Marriage in the Resurrection?

A positive case for marriage-like relationships (and their entailments) in the resurrection   
Last updated 11/2/2020 

Jesus said "for in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven" Mt 22:30 (also Mk 12:25; Lk 20:34-35). These words may have considerable pastoral significance for many Christians who enjoy or look forward to their marriage.


Despite the apparently obvious meaning (and implications) of this saying, I attempt in the paper below to present a positive case that a unique, romance-like love relationship like a marital bond between a man and woman (and maybe even childbirth and child rearing in this context) might still exist in the resurrection age. This is the first "study" I know of that tries to bring all relevant OT data to bear and examine this issue from a variety of angles.  I also provide extra links below supportive of this positive case.


Before reading it, please note the following points -

  • This paper is written in a semi-scholarly style and references mostly academic works available at a university.
  • Given the subject matter, I'll still try to assume an orthodox Christian protestant (evangelical) perspective on Scripture, theology and philosophy.
  • I am NOT a qualified Biblical scholar, but only a layman with an intellectual and pastoral interest on this subject. Thus the positive case I present may have serious flaws in it.
  • This study is a work in progress and much more work can be done. My time commitments prevent me from further developing and polishing my case. It is left for the interested reader to do this.
  • Note that this paper only attempts to present a good positive case. I will NOT say whether I think that this case is ultimately convincing or correct.
  • Nonetheless I hope the paper might help the reader see this issue from a fresh perspective. I hope the reader might find it interesting or maybe even encouraging.
  • Due to time commitments I won't necessarily be able to edit this paper based on reader suggestions. It will be left to the interested reader to respond to and/or develop the ideas in this paper further. 
    • You can leave comments, if you wish, at 'rezfamilies' 'at' 'gmail' 'dot' 'com', but I ask for your understanding if (due to my other commitments) I am unable to reply to you.  
  • The reader is free to use this document in whichever way he/she wishes. There is no copyright. Link to this web page if you feel like it.
  • Edits and/or updates to this article may or may not be posted in the future.


Here is the paper -

Version 3 - 4 April 2009familial_structs_escha.pdf

Any addenda to original paper with new insights, ideas etc will be added here -


Below I try to compile a collection of other (to me noteworthy) websites/books that make a positive case.  They are largely Christian sites, but note I do not necessarily endorse all the content of these pages or the sites they belong to -   

1.  (Catholic perspective)

2.     Meyendorff's book (Eastern Orthodox perspective)

    - Another link also espousing the Orthodox view is found in    

      - The article says that love (probably of the romantic type) continues between married couples into the next life, but doesn't go so far to say that other 'earthly' or 'carnal' aspects of this-worldly marriage (sexual intercourse, parturition etc) will continue.  Meyendorff's view is likely in agreement with this shorter article.

3. The following website argues that marriage and begetting children can occur in the Millennial Kingdom (see parts 3, 15 and 16)  -  


See also

Appears to be a Messianic Jewish website.  Also see the links at the bottom of the page, which lead to other interesting points and discussion (most of which of course, have been covered in the paper and other sites).  Basically makes the point that the type of "marriage" which Jesus says will cease is the "earthly" type (dependent on human government, custom and recognition).  Also a long discussion on the corporeality of the "Sons of God" in Gen 6.    

5. The following website discusses empirical evidence for the existence of soulmate bonds (including romantic soulmates) that continue even after death.  This evidence draws from some Near Death Experience (NDE) cases.  Note it does NOT have generally theological/biblical/Christian content but the empirical evidence still seems interesting -


Some interesting thoughts on this blog, which are also found in my paper.


More interesting thoughts on this blog, especially comment #1.

8. For those with access to the Expository Times journal, Peter Shepherd makes a positive case for   sexual relationships in heaven in the 2 articles below -

    Shepherd, P, "Sex in Heaven?", The Expository Times, vol 104, pp. 332-336, 1993.

    Shepherd, P, "Sex in Heaven (Correspondence)", The Expository Times, vol 105, pp. 84-85, 1993.


