Will we be male and female in the new creation?

3resurr3In recent debates about the meaning of marriage, one area of speculation has been whether our differentiated sex identity as male and female (this is biological sex identity, not ‘gender’ as it is often called, which is about social constructions of masculine and feminine identity) will persist into the new creation. Two people in particular have raised this issue. Robert Song, in Covenant and Calling, questions the logic of sex difference at the centre point of his argument:

Sexual differentiation is therefore justified within marriage, but it is only justified because marriage in creation is oriented to procreation. There are no other grounds can provide the theological weight needed to require that marriage be sexually differentiated. However, this also implies that if procreation is no longer eschatologically necessary, Then there are no grounds for requiring all committed relationships to be heterosexual (p 48).

I don’t agree with his dismissal of ‘other grounds’, but the point he is making here is that, if procreation is not needed in the new creation, neither will sex difference, and if sex difference is not a feature of the new creation, then to the extent to which we live out that new creation in the here and now (2 Cor 5.17) then we should be less concerned about it, and indeed can dispense with it as a feature of covenant sexual relationships akin to marriage.

A slightly different perspective comes from Mike Higton (also of Durham) in his essay in Thinking Again About Marriage. After reviewing two recent C of E reflections on marriage, he comments:

The aspects of this theology that I am most readily able to affirm are its insistences that to live well involves Responding attentively to our bodiliness, And that we are not bodily in the abstract but always as particular sexed bodies. We receive that particularity, that differentiation, as a gift from God. (p 20)

But he goes on to heavily qualify this. The terms he uses are concerned with redemption, but this must (at least implicitly) include the fall, since without the fall there is no need for redemption.

We are not simply called…to live in attentive response to our bodiliness, but to live in attentive response to our bodiliness in the light of God’s love for the world in Jesus Christ. Christian ethics, then, is not simply conformity to creation but about creaturely participation in redemption.

I find it interesting that this is precisely the context for Paul’s currently most contentious comments on same-sex sexuality, in Romans 1 and 1 Cor 6.9—the fallenness of humanity and its need for redemption, and the participation in the kingdom of God now as an anticipation of the eschaton—though Higton’s direction of movement appears to be different from Saint Paul’s.

How might we engage with this question? The key text that is consistently turned to is the debate between Jesus and the Sadducees about the possibility of bodily resurrection in Mark 12.25 = Matt 22.30 = Luke 20.36 which includes the key phrase ‘they will be like the angels [in heaven]’. The issue is: what does Jesus mean by this phrase? There are five things at stake here in relation to post-mortem existence:

  1. Will we have bodies rather than living a disembodied, ‘spiritual’ existence?
  2. If we do, will those bodies have continuity with our present bodies in being sex differentiated?
  3. If they are, will bodily sexual expression be part of post-mortem life?
  4. If it is, will that lead to procreation in any form?
  5. As a result, will the institution of marriage persist into the new creation?

To see some of the possible answers to this, it is worth reading an answer very different from Jesus, from the Jewish midrashim (which probably originate from a similar period):

All the orifices [of the body] will spew out milk and honey, as well as an aromatic scent, like the scent of Lebanon, as it is said: “Milk and honey are under your tongue, and the scent of your robes is like the scent of Lebanon” (Song of Songs 4.11). And “like seed” which will never cease [to flow from the bodies of the righteous] in the world to come, as it is said: “He provides as much for His loved ones while they sleep” (Ps. 127.2), and friends are none other than women, as it is said: “Why should my beloved be in my house?” (Jer. 11.15). Each righteous person will draw near his wife in the world to come and they will not conceive and they will not give birth and they will not die, as it is said: “they shall not toil for no purpose” (Is. 65.23)…. and they will come to the world to come with their wives and children. (Midrash Alpha-Betot, Batei Midrashot, II, ed. S. A. Wertheimer (Jerusalem: Mosad ha-Rav, 1980), 458)

This is the kind of ‘mundane’ vision of life in the new creation which Jesus is rejecting. Ben Witherington, in his commentary on Mark, believes that whilst Jesus is rejecting 3 and 4 in our list, he is not rejecting 5, in that existing marriages will persist, but new marriages will not take place. The problem with this view is that it is precisely existing marriages (between the woman and her seven brothers) about which the Sadducees are questioning Jesus! And his response is clear: these will not persist.

So what is Jesus saying about sex identity, if anything? First, it is worth noting that angels in the Bible appear to be consistently male (rather than sexless) and in Genesis 6 this is particularly clear. Secondly, and possibly surprisingly, this exact question was a major point of debate in the early church Fathers—and their answer is unambiguous. Drawing on this text in particular, and more widely on the fact of Jesus’ and Paul’s singleness, they see virginity as an anticipation of the resurrection life. Cyprian of Carthage comments:

What we shall be, already you have begun to be. The glory of the resurrection you already have in this world; you pass through the world without the pollution of the world; while you remain chaste and virgins, you are equal to the angels of God.

