because this conjunction cannot be done once the spirit has left the physical body.

Further support is that the passages in the Writings that refer to these passages are all speaking about the reality of life after death, not marriage!

There are three main groups among the Jews who feel threatened by the ministry of Jesus.

The chief priest and the scribes are the establishment, the bureaucracy of the Jewish church. They set the rules and enforce them. The derive a great deal of power from this and they are interested in holding on to that power. Ultimately, it is the chief priest and the scribes who demand that Jesus be crucified.

A second group is the Pharisees. They are politically conservative. They believe in the life after death, and the rule of religious law. They challenge Jesus because He brings new, upsetting interpretations to the law, but they actually have very similar views. In his youth, when he was still known as “Saul” Paul was a Pharisee.

The Sadducees, on the other hand, represent a liberal, humanistic view of the Jewish church. They don’t believe in the life after death, and everyone knows it.

So, when they start asking Jesus about the resurrection we can safely assume that this question was not a legitimate attempt to understand His new doctrine, but instead it was intended to be ridiculous so that any answer to it would also be ridiculous. It was a highly contrived “what if” question designed to complicate and confuse rather than to clarify their understanding. Their purpose was to mock Jesus, not learn, and so the Lord’s answer doesn’t really speak about marriage either, He jumps right over it to addresses the real issue behind the question – the nature of life in this world and how it affects what happens to you when facing your personal resurrection and last judgment.

He does briefly touch on the subject of marriage, but in His answer He is speaking about marriage as those people at that time conceived of it.

Husband having all legal rights of property and ownership, while the wife has none.

The wife herself as property totally governed by the husband

(There is a doctrinal reason for that: In every human being there is a will, represented by the wife, and the understanding represented by the husband. In an unregenerate human, the will has to be kept in obedience to and under the control of the truths from the Word in the understanding. This is something that represents the state of the unregenerated mind, not something that recommends a particular social system.)

A wife “owned” by her husband and treated as property without the right to inherit or own property in her own right is simply not a “marriage.” And the Lord properly states that in heaven there is no such thing as marriage as these people in this time understand it.

In heaven, the marriage between marriage is an equal partnership between minds that compliment each other and form a one, a single angel.

There is another use of the word “marriage” here, the “marriage” of good and truth in every individual human mind.

Each of us is born with our will separate and distinct from our understanding.

Since our will is corrupted by hereditary evils, this is the only way it is possible for us to survive.

We can use our understanding (conscience, rationality) to govern our corrupt will.

We can refuse to do the things we want to do because we have learned from the Word that there is a better way.

When, from conscience and because the Lord asks it of us, we control our corrupt will and act according to God’s laws, He works in secret to take away the delight of evil and replace it with the love of the opposite good.

Over time, with the Lord’ help, we build a new will, and angelic will.

This new will is filled with the loves of good things, and these good loves can be conjoined – married – to the truths we have learned from the Word.

This essential work of self-examination, reformation, and regeneration has to take place in the world of nature, the choices have to be made when they can have an effect on the vessel we are building through our free choices in this world. It can’t be done after death.

Therefore the Lord said that “they are not married or given in marriage in heaven” because He was talking about the marriage of good and truth in the human mind that takes place only in the world of nature.

Why can’t it be done after death?

The 5 Senses feed the mind because they are the only way the mind can discover the world in which it lives.

The mind then makes choices based on the things that have come in through the senses, and each of these experiences and choices causes an organic change in the structure of the brain.

Influx is according to the receiving vessel.

This is the vessel that receives influx from heaven that makes you uniquely you.

It has to be made up of things that partake of the permanence of the natural world (time and space), but that also means that it all has to take place before you die.

No deathbed repentance.

No waiting until you see if heaven is what you really thought before you commit.

Finally, the Lord directs their attention to the much larger question of the resurrection.

Remember that it was asked by the Sadducees, of whom it is said that they do not believe in the resurrection.

His answer was, “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (text).

Failure to believe in the life after death is a much larger issue than a “what if” question about marriage.

The whole concept of eternal life was a new idea to most of those people

Some believed in Hades (Greek) or sheol (Hebrew), the shadowy afterlife.

Exemplified by the witch of Endor bringing Samuel back from the afterlife to talk to Saul.

A few believed in reincarnation.

Most knew nothing at all, and so believed in nothing at all.

