Questions From Readers
▪ Is it wise for a Christian whose mate has died to remain single in the hope of being reunited in the future?
How fine it is that a Christian should feel love for his or her mate even after that one has died! Some in this situation have remained single, not because of being content with singleness, but in hopes of resuming the marriage after the resurrection. While not being insensitive to the human feelings behind those hopes, we encourage such ones to consider some Biblical points.
For instance, bearing on the matter are the apostle Paul’s words: “A wife is bound during all the time her husband is alive. But if her husband should fall asleep in death, she is free to be married to whom she wants, only in the Lord. But she is happier if she remains as she is.” (1 Corinthians 7:39, 40) This shows that the marital bond ends when one’s mate dies. It was a kindness for God to inform Christians of this, for thus widows and widowers can weigh their emotional and other needs in deciding whether to remarry; they are not bound to the deceased.—1 Corinthians 7:8, 9.
Does the Bible, though, indicate whether resurrected ones will be able to marry or to resume a previous marriage that was ended by a death? One account seems to bear on this question. It involved Sadducees who, while not even believing in the resurrection, came to Jesus trying to entrap him. They presented this problem involving brother-in-law marriage: “There were seven brothers; and the first took a wife and died childless. So the second, and the third took her.* Likewise even the seven: they did not leave children behind, but died off. Lastly, the woman also died. Consequently, in the resurrection, of which one of them does she become the wife?”—Luke 20:27-33; Matthew 22:23-28.
Christians are not under the Law, but a similar difficulty could be raised concerning them. For example: Brother and Sister C—— were married and had two children. Then he died. Sister C—— loved and deeply missed him, but she felt a need for companionship, financial support, sexual expression, and help with the children. So she married Brother M——, which union was as Scriptural as the first. Later he became ill and died. If the former mates were resurrected and marriage were possible, whom might she marry?
Consider Jesus’ response to the Sadducees: “The children of this system of things marry and are given in marriage, but those who have been counted worthy of gaining that system of things and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. In fact, neither can they die anymore, for they are like the angels, and they are God’s children by being children of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised up even Moses disclosed . . . when he calls Jehovah ‘the God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob.’ He is a God, not of the dead, but of the living, for they are all living to him.”—Luke 20:34-38; Matthew 22:29-32.
Some have felt that Jesus was here referring to the heavenly resurrection, yet there are reasons to believe that his reply was about the earthly resurrection in the coming “system of things.” What reasons underlie this view? Those questioning Jesus did not believe in him or know about a heavenly resurrection. They asked about a Jewish family under the Law. In reply Jesus referred to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, men who hoped for life again on earth. (Genesis 42:38; Job 14:13-15; compare Hebrews 11:19.) Those patriarchs, and millions of others, who are raised on earth and who prove faithful will be “like the angels.” Though mortal, they will not die once God has declared them righteous for endless life.
Human emotions today might make this a difficult conclusion to accept. But it is to be noted that nowhere does the Bible say that God’s resurrecting the faithful means restoring their marital status. Hence, no one believes that if Aquila and Priscilla have gained life in heaven, they have resumed their marriage. (Acts 18:2) And Joseph and Mary will evidently live in different realms—he on earth and she in heaven. (John 19:26; Acts 1:13, 14) Since none of us have lived in heaven, we cannot say what feelings Aquila, Priscilla, and Mary might have there, yet we can be sure of their finding full contentment in their heavenly service.
Similarly, we have never lived as perfect humans. Thus we cannot be sure how we will feel about past relationships if and when we gain perfect human life in a paradise. It is good for us to remember that when Jesus made that statement he was a perfect human and therefore in a better position than we to appreciate the feelings of those who are “counted worthy of gaining that system of things.” We can also trust that Jesus is able to ‘sympathize with our present weaknesses.’ (Hebrews 4:15) So if a Christian finds it hard to accept the conclusion that resurrected ones will not marry, he can be sure that God and Christ are understanding. And he can simply wait to see what occurs.
There is no reason now to overemphasize this matter. The psalmist wrote: “Know that Jehovah is God. It is he that has made us, and not we ourselves. We are his people and the sheep of his pasturage . . . Give thanks to him, bless his name. For Jehovah is good.” (Psalm 100:3-5) Our good God will certainly provide amply for our true needs if we are “counted worthy of gaining that system of things.”—Job 34:10-12; Psalm 104:28; 107:9.
God’s goodness is reflected also in his informing us that the death of a mate concludes the marriage. (Romans 7:2) Thus anyone who has lost a mate can know that he or she is free to remarry now if that seems needed or best. Some have remarried, thereby helping to fill their own present needs and those of their family. (1 Corinthians 7:36-38; Ephesians 6:1-4) Consequently, a Christian whose mate has died should not feel obliged to remain mateless now out of an expectation that former marriage mates will be reunited in the resurrection to life here on earth in the coming system.
If an Israelite died before his wife brought forth a son who could receive the inheritance, the man’s brother had to marry the widow with the view of producing a son by her.—Deuteronomy 25:5-10.