I have had the privilege of ministering to those who are terminally ill. Over the years I have come to understand that there is something profound happening between them and God at the time of death. I have been with thirteen individuals who were lucid and responsive to others moments before they died. It has been their words and actions that have allowed me to minister to others who like all of us wonder what comes next after this life.
The first person I was with as he was dying was a young 42 year old father of two. Just moments before he died he sat up, looked at his wife and children and said “if you could see what I see you would not cry for me.” Then he lay down, smiled and quietly surrendered his life into the arms of God. His words did not reveal what he saw but his response to it certainly showed me it was beyond anything this world could offer us. Every one of those individuals has given me a glimpse of a place where wonder and beauty is beyond description. Every one of them desired to be in that place and their words left me with no doubts that they will be with God and others they love.
So that being said the question the gospel poses about marriage in heaven is easy to answer. Our response to the answer will say something about our understanding of God’s mercy, God’s love and of the place he desires to share eternity with us.
We know the question asked of Jesus by Sadducees was an effort to once again discredit Jesus while challenging the Pharisees belief in the resurrection. The Sadducees, along with the majority of Jews at the time of Jesus did not believe in a life after death. Oh they believe the soul exists and they believe Sheol exists but they believed the body does not continue on after death. Their belief was the body is just a container for the soul. In fact today most Jews still do not believe in what we would call heaven and a life in the presence of God.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ time professed a belief which states the body and soul are what makes a person who they are. Their belief in the resurrection has these two parts of us coming together once again – body and soul are reunited and all was as it was before we die.
Jesus responding to the questions of the Sadducees points out that their concept of how the body exists in heaven is all wrong. Our raised body will be changed and glorified. We will finally be exactly the creation God made and placed in paradise. We will share intimacy with God and all the heavenly hosts. The intimacy we share with our spouses here on earth was given to us in order for us to understand how giving of self is essential to love.
I believe, because of the words of thirteen people, that we not only encounter God as we die but we encounter those who went before us. The difference is that all our imperfections are gone and we can love without restraint or conditions. We will run toward those who went before us even those who have wounded and hurt us in this life. The pain of those wounds will not hold us back from embracing them because in our new body we will only be able to love. Intimacy will be total and complete with all including the Father, Son and Spirit.
So the things we cherished about our marriages on this earth will continue forever. The things we wish would have been different will no longer matter because our memory of them will not exist. Heaven will not be just a continuation of what we have now but it will be love on steroids forever. The love we share with others will finally be what it was intended to be when Love manifested itself by creating us.