A return to the Garden of Eden: 9 things Jesus believed about marriage

We are stardust, we are golden

Caught in the devil’s bargain

And we’ve got to get ourselves, back to the Garden

– Joni Mitchell

Since my high school days, Joni was my go-to when it came to understanding women.  But when it comes to understanding God, I rely mostly on Jesus. Whenever Jesus talks about God and His intents and purposes, it is a good idea to listen, ponder, and expect at least a bit of it to make one uneasy. God is incomprehensible, the wise say. But Jesus has an inside track on His ways.

When you study the dialogues Jesus had with others, you find that those who come to him to be justified, looking for some sort of gold star for good behavior, is instead humbled and challenged to do better.  But those who come to him with a humility and remorse is encouraged and often challenged to do better. Those who comes with an inquiring mind, with no other motive but to understand, will be offered understanding, and something to chew on as he leaves.

I thought I would put together my thoughts on what I believe Jesus believed regarding marriage. What follows is not in any way a prescription on how a secular world should deal with marriage and marriage laws. Rather, it is my attempt to gain as clear an understanding of what Jesus truly believed about marriage from his recorded words. In doing so, it is necessary to take into account both the place and time in history, as well as the timelessness of his message. The following is my best attempt to understand Jesus regarding marriage, as well as to place it in proper context.

The Bible has many wonderful things to say about marriage, some more cherished in our times than others. For example, the Apostle Paul’s exhortation for wives to “submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” is less cherished than the following, to husbands, who are told to “love your wives and do not be harsh with them.”  Similarly, although Paul’s exhortation to wives that “as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” is much less popular than what is immediately following for husbands that they are to “love [their] wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

But these exhortations, seemingly quaint and perhaps a little condescending today, were considered a fairly radical idea in an ancient world that often considered a wife as a small step up from a slave, and where the most noble men held drinking symposiums where they discussed why male love for a cherished younger man could be considered a higher form of love than one of the mere sexual love for a wife. The latter form apparently seemed baser to many of the elite.  Perhaps this is largely because men and women, we are reminded daily, can barely understand one another. The brilliant father of modern psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, understood the human psyche as well as any man who lived, and yet was stumped by one riddle: “What do women want?” Popularizers who followed in his path determined the condition was one of Greek mythic origins:  we don’t understand each other, because men are from Mars, and women are from Venus. Biology and sexual attraction tricks us into copulation for the survival of our species, and then we spend the rest of our days trying to figure out what will make each other happy.  But, since sexual attraction makes for heirs, marriage was celebrated – albeit mostly for political or economic strategic purposes: the uniting of families, the rearing of offspring who would carry on one’s work and legacy, and provide for him in old age. Before the days of social security and medicare, we prepared for retirement by having grown children and a truncated life span. Today, the tradition continues as we tax workers to support the two generations that came before them.  Jesus himself agreed, and castigated the Pharisees, who were saying that money given to the religious institutions could exempt them from providing for their parents. Jesus saw this as a violation of God’s command to “Honor your mother and your father.” 

In such a world, being barren was considered more than a heartbreak. It was considered an act of failure on the part of the wife. King Henry VIII would even go so far as to consider the inability of a wife to conceive a male heir not merely grounds for divorce but a capital offense.

But as hard as the life of a married woman was in the ancient world, it was even harder to be single. A married women was perhaps a step or two above slavery, but still, it was a step or two above slavery.  When Caesar Augustus outlawed adultery, there was a run on the slave market, as the reasoning was that one cannot commit adultery with mere property. But the typical single woman was far lower in the pecking order of society.   Life was tough for a man, but he was pretty much on his own for survival. As he forged a life of relative safety, his success in doing so was measured by the number of wives he could support.

The book of Genesis traces the subjugation of women to the fall. When God created a woman for the first man, her role was to be a suitable “helper” for him (interestingly, wolves – who were to become “man’s best friend” – were not considered to be a suitable helper). After the fall, as the first humans believed they could decide for themselves as  to what was best for them, thank-you-very-much, the decision to do things their own way led to a curse on both: man would toil and sweat to eat and stay alive. For women, childbearing would bring not only toil and sweat but even pain. In addition to pain in childbearing (a foretaste of the death man would now face), dreaded patriarchy came into the world because of the fall of man. In disobeying God in the Garden of Eden, God put Eve under a curse:

“Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16)

As we said, marriage was but a step or two above slavery. Perhaps the additional curse was not fair, but…as the story goes, the woman in the garden began the process of disobedience. Some have suggested this was fitting (St. Paul for one) because Eve was deceived. Adam, on the other hand, knew what he was doing – he just couldn’t resist those batting eyes.