But what is really fascinating in the patristic writings is the way that they frequently move from the question of resurrection life and virginal existence (encouraged not least by Rev 14.4) to the question of the bodily organs, including sexual organs. They appear to face a very similar kind of reductum ad absurdum argument to the one that the Sadducees present to Jesus: if we are to be raised bodily, and if we are going to do without sex in the resurrection, what is the point in having sexed, differentiated, sexual organs? The answers given are unambiguous. Both Pseudo Justin and Tertullian argue that, if having sexual organs does not unavoidably lead to sexual intercourse in this world, it will certainly not do so in the world to come. Jerome also argues that the resurrected ones will not cease to be human and the difference of sex will also remain.

If the woman shall not rise again as a woman nor the man as a man, there will be no resurrection of the body for the body is made up of sex and members.

In other words, in our list of five issues, they see items 1 and 2 firmly fixed together; the idea of the loss of sex difference, evidence in the bodily organs, is one small step from a rejection of bodily resurrection. But there is a line drawn between these two and the last three (sexual relations, procreation and marriage) which also belong together.

There is a fascinating parallel here with contemporary debates about disability, and whether disabilities which are seen to shape self-understanding and identity will persist into the resurrection. This is especially important for those who wish to resist a ‘medical’ understanding of disability, which will then be ‘healed’ in the resurrection. Nancy Eiesland, in The Disabled God, comments:

The resurrected Jesus Christ in presenting impaired hands and feet and side to be touched by frightened friends alters the taboo of physical avoidance of disability and calls for followers to recognize their connection and equality at the point of Christ’s physical impairment.

But if Jesus takes his bodily wounds into the resurrection life, then by the same logic he surely takes his bodily organs (both sexual and digestive) into this life. Luke 24 tells us that he ate fish, and John 21 that he cooked some for others; Augustine’s symbolic reading of these texts need not detract from their more obvious significance that resurrection is indeed bodily. Frances Young, in God’s Presence, makes a similar argument in relation to her disabled son Arthur:

Arthur’s limited experience, limited above all in ability to process the world external to himself, is a crucial element in who he is, in his real personhood. An ultimate destiny in which he was suddenly ‘perfected’ (whatever that might mean) is inconceivable—for he would no longer be Arthur but some other person. His limited embodied self is what exists, and what will be must be in continuity with that. There will also be discontinuities—the promise of resurrection is the transcendence of our mortal ‘flesh and blood’ state. So there’s hope for transformation of this life’s limitations and vulnerabilities, of someone like Arthur receiving greater gifts while truly remaining himself.

Signorelli_ResurrectionWhat can we conclude from all this? In the biblical accounts, sex differentiation is not imagined to be absent in the resurrection, and indeed its absence would be unimaginable and implausible if the resurrection life is indeed bodily—as it is vigorously claimed to be in all NT texts that explore the question. To be human and bodily means to be male or female, both in this age and in the age to come.

But we also need to note that, in the age to come, sex differentiation is seen in the NT to have lost its primary significance, because of loss of interest in procreation, and therefore the loss of interest in both sexual intercourse and marriage. This is why Paul sees the Spirit at work in the whole of the early Christian communities, regardless of sex identity.

It is therefore not possible to dispense with sex difference in marriage without actually dispensing with marriage itself. The two are inextricably linked.

A final note of caution on all this is offered by C S Lewis, in On Miracles:

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 absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their carnal 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.

(This is a summary of a longer paper I gave this week at the Tyndale Fellowship Conference entitled ‘Are we sexed in heaven?’ I hope it will be published later this year. The pictures are from the frescoes of Luca Signorelli in Orvieto, Umbria, Italy.)

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40 thoughts on “Will we be male and female in the new creation?”

  1. Thanks so very much for this, Ian. This is a subject that I’ve pondered for some time and clearly has many implications beyond the “marriage” question (I’ve written about the Mt 22:30 passage with regards to the complementarian debate at http://inchristus.com/2014/01/23/an-appeal-to-complementarians/). I wonder if our sexuality (not gender) runs deeper than biology? If, perhaps, we are ontologically male or female (seeing Gen 5:2; Mt 19:4; Mk 10:6 as possible support)? If so, then sex-change procedures only affect so much. The plumbing (so to speak) may be altered, but the essential essence of what a person is cannot.

    • Thanks Paul. I think I would really hesitate to call sex identity ‘ontological’, since ontologically we are all human, and I noted on my piece about ‘stratification’ that the Genesis accounts are striking in their holding together in humanity the two sexes.

      But so-called ‘sex change’ operations do not such thing, whatever the ontology. Every cell in my body is ‘sexed’ in terms of its chromosomes, and surgery on my plumbing conforms me to social expectations but does relatively little to my biology.