An interesting article that basically takes the view that the Mt 22 mainly concerns Levirate marriage.  Contains links to other sources treating the same subject, including a useful link to Ben Witherington's treatment.


See also

Similar points to what has been made.  Gives more Bible verses, and also some analysis of the Greek meanings of "marriage" (this discussion however is beyond my abilities).  


Makes the case that God will do the job of pairing off people in the afterlife.  See also the interesting and extensive comments discussion, including of Scriptural passages in Rom 7 and 1 Cor 7.


Another quite useful article that also employs much of the same arguments found in the main paper above, albeit more concisely.  See the comments discussion too.

Some more interesting articles from the Triablogue -

 - (the preceding 2 blog posts provide reasons to think Jesus was referring only to Levirate marriage, given the clearer connection or flow of thought from resurrection immortality to "no more marriage")

 - (a speculative             fictional story about what life is like in the afterlife)




13. and and

On my reading, these articles basically make the case that romantic, even sexual relationships, can continue in the resurrection, even if these be not termed 'marriages' in the postlapsarian, earthly sense.  The author, Ernest Martin, is referred to approvingly by Michael S Heiser, an OT scholar who has written much on Biblical supernatural themes, and who I respect.  


A fairly detailed article examining Bible passages concerning the New Heavens and Earth.  Also some interesting discussion on the nature of contracts/covenants.  Comes to the conclusion that no marriage-like relationships exist in the Millennial kingdom, but these will resume after (in the New Heavens and Earth) 


Makes largely the same points in my paper and this site - even linking to it - but with (I think) a more intelligent and competent writing style than mine.

16. Another with interesting discussion in the comments, is


An apparently scholarly article discussing ancient Jewish and early Church views on this very subject.  Should be read in conjunction with my patristics research (below).  It may not so explicitly state that marriage will continue in the resurrection, but seems open/friendly to this idea.

18. Here's a link to a letter by Charles Kingsley, once chaplain to Queen Victoria.  He tries to explain Mt 22:24-28, but still says his union with his wife is "as eternal as my own soul".  He doesn't take the traditional view of this pericope.

19. Pastor Glenn Pease here assembles quotations from some prominent past figures (not all of whom would be considered as within orthodox Christianity) in favor of or against marriage (and in particular sex) in the resurrection.  Glenn Pease has since delivered a sermon here where he takes a view favorable to there being the continuation of romantic love bonds in the resurrection, though not of its expression through sexual activity.

20. Another short article which says that "it is the misuse and abuse of the marriage relationship which is Divinely condemned [in the marriage pericope', and therefore its imperfection, together with the passions and lusts of the flesh, will pass away" here.

21. Gary Cangelosi here, who though holding a peculiar or unorthodox view of the Millennium, writes that during this era there will be marriage and childbirth even among the saints.  Cangelosi has independently found many of the quotations by the Church Fathers listed below.

22. Andrew Perriman here says the notion of marriage as "companionship" is "not what Jesus was asked about", though Perriman does say "there is no need for [marriage] in the resurrection" if "marriage is primarily about procreation".  See also the interesting discussion in the comments.

23. Lee Woofenden here responds to arguments by Alcorn and Piper on the discontinuation of marriage in the afterlife.  Like several of the sources cited, Woofenden thinks that the sort of "marriage" Jesus was referring to in the pericope is the "earthly" sort dependent on human custom and governmental recognition.   That Woofenden is a Swedenborgian does not necessarily mean his rebuttals do not still have some merit.  Again see the comments discussion and also further links on his site.

24. Kilgallen, J. J., "The Sadducees and Resurrection from the Dead: Luke 20,27-40", Biblica, vol. 67. no. 4 (1986), pp. 478-495, available here, who argues that Jesus was talking about the abolishment of just levirate marriage.  His argument in brief, is that

(a) By Jesus' citation of Moses, he's showing that he's adapting himself to the framework out of which the Sadducees fashion their problem; he "lets them determine the limits within which he will respond to them."

(b) Jesus wasn't "asked a question which would seek his opinion about all forms of marriage (including sexuality) in the age to come".

