Wednesday, July 9, 2008

SEX AFTER THE RESURRECTION

11
What the
Bible
“REALLY”
says about…
sEX after the resurrection

And Jesus answering said unto them, “The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection” (Lk 20:34-36).



What the Bible “REALLY” says about sEX after the resurrection, and what many people think the Bible says after the resurrection are two different things.
Tragically, most envision the future paradise as a sex-free environment¾an endless eternity of sexual self-denial. Contrary to popular opinion, there’s not a shred of evidence to support this negative assessment. In fact, since sex is a good thing created by God, then the burden of proof should fall upon those who make such outlandish allegations.
Let’s discover the origin of this pessimistic predilection, and then consider the ramifications. As the late theologian Richard Weaver profoundly remarked, “Ideas have consequences.” Nothing illustrates this better than an experience I had as a teenager.
I was taking a bike ride with Richard, a boyhood chum, as our topic of conversation turned to theology. Richard made a disturbing comment¾one I’ll never forget.
“I sure hope I go to Hell when I die,” he remarked.
What a horrible thing to say! I couldn’t fathom how anyone could prefer a future of eternal damnation to an eternity of heavenly bliss.
My curiosity was peaked, so I went fishing for an explanation. Richard put it like this: His propensity for Satan’s dominion developed from childhood recollections of a sermon describing sex and Heaven as mutually exclusive. The crux of the message was, sex is something Christians will give up forever once they gain entrance into the Pearly Gates. As far as Richard was concerned, Heaven without sex was the worst form of Hell imaginable.
I identified with Richard, though I couldn’t have disagreed more. Although I was a Bible illiterate at the time, I was confident that Richard was sadly mistaken.
Yet, what if he was right? What if the Bible really did proclaim a cessation of sensual delights in the Heavenly Realm? I had to admit that a sex-free Heaven seemed pretty dull. I knew deep in my heart of hearts, this had to be a gross misrepresentation of what the Bible really says, although I could not prove it at the time.
I put the matter on the back burner for years. Then one fateful day, the monster returned to haunt me. Only this time, it was my clergyman espousing eternal celibacy.
I couldn’t believe my ears. At first, I paid homage to my pastor’s indictment, though rather reluctantly. After all, he’s the expert. Why, he even graduated from seminary.
As months became years, I questioned everything. How could someone whom I regarded as a paragon of biblical discernment reach this verdict? Why would a loving God invent something as fantastic as sex, and then flip-flop by mandating abstinence? This didn’t add up.
I interrogated clergyman after clergyman, hoping for an optimistic second opinion. No dice. Seventy times seven second opinions later, everyone was still parroting their predecessor. It was like dejavu from a Twilight Zone episode. All of this redundant dogmatic insistence that sex is taboo beyond the Pearly Gates became exasperating. But the real head-scratcher was¾ why would anyone want to believe such a horrid notion in the first place? My annoyance escalated. I resolved to stop the insanity and prove the matter once and for all.
Hitting rock bottom, I began to identify with a cartoon character. A man died and went to Heaven. Perusing the surroundings, he couldn’t help but notice a large neon sign which read, “Welcome to Heaven¾a Sex-Free Environment.” A sheepish expression of downtrodden disappointment noticeably permeated the countenance of Heaven’s new arrival. He timidly approached Saint Pete and made an unusual request. “Uh, I was just wondering…” the man stammered, “…is there any possibility of me getting a one-way ticket to Hell instead?”
Doesn’t it make sense that if Satan wanted to discourage us from going to Heaven, this would be a very effective lie?
So what about it? Does the Bible really say there is no sex beyond the pearly gates?
The good news is there’s not one text from Genesis to Revelation ruling out post-resurrection coitus. The bad news is, there’s also not a text stating explicitly that there will be sex after the resurrection either. Yet, using deductive reasoning, we can reach a relatively safe determination. There are logical reasons to anticipate the future paradise as a place of intimate pleasures beyond our wildest imaginations. After all, everything else in paradise is going to get better¾why should sex be the exception?
To give credit where it is due, I was somewhat pleased with Billy Graham’s comment on Larry King Live. When asked by Larry¾ “What will Paradise be like?”¾Graham responded with, “…everything that you ever wanted for happiness will be there. People say that the Bible teaches there’s no sex in Heaven. If sex is necessary for our happiness and fulfillment, it’ll be there.” [1] At least Dr. Graham was willing to acknowledge the possibility of sex after the resurrection.
Although I would not agree that sex is absolutely essential for happiness and fulfillment, it seems illogical for God to create something as wonderful as sex and then turn us all into eunuchs unable to enjoy that wonderful blessing for all eternity. Although I’ve since found a few ministers who agree with Dr. Graham’s position, those who valiantly defend the possibility of post-resurrection coitus seem to be among a dwindling minority.
Why do most Christians subscribe to a sexless eternity? Part of the problem is a misreading of Luke 20:35. Jesus said, “There is no marriage and giving in marriage in the resurrection.” Notice… He didn’t even mention sex. Jesus said marriage would cease¾not sex.
Stanley J. Grenz describes the eternal state as a community of male and female. Grenz makes a strong case for the continuity of humanity as sexual creatures. According to Grenz:
Often the vision of the final reign of God pictures a nonmaterial, sexless world. Proponents of such a vision appeal to Jesus’ response to the Sadducees, in which the Lord declares that in the kingdom era people will not marry, but will be like the angels (Matt. 22:30). Yet it is instructive to note that Jesus’ statement does not declare that in the reign of God people will no longer be sexual creatures. On the contrary, … both Jesus’ own resurrection and the doctrine of the resurrection in general indicate that human sexual distinctions (albeit in a transformed manner) are taken into existence in the community of God.
In that community, we remain embodied, albeit people whose embodied existence has been transformed through the resurrection. Because sexuality is a crucial dimension of our existence as embodied creatures, we remain sexual beings in the community of God. At the same time, our sexuality, like our embodiment as a whole, is transformed.[2]

