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

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