*Dedicated to Annette, Simon, Lori, and Katie. May the Holy Spirit open your minds to the truth of this glorious principle of our Savior‘s Gospel*
Eternal marriage and the exaltation of families is the central idea in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible supports the doctrine of eternal marriage. Yet, Christendom at large has rejected the notion that marriage lasts beyond the grave. This small article is designed as a refutation of the narrow view of temporary marriage and stands as a witness for the Biblical truth of eternal covenant marriage.
Let’s start at the beginning. While in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were married and joined together by God Himself. Genesis 2:18 and 24 tell us:
“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. . . .
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
There you have it – it’s not good that men and women should be alone. Do you think this only applies to mortality? Of course not! Becoming “one flesh” with another through marriage is a higher and holier path than the lonely road of singleness. We are not meant to be single, but to cleave to another eternally in the marriage relationship. In fact, we cannot achieve the most sublime rewards God has in store for the faithful in a single state. Exaltation is a family matter.
What’s so interesting about Adam and Eve’s marriage is that when it was performed, they were immortal beings. And the One who performed and ordained it was also immortal and possessed the power of eternity.
If God married Adam and Eve while they were immortal, how long, then, do we think He intended their marriage to last? The answer is plain – forever. Likewise, the Lord is not in the habit of performing temporal works. Ecclesiastes 3:14 says clearly: “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it.” What in this statement gives us the idea that God conceives of marriage as “until death do you part”? Logic defies such an interpretation.
In ancient times, the patriarchs were promised eternal posterity and a never-ending family relationship. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were specifically promised numberless posterity. Their stories in the book of Genesis, in fact, revolve around the sacred covenant of marriage and staying true to that covenant. Ancient Israel was commanded to not marry outside of this eternal marriage covenant (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). Modern Israel – true Christian believers – are under similar command.
Also worthy of note is that it was through families – that is, through the patriarchal order established in the beginning with Adam – that the Gospel was administered and the Priesthood functioned. Thus, proper marriage within the covenant was an acknowledged necessity for ancient Christian believers. The next time you read the Old Testament, keep your eyes open for references to covenant marriage.
Besides man-made creeds, the only real objections that Bible-believing Christians have to the idea of eternal covenant marriage are statements found in Matthew 22:29-30 and 1 Corinthians 7.
In the first instance, the Savior Jesus Christ was being tempted by the conniving Sadducees. They attempted to ensnare Him and conjure up something to use against Him. They created a hypothetical situation of a woman who married seven men. Which of these, they asked, would she be married to in the resurrection? The Lord’s response has been almost universally misinterpreted by Christendom to mean that there is no marriage after death. Here are the Lord’s words. Read them carefully:
“Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
“For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.”
Where in this statement did Jesus say that marriage is limited to earth life only? Nowhere. He never said there are no married couples in Heaven. He never said marriage doesn’t exist beyond the grave. These are interpolations of uninspired individuals who don’t read very carefully. Rather, the Lord merely said that marriages are not performed in the resurrection. And that’s true. God is a God of order. And in His Gospel Plan, men must perform their ordinances here in mortality, not in the afterlife (1 Peter 4:1-6; 1 Corinthians 15:29; John 9:4). But those ordinances, when performed by His holy authority, reach into eternity. This applies as equally to marriage as to any other ordinance such as baptism.
We thus see that the Redeemer’s statement about not marrying in the resurrection is true and that it does nothing to refute eternal marriage. In fact, the idea of marriage was tangential in this exchange. The focus was on the resurrection, which the Lord confirmed as a verity. And, as we will see later, the Lord very pointedly confirmed what He as Jehovah had taught to Adam and Eve about the everlasting nature of marriage.
The only other passage that some cling to in their desperate attempt to dismiss the idea of eternal marriage is the Apostle Paul’s statement that it’s good to remain as himself, which some interpret to mean being single. In the first place, Paul’s writings deal primarily with marriage in this life and don’t address marriage in the afterlife except in passing. Second, the entire idea that Paul is a witness against marriage in general, or eternal marriage specifically, can be easily countered by simply reading the context of the statement in 1 Corinthians 7 or by exploring Paul’s other writings.
For instance, in the very same chapter in question, Paul praised marriage and said “let them marry.” He imparted various counsel to husbands and wives to love and support each other. He affirmed in verse ten that men and women were created to be together, saying: “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband.” Men and women separating from each other was never part of the Gospel Plan. Rather, they were to be together forever.
To the Ephesians, Paul similarly wrote:
“So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. . . .
“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh” (Ephesians 5:28, 31).