I couldn’t agree more with Grenz. Unfortunately, he jumps the track by claiming, “…we no longer will express our sexuality in genital intercourse, for this act is related solely to the marriage bond, which will no longer be present in the community of God.”[3] Hank Hanegraaff says virtually the same thing in his book on the resurrection, admitting that there will be sex after the resurrection in the sense that resurrected Christians will still be male and female. But Hanegraaff denies that our sexuality will be expressed through genital intercourse. According to Hanegraaff, that would be “too clumsy.”

In the resurrection, there will no doubt be “millions of more adequate ways to express love than the clumsy ecstasy of fitting two bodies together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle (p. 140).”

Perhaps God should be indebted to Hanegraaff for spotting a glitch in His original inadequate design of intercourse. God said what He had made was good, but Hanegraaff has ingeniously discovered a way to improve on God’s original design of expressing love by getting rid sexual intercourse. Of course Hanegraaff, like everyone else, has no idea what God should replace it with to make it less clumsy. I thank God that Hanegraaff was not there in Eden when God made Eve.
The reader of Hanegraaff’s book is supposed to be consoled by the sentiments of Christian author C.S. Lewis. God’s got something that’s so much better than sex to take its place that we won’t even miss it. For an adult to give up sex will be like a kid giving up chocolates.[4]
Forrest Gump was right. Life really is like a box of chocolates. At the end, there’s no chocolate left!
My position is that marriage in the afterlife will cease in terms of reproduction. Also, no one man (with the exception of Jesus) will have exclusive rights of ownership over any one woman. I differ with both Grenz and Hanegraaff in that I believe the cessation of marriage (as I just defined it) will result in unlimited genital expression rather than a cessation of genital intercourse. Critics of post-resurrection coitus begin with a faulty premise¾all sex outside of marriage is a sin. Then they combine that error with Revelation 21:27, which says there will be no sin in Heaven. Therefore, no sin plus no marriage must equal no sex. Is it any wonder that millions¾like Richard¾do not zealously anticipate their ultimate heavenly destination?
Previous chapters have given conclusive evidence that extramarital sex is not necessarily a sin. Therefore, it is at least possible that sex will exist in paradise.
Luke 20:35 makes it clear¾marriage will not exist after the resurrection. Before we consider what this means, let’s consider what it does not mean. First, this is not saying resurrected Christians will be like ghosts, devoid of corporal bodies. The Sadducees were using a scenario carefully calculated to make mince meat of the doctrine of bodily resurrection. That is why the Sadducees brought up the argument of a woman with seven husbands. They weren’t interested in whose wife this woman would be when all her ex-husbands were resurrected¾they didn’t believe in a resurrection. Evidently, this argument had the Pharisees over a barrel, because they believed that after death, married life would continue as usual.
Affirmation of the bodily resurrection has always been a central tenant of orthodox Christianity. False teachers have continually challenged this doctrine, which is why Paul repeatedly defended it (1Co 15). A common heresy in Paul’s day was that everything physical was evil and temporal.
The body was regarded as the prison for the soul. Only the soul (i.e. spirit) was believed to live beyond the grave. These false teachers did not necessarily deny a belief in life after death. What they denied was that resurrected Christians would have physical bodies.
Because many in the Corinthian church were influenced by the Greek philosophers of their day, many believed their bodies would not be resurrected at a future date. Therefore, some Christians had the notion that they could do anything they wanted sexually.
Although the Bible doesn’t describe our resurrected bodies in detail, there are a few things we do know. Our bodies will be basically the same as now, only far superior. Whatever we’ll look like, we will be recognizable. Our resurrected bodies will be like the resurrected body of Jesus (Php 3:21). After Jesus was resurrected, He was recognizable.
A common argument used to deny that Jesus looked the same after His resurrection is that Mary Magdalene and His disciples did not recognize Him on three occasions. However, the reason they did not recognize Jesus is their eyes were miraculously kept from recognizing Him (Lk 24:16). Later, Jesus opened their eyes and they did recognize Him.
Christians will be raised imperishable (1Co 15:42). No more wrinkles, receding hairlines, or bulging waistlines. Everyone will have vibrant health!
Those perfect bodies will still be male and female. Jesus was referred to in masculine terms after His resurrection. The Bible also gives an example of a girl being resurrected (Mt 9:18-26).
Many believe that Heaven is now populated with disembodied spirits who are awaiting a future resurrection of the body, either at the Rapture or at the Second Coming. Others believe those now in Heaven have some type of body in the intermediate state prior to a future resurrection. To me, it makes no sense whatsoever that right now, Abraham and Sarah have been in Heaven for all these many thousands of years without bodies, unable to express their love sexually. One pastor responded to my concern by saying that there is no time in Heaven and that a thousand years in Heaven would be like one day on earth.
Some misuse Galatians 3:28¾which says there is neither male nor female in Christ Jesus¾to support an androgynous resurrection. This verse simply means there is presently no gender discrimination among believers. Women have an equal opportunity to benefit from Christ’s salvation¾now. Galatians 3:28 has nothing to do with removing our gender.
God made us male and female and said it was good (Ge 1:31). Since being a sexual creature was good enough for Eden, is there any reason why it won’t be good enough for the paradise of the future?
Since our resurrected bodies will be new and improved versions of our present bodies, doesn’t it follow that the glamour girls of today will become even more gorgeous when they receive their heavenly bodies at the resurrection?
According to author and teacher John MacArthur, married Christians will enjoy an eternal companionship in Heaven with their spouses. Those partnerships will be more perfect than any earthly partnership. The difference, according to MacArthur, is Christians will also enjoy an equally perfect relationship with every other person in Heaven. [5]
I concur fully. Yet I doubt that MacArthur would allow for the possibility of those future relationships including sex. Of course, God could remove our sex drives¾but why? What would be wrong with perfect men and perfect women expressing their love sexually?
In Heaven, God will be our sole provider. There will be no sexually transmitted diseases. Women will no longer give birth to babies in need of constant supervision. So, unless Augustine was right and God made sex only for reproduction, there is no reason why sex for pleasure should cease.
Let’s take another look at Luke 20:34-36:

