The Eternity of Marriage
by Rev. Frederik L. Schnarr
On a certain occasion the Lord said to the Sadducees: "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." [Luke 20: 34-36. Cf. Matthew 22: 30, Mark 12: 25] This teaching is found also in two other Gospels, and upon it, together with a few statements in the Pauline Epistles, the theologians of the Christian churches have founded their doctrine of the non-eternity of marriage.
Support for the idea that there is no eternal marriage of man and woman has been found in Paul's teaching that the unmarried state is preferable to the married - that it is more in keeping with God's will to remain unmarried. Indeed, according to Paul, marriage is a permission to keep man from entering into worse lusts than those which pertain to the marriage relationship. Thus we read in the First Epistle to the Corinthians: "It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.... I would that all men were even as I myself.... I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn." [I Corinthians 7: 1, 2, 7-9] We would note, however, that Paul here says that he speaks this by permission, not by Divine command. [Ibid., v. 6]
Nevertheless, so great has been the influence of his teachings concerning marriage, and so blind have the minds of men been to the sight of spiritual truth, that today we do not find one body within the Christian churches whose doctrines include the idea that man and woman live in a state of eternal marriage after death. The denial of the eternity of marriage has led to the concept of a sexless existence after death - one in which there are no essential male and female qualities; and since it is beyond the scope, experience and reason of the human mind, the attempt to visualize such an existence has in turn led to ethereal and fantastic ideas of the nature of life after death.
That the Christian churches should have developed such a doctrine concerning marriage - which doctrine is ultimated in most marriage services in the phrase, "until death do you part," or the less ominous "as long as you both shall live" - seems strange when we consider much of the literature, poetry, art and music which has been produced by various Christian writers, artists and composers. Over and over again, we find there expressed the idea, the hope, that those who love will meet again beyond the grave, to live together in an eternal state of happiness and peace. From whence comes this hope, this perception, which has continued to exist through the ages in spite of Christian dogma to the contrary? Is it merely a creation of the imagination, arising from the countless limitations, frustrations, disappointments and sorrows of life here on earth?
The Writings tell us that there is an influx into the soul from the Lord through heaven which inclines man and woman to conjunction of soul, mind and body. This conjugial influx descends from the union of Divine love and wisdom in the Lord, and it resides in the inmost of the human soul. It is above man's conscious thought, and it cannot be perverted by him. It is that which inclines him to the propagation of offspring, and to the protection and preservation of all things which relate directly to conjugial love. Because this influx is with man from the Lord, and is received by man as by no other living creature, it looks to what is eternal. It does not give man the knowledge that he will live after death as a man in human form, nor does it tell him that marriage is an eternal institution. It does, however, incline him to believe when the Word is read, or the truth is otherwise presented, that he does live after death, and that a true love formed between one man and one woman lives on to eternity. This is the source of that perception of the eternity of marriage which has never ceased to appear here and there in all ages.
The word, marriage, is used in the Word in two different ways. One usage refers to the covenant and laws of marriage between man and woman; the other to the relationship of the Lord with His church or of the Lord with man. This becomes clear from an examination and comparison of the passages in the Word which refer to marriage. In regard to the first usage, we would note the many laws of marriage contained in the five books of Moses - laws which applied specifically to the people of the Jewish Church. We would note also the commandments against adultery and the coveting of one's neighbor's wife which stand for all churches. In the New Testament there are direct teachings about the marriage covenant, such as the following: "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh. Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." [Matthew 19: 5] Such references to marriage do, of course, have a spiritual sense, as do all things in the Word; nevertheless, their direct teaching in the literal sense has to do with the covenant of marriage between man and woman.
