Marriage is for life, not forever

How long does a marriage last? Given that the Bible only allows very limited grounds for divorce, does that mean that marriage lasts for ever? Or is it true that marriage is also ended by death? 

These questions have not traditionally been difficult to answer. The Church taught for centuries that marriage was something that was entered into for life, and that a marriage inevitably ended with death. Then, in the past two hundred years, a separate doctrine gained popularity, claiming that marriages went beyond the grave – that they could be eternal or celestial in nature.

They can’t both be right. Some would claim that two types of marriage can exist at the same time, but in essence the dispute is clear. Some people believe that marriages can last into eternity – while others say that they cannot. Who is right?

What the Bible teaches about Marriage

As can be seen throughout the Bible, men and women are treated differently. The bible doesn’t talk about single and married men because their marital status is not an issue. However, women are divided into two camps, for their marital status is important.

Women are classified either as virgins or wives. Other categories also exist – such as prostitutes and widows, but the two main categories are the most important. Wives are shown to be of two types. The main type is that understood by modern society – where a woman is part of a man’s household, is his helper and where he is her sole sexual partner. The other type is the betrothed woman. This is seen most clearly in the Old Testament. She is legally a wife but, while promised to him, she has not yet joined his household or been united to him sexually.

There is no other stage of courtship that is recognised by scripture. Women are either married or unmarried. Wives are either betrothed to or united with their husbands. These days, in the US, Britain and other parts of the world we also have the secular concept of engagement, where a man and woman express their intent to marry, but it has no legal effect and no moral effect. It is unrecognised by scripture. That is not to say that people should not get engaged – it is their own choice – but it would be incorrect to claim that it was scriptural, and there are no grounds for believing that it was ever practised in biblical times.

That these things are true can readily be deduced from the Mosaic Law which treated betrothed women just as a normal wife, and from the complete absence of any other form of courtship being mentioned in all of scripture. Furthermore, it can be seen that betrothal is merely what happens on the way to a complete marriage. Normal marriage is a more pure form of marriage than betrothal because it involves the physical union of two becoming one flesh through sexual intercourse.

Many have implied that sex is dirty or sinful because it is related to the body (the flesh), but the Bible clearly teaches that sex is a gift from God, and that it should be conducted morally, which the Bible teaches is solely within marriage. Indeed the sexual union in marriage is shown to be a shadow of the truth of the spiritual union of Christ and the Church. Marriage is for physical union. Paul even allows marriage on the basis of it preventing sexual immorality. Betrothal looks forward to a future physical union, and is therefore completed by that union.

Some will wonder why it is necessary to consider how a marriage begins in an article about how it ends. The simple reason is that occasionally, those who teach ideas of eternal marriage get a little concerned about the possibility of sex in eternity, and wish to portray their eternal marriage as ‘platonic’ and not involving sex. This is dubious. Not only does all the evidence point to Plato indulging in homosexual acts, but it ignores the primary reason for Paul the Apostle allowing marriage.

However, most of those who teach eternal marriage make sure that sex is included. And on top of this they build other doctrines, asserting that man will still be able to reproduce in eternity, and that his spiritual progress will, to some extent at least, be dependent on the numbers of spirit wives he has or the number of spirit children he can father.

Before moving into the reasons why marriage is just for life, we should be aware that taking away the false doctrine of eternal marriage removes the basis for these other false doctrines about fathering children in eternity, about further spiritual progression in eternity and about any link between the two. These false doctrines, unsurprisingly, have absolutely no basis in the Bible, and in a number of places run contrary to it.

Till Death Us Do Part

  • Luke 20 vv27

“Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him, saying, “Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man’s brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.




There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children. And the second took her to wife, and he died childless. And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife.”

And Jesus answering said unto them, “The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.”

The Sadducees raised a very important question. It was possible for a woman to be married to several men over the course of her life, but only to one at once. So whose wife was she when all were resurrected? They raised this question because they thought it disproved the resurrection, and expected to defeat Christ with it. In fact he both answered their question and defeated them by being raised from the dead himself.




