Restoration of Relationships in Heaven|
Marriage? Friends? Children?
Q. My wife and I were married for 48 years when she passed away last February. We spoke of our future life on the New Earth and hopes of living together on a farm with animals, pastures and woods. I know there is no marriage in heaven. Do you think God would grant our wish of living together on a farm? Would we be able to hug and kiss to show signs of affection like we did during our lifetime? (LC)
What a blessing that you and your wife were married for 48 years and loved each other so deeply! I can't imagine anything more painful than losing a beloved lifelong marriage partner. But, I am certain that God honors your love for your wife and will restore your relationship in a way that will bring you great happiness and peace on the New Earth.
Continuity of Earthly Lives
How can we be sure of this? The continuity of our earthly lives into our heavenly life is so important that God informs us that we will account for everything we have done while on earth:
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for the deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10, NASB).
Law of Continuity
Author Randy Alcorn says, "Our minds will be clearer in Heaven, not foggier. Memory is basic to personality. The law of continuity requires that we will remember our past lives. Heaven cleanses our state of sin and error, but it doesn't erase our memory of it" (2004, 331-332).
Memorials Suggest Memory
Think of it. There are memorials to the twelve tribes of Israel in the city of New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:12b, 14b). These particular memorials are there to not only remember the tribes and the apostles but to also provide for continuity of history and memory.
Recognition of Historical Figures
Not only does the Bible say we will know each other in Heaven, but it also suggests that we will know people we have never even met! The parable of the rich man and Lazarus stresses that the rich man clearly remembers his five unbelieving brothers and worries about their future (Luke 16:19-31). Furthermore, at the Transfiguration of Jesus, Peter instantly recognizes Elijah and Moses. Yet, Moses and Elijah probably lived 1500 to 700 B.C., centuries before Peter was even born! (Matthew 17:1-4). How did Peter recognize them?
Martyrs Remember Earth
The martyrs who are currently in the intermediate Heaven clearly remember what happened to them on Earth (Rev. 6:9-11). "Jesus promised that in Heaven, those who endured bad things on Earth would be comforted (Luke 16:25). The comfort implies memory of the bad things that happened. If we had no memory of the bad things, why would we need comfort? How would we feel it?" (Alcorn, 2004, 331).
Occupation in Heaven
Memory, commemoration and recall of events and other people is one thing. But, what will we be doing on earth during the Millennium and later on the New Earth? The Bible says that we will have a new occupation: reigning with Christ. Here are a few verses that support our future job description:
"If we endure, we will also reign with Him" (2 Tim. 2:12).
"We will be priests of God and of Christ and we will reign with him for a thousand years over the nations" (Rev. 20:6, 2:26).
"Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One" (Daniel 7:27).
(See also Daniel 7:18-22; 1 Cor. 6:2; Luke 19:17, 19-26)
Daily Life&Animals in the Kingdom
Our occupation as rulers in the Kingdom will likely cover daily life such as that described in Isaiah 65. Kingdom citizens will build houses and inhabit them;
"They shall also plant vineyards and eat their fruit
They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity;
The wolf and the lamb shall graze together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent's food.
They shall do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain, says the LORD" (v. 21-25).
During the time of the Millennial Kingdom, Christians will have responsibilities ruling over Old Testament saints, resurrected Tribulation saints, unregenerate adults and children who are Tribulation survivors, angels (1 Cor. 6:2-3), and the animal kingdom.
Dr. Clay Jones comments: "it has always been God's plan that we should reign. The Lord God created the universe and stars and planets, and created the earth, and then the animal kingdom and then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.' So the first thing that God, the ruler of the universe, says about making us in His image is 'let them rule.'" (2011, 3).
Our particular tasks of reigning will be assigned by Jesus Christ when we are judged at the Bema Seat (see Rev. 2:26; 3:21; Luke 19:12-27; Matt. 25:14-30). Theologian Joseph Dillow points out that this future kingdom embraces the entire created order (1994, 562-563). Psalm 8 gives us an idea of what this created order may look like:
"You make man to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea" (v. 6-8).
Teaching Farming Techniques
This suggests that our Lord may very well give us rulership tasks equivalent to our qualifications and desires. It would not surprise me if you and your wife run a vibrant farm with animals, pastures and woods, helping others to provide for the needs of Millennial Earth residents.
