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Ideas on marriage in heaven vary with faiths

By Andrew Tevington Published: November 3, 2007
Q:Billy Graham recently said that he expects to be with his wife in heaven, but I have seen where other so-called Bible experts say that we will not really know each other in heaven. I have always felt that my husband and I will be together forever, and it upsets me greatly when I hear something like this. Would you please consider doing a column on what Christianity says about this subject?

Carol, Oklahoma City

A:There is tremendous disagreement among New Testament-based faiths on the question of whether couples will remain married and know each other in heaven. Differences are pronounced even among members of the same church or denomination.

Very few Christian traditions officially answer the question whether believers will know their earthly spouses in heaven. The issue usually is not considered an essential teaching, such as the nature of Christ or the effect of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.

Many Christians rely on Matthew 22:30, in which Jesus tells a group of questioners, "At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

For some literal readers of the Bible, this Scripture provides a negative answer to the question whether people will know their spouses after death. Other literalists, however, point out that ancient tradition provided for arranged marriage. When Jesus speaks of marrying and being given in marriage, he says involuntary marriage will cease. These believers, insisting this Scripture must be read in the context of its time and culture, say modern marriage in which both partners volunteer will continue in heaven following the resurrection.

Other New Testament scholars point to Matthew 16:19 in which Jesus proclaims Peter will hold the keys to the kingdom of heaven. "[W]hatever you bind on Earth shall have been bound in heaven,” Jesus says. This quotation is understood as providing that marriages performed in church are eternal and, therefore, will continue in heaven.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints employs this Scripture as part of its reason for performing special marriages as part of its temple ordinances. These marriages are thought to be eternal and survive into the afterlife.

Others look to the Old Testament story of Adam and Eve.

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