We see the ills of this curse of disobedience, signified by the original sin, to this day.   But the curse has slowly been lifted in the Judeo-Christian world, largely through the influence of Jesus, the Messiah of the Jews and Mankind. The mission of Messiah Jesus was to reverse the curse of sin and death.   Read the gospel accounts and you will find that women were given both great honor and great love by Jesus in his ministry, and this example was continued by his disciples after his resurrection and ascension.  This example was lost over time before being largely recovered to this day, but the apostles of the first generation of the church, leaders who knew and walked with Jesus, applied reason to their faith as they used their extensive training during their discipleship to develop their faith communities. In doing so, giving women, and by extension wives, proper honor and love was a pretty direct step:  The scriptures directed the Jews to love one’s neighbor as himself, something Jesus affirmed. When defining one’s “neighbor,” the closest neighbor any man would have would be his own wife. So, why would a Christian love his neighbor, yet beat, demean, and enslave his wife, who joins with him to become one flesh (as scripture taught and Jesus affirmed as we will see later)?  Certainly a wife had household duties and as such perhaps a role that called for submission to the husband/ruler.  But she was not a slave to be beaten and demeaned. Even Christian slave owners were commanded not to do such a thing to their slaves. Such a man, commanded to love his neighbor as himself, wouldn’t even be capable of loving himself.

Although while giving women respect and honor, Jesus did not exactly wax poetic regarding the glorious nature of the marriage covenant and married life.  There was indeed magnificent poetry that he quoted in the Genesis account regarding the subject of marriage and its origins.  But following that, to answer the bare bones questions on marriage, adultery and divorce, he drew the appropriate conclusions in a rather matter-of-fact, perhaps even a stern way. He was very direct, terse and did little to tickle the ears of his listeners, neither his friends or foes, saving his remarkable eloquence for other topics. Let’s take a look at perhaps the main passage in which Jesus discusses the purpose and institution of marriage. We find in Matthew 19 a situation in which some Pharisees came to Jesus to dialogue:

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”  (Matthew 19:3-12)

So, what beliefs regarding marriage did Jesus have that we can glean from this?

Jesus seeks to address the purpose of marriage and sexual union from a vantage point that precedes the fall.

1.  Jesus seeks to re-establish the original intent of marriage, unsullied by the effects of the original sin and fall.  A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. There is very little hint of patriarchy here aside from the initiative of the man, who leaves mother and father to begin the process of uniting with a wife. Since man was first created by the Creator, it fits the narrative that he would so so. Marriage is described in Genesis, before the fall, in a benign, almost idyllic, world. God is quoted in Genesis as desiring to give the first man a “suitable helper.” A more literal translation for “suitable” would be “counterpart” and quite literally means “opposite.” In doing so, He created the first woman to be by his side, and Adam’s reaction is that he considered it God’s greatest creation. One also does not find anything in the intent of God here to create a subordinate for Adam, but rather someone who would complement him.

This idyllic vision is also the dream and vision of just about every man and woman who enters their first marriage, smitten by the romantic love they bring to it. The Prince leaves mother and father to find his true love, marries her (the woman the Bible affectionately calls “the wife of his youth,”), and carries her over the threshold to build a new life together.  The couple tends to overlook many warnings because they are perhaps closest in their relationship to where Adam and Eve were before they gained the experiential knowledge of evil through their fall. Rather, the young couple enters a life together blinded by the similar possibility of disobedience. Love conquers all and they will live happily ever after – a beautiful love story, except that sin crouches outside the door.

The eyes tend to be a bit more opened the second or third time, although optimism still reigns. A second marriage is its own reality, an evidence that they did not live happily ever after the first time, whether through sin, or through death, which came into the earth via sin. Paradise was lost. But in a fallen world, experience can also teach. Thus we do find second or third marriages that have taken the wisdom gained in pain to create a new form of an idyllic existence as man and wife.

2.  God is directly involved in marriage.  What God has joined together, let no one separate (or “tear asunder,” for fans of the poetic King James version). We speak of arranged marriages by parents, and marriages arranged by love, but Jesus said that a marriage is an arrangement made by God himself. When a man and a woman are joined in a first marriage, it is God himself who has joined them together. Here, Jesus places a spiritual significance in the institution of marriage beyond the mere biological attraction that nature and our species utilizes to procreate.