Perhaps you will raise sheep or cattle. Maybe you will tend to animal husbandry or grow crops for feed. It may be possible that you will teach Millennial Earth citizens how to grow crops and care for their animals. Many will have survived a difficult Tribulation period where one third of the earth's trees and vegetation were ruined by catastrophic events (Rev. 8:7). They will need to learn new agriculture and farming techniques suitable for an ideal environment.
Grief with Hope
During the Millennial Kingdom affection and love will be expressed in ways that symbolize our love for the Father and for one another. It will be satisfying in ways that we cannot even imagine now. I suspect this is why the apostle Paul said,
"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
Family is God's Institution
I can't imagine grief worse than losing a spouse or child. But, as Christians we still have hope for reuniting with loved ones in a glorious future. Family is an important institution created by God. In Ephesians 3:14 we read,
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name."
Alcorn writes, "We are the Sons and Daughters of God. We are each other's Brothers and Sisters. We are Christ's bride, and Christ is our husband." He continues,
"Heaven won't be without families but will be one big family, in which all family members are friends and all friends are family members. We'll have family relationships with people who were our blood family on Earth."
A True Marriage Mirrored
…"the Bible does not teach there will be no marriage in Heaven. In fact, it makes clear there will be marriage in Heaven. What it says is that there will be one marriage, between Christ and His Bride, and we'll all be part of it. Paul links human marriage to the higher reality it mirrors: 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christ and the Church' (Ephesians 5:31-32)."
A Signpost to Our Bridegroom
"The one-flesh marital union we know on Earth is a signpost pointing to our relationship with Christ as our Bridegroom. Once we reach the destination, the signpost becomes unnecessary. That one marriage, our marriage to Christ, will be so completely satisfying that even the most wonderful earthly marriage couldn't be as fulfilling."
"Early marriage is a shadow, a copy, an echo of the true and ultimate marriage. Once that ultimate marriage begins, at the Lamb's Wedding Feast, all the human marriages that pointed to it will have served their noble purpose and will be assimilated into the one great marriage they foreshadowed. The purpose of marriage is not to replace Heaven, but to prepare us for it."
"People with good marriages are each other's best friends. There's no reason to believe they won't still be best friends in heaven. Our relationships with loved ones will be better than ever. Heaven is a place of gain, not loss."
(Alcorn, Will There Be Marriage, heavenquestions.com)
In his scholarly book, Heaven, Randy Alcorn states, "The notion that relationships with family and friends will be lost in Heaven, though common, is unbiblical. It denies the clear doctrine of continuity between this life and the next and suggests our earthly lives and relationships have no eternal consequence. It completely contradicts Paul's intense anticipation of being with the Thessalonians and his encouraging them to look forward to rejoining their loved ones in Heaven. (2004, 337). However, as we've seen, Christ made it clear that people in Heaven wouldn't be married to each other. He wasn't talking merely about the intermediate Heaven, but in the resurrection. He was specifically saying there will be no marriage among resurrected people on the resurrected Earth."
Christoplatonic Assumptions: Plato's Influence on Christians
"Certainly we should reject all christoplatonic assumptions that sex, which God called very good, would be unworthy of Heaven. Rather than viewing marriage and sex as bad things to be replaced by good ones, we should view them as good things somehow transformed or resurrected into better ones" (2004, 338).
A Future with Marriage Partner
Dr. Mark Hitchcock says, "I plan to spend all of eternity with my wife, Cheryl, in a relationship that goes far beyond anything we have experienced here on earth. No, we won't be married to each other, in that old, earthly sense. But we will both be part of the bride of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will be married to the heavenly Bridegroom. In no way, however, will this preclude Cheryl and me from enjoying an ever-deepening, wonderful, unique relationship. Forever." (2005, 189).
So please take heart and look up! He's coming soon. God has a plan for your life and for your wife's life. Together you will fulfill a vital role in helping to care for His Kingdom on earth and after that, in the New Jerusalem and on the New Earth forever and ever. It's an awesome task that we've been given, and our marriages on earth prepare us for a glorious future with each other and our King.
Alcorn, Randy. 2004. Heaven. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale.
…Heaven questions. Will there be marriage and family in Heaven? Heavenquestions.com.
Hitchcock, Mark. 2005. 55 Answers to questions about life after death. Sisters, OR: Multnomah.
Jones, Clayton. 2011. Our occupation: reigning with Christ. Available in PDF form on-line. Chapter from a coming book entitled, Why God allows evil.
Valorie Emilio holds an MA in history from UCLA focusing upon Christian origins. She teaches and works with women at the Gospel Rescue Mission in Grants Pass, Oregon, where her husband, Ken, serves as Executive Director.