(c) The Sadducees' thought experiment having all seven husbands and the woman dying without progeny indicates that they "are assuming that the purpose of marriage which was underlined in the first marriage and which necessitated the following six marriages is the reason why the woman will have to be the wife of one of the seven" i.e. they were interested only in knowning who will procreate the child which hadn't been procreated in this age, assuming that "the next age is like enough to this age and that what was demanded in this age will be demanded in the next".

 - It's left to Jesus to decide only who of the seven husbands will be the one to raise up a male heir, as all of the woman's marriages are subordinated to the repeated fact that each ended without an heir.

- Thus the Sadducee's question was more like "whose wife will she be, so that a male heir may be raised up in the age to come, since they all have died to this age without male heir"?  This full context "determines what precisely is the question the Sadducees pose".

(d) Jesus' use of gameo (marry) or gamiskontai (given in marriage) "shows his acceptance of the limited question of the Sadducees" and suggests a being 'forced' to be marry (by the Law).  The combination of these verbal expressions together with the fuller contextual significance of the Sadducees' final question indicates that Jesus intends to address a question of marriage in the terms in which it's posed i.e. 'which of the seven men will be husband of the woman in the next life, in order to raise up the requisite heir who will thwart the blotting out of the original husband's name, who will perpetuate the house of this man?'"

 - Jesus turns his attention from the Sadducees' precise question to address the presupposition of that question, showing that they have misunderstood the nature of life in the age to come.  He prefers to correct this misunderstanding rather than to determine which of the seven men will be husband.  Thus "Jesus swiftly does away with any idea that marriage for this purpose (i.e. raising a male heir) makes sense for the age to come, for the first husband, who will enjoy life unending in the age to come, will need no heir to thwart death". 

 - Though at the end, Jesus "never did say which of the seven men would be husband in the age to come".

25. N T Wright in his "The Resurrection of the Son of God" here, citing Kilgallen apparently favorably, seems to say that in the marriage pericope of Luke, Jesus doesn't deal with the question of marriage (or romantic love) in general - "A key point, often unnoticed, is that the Sadducees’ question is not about the mutual affection and companionship of husband and wife, but about how to fulfil the command to have a child, that is, how in the future life the family line will be kept going ... the question about the Levirate law is irrelevant to the question of the resurrection, because in the new world that the creator god will make there will be no death, and hence no need for procreation ... Neither the evangelists, nor Jesus, nor his interlocutors, face the question which occurs to us: if marriage is designed to procreate the species in the face of death, why does Gen. 2 describe it being instituted before the fall? The only answer seems to be that the present question and answer remain limited by the implied scope of the Levirate law."  

So perhaps romantic love, marriage for reasons unrelated to Levirate law, or even procreation for reasons unrelated to Levirate law, are separate issues and not circumscribed by the scope of Jesus' words in the marriage pericope.  Unfortunately, I did not see Wright's treatment of this topic in this book until after I had written my paper above, or else I would have included it as another positive source (by such a renowned author) alongside Witherington's commentary.

26. Joel Green's commentary on the Gospel of Luke (1997) also seems to say that this pericope concerns Levirate marriage.  

Some points of note - Green says "also of import in what follows is the view of marriage institutionalized in this legislation, for it exhibits a profoundly patriarchal understanding of marriage, in which the women was 'taken' by the man and was essential to his need for progeny.

There is, on the one hand, the persistence of life through one's progeny, guaranteed by ... levirate marriage.  On the other, there is resurrection.  'Immortality through posterity' is upheld by Moses ... and this renders the idea of resurrection absurd; therefore, from a Sadducean point of view, Torah excludes belief in the afterlife.

That the latter group 'are considered worthy' signifies their apathy toward self-promotion and self-justification; their 'worth' isn't measured by comparison with others in a tug-of-war for honor and prestige in the agonistic culture of 'this world', but is granted by God.  On the basis of those whose dispositions are marked by mercy, giving without expectation of return, love of enemies etc.