The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.

These words can be interpreted two ways.
The common interpretation says there will be no sex after the resurrection whatsoever, because all sex outside of marriage is a sin. If all extramarital sex is a sin, then there is no alternate way to interpret this.
The negative ramifications of such an unwarranted exegesis have been tremendous. But again, we’ve already seen examples where sex outside of a monogamous marriage is not a sin. Therefore, there is a better way to interpret this passage, which is equally valid.
This is the most logical approach to the words of Jesus: “After the resurrection, sex will be returned to its original state of purity. There will no longer be the begetting of children. No one man will have exclusive rights of ownership over any one woman.”
Although I agree with my critics that our main focus in the afterlife will be on Jesus, not our spouses, I disagree profusely with the conclusion that we will be so enamoured by the Beatific Vision that we won’t even care about sex. If we’ll care about lesser things like eating, drinking, and music¾and the Bible indicates that we will care about those things¾then why wouldn’t we care about sex? Won’t it still be lawful to love our neighbors as ourselves? To take away our sexuality is to take away a major part of our humanity. Our sexuality is part of what it means to be human.
In paradise, Jesus will be the ultimate Husband and the church will be His ultimate bride. Under the Old Covenant, marriage was only a shadow of this ultimate marriage. Therefore, since everyone in paradise will be married to Jesus, there will no longer be a need for any kind of sexual restrictions. Sexual restrictions were imposed by God to protect us from sin. Since there won’t be any sin in paradise, there won’t be a need for any sexual restrictions.
I challenge anyone to come up with one good reason why God should get rid of sex once perfect people inhabit paradise. God made us male and female. God said it was good. Our sexuality is all part of what it means to be male and female. So unless God is a Cosmic Killjoy, why would He want to rob us of sexual pleasure?
If Christians in Heaven do have bodies now, then it also follows that right now, the citizens who currently inhabit their eternal heavenly dwelling place are experiencing uninhibited sexual bliss with an endless array of partners.
Now let’s take this one step further. Jesus gave the following as a model prayer: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” Jesus instructed believers to make things happen here on earth the way they are already happening in Heaven. So, isn’t it a logical deduction that Christians everywhere should endeavor to make this Heavenly ideal an earthly reality A.S.A.P.?
Jesus said, “ ‘The children of this world’ marry, and are given in marriage” (Lk 20:34). Who are “the children of this world”? Unbelievers are referred to as “the children of this world.” Believers are referred to as “children of light” (Lk 16:8). Nowhere in the Bible are believers referred to as children of this world. Believers are contrasted with unbelievers as being in this world but not of this world.
Paul spoke of marriage as a worldly institution that was soon to pass away (1Co 7:29-31). Luther said that since marriage had existed from the beginning of the world and among unbelievers, it could not be a sacrament.[6] So, why do so many Christians enslave themselves to the cast iron rules of sexual exclusiveness that this worldly institution of marriage promotes?
A married man cares for the things of this world, such as how he may please his wife (1Co 7:33). Friendship with this world makes a person an enemy of God (Jas 4:4).
Believers are not to love the world. Neither are they to love the things that are in the world. If a man loves the world, then the love of the Father is not in him (1Jn 2:15).
The Bible also refers to believers as being resurrected now. So right now, believers are considered children of the resurrection. Oh sure, there is a future resurrection of the body. But being spiritually regenerated is also referred to as being resurrected. God has already raised believers up (Eph 2:6). A believer is already risen with Jesus (Col 2:12). Believers are said to already possess everlasting life. Not in the future, but now.