The importance of men and women becoming “one flesh” was touched upon several times in Paul’s epistles. For instance, in 1 Corinthians 11:11, Paul explained that “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” To divide men and women and promote singleness is contrary to the order of God. And the order of God comprehends eternity, not merely this short mortal probation. In the Lord, that is, in eternity, we are meant to be together, as one flesh, in the holy marriage union. After all, it was Paul who taught that “marriage is honourable” (Hebrews 13:4).
Finally, this great apostle warned his fellow Christians that the day would come when men had strayed so far from the truth that they would actually forbid marriage:
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
“Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
“Forbidding to marry. . .” (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
Clearly, to Paul, marriage was a crucial institution and a fundamental part of the eternal Gospel of Jesus Christ. He clearly taught that those who reject marriage or lessen its important are have “departed from the faith” and are repeating “doctrines of devils.” The idea of monastic singleness, therefore, was an abomination in Paul’s eyes. To the contrary, it is in the marriage covenant that we find true joy and communion with God.
At the beginning, I mentioned that Adam and Eve were married by the Lord and that the Lord, by His very nature, operates on eternal principles. The Lord’s authority is called the Holy Priesthood. He has, at times, delegated this authority to chosen representatives on earth. This gives them the authority to ensure the efficacy of ordinances beyond the grave. The Lord explained it this way:
“And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).
The keys of the kingdom of heaven – in other words, the Priesthood – has the power to “bind . . . in heaven” that which is performed here on earth. While baptism and other lesser ordinances are certainly performed by virtue of the Priesthood, the crowning object of this divine authority is to seal men and women together in eternal matrimony and prepare them for exaltation, as family units, in God’s Kingdom.
“Family unit” is just another way of saying “one flesh.” I remind the reader that the Lord commanded Adam and Eve, and, by extension, all of us, that we were to become “one flesh.” Eternity is not intended to be spent alone or in a single condition. Such an existence is “not good” to the Lord (Genesis 2:18). Rather, eternity it is to be enjoyed as couples bound together by loving ties and God’s matchless power.
In the Old Testament, God promised us that He would send Elijah to restore the specific Priesthood keys to bind and seal families together. This is recorded in Malachi 4:5-6:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:
“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
This great power is designed specifically to unite “children” and “fathers,” or families, eternally. And the basis of every family is a marriage between a man and his wife. This is so paramount to the Lord that He has vowed to “smite the earth with a curse” if we reject this Plan of uniting families together. I testify that Elijah has returned and that the authority to bind families together for eternity exists on the earth and in His Church, just as the Lord promised.
Dear reader, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). His Gospel and commandments don’t change. Neither do His power and authority. If He joined Adam and Eve together in eternal marriage, told them that it was “not good” to be alone, and instructed them to be “one flesh,” the counsel similarly applies to you and to me. If He was able to do this for Adam and Eve, He is able to do it for us. If Elijah possessed special Priesthood keys to seal families for eternity, and if the Lord promised he would be sent to earth to restore that practice before the Second Coming, then we ought to be on the lookout today for the organization that possesses this great power and which places families front and center in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Significantly, the Master Himself taught the plain doctrine of eternal marriage. You’ll notice that it is a repetition of the same doctrine given to Adam and Eve, recorded by Moses in Genesis, and preached later by the apostles. The Gospel is unchanging and these instructions should ring in our ears with force and fervor:
“Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
“And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
“Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
“[The Pharisees] say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
“He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:4-8).
No, marriage was never intended to end – neither in this life or in the life to come. This false idea – this doctrine of devils – has been accepted by Christendom and reinforced by non-Biblical creeds, but “from the beginning it was not so.” Rather, in the beginning, God commanded us to leave our parents and “cleave” to our spouses. We were told to become “one flesh” with them – not for some finite period of time, but, logically, for forever. After all, it was God who joined them (and who joins us when it is by His authority), and it was never part of the Plan for them to be “put asunder.” This is simple doctrine and it comports with every feeling of common sense and logic that I possess.
Beyond human reason, however, I give my personal witness of the Spirit that marriage is eternal and that the sacred scriptures – yes, even the Holy Bible – confirm this fact. Anyone can receive a sure witness of these things if they humbly appeal to the Father in prayer and then allow the Holy Spirit to touch their hearts and enlighten their understandings.
For Christians who believe that their marriage union is ordained of God and who love their spouses with a true love, there can be nothing sweeter than the promise that they may bind themselves eternally to their loved ones, and that they may live together in the Kingdom of God their Father. This potential exists. It is real. The spirit of Elijah is working hard to convince people to unite their families, past and present. The keys of the Kingdom that Jesus Christ gave anciently to His Apostles are on the earth once more, allowing men and women to truly become “one flesh” for all eternity. And the word of the Lord echoes down through time that we are designed to be together in eternal families and never-ending joy.
January 15, 2022