Marriage – The Long View

When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. – Mark 12:25

If you are like me, when you read this verse, you’re probably not left with a very good feeling.  For a long time, this verse really bothered me because it didn’t make any sense.  Why would God take away a good thing?

I’m very thankful that I have a great marriage.  My wife is fantastic.  Over the course of our 15 year marriage, she has progressively been filling up a space in my life that was previously empty.  By no means has it been easy.  We’ve been very intentional about building our marriage.  It’s an investment that requires a lot of effort, time and attention.  But it’s worth it because, with her, I’m being made whole and so is she.

So after all that work and investment, it feels like, that in the verse above, Jesus is patting me on the shoulder, telling me “Good job, but it’s game over when you die.”  Hey Jesus, that doesn’t really feel like good news.  On the contrary, the idea of living through eternity without being in a bond of marriage with my wife feels horrible.  I want to be with her forever.  I don’t want to be walking down some golden street 10,000 years from now and bump into her and say, “oh yeah, I remember you.  We had some good times.  Too bad they’re over.”  Nope, ripping out the part of you that makes you whole is not good news at all.
For quite some time, I just couldn’t get past this teaching from Jesus.  Could Jesus really be saying this?  How does this make any sense with the gospel?  In short, it doesn’t.  Frankly, there’s a lot that hasn’t been making sense in my faith lately.  However, there are some things I’m now absolutely convinced of – there is a God and he wants me to know him more than anything else.  God is so committed to me knowing him that he gave up everything to enter my world and use my language and my experiences and my culture to show me how much he wants me to know him – his goodness, his love and his persistent, unrelenting pursuit of wholeness with me… and with you.  So something was wrong, not with Jesus’ teaching, but with my understanding of it.

At The Springs, one of the songs we often sing is called Beautiful, by Phil Wickham.  You can read the lyrics here.  The song starts with the words “I see your face in every sunrise.”  In verses 1-3 he describes how we see the face of God in the created world around us – the colors of the morning, the planets, the stars.  Today, we see the face of God in the things he made which act as symbols – pointers to the true face of God that we cannot currently see.  But leading into verse four, the music swells and crescendos with a large chorus singing:

When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

I see Your face, You’re beautiful

These words describe why it is good news that there will be no earthly marrying in eternity.  The image is of a large population of saints crossing into eternity.  This multitude doesn’t wander aimlessly, but moves with a purpose to a place… called by wedding bells.  Think about your own wedding – how it was or perhaps how it will be.  There is always the briefest of moments in every wedding, the sweet anticipation when the bride is waiting just outside the sanctuary doors – still outside, still unrevealed to those gathered within.  These lyrics paint that brief and extraordinary moment in our future when each of us, the believers, those whom God desires, will come together for such a purpose.  We saints, as individual points of light shining with the imago dei, will draw closer, coalescing, merging together to form  the one for whom Jesus sacrificed everything – the radiant and glorious and beautiful bride of Christ.  And in the exhale of this moment, the doors open to our wedding and we finally, truly see the face of our beloved standing ahead waiting with outstretched hand and bursting with pride and wonder on his beautiful and very real face.  We move into an eternal consummation where death will not part, for our groom has overcome death so that we can, very literally, live happily ever after.
This… is good news that makes sense.  I know that my marriage today is good and right and what I need to give me wholeness in this life and I am so thankful.  I also know that my marriage is meant as a symbol pointing me to an ultimate consummation that will happen one day, when I will join with my wife and my loved ones and every other believer whose eyes have been opened to the glory and beauty of our amazing and wonderful God.  And we, in some crazy sense that I do not understand, will become one flesh with him, knowing him as he desires to be known and experiencing the wholeness that was meant for us from before time began.