Questions From Readers
Ephesians 3:14, 15 says that to God “every family in heaven and on earth owes its name.” Are there families in heaven, and does each human family somehow get its name from Jehovah?
There are no families in heaven such as there are on earth, with a father, a mother, and children—all related to one another in a fleshly way. (Luke 24:39; 1 Corinthians 15:50) Jesus indicated clearly that angels do not marry, and nothing suggests that they in any way produce offspring.—Matthew 22:30.
However, the Bible speaks in a figurative way of Jehovah God as being married to his heavenly organization; he is married in a spiritual sense. (Isaiah 54:5) That heavenly organization produces offspring, such as the angels. (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:4-7) In this sense, then, there exists a wonderful spiritual family in heaven.
Moreover, a new figurative family is developing in heaven, consisting of Jesus Christ and his congregational bride of 144,000. (2 Corinthians 11:2) Most of these anointed ones have already died, with heavenly life in view. Some are still alive on earth. All eagerly look forward to the heavenly “marriage of the Lamb.” The Bible links that marriage to the time of the approaching great tribulation—the destruction of Babylon the Great, and then the elimination of the rest of Satan’s system.—Revelation 18:2-5; 19:2, 7, 11-21; Matthew 24:21.
Regarding earthly families, the apostle Paul is not indicating at Ephesians 3:15 that every individual family group gets its name directly from Jehovah. Rather, Paul evidently has in mind extended family lines that preserve a name. Joshua 7:16-19 provides an example. Jehovah was there uncovering the sin of Achan. First, guilt was focused on or limited to the tribe of Judah. Then it was narrowed down to the family of the Zerahites. Finally, the household of Achan was exposed. Achan along with his wife and children were viewed, or spoken of, as part of the household (or, family) of Zabdi, Achan’s grandfather. That family, in turn, was the extended group that preserved the name of their ancestor Zerah.
Among the Hebrews, such family lines were of great importance, many being listed in the Bible. God supported their preservation by making provision, where necessary, for heirs to pass on the family name through Levirate, or brother-in-law, marriage.—Genesis 38:8, 9; Deuteronomy 25:5, 6.
As another example of such larger or extended families, consider Jesus as the son of David. He obviously was not the direct offspring of King David, not being born until centuries after David’s death. Yet, an identifying mark of the Messiah was that he was to be of the family of David, as the Jews in general knew. (Matthew 22:42) Jesus was in David’s line through both his mother and his adoptive father.—Matthew 1:1; Luke 2:4.
But how do such families get their names from Jehovah? The fact is that there were a few occasions—such as in the case of Abraham and Isaac—when Jehovah literally named a family head. (Genesis 17:5, 19) Those were exceptions. For the most part, Jehovah does not give each individual family the name that it passes on to children.
Jehovah did, though, originate the human family unit when he commanded Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and become many and fill the earth.” (Genesis 1:28) And Jehovah permitted imperfect Adam and Eve to produce offspring, thus laying the groundwork for all human families. (Genesis 5:3) So in more than one sense, God can be called the Originator of family names.
Many cultures today no longer feel the need to keep family names alive for generations. Nevertheless, in all lands Christians thank Jehovah for the family arrangement and honor him by working hard to make their individual family unit a success.