In Matthew 22 there is an interesting dilemma presented to Jesus; his response is one you’ll never hear shared during a wedding. The Sadducees present a case study to Jesus about a woman who had been married and widowed seven times. “At the resurrection,” they asked, “whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” (Matthew 22:28). Before hearing Jesus’ reply, let’s push pause for moment. Imagine how Hollywood or your favorite romance novelist would answer. “Well, the one she loved the most, of course” they might reply. Or perhaps, “Only her true soul mate could spend eternity with her in heaven; otherwise it wouldn’t be heaven!” If you were asked that question, what would your answer be?
Now push play to hear Jesus’ reply. “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:29–30).
What? There’s no marriage in heaven? But I thought that eternity with the one you love would be the ultimate ending to true romance. It is—but not in the way we assume.
The Bible begins and ends with a wedding. In the beginning because of the aloneness of man God gives the first bride away; on the last day when Christ comes back for his bride, the Church, we will all be joined with him in heaven in perfect oneness. In light of that truth I guess you could say we’re all engaged to our Savior. And when he comes, implies Jesus’ response, we won’t need marriage to fill our aloneness because the power and presence of God will fulfill our every longing. We will experience ultimate oneness with the one who created us and live happily ever after.
An Assigned Buddy
Do you remember being in kindergarten and going on a field trip? The teacher probably grouped a few students together with a chaperone so no one got lost. He or she might even have paired you up with a friend and told you to hold hands and stick together to ensure that you didn’t wander off. God has pretty much done the same thing for us.
We are on the field trip of life and we’ve left the safety of the classroom, but we haven’t arrived at the destination yet. When Jesus comes, we will have arrived, but until then, we’re still vulnerable. To help us not get lost, he’s created two groups to help us find our way. First, we’ve been put into a small group of people called the church. Here we look after one another, whether single, married, or a child, and encourage one another as we see they day approaching (Hebrews 10:25). Others of us find a spouse—a spiritual traveling buddy if you will—with whom we walk toward Christ. Still others have two of more specially assigned traveling partners who help each other follow the Way and together strive to bring their children along with them on the journey to the ultimate destination.
Marriage to a person is not our ultimate destination; being wed to our Lord is. No other agenda should outweigh this purpose for marriage. Single people need that perspective so they won’t over-value getting married. Dating people need that perspective so that they will date with the purpose of finding someone who can become their buddy during the field trip of life and ultimately usher them to the arms of their Savior. Married people need that perspective so they won’t lose sight of their purpose in being together, and remarried people need to keep this mind so they won’t fret needlessly over who is most adored by their spouse. We all have a first love—and it’s not our spouse.
Adapted from Dating and the Single Parent by Ron L. Deal (Bethany House, 2012). Used with permission.
Ron L. Deal is president of Smart Stepfamilies™, director of blended family ministries for FamilyLife®, a popular conference speaker on marriage and family matters, and author/coauthor of a series of DVD’s and books for stepfamilies including The Smart Stepfamily, The Smart Stepmom, The Smart Stepdad, The Remarriage Checkup, and Dating and the Single Parent.