One of the most common questions I’m asked is about family relationships in Heaven. Here’s what I wrote in 50 Days of Heaven:
When we receive our glorified bodies and relocate to the New Earth, it will culminate history, not erase it. And nothing will negate or minimize the fact that we were members of families here on Earth. My daughters will always be my daughters, though first and foremost they are God’s daughters. My grandchildren will always be my grandchildren. Heaven won’t be without families; it will be one big happy family, in which all family members are friends and all friends are family members. We’ll have family relationships with people who were our blood relatives on Earth, but we’ll also have family relationships with friends, both old and new.
Paul says to the Thessalonians, “You long to see us, just as we also long to see you. . . . How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again” (3:6, 9-10). Paul finds joy in God’s presence because of other Christians. He anticipates the day “when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (3:13). He looks forward to being with Jesus and His people.
When someone told Jesus that His mother and brothers were wanting to see Him, He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice” (Luke 8:19-21). Jesus was saying that devotion to God creates a bond that transcends biological family ties.
Jesus also said that those who follow Him will gain “brothers, sisters, mothers, children” (Mark 10:29-30). I think of this when I experience an immediate depth of relationship with a fellow Christian I’ve just met. If you weren’t able to have children on Earth or if you’ve been separated from your children, God will give you relationships, both now and later, that will meet your needs to guide, help, serve, and invest in others. If you’ve never had a parent you could trust, you’ll find trustworthy parents everywhere in Heaven, reminding you of your heavenly Father.
So will there be family in Heaven? Yes, there will be one great family—and none of us will ever be left out. Every time we see someone, it will be a family member! (Of course, we can be closer to some family members than to others, but there will be no rivalry or envy or grudges.) Many of us, myself included, treasure our families. But many others have endured a lifetime of broken hearts stemming from twisted family relationships. In Heaven, no one will cause anyone else pain. Our relationships will be rich and harmonious.
But what about marriage?
The Sadducees, who didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, tried to trick Jesus with a question about marriage in Heaven. Attempting to make Him look foolish, they told Him of a woman who had seven husbands who all died. They asked Him, “Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” (Matthew 22:28).
Christ replied, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).
There’s a great deal of misunderstanding about this passage. A woman wrote me, “I struggle with the idea that there won’t be marriage in Heaven. I believe I’ll really miss it.”
But the Bible does not teach there will be no marriage in Heaven. In fact, it makes it clear there will be marriage in Heaven. What it says is that there will be one marriage, between Christ and His bride—and we’ll all be part of it. Paul links human marriage to the higher reality it mirrors: “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).
The one-flesh marital union is a signpost pointing to our relationship with Christ as our bridegroom. Once we reach the destination, however, the signpost becomes unnecessary. That one marriage—our marriage to Christ—will be so completely satisfying that even the most wonderful earthly marriage couldn’t be as fulfilling. Earthly marriage is a shadow, a copy, an echo, of the true and ultimate marriage. Once that ultimate marriage begins, at the Lamb’s wedding feast, all the human marriages that pointed to it will have served their noble purpose and will be assimilated into the one great marriage they foreshadowed. Drake W. Whitchurch writes, “The purpose of marriage is not to replace Heaven, but to prepare us for it.”
The joy of marriage in Heaven will be far greater because of the character and love of our bridegroom. I rejoice that Nanci and I will both be married to the most wonderful person in the universe. I fully expect that she will remain my closest friend besides Jesus Himself. And I expect other family relationships not to be lost, but to be deepened and enriched.
Thank you, Jesus, that you promise reunion with loved ones who have gone on ahead. Thank you that the best of relationships here will be so much better there, in a world where things will never again take a turn for the worse.