His answer was simple. After the resurrection there is neither marrying or giving in marriage. God’s people don’t marry each other after the resurrection. You would think that this answers the question. The woman would be married to none of them. However, some point out that Christ didn’t say that marriages already contracted would then be annulled. They then build up the teaching that marriages can last forever on something which Christ didn’t say.

This is arguing from silence. Not the best method of argument but occasionally it can be fair. For example – the Bible says nothing against polygamy – therefore it’s okay to do it. However, in this case, an argument from silence cannot be relied upon, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Christ obviously thought he had answered the question. If, however, it was still possible for marriages on earth to last forever, then the question was unanswered. Who would the woman be married to? Christ wasn’t avoiding the question like a modern politician – he was answering it. The fact that marriages didn’t occur after the resurrection was answer enough. The only way that it can be construed to answer the question is to allow the fact that it means that marriages end at death.

Secondly, we have the benefit of considering other Scriptures on the matter.

  • Romans 7 vv 2-3

“For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.”




This clearly states the rules about marriage. The woman the Sadducees mentioned was quite legitimately married to all those men. Romans shows us that it would have been wrong for her to be married to more than one at once. If she did this, she would be committing adultery. However, on her husband’s death she is freed from the law of her husband, and can marry another. When she is married she is under the law of her husband. When he dies she is no longer under his law – she is now unmarried, and can therefore marry again.




Thirdly, we can recognise that the idea that marriages continue into heaven is not found anywhere in Scripture. To advance the idea is to speculate.

Fourthly, the idea that marriages continue beyond death is a misunderstanding of what the Bible says marriage is about. Marriage is a covenant or contract based on the idea of one flesh. It is the appropriate environment for a sexual union. However, it is the union of bodies which provides an illustration of the union in Spirit that the church has with Christ. After the resurrection, true Christians will have new bodies. The contracts made with their old bodies will no longer be valid because those mortal bodies will have been changed into something entirely different – into something immortal. Hence the marriage contract will have no basis on which to survive – for both the bodies that it was based on will have been changed into something new. Christ has said there is no marrying or giving in marriage in heaven, so these new bodies will not form the basis of any new marriage. The only type of union left will be a spiritual union. But that spiritual union will be between Christ and the church. Will a wife be united to her husband spiritually? Only in as much as all the church are united in Christ. Will she be united physically? No. For the bodies which were one have died and been changed into new bodies, and those new bodies will not be given in marriage.

Consequently, for all these reasons, it can be seen that it is the teaching of the Bible that it is not possible for people who are currently married to remain married beyond death.

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1 Response to Marriage is for life, not forever

  1. ericbreaux says:

    You’re a selective reader. In Luke 20:36 Jesus states one of the reasons for no more marrying is because the saved resurrected can’t die anymore but will be like the angels in heaven. The contrast to angels is not sexual desire, He contrasted mortality with immortality. Marry meant the male proposing for the woman to be his wife and being given in marriage meant the father giving her to the proposer. It’s customs to be married, not marriage itself. Adam and Eve were married without marrying or being given in marriage. The reason for the Sadducee’s question was that the levirate law required a woman to marry the next oldest brother of her husband if he died without children. They thought if the woman hadn’t fulfilled the purpose of that law, she would still need to be married to all the brothers or they’d be sinning. If she did that, she and the men would commit polygamy which is also a sin, so to avoid sin, God wouldn’t resurrect everyone forever. They thought all of God’s laws would be needed in a renewed world, not knowing that the reason for recreating is to restore creation to before those laws were needed. Keeping marriage does not contradict Jesus’s answer to the Sadducees because the woman they asked about is only required to marry any of those men with the levirate law. The law ending does not forbid her from being married to a different man. It’s a false dilemma. Jesus’s mention of not being able to die would make no sense unless he only meant legal customs to marry because death is not a reason for marriage. It says in Revelation 20:6 that those who are awakened in the first resurrection won’t suffer for eternity. These are the same people in the prophecy in Isaiah 65:17-25. If Jesus said that those worthy to attain the age of the resurrection won’t marry or be given in marriage and are also said to continue being married and reproducing, that’s proof that Jesus only meant legal marriage customs will be gone. Would any of the people who heard Jesus answer been amazed at it if he meant sexuality would be eliminated? I’m pretty sure Jews had as much sexual desire as most other people, so would have despaired if that was the context.