  2. Sexual difference at the resurrection is also the orthodox position defended by St Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274):

    ‘Although risen men will not occupy themselves with such activities ( as nutrition and reproduction), they will not lack the organs requisite for such functions. Without these organs the risen body would not be complete. But it is fitting that nature should be completely restored at the renovation of risen man, for such renovation will be accomplished directly by God, whose works are perfect. Therefore all the members of the body will have their place I the risen, for the preservation of nature in its entirely rather than for the exercise of their normal functions.’ (Aquinas, Compendium Theologiae 157 tr. Cyrill Vollert in Light of Faith: The Compendium of Theology by Saint Thomas Aquinas (Sophia Institute Press, 1993), pp.178-179.)

    By contrast, Robert Song’s theology is a new Gnosticism. It follows the same logic as the ‘Gospel according to the Egyptians’ used by a Gnostic sect called the Naassennes which argued that death will prevail as long as there is conception and birth. Hence they quote an alleged ‘saying’ of Jesus: ‘ I came to destroy the works of the female.’ It goes on to describe a conversation between Jesus and Salome in which Salome asks ‘How long will death prevail?’ Jesus replies: ‘When you trample on the garment of shame, when the two become one and the male with the female neither male nor female.’ (See F.F.Bruce, Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament (Hodder and Staughton, 1974), p.157).

    It was a tenet of Gnosticism that Adam was androgenous before being divided into male and female (the Gnostic reading of Genesis 2:21-13) and that the eschatological age would inaugurate a return to this primordial state. Interestingly, Gnostic rituals included a ‘sacrament of the bridal chamber’ to enter this superior state.

    The son called Gospel of Thomas reflects this same background.

    Saying 4 Jesus said: ‘Let not old man who is full of days hesitate to ask the child of seven days about the place of life; then he will live. For many that are first will be last, and they will become a single one.’

    Saying 11. Jesus said: ‘This heaven will pass away and that which is above it will pass away, and the dead are not living and the living will not die. Today you eat dead things and make them alive, but when you are in the light, what will you do? On the day when you were one, you became two; but when you have become two, what will you do?’

    An abolition of sexual difference is likewise suggested in Saying 22, (a Gnostic interpretation of Galatians 3:28).

    Saying 22: ‘ Jesus saw some infants at the breast. He said to his disciples: ‘ These children at the breast are like those who enter the kingdom’. They said to him: ‘Shall we, then, enter the kingdom as children.?’ Jesus said to them: ‘When you make the two one, and when you make the inner as the outer and the outer as the inner and the above as below, and when you make the female one, so that the male is no longer male and female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter the kingdom.’

    Saying 106: Jesus said: ‘When you make the two one, you will become sons of man, and if you say, ‘Move over, mountain!’ It will move.’

    This saying seems to be teaching that only when the two sexes are reunited into one personality will true humanity will be achieved. Such an anthropology is rooted in a non-trinitarian, undifferentiated monad as
    Saying 61 indicates:

    Jesus said: ‘Two will be resting there on one divan: one will die, the other will live.’ Salome said: ‘Who are you, sir, and whose son are you, that you have taken your place on my divan and eaten from my table?’ Jesus said to her: ‘I am he who derives his being from him who is the Same; to me has been given from what belongs to my Father.’ ‘I am your disciple’ said she). ‘Therefore (said he), I tell you this: when one is united, he will be full of light; when he is divided, he will be full of darkness.’ (Sayings from the Gospel of Thomas translated in F.F.Bruce, Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament (Hodder and Staughton, 1974), p.110-156)

    There are clear parallels between Gnosticism and the theology of same sex marriage today – producing similar bad fruit from its root. If marriage is a sacrament SSM must result in a blasphemous distortion of the relationship between Christ and the Church and of the nature of the Triune God.

    • Because there are no female angels. Angels are ageless spiritual beings that do not need to reproduce to survive, unlike mortals. They are nonetheless aroused by mortal females as evidence by the Nephilim. See Genesis 6:1-4
      ‘When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God [angels] saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, ‘My spirit shall not abide in mortals for ever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’ 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterwards—when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them’.

        • Angels are referred to in the OT and other early sources as ‘the sons of God’ / ‘the sons of heaven’, hence: ‘the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them’. Such offspring were explained as the nephilim, which were seen as an abomination.
          The earliest such references in addition to the OT seem to be in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Greek, and Aramaic Enochic literature and in certain Ge’ez manuscripts of 1 Enoch and Jubilees used by western scholars in modern editions of the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Also some Christian apologists shared this idea, such as Tertullian and Lactantius.