The prophet Malachi, the last great Old Testament prophet before the arrival of Jesus confirmed this spiritual union by God, in order to bring repentance to those men who seek to divorce their first wives:

“Did He not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.” (Malachi 2:15)  

3.  Marriage creates a biological as well as a spiritual unity between a man and a woman.Probably the best demonstration of this is in the biological role of procreation in human sexuality.  The uniting, or as the venerable King James version puts it, the “cleaving” act of procreation is the only biological function of the human that takes more than one person. To procreate, it takes two separate humans to become one flesh, and by necessity those two humans must be a man and a woman.

God, who placed the young couple together, is the author of the marriage. And since marriage results in sexual union which results in procreation, the scriptures also teach that He is also the author of new life.

In the Psalm numbered 139, the writer places God in the midst of the conception, writing “Truly you have formed my innermost being, you knit me in my mother’s womb.” If God has such an intimate hand in the development of the child in the womb, it would certainly suggest he would have a hand in the uniting of man and woman in matrimony to begin the conception, the beginning of the process of human life.

But new lives must not only be brought into the world, but be reared into self sufficient beings in their own right. Using the great prophet Malachi, God explains the reason why He “hates divorce” – he sees the marital union as vital for the proper raising of children:

“Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.”

Jesus then immediately addresses the moral implications of this unit for the society at large when he continues that…

4.  To God, adultery is is the only justification for divorce. “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Marriage is so sacred an institution by God that:

  • It is sin to tear it apart and
  • Only sin can tear it apart.

5.  Moses turned marriage into a legal contract, allowing for divorce.  “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.”  There is no contract described in the origins of marriage. Divorce was not a part of God’s perfect plan. God’s legal prescription to protect the sacredness of the marriage union was to make a commandment against adultery, which the Mosaic law made punishable by death. To underline this command against adultery, God added another: it was a sin to even covet another man’s wife.  To covet is to do more than merely wish you had, as Rick Springfield would lament, “Jesse’s girl.” It’s not unusual or wrong to wish you had what another one has.  Often, these desires can lead to good outcomes if channeled properly. If I  wished I had a home as nice as my neighbor’s, I may be motivated to work hard at either making my own home look nicer, or save money and earn promotions necessary to purchase a similar home. But Rick can’t have Jesse’s girl. He needs to become the man who can attract a woman like Jesse’s girl.  And as the song goes, Rick indeed “gets” it: “How can I find me a woman like that?”

The sin comes when we allow the desire to have what belongs to another to consume our minds so much that we will even entertain ways in which we could make it come to pass.  Sin (theft, adultery) is crouching at the door, and a mental decision has been made to bring it to pass, if we could get away with it.

If God is to allow a man to divorce, and adultery is a crime punishable by death, it was necessary to make it clear that the woman was innocent of adultery when “putting her away.” Hence, the certificate of divorce.  We saw earlier it was not unusual for nations to outlaw adultery, and even make it a capital offense. A jilted lover is a dangerous thing, and a publicly announced marriage is meant to inform all members of a society that this man and this woman are not to be touched for purposes of sex.

When looking over the Mosaic law, modern Western man often scoffs at the commands and laws given by a supposedly perfect God: commanding genocide in the Canaan conquest, making allowances for slavery, calling for extreme punishments for certain actions that don’t appear to fit the crime, etc.  One must be careful in making judgments based on modern day understandings. Did God, for example, approve of slavery? God permits slavery in the law, giving allowances for slavery. This does not necessarily mean that God approves of slavery any more than he approves of divorce. In fact, God is the great emancipator of slaves, and in the Exodus story He hears the cries of the enslaved in Egypt and He becomes their great champion in setting them free.  The practice of slavery, like the practice of patriarchy, was likely an unfortunately development out of the fall of man. God has involved himself in human history, through the development of His Church in Western civilization to both remove the abuses of patriarchy as well as of human slavery. The greatest motivations to curb these abuses came from leaders of abolition movements who were inspired by study of the Word of God.  This study spurred education to seek knowledge into the creation of man and his purpose, as well as into the whole of creation that He placed at his feet and above his head. Contemplation and reflection enlightened men to, guided by revelation, use the gift of reason to discover the precious nature of the individual person and an informed conscience to seek to live right in accordance to principles they saw as self evident in the Word of God. These principles included the golden rule: to do unto others as one would have others do unto them.