Although typically represented as passive verbs, the instances of the two verbs translated 'are given in marriage' actually appear in the middle voice: 'to allow oneself to be married'.  The focus shifts from a man 'taking a wife' to include the woman's participation in the decision to marry.  One sort of person is aligned with the needs of the present age; such persons participate in the system envisioned by the Sadducees, with women given and taken, even participating in their own objectification as necessary vehicles for the continuation of the family name.  The other draws its ethos from the age to come, where people will resemble angles insofar as they no longer face death.  Absent the threat of death, the need for levirate marriage is erased.  The undermining of the levirate marriage ordinance is itself a radical critique of marriage as this has been defined around the necessity of procreation.  No longer must women find their value in producing children for patrimony.  Jesus thus underscores the absurdity of the Sadducees' question by undermining its major premises."

27. Here (a Swedenborgian blog).  But look at Tracey's and especially Traynor's colourful comments e.g. saying there is romantic love, marriage or sex in the resurrection is "like putting a blind man in a pitch black room and telling him he can see now. In a heaven devoid of a physical body, devoid of male-female pairing, and devoid of intercourse, the infertile are eternally unhealed and eternally on the outside looking in. How that's any different from the life I'm living now, I do not know, but it sure doesn't sound like 'heaven" to me.'"

28.Here (another Swedenborgian blog, but with interesting and supportive comments discussion).

29. Here - this blog post is actually against the notion of marriage, sexual intercourse and parturition in the world to come (and both in the blog and comments also engages in some discussion on patristic and Thomistic sources that lean more towards the traditional "eternal celibacy in the age to come" view), but it lists an interesting contrary midrash from Midrash Alpha-Betot, and there are also some interesting contrary comments.

30.  Sometimes, fiction can be helpful in giving some ideas as to what conditions in the Millennium (or beyond) might be like.  E.g. Tolkien engaged in substantial metaphysical ruminations in works like the Laws and Customs, or the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, on the nature of the Elves (immortal and glorious beings not unlike glorified eschatological humanity).  In his fictional universe such beings live alongside normal human beings - providing a glimpse of how glorified and non-glorified humans might perhaps dwell together in the Millennium.  

Also, Elves (in general) only have children at one point in their existence (perhaps providing some sort of analogical answer to the question of overpopulation if sexual activity continues in the eschaton), have indefinite prolongation of marriage even after death (due to the nature of Elvish reincarnation) and thus do not remarry, do not divorce or yield to lust.  And they possess something like eternal youth, superior physical regenerative abilities and reincarnation upon death (which might answer the question of what would happen if prelapsarian Adam or glorified resurrected humans were in a normally lethal situation).  Perhaps Tolkien was accorded some glimpse of conditions in the Millennium or Eternal State that he put into his fiction.

31. As a side project, I tried to do a search myself of all the writings of the Church Fathers who speak on this subject.  I did this by searching for keywords in the large files containing their writings available on the ccel websiteThis is an exhausting venture and I'm sure others can do a better job of it with more time.

Nevertheless, in my searches I got the impression that almost all the Fathers (including the chiliasts) who spoke on eschatology either had fairly ascetical leanings (i.e. no marriage, sexual activity etc after the resurrection) or simply didn't say anything relevant to this subject.  

But sometimes their writings do hint otherwise -  

   Irenaeus -  where he speaks of the "fertility of the earth" .  Actually (credit to Gary Cangelosi for finding this) a better quote would be here, where Irenaeus says "those that are left shall multiply in the earth".

   Justin Martyr - where he says after the time of the Antichrist (and presumably in the Millennium), each man will possess "his own married wife".  Interestingly, given what he says elsewhere like here and here, if his own words are to be reconciled together, perhaps Justin believed that marrying would cease only after the Millennium.    

