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Volume 14, Issue 1: Husbandry

Sex in Heaven?

Douglas Wilson

Now that some men have begun to read the article simply because of the title, we may save them some time by answering the question immediately—yes and no.

At the same time, the question remains an important one. There is a natural tendency among some Christians to give the right answer here for all the wrong reasons. More than a few Christians throughout the history of the Church have had difficulty with the fact of sex here, and this is the basis for them thinking of sexual relations in heaven as a theological impossibility. But this is a rationalistic inheritance from the Greeks, and not the teaching of Scripture at all.
This means that in answering the question tentatively we have to do so in a way that does justice to the fundamental goodness of the created order, to the materiality of the resurrected body.
Discussions of this question turn naturally to the exchange Christ had with the Sadducees. They brought up the woman with seven husbands, and if marital sexuality is a feature of resurrection life, then the Sadducean question holds. Whose wife is she? Far from exalting marriage, anyone who holds to marriage and sex (as we understand it) in the afterlife is actually advocating everlasting polyandry (multiple husbands) or polygamy. But the resurrection does not involve us in such tangles.
But neither does it require that a husband and wife, dearest of friends here, will drift apart to mere acquaintance. When they have been there, ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, he will not run into her some aeon or other and say, "Oh, hi. It's you." Our form of marriage is not a heavenly institution, but neither is our form of divorce.
Throughout the creation week, God repeated His claim that the created order was good. After He created a solitary male, He said that it was not good. He then created Eve from Adam's side, and the creation of man was complete—male and female created He them. The world and all it contains, sexuality included, is blessed by God.
The coming resurrection is not a vaporization into spiritual ether. We are not Greeks, and do not hold to the immortality of a disembodied soul. In the resurrection, men will be resurrected men, and women will be resurrected women. When the apostle Paul addresses this question (and he does, actually, in several places), he argues that sexual union here is a dim shadow of an ultimate union. This is a great mystery, he says, but the point is Christ and the Church. The man joined to a woman becomes one with her in flesh. But the one joined to the Lord Jesus becomes one with Him in spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). The former is a metaphor for a heavenly reality beyond our comprehension. But we have to take care here, because we have learned to understand the word spirit here as necessarily ethereal. Spiritual union does not mean ghostly union. The Lord Jesus did not become a neutered or androgynous thing in the resurrection. He remained a man, but what this actually means transcends our understanding. He is the ultimate man, the glorious bridegroom. He purchased a bride for Himself, and the union between the last Adam and the last Eve is an everlasting one.
But for some this still disappoints—not because it is not glorious—but because we have not yet answered the question that every happily married couple still has. "What will my relationship to my wife or husband be like?" The answer is that it does not yet appear what we shall be like, but our unbelief is revealed in our fear that whatever it is, it will involve a significant downgrade. We imagine that the only options are the same as what we have here, or a blundering or malicious eradication of every trace of what we have here. And this reveals that we do not understand the fundamental direction of resurrection. We err because we do not know the Scriptures, or the power, goodness, and kindness of God.
When we learn that we will not be married in our mundane sense, we imagine that we will be unmarried in the mundane sense_—and heaven is viewed as one great big college-and-career church group. But in the resurrection, we will be meta-sexual beings. Whatever our relationships will be, it will be better than what we have now, very different from what we have now, and have a basic continuity with what we have now. But when we imagine "different," we want to imagine something ethereal, wispy, "spiritual." In contrast, life in the resurrection will be more real, more substantive, more material.
We may gather an illustration for this from the subject of food. Paul himself uses food to illustrate a point about sex. Food for the stomach, and stomach for food, Paul says, but God will destroy them both (1 Cor. 6: 13). And at this mention of destruction, many Gnostics cry, "Ha! Good riddance. See? It says destroy." But this overlooks what God always does when He destroys. He raises to life again, and this is the whole point. The resurrection body always has an element of continuity to that which died. But it is also taken up qualitatively to a much higher degree of glory. The discontinuity is also great. What was dishonorable is now honorable. What was corruptible is now incorruptible. What was contemptible is now glorious.
So will there be food in heaven? Yes, of course—we will sit down at the wedding supper of the Lamb—and the feasting will be beyond all reckoning. And so will be the occasion for the feasting. Will there be food in heaven? Of course not.

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