  3. Might not a part of the reason for Jesus’ response be the way that the woman was being treated like a possession, passed around from man to man as an inheritance (albeit potentially a rather burdensome one)? We need to be careful, I think, about projecting too much of our understanding of how marriage works back onto a very different time and culture. Jesus’ response could have simply been about marriage as a contract, a contract which terminates on death. Relationships are a different matter, whether sexual or otherwise.

    • Yes, nothing in Scripture leads us to believe that relationships between spouses will be eliminated. There is every reason to believe marital relations will be maintained in heaven though for different reasons.

      It will not come about through men marrying or giving in marriage, but through the will of God. It is the business transaction of marriage, not the relationship of marriage, that Christ is here saying will not exist at that time.

  4. I’m uncomfortable with the idea that disabilities persist into the New Creation. I know Jesus bears his scars, but it wouldn’t be difficult to argue for that as an exception – the glorious scars. I don’t suppose they inhibit his capacity at all. The resurrection life has many mysteries – what age are we? what about the unborn or those who die as children? how will we relate to our spouse, our children, our siblings, our parents? how will those who were killed relate to those who killed them? Among such mysteries are disabilities. But I see that when the kingdom of God was near the lame walked and the blind saw. So I consider it is a place of perfected humanity, and the disabled, like all of us, will experience a perfection that at present we can only guess at. I think most of the problem is not knowing what a perfected human form would be, when humans exist as a nexus of processes. I’m sure God knows though.

  5. Ian, thank you for another fascinating post. This whole issue is one that puzzles me a lot, and I just don’t know what to make of it.

    On the one hand, I think bodies are, by definition, sexed – so bodily resurrection involves sexual difference.

    On the other hand, whenever I try to imagine this or think through what it might mean, it seems to rapidly degenerate into stuff which just seems incredible. So, for instance, take the other example of bodily functioning which you glancingly mention: digestion. If the resurrection really involves eating and drinking – in a non-metaphorical sense – then it will presumably also involve stomachs and guts and digestion and ultimately excretion. And that will mean that one of the jobs which will presumably need doing on the new earth is the maintenance of the sewage system – not to mention, at the other end of the process, the farming and fishing industries? (I mention jobs that need doing on the new earth because NT Wright talks along such lines in his ‘Surprised by Hope’ – a book which I loved, but which has only exacerbated this worrying!)

    I realise this sounds absurd and as if I am just asking ‘smart-arse’ questions which are not very smart at all. But they are real, genuinely puzzling questions for me. If the answer is ‘yes, we will need a sewage system’, I find just find that bizarre in the extreme. If the answer is ‘no, don’t be so ridiculously literal’ – then I begin to wonder in what sense the bodies we’re talking about are really bodies after all. If the answer is what Alan suggests Aquinas might think – that we’ll have these organs but not actually use them, I’m just bemused: wouldn’t it be really odd to have hearts that don’t beat, stomachs that don’t digest, testes that don’t produce sperm? I think a philosopher (and I appreciate Aquinas was a better one than me) might say that pretty much the definition of living organs is that they work!

    So I find myself wondering whether it would not just be better to say that we don’t really have a clue what the resurrection of the body means. That what we’re trying to do when we use the phrase is really only to deny something: to deny that our destiny is a dilution of our present state, that we will somehow be ghostly shadows of what we are now. We look to be caught up and transformed by something infinitely beyond our ability to conceptualise, and that that catching up will involve our whole selves. But beyond that, we cannot say. Our future destiny will bear as much obvious resemblance to how we are now as a flower does to a seed – as Paul suggested. (I’m not interested for the moment in drawing the consequences from that view for sexual ethics – and I don’t think they are obvious).

    Someone might obviously come back and say – well what about the risen Jesus? Didn’t he look (to some extent) the same, and didn’t he eat fish? Well… yes: but are we committed to the view that Jesus is for eternity how he appeared to the disciples for the forty days before Ascension? (serious question).

    I am also really deeply puzzled by what exactly people think they mean when they talk about the ‘new earth’, which (certainly in the hands of NT Wright) often goes hand in hand with the recent robust reaffirmation of the resurrection of the body. But that’s perhaps an issue for another thread!

  6. Thoughts:

    From Gen 1:26-28

    Two commands: to rule (v26, v28) & to multiply (v28).

    In the image of God, male & female (v27).

    God is biologically neither male nor female, but almost universally in Scripture is described in the male role with his people (corporately) female:
    – Father and Son
    – YHWH as husband to Israel / Judah
    – Christ as groom to church

    I suggest that:
    – “image of God” focuses on ruling, while male & female is necessary for fertility, or
    – “image of God” expressed as male and female looking forward to God / people imagery, or
    – aspects of both.

    In the NT, there is the exchange between Jesus and the Sadducess (Matt 22:30, Mark 12:25, Luke 20:34), where he declares that in the resurrection they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In addition, Luke’s account seems indicate that not marrying is a consequence of never dying.