Anyone who believes in Jesus has everlasting life (Jn 3:36). All believers have already passed from death into life (Jn 5:24). Jesus said that anyone who believes in Him would never die (Jn 11:26). Jesus wasn’t referring to the death of the physical body. He was referring to the death of the inner man, also known as the soul or the spirit. In other words, our soul can never die once we are truly begotten.
Also notice that Luke 20:27-38 says nothing about Heaven. Certainly this would apply to both the state of things in the New Heaven and Earth. But it is just as applicable to believers today. Even though the Kingdom of Heaven is not yet here in its fullness, it does exist in part within the church.
Today’s children of the resurrection are not called to simply be a carbon copy of the children of this world who marry and are given in marriage. Instead, the church of Jesus Christ is supposed to be showing the children of this world a better way to love one another, which is the way things will be for all eternity once the Kingdom of Heaven has fully arrived.

Conclusion
What does the Bible “REALLY” say about sex after the resurrection?
Although marriage will cease, there is no reason to rule out sex. Sex after the resurrection is not only a possibility¾it’s a probability. And if there is sex after the resurrection, it’s got to be awesome, baby!
The Christian ideal is perfect love among all believers. In Heaven, this ideal is a reality. Meanwhile, Christian earthlings are to become heavenly-minded. If we pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven,” while clinging to monogamy, aren’t we being a tad hypocritical? Christians are to strive for perfection (Mt 5:48). Monogamy falls short of God’s perfect ideal.
Let’s not put off till tomorrow what can be accomplished today.
Christ gave a new commandment. We are required to love one another (Jn 13:34)¾fervently (1Pe 1:22). Many religions forbid a man and a woman not married to each other to love each other fervently. But if we are to obey Christ, we are commanded to do this.
Society and religion say that it's okay to express love for one another through the unity of our hearts, but it's not okay to express that love through the unity of our bodies, except with a spouse. If we refuse to love one another fervently, as Christ commands, then do we really love Christ? Do we really acknowledge Him as our ultimate husband?
The church is the ultimate bride. Christ is the ultimate husband. The union between Christ and His church is the ultimate marriage. Therefore, if the ultimate bride refuses to express fervent love for other Christians, as Christ commanded, then isn’t this the ultimate form of adultery?
By restricting the sexual expression of fervent love to exclusive monogamous relationships, we become the enemies of Christian unity. Conversely, if we all loved one another fervently, wouldn’t life here on earth be… heavenly!?

[1] Larry King Live Interview, CNN, Dec. 25, 1998.
[2] Grenz, Stanley J. Sexual Ethics: an Evangelical perspective. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997, p. 250.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Hanegraaff, Hank. Resurrection. Nashville, Tennessee: Word Publishing, 2000, pp. 137-142.
[5] MacArthur, John F. The Glory Of Heaven: The Truth About Heaven, Angels and
Eternal Life. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1996, p. 138.
[6] Marius, Richard. Martin Luther: The Christian Between God and Death. Cambridge, MA and London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999, p. 259.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

A positive (though possibly speculative) case can be made that male-female relationships similar to marital bonds can continue between the redeemed into the next life. This may then also imply a romantic, physical or even sexual aspect in such a relationship. This positive case is made on the rezfamilies website (go to google and search for 'rezfamilies', or just http://sites.google.com/site/rezfamilies/)