   Lactantius -  where he says the resurrected saints will "produce an infinite multitude"

   Commodian - who says the saints are "marrying, beget for a thousand years"

   Chrysostom -  who, although generally an ascetic, appears favorable to the notion of a continuing, apparently exclusive, intimate love-bond between husband and wife even in the next life, as seen in two places -

   (a) In this homily, where he displays a sublime wisdom toward (and a seemingly very positive view of) marriage.  Below is the relevant edited quote (although it's recommended that the entire homily be read) where he instructs young husbands to pray thus with their wives:   

"And I pray, and beseech, and do all I can, that we may be counted worthy so to live this present life, as that we may be able also there in the world to come to be united to one another in perfect security ... But if we shall be counted worthy ... then shall we ever be both with Christ and with each other, with more abundant pleasure ..."

   (b) In this poignant letter to a young widow, where he comforts her with the possibility (among other things) that she will one day be re-united with her husband in a manner which appears to share significant continuity with her relationship with him prior to his death.   

Chrysostom says so many interesting things (e.g. he seems to imply that if she wants this relationship restored with her husband in the next life, she shouldn't remarry etc) that it's recommended one reads the letter in its entirety, but the relevant edited quotes are given below and can hopefully speak for themselves.  

It'll be interesting to ask what Chrysostom would say to her if she had also greatly desired children, or what he'd say to a single person who also desired to be in the sort of relationship that the widow and the husband shared (and will apparently share in the resurrection).  Also it'll be interesting to know if Chrysostom would've had any problem with there also being a physical aspect to this intimate post-resurrection relationship (he probably would though, given his ascetical leanings).  The quotes are -    

"But perhaps you long to hear your husband’s words, and enjoy the affection which you bestowed upon him ... Well! the affection which you be stowed on him you can keep now just as you formerly did."

"For such is the power of love, it ... fastens together not only those who are present, and near, ... but also those who are far distant; and neither length of time, nor separation in space, ... can break up and sunder in pieces the affection of the soul. But if you wish to behold him face to face (for this I know is what you specially long for) keep thy bed in his honour sacred from the touch of any other man, and ... assuredly thou shalt depart one day to join the same company with him ... for infinite and endless ages."

"And then thou shalt receive him back again no longer in that corporeal beauty which he had when he departed, but in lustre of another kind, and splendour outshining the rays of the sun ... the bodies of those who have been well pleasing to God, will be invested with such glory as these eyes cannot even look upon."

"Well then submit to this now ... not to receive him back clad in a vesture of gold but robed in immortality and glory such as is fitting for them to have who dwell in Heaven. "

"And if you find the trial very unbearable owing to its long duration, it may be that he will visit you by means of visions and converse with you as he was wont to do, and show you the face for which you yearn.
For all things which we plant in Heaven yield a large and abundant crop ... And if you do this, see what blessings you will enjoy, in the first place eternal life and the things promised to those who love God ...  and in the second place perpetual intercourse with thy good husband ...

"Wherefore desisting from mourning and lamentation do thou hold on to the same way of life as his, yea even let it be more exact, that having speedily attained an equal standard of virtue with him, you may inhabit the same abode and be united to him again through the everlasting ages, not in this union of marriage but another far better. For this is only a bodily kind of intercourse, but then there will be a union of soul with soul more perfect, and of a far more delightful and far nobler kind."

Update 30/12/12 - 

J Trenham's Marriage and Virginity according to St. John Chrysostom (Durham Theses, 2003, available at a more thorough treatment of Chrysostom's views on the resurrection life, including those aspects pertaining to the state of marriage in the eschaton.  This fascinating (and recommended) study reinforces the above conclusion; namely, that Chrysostom does hold to a view close to the positive case enunciated in the above paper, though without its more physical, carnal or parturient aspects.  The thesis also references an interesting quote by Tertullian, which is reproduced below.

Tertullian (found 30/12/12) - who says "But if 'in that age they will neither marry nor be given in marriage, but will be equal to angels,' is not the fact that there will be no restitution of the conjugal relation a reason why we shall not be bound to our departed consorts?  Nay, but the more shall we be bound (to them), because we are destined to a better estate - destined (as we are) to rise to a spiritual consortship, to recognize as well our own selves as them who are ours."

So Tertullian basically believes in a continued, albeit probably spiritual-only, union of the married in the eschaton (though again, his position is likely somewhat different to that argued in the main paper above).


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