If the Eternal Heaven Is a Restoration of God’s Original Plan in Eden, Wouldn’t There Be Human Marriage?

Question from a reader:

Randy and EPM team, you’ve spent a lot of time addressing relationships and marriage in Heaven in your blog and books, which I've been through, but I'm struggling with a few of the statements. I lost my soulmate recently, and we are both pretty young.

I've looked through these articles and responses for reference:

And the John Piper article you referenced.

It seems the anchor point for what you believe Heaven will be like is something close to “God's original creation was good. God's purpose after the Fall is restoration. Heaven is a restoration of God's original plan.”

It also seems the main arguments for your beliefs on marriage come from Jesus's words in Matthew 22:30, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage...” and Ephesians 5:32, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

Where I struggle is that God created marriage prior to the Fall, prior to any degradation of relationship with Him. That was the original plan: one man, one woman, and God—together. Genesis 2:18, prior to the Fall, says, “Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” God made Eve for Adam while still in perfect relationship with Adam, while Creation was still “good,” and while Creation was still in the original planned state. He created Eve not because Adam needed to procreate, but because it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone. God walked with Adam in the garden and had fellowship with him, so Adam wasn’t completely alone, but he was in some relational sense.  How then can marriage be a picture of Christ and the Church? How does this fit into your (and my) argument that Christ is restoring His original plan?

If we also say that there is no marriage in Heaven, what are we to do with the physical design of our bodies? If, as you argue for Heaven, we are in restored, but human bodies then what about our intimate parts and sexual function?

It seems to me that if God is restoring all things, if His original plan was good, and if He hasn't abandoned it, that there has to be some other piece of information that we are missing. I cannot explain away, nor would I want to explain away, Christ's words in Matthew 22, but I cannot interpret them as globally as you. I don’t offer an explanation, just a question and the confusion of a genuinely broken heart. 

Answer from Doreen Button, EPM staff:

You’ve raised several thoughtful questions, and I will work through them below, but before I start, please know that my heart hurts for you in your huge loss. I can’t help but think, as I read your questions, that knowing the answers won’t ease your pain. We think that knowledge, especially the “why,” will somehow cut through the fog and restore our equilibrium. It won’t. Your heart will still be broken and your “soul mate” will still be where you can’t reach her—for now. I want to encourage you to let the painful emotions roll through. Acknowledge them. Give them to God in prayer as constantly as you feel the ache. Ask Him every question you have. And most importantly, remember that He is your God…not your loved one, not how you felt when you were with your loved one, not your thoughts about what should be or might have been.

The best question in nearly every situation is, “What do you want me to know about this, and what do you want me to do?” God will answer that, if you can still yourself and listen for His answer.

Death is not what God wanted for us, but we chose it, and He was not taken by surprise by that choice. Which may be a great place to start responding to what you’ve written.

You spoke much about God’s “original plan.” That’s not a phrase I would use. It implies that Plan A had to be scrapped after our first parents sinned and God cobbled together Plan B.

God is both sovereign and omniscient. He has no need for Plan B, C, or Z. His overflowing triune love brought us into being and His Word shows us, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 21, what lengths He continuously goes to in order to share that love in relationship with us.

We are somewhere in the middle of that story—some of us seeking that relationship and finding it; some of us purposely ignoring His call and living the consequences.

God’s “Original plan” can’t be restored…in the sense that we will not become the innocents Adam and Eve were. We will not be starting over in a Garden, just He and me, so to speak. His original plan was a close relationship with us. That’s what Jesus died to restore.

I believe that God made us exactly as He wanted us to be in order to live the life He wanted for us, knowing all along that we would turn our backs to Him. When He ushers in the New Earth, we will finally see and know who we were meant to be and how the trials—losses and suffering and consequences—we’ve endured in this life have made us better suited for our new life with Him.

You stated, “It seems to me that if God is restoring all things, if His original plan was good, and if He hasn’t abandoned it, that there has to be some other piece of information that we are missing.” We are indeed missing a lot of information…but we have to trust God, who says “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3, NIV).

You wrote, “He created Eve not because Adam needed to procreate, but because it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone.” Why did God create pairs of animals if not to procreate? Like marriage pictures  our ultimate Church-wide union with Christ, the animal pairs pictured Adam’s need for a physical companion. You are right that Adam wasn’t entirely alone, since God was there. But Adam also wasn’t made to procreate apart from Eve.

John Piper’s article, which you mentioned, did an excellent job of explaining the procreation aspect and also the many problems which individual marriages on the New Earth would cause. You are young and may one day remarry. Which spouse would you choose to remain married to for eternity? (This was undoubtedly the issue the Sadducees tried to trap Jesus with in their 7 brothers for 1 bride story in Matthew 22:28.) And will single people be left alone and lonely? We tend to think of everlasting life as something that begins after the Resurrection or after we die when in reality it starts the day our lives are returned to us through Christ’s work of salvation. Likewise, we think of the bride of Christ in individual terms instead of as the Church.

You also asked, “How then can marriage be a picture of Christ and the Church?” Ephesians 5:31-32 says, “‘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.” The context of this passage is how Christ-followers should behave in community with one another, in mutual submission. We leave our egos, our desires, and every other loyalty behind when we join ourselves to Jesus. Therefore, we must never make marriage (or sex) an idol no matter how sad and lonely we are and how loudly our hormones scream for attention.

Jesus came to redeem us. And our job as the church is to be fruitful and multiply, in unity, just as the Trinity is unity. The language of Scripture—verses like Colossians 1:27, “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”—is very intimate. It’s a unity between us, corporately, and Jesus that marriage foreshadows. A man and woman become one. Christ and His church become one. Read the beautiful prayer in John 17, of which verses 22 & 23 are part: “I have given them the glory You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one—I in them and You in Me—that they may be perfectly united, so that the world may know that You sent Me and have loved them just as You have loved Me.” Married love gives our love-starved world a glimpse of the only One whose love can truly and unendingly satisfy.

Another of your questions was, “If we also say that there is no marriage in Heaven, what are we to do with the physical design of our bodies?” Remember, Jesus was the one who said there’s no marriage in Heaven. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all recorded His words. We didn’t make that up.

Piper, in his article, alluded to the physical conundrum, riffing off C. S. Lewis, using ice cream instead of chocolate. Here’s what Lewis, in his book, Miracles, wrote,

“The letter and spirit of scripture, and of all Christianity, forbid us to suppose that life in the New Creation will be a sexual life; and this reduces our imagination to the withering alternatives either of bodies which are hardly recognizable as human bodies at all or else of a perpetual fast. As regards to the fast, I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure, should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time. On receiving the answer ‘No,’ he might regard [the] absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it. We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it.”

“We know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:9–12).

We are simply too finite and fallen to truly grasp what’s to come. As Piper writes, “Feel the astonishing force of the promise that marriage will be no more because it was too weak to carry God’s best eternal pleasures.”

God bless you, as you seek to know and follow Jesus more completely until you see “face to face” and “know fully.”

Photo: Unsplash

Doreen is part of the Eternal Perspective Ministries staff, and helps Randy with editing and answering reader questions. She is a certified biblical counselor.