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A Biblical Catechism on Sex and Marriage: Marriage is Permanent but not Eternal

[This post continues a series of posts entitled 'A Biblical Catechism on Sex and Marriage'.  The intention is to provide basic material for further instruction by a trusted teacher of God's Word in a church that is committed to Biblical authority.  The Church’s mission is to invite all people to live under God’s righteous rule.]

Question 7. Is marriage permanent and eternal?

Answer: Marriage is a permanent union in this life but not an eternal union.  After this life, there is no giving and taking in marriage.

Comment: Marriage is permanent in this life, but it is not eternal.  (On the permanence of marriage, see also the discussion of divorce in question 10.) 

1.     Temporal Institution: As a procreational institution, marriage does not apply after death in the time of the resurrection and age to come.  Both sex and marriage are discontinued when the creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1.28) is fulfilled.

Matthew 19:6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."  [The permanence of marriage in this life.]

1 Corinthians 7:10-11 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband  11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. [Paul shows that he is aware of the Lord’s teaching on the permanence of marriage and its application to divorce and remarriage.]

Matthew 22:30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.  [Marriage is not eternal.]

2.     Heterosexuality: This fact implies that marriage is designed for a male and female, not homosexual, union (which is sinful in any case).  It is an institution ordained by God in the present age and not in the age to come so that, in this age, we might fulfill the creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply.  Close friendship does not constitute marriage.

Genesis 1:27-28 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

3.     Procreation: The proper instruments (male and female reproductive organs; cf. Romans 1:26-27), the proper act (sex in marriage), and the proper institution (holy matrimony) go together even if the primary purpose and result (child-bearing) is not forthcoming.  Marriage is a procreational institution for a male and a female, even if sex within the marriage is not always procreational.  If this were not so, then unfruitful marriages in Scripture would be dissolved, but they are not.  Also, if this were not so, then Paul would not have encouraged married couples to have sex to deal with sexual appetite to avoid temptation but rather have insisted that all sexual acts in marriage would only be for procreating (1 Corinthians 7:2-5).

4.     Remarriage: Because marriage is not eternal, a widow or widower may remarry another Christian after the death of the spouse.

1 Corinthians 7:39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.

Romans 7:2-3 Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.  3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

1 Timothy 5:14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.

5.     Sex, Gender, and Identity: Since marriage is not eternal, sex (which, according to the Bible, belongs only in marriage) cannot be a defining part of one’s identity; its role is relativized with respect to the purpose of procreation.  One’s biological sex is an expression of one’s gender, not separable from it.  Celibate men and women are still male and female and still reflect the image of God even though they do not undertake the creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply.  There is no indication that gender will disappear in eternity when the giving and taking in marriage will end.

On being created in the image of God, see: Genesis 1:26-27; 5:3; 9:6; Psalm 8:6; Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 11:7; 15:49; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:4; Colossians 1:15; 3:10-11; Galatians 3:27-28.  [The Old Testament states that men and women, whose gender corresponds to their biological sex, are created in the image of God.  The New Testament introduces the notion of a new creation in Christ, with Christ as the image of God and believers being formed in him into the image of God.  This notion of representing another’s image—e.g., 1 Cor. 11:7—does not preclude both males and females being created in God’s image and equally formed in Christ, the image of God.]