    At the beginning of creation, God said for us to be fruitful and multiply with no indication it was to ever stop. There would need to be a bigger earth to fit all physical beings that have ever lived by the time of the resurrection. God expands the entire universe. doing the same to any planet shouldn’t conflict with his plans. Marriage was the only thing God said is not good to be without before creating it. After Eve was made and brought to Adam, it says for this reason shall people be united with a spouse to become one flesh. Jesus repeats this in Matthew 19:4-5 and Mark 10:6-7 and Paul does in Ephesians 5:31. “For this reason” means it’s the only reason. Reproduction and representing God’s relationship are not reasons stated anywhere in scripture. If gender remains, so does marriage. If Jesus’s answer meant no one will be married, then it contradicts us being male and female being the reason for marriage, and God’s promise to restore all creation in Acts 3:21 and 24:15, 2 Peter 3:13, Romans 8:20-23 and 32 and other prophecies. After God made marriage, He called everything very good. The beginning conditions of the creation don’t need improving because God doesn’t change.

    Many Christians have claimed that something unspecified would be needed to make life better forever and would also make sexuality useless, ignoring the fact that marriage was something needed for creation to not be missing anything good. It’s contradictory and more akin to Buddhism than Christianity. If having something better is a reason to eliminate sex, it’s a reason to eliminate everything God made, and we should all just feel God’s presence, getting joy from that and never doing anything else for eternity. If simply having a sinless relationship with God makes marriage useless, then God would have had no reason to create gender and sex, because God had the kind of relationship with Adam and Eve that people will have with Him in the renewed creation. If God eliminated sexuality then the distinguishing shapes of the gender’s faces, body shapes for sexual attraction, parts used for sexual pleasure, and reproduction would all be wasted. Gender having other functions is no reason to get rid of any of them. They’re all part of what makes us the genders we are and God doesn’t create anything expendable. The human female figure is shaped the way it is to fit babies during birth, and sperm, egg cells, and wombs are used only for reproduction.

    If Jesus’s answer to the Sadducees meant no one will be married anymore, no one can be married to Jesus as a replacement. God is described as a husband to people in Hosea 2:7, Isaiah 45:5, Jeremiah 31:32, Ezekiel 16:8, and other Old Testament texts. That didn’t replace marriage either, because they’re analogies just as the wife of the lamb is in Revelation. They are different types of relationships that fulfill different desires. If marriage is a representation of Jesus’s relationship with the church, then people would have to have sinned so Jesus would have to redeem us. God is not going to create something that requires what He hates.

    If you are made unable to care about something you’re passionate about, it’s manipulation of free will. Sin is a selfish way to try satisfying a desire, that makes us less satisfied afterward. Removing sin doesn’t manipulate free will. That’s not the same as removing a basic desire for any sensation. They think that since they don’t think of the joy that would be gone from losing that passion for eternity, that wanting to keep something God said wasn’t good to be without is the problem. They’re so obsessed simply with being eternally satisfied that they don’t know it’s only hopeful because it’s by restoration of all God made, not a replacement for any of it. That would make anything God made for us irrelevant. There’s a book all about the joy of sexuality: Song of Songs, and doesn’t imply that marriage is useless without reproduction. There’s no bible book devoted to the joy of any other creation. Heaven isn’t the final destination, it’s the renewed earth. The only thing that needs to be gone is what sin did.

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