Does Our Marriage to Christ in Heaven Mean Our Earthly Marriage Partners Won’t Be Important to Us?
One of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked about Heaven over the years is about the nature of marriage there. As I share in my book Heaven, there will be one marriage in Heaven, not many. That marriage will be what earthly marriage symbolized and pointed to, the marriage of Christ to His bride. So we will all be married—but to Christ.
Our marriage to Him is the true Marriage, of which the best of earthly marriages was a symbol and shadow. Those who did not experience marriage or had only a poor marriage on earth will be delighted with their eternal Bridegroom, who has already gone to prepare a place for them. One day all Heaven will attend the ultimate wedding, and we will be His bride (see Revelation 19:7-9).
However, I do envision that people who’ve had important roles in each other’s lives will continue to be friends—and that would include a lot of people who’ve been married. So although married couples’ relationships will look different in Heaven, that certainly doesn’t mean that earthly marriage is unimportant and that God doesn’t use it in our lives in profound ways.
Jesus said the institution of human marriage would end, having fulfilled its purpose. But He never hinted that deep relationships between married people would end.
Here on Earth we long for a perfect marriage. That’s exactly what we’ll have—a perfect marriage with Christ. Nanci is not only my wife, but also my best friend and my closest sister in Christ. Will we become more distant in the new world? Of course not—we’ll become closer, I’m convinced. The God who said “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18) is the giver and blesser of our relationships.
Life on this earth matters. What we do here touches strings that reverberate for all eternity. Nothing will take away from the fact that Nanci and I are marriage partners here and that we invest so much of our lives in each other, serving Christ together.
In their book The Meaning of Marriage, Tim and Kathy Keller write:
What, then, is marriage for? It is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us. The common horizon husband and wife look toward is the Throne, and the holy, spotless, and blameless nature we will have. I can think of no more powerful common horizon than that, and that is why putting a Christian friendship at the heart of a marriage relationship can lift it to a level that no other vision for marriage approaches.
Have you ever traveled to a mountainous part of the world when it was cloudy and rainy? You look out your windows and you can see almost nothing but the ground. Then the rain stops and the clouds part and you catch your breath because there, towering right over you, is this magnificent peak. But a couple of hours later the clouds roll in and it has vanished, and you don’t see it again for a good while. That is what it is like to get to know a Christian. You have an old self and a new self (Ephesians 4:24). The old self is crippled with anxieties, the need to prove yourself, bad habits you can’t break, and many besetting sins and entrenched character flaws. The new self is still you, but you are liberated from your sins and flaws. This new self is always a work in process, and sometimes the clouds of the old self make it almost completely invisible. But sometimes the clouds really part, and you see the wisdom, courage, and love of which you are capable. It is a glimpse of where you are going.
Within this Christian vision for marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!’”
Each spouse should see the great thing that Jesus is doing in the life of their mate through the Word, the gospel. Each spouse then should give him- or herself to be a vehicle for that work and envision the day that you will stand together before God, seeing each other presented in spotless beauty and glory.
There is continuity from this life to the next. Married people have shared experiences here on the present Earth, and I think we’ll look back on those times like we were soldiers in the trenches together: we had great times and we had hard times. We should expect those relationships with family to be special and continue forever. I fully anticipate no one besides God will understand me better on the New Earth than Nanci, and there’s nobody whose company I’ll seek and enjoy more than Nanci’s.
The joys of marriage in eternity will be far greater because of the character and love of our Bridegroom. I rejoice for Nanci and for me that we’ll both be married to the most wonderful person in the universe. He’s already the one we love most—there is no competition. On Earth, the closer we draw to Him, the closer we draw to each other. Surely the same will be true in Heaven.
What an honor it will be to always know that God chose us for each other on this old Earth so that we might have a foretaste of life with Him on the New Earth.
For further insight, see this article by John Piper on the topic of marriage in Heaven.