Obviously, sex and marriage play a big part in society and humanity, so Jesus’ statement that such things won’t exist in the resurrection (Mk 12:24-27) surprises us and even comes across a bit harshly. After all, many of us who are married can’t imagine living in eternity without our spouse and the near majority of us can’t imagine a world in which sexual enjoyment is not only downplayed, but completely nonexistent. What are we supposed to do with this teaching? To some extent, it may even seem to some that resurrection would not be enjoyable at all.
For this reason, it’s important that we pause here and address the point that Jesus is getting at. While Jesus truly did mean that sex and marriage wouldn’t be in the afterlife, there is still is a deeper truth being communicated to us in this teaching. As it ends up, sex and marriage in this life (when used righteously and submitted before God) are a foretaste of something greater in the next. These things were given to us by God and are therefore good, but ultimately these pleasures are so inferior to what is to come that they can only serve as a glimpse of the fullness of the resurrected state.
Sex and the intimacy it represents will find its fullness in the end with God (and I do not mean that in a perverted kind of way). In the same way, marriage and the faithfulness that it represents will be found in our new life with Christ. These things will be so superior that sex and marriage cannot even be found in the resurrection. To live by such past ways of life would be to chase after something incredibly inferior. One would look incredibly foolish to trade in their new 100” curved screen TV for an old, small, black and white square one. Likewise, the experience that sex and marriage would offer us in the resurrection would be so inferior and ridiculous that one would have to wonder if we had lost our mind.
In the end, the foretaste is replaced with the real thing—the inferior with the superior. Everything we’ve ever wanted; everything we’ve ever been missing; everything we didn’t even know we were missing will finally be available to us, and it will be so good that even the greatest pleasures of this life will seem foolish and pointless to pursue.
The Christian mystics of old are proof of that. When I read the stories of Saint Teresa of Avila, I find myself so desperately wanting what she had. Her spiritual life was so vibrant and the Holy Spirit was at work in her on a level I sometimes have trouble comprehending. I am jealous for what she has. She is to me, a foretaste of what is to come. She is a small glimpse of the fullness that there is for all of us in the resurrection.
Resurrection is a new category of existence. Heaven is completely upside down from everything we’ve ever known. All you have to do is read the Sermon on the Mount to see that. Little that Jesus says in that message can be lived out in us very easily. It takes immense effort to embody His teachings. To even remotely become what Jesus preaches, we need to be turned into something new. We must begin practicing Heaven’s backward ways now so that we know what resurrection life feels like before we get there. And if we don’t start living Jesus’ ways here in this present life, I fear there’s a possibility that Heaven may feel more like Hell to us.
I try to remind myself of this passage from time to time when I feel sexually tempted. If sex is not something that carries on into the resurrection then I will have to learn to live without it sooner or later. That’s a lesson that might be helpful to learn now. “There is so much more to life than this,” I remind myself. “And one day that will be entirely evident.”