Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: Biblical Ignorance in High Places
Accompanying Robert Rayburn sermon: Heaven: Imagined and Real
Accompanying David Legge sermon: Question Time
The Bible is not all that forthcoming about what heaven will be like, but we are told enough to know that our lives there will be the truest fulfillment of all that is best in our lives in this world and that we will be engaged in useful and satisfying work of high purpose as well as basking in the presence and glory of God.
However, here is a piece of teaching about heaven that has seemed, at least to many Christians, to make heaven, if not boring, at least less than one might have hoped. I suspect for many Christians through the ages this paragraph has been one of the most disappointing in the Bible. They don’t deny that what the Lord says is true. He is the Lord! But they wish it were not. Most of the teaching they find in Holy Scripture – teaching about life in this world and life in the next – they happily agree with. They believe that it is true and they are glad it istrue. Even the more difficult parts they accept as good and necessary. But I have spoken with many Christians through the years who accept this teaching about there being no marriage in heaven with a sigh. They don’t want to be like the angels when they get to heaven, at least not in this respect. The a-sexual life does not appeal to them. They want to be married. They want to be in love in the way in which husbands and wives alone can be in love. I confess to being one of those who thinks this way.
My marriage has been the source of great happiness to me and it is hard for me to accept that, for eternity to come, this happiness will not be part of my life. It would make me very happy to know that I would be married to Florence for ever... Happily married Christians find it strange to think that they will not be married in heaven. I’ve heard a great many say precisely that. But, nevertheless, that is what the Lord says. We shall be like the angels in this respect, that we will not marry or be married. Our life in heaven, true and authentic human life though it will be, will not be precisely like our human life in this world and this is one grand difference. It will not be a sexual and romantic life as it has been here.
Now in all seriousness, it must be said that there are many others, including many devout Christian men and women, who find this text a great comfort. Their marriage has been for them the principal trial of their lives and the thought that they will soon be free of it does not come as a blow or a disappointment to them. The news is frankly a relief. In the case of others who have never been married and who have been hard put not to think of themselves as second-class citizens in the church as a result, this is likewise no hardship for them to hear. For the Lord to say that there will be no marriage in heaven is for some Christians almost a manifesto of their full rights in the kingdom of God...
The Lord made short shrift of the question the Sadducees thought was so clever.... The Lord’s problem with the Sadducees was not first their quibbles about the manner of life in the world to come but their denial of the reality of life in the world to come. The remark about there being no marriage in heaven is what arrests our attention, but the Lord’s interest lies primarily elsewhere. He strikes at the main issue by citing Exodus 3:6 and proving from that text that God is the God of those who live on, that those who are his people ascend to higher life even after they have died.
C.S. Lewis once criticized Rudyard Kipling for lacking what he called a “doctrine of ends.” That is, he did not look at this life....from the vantage point of the ultimate issue of things. He had no doctrine of the end of the world, of the world to come, of the connection between this world and the next. That was the Sadducees’ problem. They had no doctrine of ends, or, better, they had a false doctrine of ends and that false doctrine prevented them from a true understanding of this life and this world.
This is, in fact, the problem of our world. It explains Europe’s declining birthrate, it explains abortion and euthanasia in the modern Western world, it explains so much about crime and divorce and pornography, and modern relationships, and television and the internet and the worldliness of ordinary human life; it explains so much about how ordinary people live their ordinary lives every ordinary day in our world. They have no doctrine of ends. They do not see the present in terms of an eternal future. They measure the present by the present only and that changes everything, distorts everything, corrupts everything because the meaning of the present cannot be known in terms of the present alone. You cannot know the truth about today, about your life today, unless you connect today to the future, the eternal future. You cannot rightly measure the meaning of life, of anyone’s life unless you measure it by eternity, your life after death, your existence that continues forever in either heaven or hell.
We do not disbelieve, you and I, not in the sense of embracing the Sadducees naked unbelief in life after death. But you know and I know that, nevertheless, we make their mistake every day we live. Too often we also live as if we had no doctrine of ends. Too often we live as if there were no world to come, as if we were not to continue our lives after we died, as if heaven and hell were not real, or, as if heaven were not to be as glorious as Holy Scripture says it will be. We rightly reject the Sadducees unbelief, but, alas, there is still so much of the Sadducee in every one of us, however heartily and sincerely we reject their secularism and their unbelief.
The remark about there being no marriage in heaven has this great benefit. It forces us to think about heaven as a real place, not an imagined place, but a real place, a place where we are going, where we will soon be, where we will soon live if we have living faith in Jesus Christ. We can indulge vague illusions about heaven, too vague to leave their mark on our daily lives, but here we are confronted with the real thing, the real place, the real life – a life different in some ways that we expected, even than we may have hoped. That is how real heaven is....
I know, as every Christian knows, that when I am in heaven, and my heart is perfectly pure, and I am with the Lord and with his saints, and I see an eternity of sinless joy stretching before me, when I feel a perfect and powerful love in my heart for everyone else and feel theirs for me in return, then I know that I will miss nothing, regret nothing, wish for nothing else but what the Lord Christ has given me. If there is not marriage, life will be better for it, not worse; however difficult it may be for us to understand that now. Heaven is a real place!
Monday's scripture focus: Mark 12:28-34
Sunday's passage: Ezekiel 17-18
Monday's passage: Ezekiel 19-20, 1 Peter 2