As Jesus said, to love God and to love one’s neighbor summed up the law in its entirety, and is in itself the end purpose for the law of God. For its time, the Mosaic law was a tremendous work of reform to curb the very worst aspects of man and his will. In a sense, the uncovering of this tremendous gift to mankind needed an infusion from the Gentile world for its flowering. This took place through the uniting of the Gentile world with the Jewish tradition through the advent and growth of the church founded by Jesus the Messiah. Sometimes it will take those who have no knowledge of a wonderful thing to renew the appreciation of it. A child with a stern but reliable father may take him for granted, even despise him, not knowing any different. But meanwhile, a neighboring friend without a father at all may consider that friend richly blessed beyond compare. Those who came to faith in Jesus apart from a Jewish background often found their own laws to be capricious, cobbled together at the whim of a tyrant, then changed by the next tyrant to appear. Such a people may likewise find riches beyond compare with a law divinely inspired and unchanging at its core.

The early books of the Bible portray an engaged Creator who strove with man, his final creation, made “in His own image.”  But although endowed with reason, a conscience and will, man often sank to his basest and most primal instincts, and seemed intent to enslave, abuse, and eventually destroy himself. The Noah flood was a result of a God who saw that the hearts of his human creation were consumed with “only evil all the time.” Apart from some snapshots of tremendous evils in the 20th century, and the advent of ISIS today, we have no conception of how horrible life would be if all of mankind was filled with thoughts of evil and violence.  When modern man came out of the enlightenment and pronounced God as Dead, we caught a glimpse of what man will justify when left to his own devices and reject God as a real entity. Still, they are evils done by a committed few against a large population. We do not know how evil an entire society would be if it were consumed with “only evil all the time.”

The genocide God commanded the Hebrews to perform in the conquest of Canaan, for example, was a judgement against a debased people that practiced wide scale child sacrifice to idols, in particular a god called Molek (Leviticus 20).  There was no Human Rights Commission to appeal to in that day, not that such a commission today ends wicked practices without the credible threat of force. But this horrific practice was going to continue unabated unless and until God intervened through a people unmotivated by human rights apart from their own and used his newly freed people to end the practice by offering plunder in return. Why wipe it out? Because this great evil driven by a warped idolatry would consume them as well and spread. And, in fact, it eventually did just as God predicted it would. The proliferation of worship of the same idols that were used in child sacrifice spread into Israel and God sent a number of prophets and finally judgments to eventually root it out.  Today, child sacrifice has largely been rooted out, and only takes place in abortion clinics.

We often scoff at God’s laws given at the creation of Israel, looking backward from the vantage point of modern man. We weren’t there, of course.  But God was there, and often points out the difficulty of working with such a “stiff necked people.”  Any parent knows that children do not learn all their lessons at once, and neither does mankind. God’s dealings with mankind is much like a long suffering parent with a headstrong and stubborn child. Children, without a historical framework to reflect upon, will insist they know best regarding issues as to whether they can cross the busy street, pound a baby sister, put hands on the stove top, or operate Dad’s gun. In like fashion, a long suffering God with a plan to ultimately redeem evil man throughout the spectrum of human history has to work within the environment every step of the way.  The prophets of God who came after the law of Moses often did the work of orienting the people of God to look for and honor the laws of God, as well as the spirit behind those laws: their intent and purpose.  These prophets railed on God’s behalf against two things in particular: idolatry, and the oppression of the poor.  Their words continue to warn us today. There was nothing wrong with either slavery or oppression of one’s fellow man before the Mosaic law kicked in. Rather, it was easily explained and justified, usually under the easily observable “might makes right” law, a law that allowed Pharaoh to enslave the Hebrews in the first place.  So, certain laws set down by God in an earlier era will often look inhumane when looking backward in a time of human rights. But in a period when might, and only might, made right they will look extremely humane by comparison.  God’s laws often protected the poor:  corners of a farmer’s field were to be left for the poor to harvest. Even slaves were to be set free after seven years of service. Compare this with a lifetime of slavery at the whim of masters elsewhere in the world. That alone was a tremendous advancement in human rights.