    These ideas might have influenced Paul’s advice to the Corinthians regarding voluntary celibacy (outside marriage) – if human marriage is for this age only, then there’s wisdom in foregoing it for the sake of the age to come.

    On resurrection bodies:

    In Col 3:21, Paul refers to a “new, glorious body”. This, and similar passages (e.g. 1 Cor 15:35ff), suggest some discontinuity between our present body and future body. Obviously, there’s a degree of recognition, else the disciples would not be able to recognise Jesus resurrected, but even then it takes them a while the first few times. Reason would also suggest that a Christian who dies in a grisly murder doesn’t resurrect with a broken, damaged body in an age where there is no more crying or mourning or pain.

    As such, I see no reason to draw a direct connection between our current and future biology.

    (1) in the age to come, there is no need to “be fruitful and multiply”
    (2) in the age to come, humans “neither marry nor are given in marriage” (except corporately as the bride of Christ)
    (3) our present biology does not dictate our future biology

    A reasonable conclusion is that sexual intercourse is of this age. Scripture emphatically connects sexual intercourse with procreation and marriage, both of which seem to be prominent features of this age and absent from the next. It doesn’t follow from this that we will not remain recognisably male or female, or Jew or Gentile for that matter, but at the least the sexual aspects of the male / female distinction seem to be of little relevance in the age to come.

    I’m think my conclusions differ very slightly from Ian’s, but not by much.

    That said, I don’t think there are any grounds to read back these features of the next age as permission for licentiousness in this. Paul can say in Galatians 3:28-29 that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female when it comes to eligibility for the Kingdom, and yet affirm living out those same distinctions in this age in multiple other letters. In his letter to the Corinthians he commends remaining unmarried (and celibate) in this age for the sake of the kingdom, but likewise commands husband and wife to remain sexual with each other and commands those who would be sexual to be faithfully married.

    To read back license seems to invite the rebuke of 1 Cor 6: “All things are lawful” – but not all are helpful. “Food for the body and the body for food” – but God will destroy them both. Our freedom is freedom to glorify God with our body, not to defile it.

    • Thanks. My conclusion of the conference paper was ‘We will be sex differentiated, but [compared with the importance of procreation] it won’t matter *that* much.’

  7. Ian. Fascinating. I’ve only just picked this up.
    Do you think our sexuality will be healed in the resurrection? I mean if you believe homosexuality is the result of the Fall (I’m not saying you do) or is in some way disordered, will persons in the new creation all be heterosexual?

    • I think (if pushed, and crudely expressed) yes, I do believe that SSA is a result of the fall, and that is relatively easy to understand if you realise (as testified by research) that our sexual development is highly context-dependent. I am the child of sinful parents, who might not have known how to raise me well.

      Theologically, the existence of disability would also be seen as a result of the fall. There is a debate amongst disability theologians about what that means for resurrection life, which I have highlighted above.

      But my way into some of these thinkers has been Wes Hill, who explores the question you ask explicitly here:


      He concludes with a quotation from a friend:

      [O]ur eschatological healing will not erase the things that have defined us in this life, but will gloriously transform them. So—to pick a couple of the classic loci of identity politics—our various ethnic/national identities will somehow survive and add to the richness of the worship in the Kingdom (I think I have some Biblical support here) and our disabilities will not simply be done away with, as if they were never there, but will be transformed in our healing so that an aspect of the glory we display will be as people who were once disabled. Obviously, it isn’t hard to fit sexuality somewhere in there (much nearer ethnicity than disability, in my estimation)…. [I]n the Kingdom I will be straight, and you and Aelred will be gay, [but] these identifiers will no longer name desires but will instead name facets of the glory of God’s grace that will shine forth from our sanctified lives.

  8. Super post Paul, Thank you.
    My thoughts…or questions circle around the following issues:
    1) how does our post-resurrection reality relate to the pre-fall creation? Were Adam and Eve experiencing then what we will one day enjoy as heaven? Or is heaven this far side of the cross something very different?
    2) Your quote by CSLewis at the end nails it for me. We are projecting from a 2D reality into a 4D future and I’m not sure we can ever understand this side of eternity what we’re being called on to.
    3) But mostly I’m wondering this…Before Eve was formed did Adam have a willy? 😉 …and more than a useful device for weeing behind trees…did he have sperm and so on and could he be aroused sexually?

  9. It’s difficult to imagine gender in the new creation without some form of attraction between male and female and yes, even some form of “union” even without procreation/marriage.

    Nothing in Scripture leads us to believe that special relationships between spouses will be eliminated.
    Even without procreation I think genital intercourse is unitive. I once read that even though the resurrected body did not need food to survive, there would be food as a means of fellowship and of experiencing the universe via our taste buds. Similarly, even though there’s no need for reproduction, maybe there would be sexual intercourse for intimacy, bonding and mutual delight. Sex, after all, is not just reproductive capacity. Our sex organs and secondary sexual characteristics have functions other than procreation.