Because most people knew so little, He had to begin by taking them small conceptual steps. He used simple logic. God said that He was the God if Isaac and Jacob.

If they were dead, if there was no life after death, how could He be their God?

If they are aware of Him, and worship Him, they must therefore be alive.

Therefore, there must be life after death.

This simple logic, using statements of scripture that even the Sadducees had to accept, both answered those who would seek to mock and ridicule Him, and at the same time served to give a simple foundation idea about eternal life: that people live on after the death of the body.

After all, if you don’t believe that much, there’s no point in teaching the rest of the details, is there?

This famous passage has mislead people for a long time because the have failed to see that it’s not about marriage per se.

But it is telling them that the kind of marriage they had in those days would not be tolerated in heaven.

It is about the conjunction of good and truth in a sphere of freedom.

It’s also a warning to all of us. We do not know what the day and hour of our death will be. What a terrible thing to have spent a lifetime gaining the things of the world, and then lose your soul because you haven’t had time to pay attention to those things yet.

LUK 12:19 ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, [and] be merry.” ‘ 20 “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’”

First Lesson: GEN 38:6-11

Then Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. {7} But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD killed him. {8} And Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and marry her, and raise up an heir to your brother.” {9} But Onan knew that the heir would not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in to his brother’s wife, that he emitted on the ground, lest he should give an heir to his brother. {10} And the thing which he did displeased the LORD; therefore He killed him also. {11} Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, “Remain a widow in your father’s house till my son Shelah is grown.” For he said, “Lest he also die like his brothers.” And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house. Amen.

Second Lesson: MAT 22:23-33

The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, {24} saying: “Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. {25} “Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. {26} “Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. {27} “Last of all the woman died also. {28} “Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.” {29} Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. {30} “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. {31} “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, {32} ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” {33} And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. Amen.

Third Lesson: CL 41:7

Spiritual marriage is meant by the Lord’s words, that after the resurrection they are not given in marriage.

In the Gospels we read the following: …But Jesus, answering, said to them, “The children of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who shall be held worthy to attain the second age, and the resurrection from the dead, shall neither marry nor be given in marriage; nor can they die any more, for they are like the angels, and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. Moreover, that the dead rise again, even Moses showed in reference to the bush, when he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ So, then, He is not God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.” (Luke 20:27-38; cf. Matthew 22:23-32, Mark 12:18-27)

The Lord taught two things by these words. First, that a person rises again after death. And secondly, that people are not given in marriage in heaven.

He taught that a person rises again after death by saying that God is not God of the dead but of the living, and that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are still alive. So likewise in the parable about the rich man in hell and Lazarus in heaven (Luke 16:19-31).

[2] Secondly …The only kind of marriage meant here is spiritual marriage, and this clearly appears from the words that immediately follow, that they cannot die any more because they are like the angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.

By spiritual marriage, conjunction with the Lord is meant, and this is achieved on earth. And when it has been achieved on earth, it has also been achieved in heaven….

[3] To marry means to be conjoined with the Lord, and to go to a wedding means to be received into heaven by the Lord. This appears from the following references: The kingdom of heaven is like a man, a king, who arranged a wedding for his son, and sent out his servants (with invitations to a wedding). (Matthew 22:2,3, to verse 14) …Also from the book of Revelation: The time for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready…. Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. (Revelation 19:7,9) Amen.

Copyright © 1982 – 2006 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified September 27, 2009

A Vineyard on a Very Fruitful Hill


A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Mitchellville, Nov. 21, 2004

Now let me sing to my Well-beloved A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard On a very fruitful hill. (ISA 5:1)

Since the beginning of agriculture vineyards have been appreciated as one of the higher forms of farming.

It could be because of the difficulty of domesticating the grape in the first place, and then the long years of care that are required to keep the vine healthy and productive.

It could be the important role that wine has played in the development of civilization, providing both healing and refreshment while tasting good.

It could be because a well-maintained vineyard could produce a relatively high return for the amount of land dedicated to the vineyard.

In any case, for whatever reason, vineyards are an important element in many of the stories of the Old Testament (Naboth’s vineyard in 1 Kings 21, for example), and are the setting for many of the Lord’s parables in the New Testament.

In Isaiah, as was read in the first lesson, the vineyard itself is the centerpiece and symbol, being a lovely representation of how the Lord builds the church among His people.

