Sex & Eschatology
I remember when I was younger being told that Jesus could come back at any moment. Instead of erupting in joy at such a statement I would often think that Jesus should wait, perhaps until I have at least been married and had sex first. Now, I’m fairly confident that I’m not in the minority on this. But obviously, there is something completely backwards about this type of thinking. Do we seriously desire to postpone the grand reunion of our souls with our Maker for mere earthly pleasure? Hopefully the absurdities of my previous thoughts are evident.
If we really believe the Scriptures when they tell us that in the presence of God there is fullness of joy (Ps 16:11), then why do we often hear young Christians say similar things as I once did? Even more, some suggest (wrongly, as I hope to show) that perhaps there will be marriage in Heaven. But will the joy of Heaven be too bleak for us that we must have a need for sex? I want to probe this issue because I believe there is something worshipful that can take place through this reflection.
In Mark 12:18-27 a group of Sadducees come to Jesus. In a common riposte fashion they publically challenge Jesus’ view of the Resurrection. Attempting to stump Jesus, they depict a scenario in which a woman marries a man with seven brothers. Eventually the husband dies with no offspring so one of the brothers marries the woman, and this cycle continues until all the brothers had married her and died. The Sadducees then ask Jesus which of the brothers will be married to the woman in the Resurrection. The question was meant, from the perspective of the Sadducees, to point out a logical absurdity with the concept of the Resurrection. However, they were wrong in assuming that marriage carried over into eternity. Note what Jesus says, “When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given into marriage.” It is clear that Jesus’ response removed all doubt as to whether there is marriage in Heaven. Not only is earthly marriage discontinued in Heaven, but there is no subsequent act of marriage that takes place (contra Barty Lovebucket, et al).
For some people this is troublesome. The assumption is that if Heaven is a place of eternal pleasure, and sex is pleasurable, then the two should be able to co-exist, right? I believe there is a fundamental problem with this association. For one, the assumption seems to make earthly pleasure the supreme form of pleasure. But most importantly, It fails to realize that Heaven is itself superior for not containing sex. For if sex is the greatest of earthly pleasures (as veterans might say) and it is not even present in Heaven, then how much more pleasurable is that place? What must Heaven be like if even the greatest of earthly pleasures is missing? The absence of sex ought to be a cause for joy rather than sadness or bitterness, because Heaven is not less joyous in light of this fact, but more so. I believe C. S. Lewis had this concept in mind in his book, Miracles. He states that if you tell a very young boy that sex is the highest pleasure, he will ask if it is something that involves eating chocolate (I know what you’re thinking, but stop it!). In this same way, sex is merely “chocolate candy” in relation to our understanding of the pleasure that awaits us in being in the presence of God.
We see this reminder even in the book of Ecclesiastes. All is vanity “under the sun,” the author writes nearly thirty times. The “under the sun” perspective, that is, what is merely concerned with earthly and temporal pleasures, will ultimately lead to un-satisfaction. The true object of our joy is indeed “beyond the sun.” The author writes, “Who can eat or find pleasure without Him?” (Ecc. 2:25). This is precisely because “He has set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecc. 3:11). That longing we have has an object absent from the temporal realm. This longing leads us directly into the throne room of God, where our Bridegroom is seated at the Father’s right hand waiting for us.
This is precisely why we will have no impulses for sex in Heaven. Those affections that we possess, in that sense, here on earth, will be focused on our Bridegroom, which is Christ. No earthly relationship can compare to relating to our Savior as a Bride relates to her Bridegroom. This idea provokes so much worship within me that the thought of maintaining an earthly marriage would literally be archaic. Note the words of God to his people through the prophet Hosea:
“And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness” (Ho. 2:19).
Can earthly marriage compete with those supernal images? In Paul we see a similar marriage motif:
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-26).
As the Bride of Christ we have the glorious opportunity to relate to our Maker in a relationship that marriage imagery can only faintly describe. The substance will be far more grand, and the romantic longing that all of us have will be satisfied throughout all eternity.
Therefore, sex is a type. It is a type of the eschatological joy that we will experience in relationship with God. Human relationships can never do what the archetypal relationship can do. All longing that we have within us to be in relationship with another relational being, and all longing that we have to flee loneliness cannot be subsided in even the closest of our human relationships. Thus, sex and all other forms of longing, point us to that “country whose builder is God.” All unfulfilled desires and un-satisfaction in this world has been pointing us to that heavenly country. In agreement with this I conclude with the first question from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “Q: What is the chief end of man? A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”