    • Thanks Daniel—but I am now worried that I have not explained myself clearly enough. Contrary to your comment, there are two rather important things in Scripture that do lead us to believe that the ‘special relationship’ between spouses will be eliminated—though not eliminated as much as superseded.

      The first is one of exegesis—Jesus’ specific teaching that in the resurrection we will be ‘like the angels’ and there will be no ‘giving in marriage’. It is implausible to read this (as BW3 does) as suggesting that there is no process of marrying; the whole point of Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees conundrum of levirate marriage is just that: ‘to whom will she be married?’. If Jesus’ teaching doesn’t mean that there is no marriage, I have no idea what it does mean.

      The second is big picture: if marriage is a mysterious anticipation of God’s union with his people, then when what is perfect comes, what is partial will fall away. There will be marriage in the age to come, but only one: that between God and his people. There will be no more need for marriage as an end to loneliness and an answer to our craving for intimacy: our marriage to God as his bride will meet all these needs.

  10. Ian,

    My mother once asked me whether I’d be male or female in Heaven. I told her I didn’t know, but wouldn’t care my Redeemer loves me.

    My body’s intersex. Some of my cells have a Y chromosome. Others don’t. In the resurrection, will I suddenly have a functional female reproductive system? Male?

    Will my perfected state mean a shift in gender? I was raised as a boy for a time. Until it became clear that I’d be better off living as a girl. Yet how would that man still be me?

    Some Christians love to reduce the diversity of sex to one single factor. Often that’s the presence or absence of a Y chromosome. But a woman with the complete form of Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome could live her entire life not knowing she has an XY karyotype and testes in her abdomen rather than ovaries and uterus. Will she be male in the resurrection? Or is there some other single factor that will determine the sex of her body? Perhaps her gender identity?

    I don’t know. As I said, my answer was that Jesus loves me. I’ll try my best to serve Him with the body I have, and let Him worry about who I will be in my eternal state.

  11. I am convinced that The Most High designed our bodies as they are. To function as they do and for his own reasoning . I am equally convinced that our bodies in the resurrection could be totally different or look the same but function differently. If we think otherwise is to totally deny the power of The Ancient of days. It is totally possible to have a body that can eat and enjoy food as we call it, and have it completely digested with no waste whatsoever avoiding any excretions at all. It is also possible to have a body that derives its nutriment from other means such as possibly light as plants do. The power of our creator is beyond our imagining . Marriage contracts are annulled at death as it was meant to be in the beginning save for Moses who gave us divorce on account of adultery only because of the hardness of our hearts, emphasis here OUR HEARTS. As Paul says in this life we are a seed what it becomes may be totally different for each individual. Yeshua said in the resurrection they do not marry or are given in marriage. There would be no need as procreation is not needed, no one ever dies again. All I know for sure is The Most High God is in charge and what ever he decides will be most wonderful to me. His power is unimaginable and he uses it righteously for us even when we cannot fathom his thinking. I look with great anticipation to those days of serving and being changed and free of the shackles of a carnal mind. Lord come quickly

  12. I read this twice and am still not convinced for a number of reasons. I could only really go as far as point 1. What CS Lewis says is really important: we cannot understand the spiritual body or the new earth and to make assertive statements is not much more than speculation.
    Paul teaches that we shall be raised, being changed from ‘a natural body’ to having ‘a spiritual body’. The natural body has dishonour (atimos) but the spiritual body has glory. In 1 Cor 12, I have always taken the ‘less honourable parts’ (atimoteros) to refer to the sexual parts which require modesty. From that I have inferred that the spiritual body has no less honourable parts to cover! But that’s speculation too.
    I think you did conclude that there is no marriage on the new earth which infers that there is no need for procreation and family nurture anymore because the command to multiply is only for this life and this earth; hence no need for sexual organs in that future context. This is surely also inferred by Jesus stating in Mark 3 that his family are those who do the will of God and not the genetic family. It has meant I have preached that there is no sex in Heaven which has an interesting sifting effect when it comes to wanting to be there!
    Another clue is from Rev 21 & 22 where there is no light of the sun and no night there but an illumination by some form of divine light. This is where I put my science hat on. Our eyes work by detecting radiation from the sun’s nuclear furnace. If we see with the eyes of our spiritual bodies only by divine light then our eyes no longer function as they do now. I happen to be a qualified plumber so I was intrigued by the commenter who wondered if there would be sewage works i.e. our bodies would continue to digest food as they do now! But that would require the whole gamut of environmental connections to deal with the waste – micro-organisms, smells, plants, etc. On Jerome’s point, if the spiritual body functions as the natural one does now then is Jesus breathing in Heaven? Does Heaven have an atmosphere and gravity which are essential for correct working of the body? Is photosynthesis replenishing the oxygen? Is it still 21% ( a quite finely tuned amount as it happens). If the spiritual body functions as now how can it walk through walls?