(Isa 5:2) He dug it up and cleared out its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, And also made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes.

First, He picked a “very fruitful hill” on which to place it.

When the Lord selected the hill, the hill itself was not fruitful because it had not yet been cultivated, but in His wisdom (the wisdom of the Farmer), He could see that because of its setting and soil, that it would be fruitful with the proper care.

The human race is that “fruitful hill.” We come into the world full of hereditary evils and with minds that are tabula rasa or “blank slates.” As the Lord teaches in Matthew 13 the human mind is like a field in which He sows truth from the Word like seeds. Then, depending on how the soil has been prepared, there may be a fruitful result.

But, that fruitfulness is there only in potential at first. Much work has to be done to prepare the soil to receive the seeds, or the vines, or the olive trees. So the passage from Isaiah tells us what the Lord does to prepare the soil.

He dug it up and cleared out its stones.

In the Word, stones usually represent various forms of truth, but they can also represent falsities. We can certainly understand that a lot of the things that we pick up as children are false, so the mind of a young adult can be compared to a field that is full of rocks. The process of education is one in which we probe for the rocks – the falsities – and through some effort dig them out and move them to the side of the field.

We need to be reminded from time to time that although the decision to remove the rocks is ours, the work is actually the Lord’s.

And planted it with the choicest vine.

So when the Lord has so carefully prepared the soil, what does He plant there? “Choicest vine,” the good of faith in the spiritual church.

Some plants, like wheat and corn, are grown from seed scattered on the soil. Grapes are cultivated as plants, sometimes from cuttings, and then individually planted. While seeds represent simple truths, the vine plant represents what happens when seeds take root. An individual learns truths and thinks about them in relation to all the truths he knows. He sees how they can be applied to life, and applies them. From being truths in the abstract, when lived they become charity, the “choicest vine” which can be expected to bear good fruit.

He built a tower in its midst.

This is not just any vineyard. This one had a tower. It’s mentioned to emphasize the wealth of the owner of the vineyard, and His plan to do it right in every aspect. The function of a tower would be both symbolic and practical. It was a symbol of his wealth, and it was practical as a place to put watchmen to protect the crop.

A tower represents the interior things of truth because it is made of stone, and yet it rises up into the higher (or more interior) realms.

This is a picture of how those who first learn truth, than bring it to life as charity will then learn by doing and be elevated into interior truths – which lead to more interior uses, and so on and so on to eternity.

At least this is how it was supposed to work, this was the Divine Plan for the Lord’s church on earth. Like every plan, it needed to be tested by life, there needed to be some way to measure it to see if the result was the one that was desired.

And also made a winepress in it.

The wine press represents the examination of works as to their interior quality.

Most everyone has had the experience of eating grapes from a cluster. All the grapes look pretty much the same, so you pop them into your mouth expecting a tasty treat. But every so often you run into one that is sour, that sets your teeth on edge.

As with so many things, it’s not the outward appearance that counts, but the inner nature. And that can only be exposed through trial and temptation. So, the Lord’s vineyard must also have a winepress so that the juice can be extracted and tasted, and a judgment made of its quality.

So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes.

Grapes represent goods; goods of charity, goods of life while wild grapes represent the opposite, that is, evils of life.

To all appearances, everything was perfect. The wall, the tower, the soil, the location, and the plants. And yet when it came time to test the wine, it was sour.

Where does the fault lie? With the owner of the vineyard? Or with the vines and grapes themselves?

More to the point, what is to be done about it? A good farmer would try again, he’d pull up the vines and try new one from another source to see if he could not get a better result in that location.

This story is a summary, in the form of an easily remembered story, of the succession of the churches.

It tell us how and why it is that there have been several churches over the passage of the years. The Lord prepares the ground, but it is up to us to receive His gifts and to grow in the environment He provides, to learn to do truth and become charity.

Certainly the Jews listening to Isaiah would have understood the story of the vineyard to be a condemnation of their own behavior and their own church. It’s not difficult to look at the historical records and agree. But if we stopped there we would be missing the point of the prophecy and its inclusion in the Word of God.

The vineyard does in fact picture what actually happened to the Jewish Church, but at the same time it is a warning of what can happen to any church that fails it its primary mission of bringing truth into life through acts of charity toward the neighbor.