In regard to the second usage, that is, the marriage of the Lord and His church or the conjunction of the Lord and man, we find the following in the Old Testament. "For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee." [Isaiah 62: 5] "Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord which He loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god." [Malachi 2: 11] In the Gospels we read: "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a man, a king, who made a wedding for his son, and sent forth servants and invited to the wedding." [Matthew 22: 1-14] "The kingdom of heaven is like unto ten virgins, who went forth to meet the bridegroom," of whom five, being prepared, went in to the wedding . [Matthew 25: 1-13] And in the Apocalypse: "The marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.... Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb." [Revelation 19: 7, 9]
Unless these two usages in the Word are known and observed, one cannot correctly understand the meaning of the Lord's words to the Sadducees: "The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: but they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world [that is, the spiritual 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." Unless one examines these words carefully in context they appear to say that marriages exist in this world, but not in heaven. However, that the Lord is not here referring to that marriage which involves the man-woman relationship immediately is evident from the meaning of the words regarding resurrection, which occur in the same passage. The Sadducees did not believe in the life after death; thus neither did they believe in the resurrection, and much less in the eternity of marriage. In asking the Lord about the woman who was married in turn to seven brothers, whose wife would she be after death, they were posing a question by which they hoped to make the whole idea of life after death, and of eternal marriage, seem utterly ridiculous. [Matthew 22: 23-28, et al] The Lord did not answer their question directly, for to do so would have involved the revealing of spiritual truths about conjugial love and the nature of life in the spiritual world, and that age was not prepared to receive such a revelation. Had it been given at that time, the Writings tell us, these truths would have been rejected and profaned. Instead, the Lord replied in parabolic language; answering in such a way as to confuse the intent of the Sadducees and yet leave no doubt as to the truth that man continues to live after death - that God is a God of the living, and not of the dead.
The Writings explain that what is referred to by the Lord's words concerning marriage is the spiritual marriage of good and truth, that conjunction which takes place in man when he shuns evils as sins and endeavors to follow the dictates of truth. This is the mode of regeneration, and the marriage of good and truth is the regenerate state. It is the teaching of all Divine revelation that the marriage of good and truth must take place in this world if man is to be saved; that is, it must take place on earth, provided man is in the exercise of freedom and rationality. Man's loves are formed essentially in this world, not in the next; and in the degree and quality in which they are formed here on earth so do they remain to all eternity. That the marriage of good and truth must be entered into here on earth if man is to be saved is what the Lord referred to when He said: "The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage." That the marriage of good and truth, or what is the same, regeneration, cannot take place in the other world, but must have been effected in this world, is what is meant by His saying: "But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage." They do not marry, and are not given in marriage, because the marriage of good and truth has already taken place in their minds in this world.
That the Lord was here referring to regeneration, or the spiritual marriage of good and truth, becomes even more clear when we note the words that follow: "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." "Death" here refers to spiritual death, which is damnation. Once a man has been regenerated, and his loves have been formed permanently thereby, he can never again fall into the state of damnation.
Thus he cannot die any more. He is equal to the angels if he is regenerate, for a regenerate man living on earth is essentially an angel already. And he is a child of God in that his life has been led by the precepts of the Divine will. Such a man is also a child of the resurrection, of the spiritual resurrection; that is, a rising out of the love of evil and falsity into which he is born, and to which he inclines from birth; a rising from this into the love of heaven.
While the Lord's words to the Sadducees do not directly refer to the marriage covenant between man and woman, yet the spiritual marriage of good and truth within each man and woman is necessary before love truly conjugial can possibly exist. Man is the only creature in whom the spiritual marriage of good and truth can take place, and conjugial love goes hand in hand with regeneration. Man is the only creature who has been given the capacities for such a conjunction, and therefore he is the only one who can be conjoined with the Lord. As good and truth are married in man, and as this heavenly marriage is ultimated in the marriage of one man and one woman, so does that conjugial pair become more and more a perfect image of the Divine, and this to all eternity.
Conjugial love is called the fundamental of all human loves because in it all other loves find their expression and use. It is the ultimate of the marriage between the Lord and man, or, what is the same, between good and truth. It involves all the uses of society, and all the delights that the human heart can know. Because of this it is eternal, and it is the very foundation of the heavens.
The essence of conjugial love is the marriage of good and truth. The one is inseparably within the other, and must ever remain so if the eternal uses of creation are to be fulfilled. For this reason the Lord provides that all in whom the marriage of good and truth takes place shall enter into the fullness of conjugial love in heaven, and there come into the joy, delights and happiness which are the fruits of its life. What greater comfort, what greater blessing, could the Lord give to the hearts and minds of men and women in His second coming than to reveal to them that true marriage is eternal, to describe the quality of heavenly marriage, to re-establish its holiness, to show forth its beauty, and to promise it to all who seek Him and His heavenly kingdom!
-New Church Life 1967:87:75-79