    But I do have another angle on this from experience. We spent 20 years living in a Christian community. I found it gave me insights into the real purpose of life as Mary experienced sitting at the feet of Jesus. Because of the way we lived it removed so many of the conflicts which society creates: we had shared houses, shared possessions, shared finances, zero focus on fashion, great focus on modesty and humility, no flirting, learning how to develop meaningful relationships of the heart, widening the importance of brotherly love beyond the confines of the genetic family. In that context, suddenly people and real relationships become the most important thing. I’m convinced that this is what the new earth is all about – relationships beyond the confines of the family. In that future context there is no need for marriage and the family. And in the context of Paul statement in Gal 3 that there is ‘neither male and female’ there was some understanding of that in these relationships. What I really appreciated was being able to appreciate women as people because there was no ‘sexual atmosphere’ if you get what I mean: much like one’s relationship with a sister or daughter. It was a real glimpse into what being ‘degendered’ might be like. If I’m honest, I’m not sure if my relationship with my wife and children on the new earth will be any more special than with anyone else who ‘does the will of God’. I’m trying to have a very open perspective.

    Also this ‘identity’ thing seems to be getting out of hand; almost idolatrous. I know I’m a lone voice on this but I don’t claim an identity other than being a servant of all as per 1 Cor 9. It means I don’t feel special, I’m just one of ‘a great multitude which no one could number’ and I don’t have to focus on myself and my feelings but on others – it’s liberating.

  13. God creating Eve for Adam to cure loneliness, so marriage won’t exist in the the renewed creation because of how many people there are now, is inconsistent. If simply being more aware of God’s presence and love makes marriage unnecessary, than God would have had no reason to create gender and sex to fulfil a different kind of intimate desire to begin with, because God and Adam had exactly that kind of relationship we’ll have with him in the renewed creation, before Eve was made. God still made the marriage union and different genders and the ability to reproduce from sexual attraction. Death being the reason for reproduction contradicts us having that ability during conditions when death wasn’t a factor. At the beginning God said for us to be fruitful and multiply, giving no indication it was to ever stop. Sexual desire for someone your married to isn’t even sin, so there’s another reason it doesn’t need to be destroyed. Food isn’t necessary for an immortal life either, but the only creation of God that isn’t renewed is the intimate marriage relationship with couples, which produces much greater joy and pleasure than food? That makes no sense. Just because some people manage to not care if they can continue having a sinless sexually intimate relationship with someone for eternity, doesn’t make it fair to teach that those who do care should just get over it somehow.

    Jesus was only referring to the act of marrying and being given in levirate marriage anyway, not the actual state of being married. Being married to Jesus is meant metaphorically, and is supposed to be how believers relate to him now, so being married to him contradicts the prudish interpretation of people neither marrying or being given in marriage at the resurrection. We couldn’t be married to Jesus then either. The description is given of God as a husband to his people in parts of the old testament, like Hosea, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. That wasn’t meant to sever marriages of male and female couples anymore than being described as married to Jesus is. We see that the creation account of Genesis and old testament descriptions of God being married to his people contradict the prudish interpretation of what Jesus taught about the future fate of marriage. Bible scholars N. T. Wright and Ben Witherington have studied the context of what Jesus said about marriage to the sadducees.


    • Thanks for the comment Eric. It sounds as though you are proposing a super-mundane understanding of the new creation where we more or less continue as we are, marrying, having sex and having children for ever. I think this is close to the Jewish vision that I mention above, and also to that of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I think it is quite hard to square this with Jesus’ teaching and the wide teaching of the NT. Jesus does not restrict his comments to Levirite marriage, which wasn’t another ‘class’ of marriage in any sense, but marriage for another reason.

      • It’s not mundane, it’s joyous and something created before we sinned and could die, because we lived in a perfect state, which is the conditions that the new creation are going to be restored to. Song of Songs gives no indication that marriage and sex are mundane, and that,s the entire subject of that book. The sadducees specifically mention the custom of levirate marriage in their scenario that they argued to Jesus. That is the only marriage custom where death is a factor. Jesus didn’t need to specify a specific marriage custom because the Sadducees already did that at the beginning of the question.

  14. Obviously, God intended man and woman to live forever together as husband and wife. It was not to be “until death”. God actually meant for men and women to experience sexual desire and pleasure in the pristine environment of Eden. Everyone would have been united with the opposite sex forever. There would have been no homosexuals in spite of there being no written prohibitions or laws concerning such. If God created paradise with humanity ordered in pairs, then paradise restored must also include this fundamental unit. A female for a male, and a male for a female. All created in the image and likeness of God.