Still, God’s people rebelled against His commands against oppression of the poor. Because the nation, especially the upper class and leaders, refused to listen to his prophets, God eventually removed his own protection of them and allowed neighboring empires to destroy the capital city of Jerusalem and its temple. He did allow a remnant to be spared as it was taken away into captivity to the victorious Babylonian Empire. Eventually, a chastened Israel was brought back into the land to rebuild and reflect on a law and a prophetic tradition they ignored. Still, the need for correction through prophets continued, culminating in the last great prophet Malachi until the time of Jesus the Messiah, who sent the Holy Spirit to further illuminate the purposes behind God’s laws.

Many theologians try to separate Jesus from the God of the Old Testament. As I study the words of Jesus in their entirety, I think the most reasonable conclusion is that Jesus was in full agreement with the laws and commands of Yahweh. Jesus himself practically invented “fire and brimstone” preaching. The concept of an eternal hell comes mostly from Jesus himself. Jesus believed in the stern God who hated sin and was prepared to judge the world. It was his mission and ministry to prepare mankind to do what was necessary to escape God’s righteous wrath. This is why Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  A child who loves his parents strives to understand and follow their commands. A child who relies on the love of the parent for the child tends to see what he can get away with. God loves both. The commandment to love God first is designed to orient us to recognize and appreciate His ways, and His kingdom. As we do so, we learn to love our neighbor, the second greatest commandment. A father with all the love in the world has a very hard time successfully warning his child not to take a dangerous and foolhardy path, if the child refuses to listen. Thus it is largely up to us to decide to listen.

With regards to divorce, we saw earlier how the prophet Malachi informed the mind of Jesus on the true understanding and purpose of marriage, how it was meant to last a lifetime. This last great prophet before Jesus called the Jewish people to repent of many shortcomings, including the growing use of divorce, which God through Moses allowed, but needed to illuminate their understanding as to how God hated it, and why (“For I hate divorce,” says Yahweh, the God of Israel”):

 “The Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.

“Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.

” ‘The man who hates and divorces his wife,’ says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘does violence to the one he should protect,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (Malachi 2:14-16)

God, Malachi explains, hates divorce both because it is cruel to women and because he wishes to have godly children raised. When one thinks of the damage divorce can inflict on the psyche of children, one can see that God instituted marriage as the optimum environment for rearing children. When God says through Malachi that He seeks “godly offspring” we can reason that one important way for a child to be godly would include that child learning by example to be faithful and kind to his own future “wife of his youth.”

6.  Jesus addressed marriage from a patriarchal perspective: Jesus ministered in a patriarchal world.  There is no discussion of women divorcing men. Men divorced women. But Jesus was probably the world’s first true sexual liberator in that his ministry and sayings began the long process toward the emancipation of women. Jesus’s respect and love for women as displayed in his life is absolutely breathtaking, and the first century church continued to follow that example.

Jesus, in his mission to liberate man from the effects of the fall, in like manner liberated women from a stifling and oppressive patriarchy (Paul worked side by side with female deacons, as one example). It happened immediately, and lasted for a time, before the Church world slipped into old cultural habits as it struggled with new realities after the early headier days.  But over time, it is Western civilization, developed under Christian ethics and values, that has led the world in emancipating women in our modern age. Today the great question in our culture is what does true emancipation look like? Does the feminist movement offer true emancipation from an oppressive patriarchy? Does a Christian wife movement offer true emancipation from rigidity, resentment, and a striving to project a lifestyle that is more confining than liberating? Or is it a little of both and more?  In a marriage, a man and a woman in partnership are likely the best ones to determine the proper course, if the marriage is guided by love and respect, as Jesus, a single man, modeled in his own ministry.

Patriarchy by itself is not evil. If abused, it can justify evil. But patriarchy properly understood is a cultural means for the more physically powerful sex to protect, and not exploit, women and children in their care. To seek to remove all vestiges of a patriarchal culture as a matter of ideological necessity is a foolish and warped endeavor.

7.  Jesus would not recognize a gay marriage.“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female?’ “Jesus defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Jesus never addressed homosexuality so far as anyone knows. But he did address marriage, and says explicitly that God designed marriage to unite a woman and a man. Certainly marriage is an institution that better serves one already inclined to be attracted sexually to a person of the opposite sex. What to do? The best clue is a vignette that quickly follows this marriage in the Gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus describes in vivid detail how hard it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom. This is another conundrum for mankind, as it is not a sin to be rich, anymore than it is sinful to have sexual attractions:

“When the disciples heard this (the near impossibility of a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God), they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ ”

Everyone: rich, poor, gay, straight, man, woman, has a cross to bear. The answer to how to bear it is outlined in Paul’s letter to of Romans. That’s for another time, I’ve touched on it here.