Again, looking at the record of history, we can see how this happened to the Christian Church:

The careful preparation surrounding the Lord’s birth into the world and His public ministry. The promising start and rapid growth, and then the turning away from the essential doctrine of the Lord and the resulting failure of charity within the church bringing it to the end of usefulness and creating the need for a New Church.

The New Church is the “new vineyard” in this series, and needs to heed the warning. It is our responsibility as members of the New Church to do everything in our power to make certain that the grapes are good, not sour.

Finally, we need to remember the relationship between the church in heaven and on earth. Just as heaven as a whole appears as a single angel from a distance; that each of the three heavens appears as a single angel from a distance; and that each society appears as a single angel from a distance because the imprint of the Creator is in every detail of the created universe, so it is said that each angel is a heaven in miniature.

The same thing is true of the Lord’s church in that it is made up of regions and societies and individuals and each of them can be considered to be in some way a church. That means that those things that are true for the church as a whole are also true of the individual who wishes to become a “church” that is, to become regenerated and be as an angel of heaven.

Self examination can be likened to finding and digging out the stones.

Reformation can be likened to the process of preparing the soil and planting the vines.

The quality of the grapes that are then produces, the uses, are what then determine the state and the quality of the regeneration.

There is an important difference with the individual as a church, however. For us, the process of testing grapes and reworking the vineyard is ongoing. We may find some bad plants, we may have some bad years, but as long as we hold to the goal, and keep working as a good husbandmen with the Lord, the vintage will improve with time. That is the promise of a vineyard planted on a very fruitful hill with the good vines and the wisest oversight.

It is the Lord who designs, who builds, and who maintains the vineyard.

We need to be good vinedressers, to learn the ways to keep the vines healthy and the wine sweet.

The Lord builds the church and protects it, but mankind must cooperate with Him in this task

(Isa 5:2) He dug it up and cleared out its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, And also made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes. Amen.

First Lesson: ISA 5:1-7

1 Now let me sing to my Well-beloved

A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard:

My Well-beloved has a vineyard

On a very fruitful hill.

2 He dug it up and cleared out its stones,

And planted it with the choicest vine.

He built a tower in its midst,

And also made a winepress in it;

So He expected it to bring forth good grapes,

But it brought forth wild grapes.

3 “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,

Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard.

4 What more could have been done to My vineyard

That I have not done in it?

Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes,

Did it bring forth wild grapes?

5 And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard:

I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned;

And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.

6 I will lay it waste;

It shall not be pruned or dug,

But there shall come up briers and thorns.

I will also command the clouds

That they rain no rain on it.”

7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,

And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant.

He looked for justice, but behold, oppression;

For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.



Second Lesson: Mark 12:1-12

Then He began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a place for the wine vat and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. {2} “Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that he might receive some of the fruit of the vineyard from the vinedressers. {3} “And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. {4} “Again he sent them another servant, and at him they threw stones, wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully treated. {5} “And again he sent another, and him they killed; and many others, beating some and killing some. {6} “Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them last, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ {7} “But those vinedressers said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ {8} “So they took him and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard. {9} “Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others. {10} “Have you not even read this Scripture: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. {11} This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’?” {12} And they sought to lay hands on Him, but feared the multitude, for they knew He had spoken the parable against them. So they left Him and went away. Amen.

Third Lesson: AE 918:4

“My beloved had a vineyard in the horn of a son of oil, which he fenced about, and gathered out the stones thereof; and he planted it with a noble vine, and built a tower in the midst of it; also he hewed out a wine-press in it, and he waited for it to bring forth grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes” (v. 1, 2, 4).

By the vineyard of the beloved, is signified the spiritual church, which was instituted with the sons of Israel. In the horn of a son of oil, signifies, which had truths from the good of charity. Which he fenced about, and gathered out the stones, signifies the guarding it from falsities and evils. He planted it with a noble vine, signifies that it was gifted with genuine truths. He built a tower in the midst of it, signifies the interior things, which receive influx, and by which there is communication with heaven. Also he hewed out a wine-press in it, signifies the production of truth from good. And he waited for it to bring forth grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes, signifies the hope of the fructification of those things from the good of charity; but in vain, because there was iniquity in the place of good. Amen.

Copyright © 1982 – 2005 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified September 27, 2009