    • So why does Jesus say that in the resurrection we will be ‘like the angels, neither marrying nor giving in marriage’? His teaching appears to exactly contradict your claim here. And how come we will end up in a city, not a garden?

      • Isn’t the point of the Resurrection and the new creation to restore all that has been corrupted by sin and death? Why did Jesus say that? Because the resurrected people will not die, so the levirate marriages (to wich Jesus was referring) to a brother in-law performed after the resurrection becomes redundant. Where there is resurrection, there is no death; where there is no death, there is no need for birth; where there is no birth, there is no need for levirate marriage. So Levirate marriage is unlike regular marriage because it only exists because of death. Marriage as companionship in the resurrection is not what Jesus was asked about. If that text do not suggest there is no marital life or families in the creation restored, no text in the Bible does.

  15. Quality blog and comments— thank you everyone. I think that Ian understands ‘marriage and given in marriage’ in the resurrection (heaven) as people who are already married in mortality but not in heaven. Another interpretation that has merit is that the ordinance of marriage is an earthly one with eternal consequences. Those who did not receive this chance will be able to have it by proxy during the Millennium when Christ rules and reigns and all things are corrected. The words “marriage and given in marriage” refers to males who marry and females who are given in marriage. Jesus was talking about Levirate marriage specifically and not other forms of marriage generally. Angels are those who have no progeny in heaven.

    Those who are “great in the kingdom” through Eternal Marriage and great faith may procreate spirit children in Heaven. I see these exalted people in Matthew 5:19 (NIV), “Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Remember, “With Christ all things are possible.”

    • I don’t think it is justifiable to see the phrase ‘marry and given in marriage’ as only applying to Levirite marriage—otherwise we would not be ‘like the angels’. The whole point of Jesus’ teaching is here is that because there is no marriage, the problem presented by Levirite marriage does not pertain. (Levirite marriage isn’t another kind of marriage; it is another reason for marrying.)

  16. Greetings and good tidings brothers and sister of Christ, I tell you the truth, we shall neither marry nor be given in marriage, we shall be like the Angels So what does this mean? Well we know Angels can procreate as evidenced in Genesis, and we know Angels feel attraction as well, the major no no at the time was that God had not prepared for a world with those hybrids, Earth was meant as a mortal human only testing ground. Marriage is also a mortal concept it is meant to provide stability in an imperfect world. The other issues today being unioning with those that are outside of Christ which is defiling your temple, unwanted pregnancy, and diseases, but we will all technically be “married” under the New Covenant for lack of a better word!

    So we know that we can enjoy food but not hunger, we know we can rest but not tire, logically knowing this as well as the info above we can conclude sex will be another enjoyable experience for us. I’m sure it will have to be mutual for both parties to agree on before starting their “meal” however, hope that helps! 🙂

    • …except that, in Jewish context, sex and marriage are considered together, as the other sources I cite show. And it is union with God which is the source of our bliss in the resurrection life. So I am not sure you argument really holds up.

  17. Seems like Jesus meant we don’t marry and we aren’t given in marriage because we will be what He originally intended, male&female.
    Created in His image, completely whole when apart, but always one, together. Like the Father, Son, and Spirit…

    Adam and Eve WERE like the angels, they didn’t decide to marry. They didn’t give themselves to each other in marriage. It was Gods will that Eve complement Adam. It IS, like the angels ARE. All of this was the case BEFORE the fall. If they had not fallen they still would have been male&female and procreated into eternity or until He said to do otherwise. And the fact that even after the fall
    they kept those ancient foundations just shows you how powerful that order is. God loves order and all things are possible with Him. I don’t believe He would throw out that part of His law anymore than He intends to throw out ANY of His law. Marriage to God is not like what we know right now. He said HE joins together what man should not separate, just like He joined Adam to Eve. They were one flesh before they even knew each other, in that He made her from him. This is a great mystery just like the bible
    says, one He will elaborate on, and supersede
    to His glory, because fully realizing our image of God in a union with our counterpart that keeps Him at the center WILL be glorifying to Him. Mysteries don’t become a footnote, or a consequential insignificance. He will be restoring His order and maximizing it to the potential He has in Mind.

    God healed disabled people when He walked here in the flesh… how much more will He heal them when sin no longer reigns.
    Just what I find to be true. God bless!

  18. Hi ,
    ln, (lsaiah 65 : 17-25 )
    it is written :
    ‘For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come in
    to mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that
    which I create: for, behold,
    I create Jerusalem a rejoic ing, and her people a joy.
    19 And I will rejoice in 
    Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice
    of crying There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hund red years old; .And they
    shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them. ‘

    There will be no marriages
    in heaven, but on new

    • …Except that Jesus explicitly contradicts that in his response to the question of the Sadducees. ‘In the resurrection, there will be no marrying or giving in marriage’.


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