8.  Marriage is hard.“Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given…the one who can accept this should accept it.” The disciples replied that if marriage was a forever thing, even after a wife lost many of the physical charms that caused men to marry in the first place, then it was perhaps better not to marry at all. Jesus assented, and replied that those who can accept it, should accept it. Those who cannot, may need to look for another kingdom than that of God.

9.  Marriage is for this life, a life rooted in biology, and not for the life to come in the resurrection. There was a debate within Judaism as to whether God would resurrect the dead at a future time. The Sadducees were an elite religious party that did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, apparently too sophisticated for such fables, and used the marriage laws to try to trip Jesus up in his logic. Since brothers were commanded to marry the widows of their brethren, and thus   if a woman married multiple brothers, serially, due to the deaths of husbands, to whom would she be married after the resurrection? Jesus replied:

“The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy to share in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In fact, they can no longer die, because they are like the angels. And since they are sons of the resurrection, they are sons of God.”

Here we see that although there is indeed a spiritual component to marriage, the marriage union is based on the biological realities of procreation. Thus the marriage union has no purpose in a resurrected, spiritual body that will have it’s own spiritual biology. A resurrected body is as different to a biological body, St. Paul explained, as a seed that dies in the ground is to the plant it produces (1 Corinthians 15).

Jesus spoke of marriage in the Kingdom of God after the resurrection, But he spoke of the marriage feast to come, in which Jesus is married to his Bride, the church. Earthly marriage, Paul wrote to the Ephesians (chapter 5), is a symbol in our biological world of this spiritual union, which will feature a spiritual intimacy that will overwhelm the intimacy known in this biological age by even the very best marriage. The friendship a husband and wife enjoys apart from the sex, should they be considered worthy to “share in the age to come” is likely going to similarly make the intimacy they shared as husband and wife pale in comparison. Spiritual intimacy in a new creation free from the weaknesses of sin will likely leave sexual intimacy driven by biology in the dust.

For we humans who enjoy the pleasures of our biology, this seems like a loss. But we know that our biological bodies decay and die over time, and even sexual urges diminish. The new body of the resurrection will be a little like trading in a Toyota Camry for a Tesla. Nothing wrong with the Camry. You may even have nostalgic memories of it. But…man, you’re going to love the Tesla.


  1. Hhhm. Can’t say I agree with all the points here. For one, the often quoted “God hates divorce,” is a far cry from what the original manuscripts from Malachi stated. The original is” he who hates divorce, works corruption.” The he were the Jewish men sending their wives away without a certificate of divorce. This was still going on when Jesus walked the earth. This makes more sense to the person being guilty of not being divorced- if they are still married and attempt to remarry, then that would be adultery. Yes, ideally marriage should be a forever covenant. Sadly, many marriages do not make it. Plus the church has taught that if you divorce you have committed adultery, or the only “biblical grounds” for divorce is adultery. Not so. Personally, I believe that yes the Lord did institute divorce in Deuteronomy 24. He knew that there were be some pretty horrible spouses that would treat their partner cruelly.


  2. Excellent points! I really like what you are illuminating here Rhaven, and I think we are close to fundamental agreement.

    Now, I am not a Greek or Hebrew scholar, so what I do is look over the range of translations, check the scholarly credentials, the footnotes, and find agreement and consensus – and match it with the most reliable context.

    So, I don’t know the validity and the credentials behind your translation. I’m not saying it’s wrong or fraudulent- I just don’t know if there is a consensus of agreement.

    Here is how Young’s literal translation puts it (Mal 2:16): “For I hate sending away, said Jehovah, God of Israel, and He who hath covered violence with his clothing, said Jehovah of Hosts, and ye have been watchful over your spirit, And ye do not deal treacherously. “

    I agree that God instituted divorce. He did so primarily because men had hard hearts. Divorce becomes necessary, and it’s not exclusively the wife’s fault when it does become necessary.

    If I read Jesus right, and show me where I may be wrong, he says clearly that God instituted divorce because men’s hearts were hard – they act cruelly. A man shouldn’t divorce her because he’s tired of her in bed and wants another partner, or because she’s a bad cook – or even because she refuses to cook. If a man can’t treat his wife with a soft heart, God prefers that the cruel man set her free with a certificate of divorce. But the only valid reason he has for setting her free – the only valid fault he can declare – is sexual unfaithfulness – adultery.


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