Heaven and Sex: Future Invading the Present

Followers of the Messiah should live already in the present in the light of what they will turn out to be in the future.    N. T. Wright

How does a view of eternity and heaven shape the particular way we think about and live out our lives as it relates to sex?

Heaven Teaches Us to Take Sex Seriously Now

The Christian view of this present life and the life to come are both substantial and physical. As Christians, we are not Gnostics. Gnosticism is a view of life that says what is most important is the spiritual. Physical existence is bad. The biblical answer to Gnosticism is that the physical world is good, therefore, sex is good. Sex, though, is to be taken seriously. Sex is not a casual game of pick-up basketball. There is playfulness but it is between 2 people who have taken one another seriously to begin with! Heaven and eternity do not diminish sex; it increases its importance and calls us to take it very seriously.

Heaven Teaches Us Not to Take Sex Too Seriously Now

This is the irony of the Good News of the Kingdom of God. While heaven calls us to take sex seriously now, it also calls us to place it in its proper context. Since marriage and sex are signposts, pointing to something greater, we are called to not make either more important than they are. It is a really good thing but that’s all. It is not on a level with God. It is a second thing not a first thing. Romans 1:25 speaks of taking something good in creation and allowing that to replace the Creator. When we do that, we actually diminish the created thing and possibly destroy it and others with it.

Heaven Teaches Us That Our Desires Must be Stronger Than the Strongest Sexual Desire

Jesus and the rest of the Bible teach that heaven will be a place that utterly confounds our imagination. Heaven will make our most vivid fantasies, now, seem like a bad dream. We are to stir up our imaginations by contemplating heaven so that we live in such a way that we are beneficial to others, now. Heavenly mindedness, for the Christian, moves you deeper into reality because now you live for something bigger than yourself. Seeing this present life through the grand vista of heaven enables you to not put so much pressure on the good things in this world so that they can actually be rightfully enjoyed; food, relationships, work, marriage, children and sex. They are gifts but not the Giver of the gifts.

Heaven Teaches Us to Serve Others Now

According to Scripture, the most powerful aphrodisiac in sex and marriage is the selfless love for another person. Sadly, it is the very opposite of how sin has corrupted us. The grace and glory of heaven is beckoning us to live very different lives. How can heaven shape your desires to be centered on another person’s good? How can heaven shape your sexual desires to be trumped by your desire to serve your spouse more than yourself?

Heaven Teaches Us Our Present and Eternal Need for the Lamb

All of this can sound overwhelming; and it is. You nor I can rise to this standard. In fact, we fail to in so many areas of our lives on a daily basis. That is why this last point is so important.

As you read Revelation, Jesus always remains a Lamb. You see images of  a Lion but they are often super-imposed onto a lamb. How is sex dethroned and redeemed in our present lives? Only by the grace of the Gospel that becomes ours through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God who was slain for our sins and self-centeredness. Only God’s grace can create a revolution so great in us that we want to love God and others more than ourselves. Without the pardoning and cleansing grace of Christ, I am on my own, looking to create a “heaven like” existence for myself that has no room for anyone else unless they are serving me.

The gospel gives me the power and freedom to let go of the center; to not grasp for equality with or superiority over God. I am welcomed in based upon no merit of my own but by the sheer gift of the Lamb of God. I can be welcomed into his embrace now and begin to prepare myself for his ultimate embrace in heaven.

 

Copyright © 2014 Timothy S. Lane. All rights reserved.

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Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Sex and Heaven?

What is there to talk about in the New Year? How about a complicated passage of Scripture that says some really odd things about sex, the resurrection and heaven? Here’s the passage from Luke 20:27-40.

27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless.30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.37 But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” 39 Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” 40 And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

For some, the thought of not having to deal with sex in heaven is just fine. It may even be a relief due to your past experiences. Shame, abuse, negative teachings that have left you guilt ridden will be gone and you won’t have to deal with this creepy subject ever again. Heaven is your great escape from something you loathe.

For others, you wonder if this passage really teaches what it seems to teach. You may try some hermeneutical tricks to make the passage say something else. No sex in heaven is not a relief but a supreme disappointment. 

Whichever the case may be for you, we must admit that we live in strange times. Sexual images are all around us and easily accessible in ways that no other culture has ever seen. We are truly a walking example of how voracious the human appetite can be. Satisfying it is futile. The more you feed it, the more it wants. The more it wants, the more you feed it. Sin truly is a vicious cycle. I am fond of this quote from Malcolm Muggeridge who writes towards the end of the 20th century as an older man. He brings perspective to our culture and how it worships sex.

When the Devil makes his offer (always open, incidentally) of the kingdoms of the earth, it is the bordellos that glow so alluringly to most of us, not the banks and the counting houses, the board rooms and the executive offices. We can easily resist becoming millionaires or privy councilors, but to swim away on a tide of sensual ecstasy, to be lost in another body, to fly as high as the ceiling on the wings of the night, or even of the afternoon—that, surely is something. The imagination recoils from the prizes, or toys of a materialistic society. Who but some half-witted oil sheik or popular actor can go on desiring sleek yachts or motorcars or white villas perched above yellow sands? But what about the toys in living flesh? The Barbie dolls that bleed? The Hefner Playmates that move? The celluloid loves forever panting and forever young. Sex is the mysticism of a materialist society, with its own mysteries—this is my birth control pill; swallow in remembrance of me! And its own sacred texts and scriptures—the erotica that fall like black rain on the just and unjust alike, drenching us, blinding us, stupefying us. To be carnally minded is life. So we have ventured on, Little Flowers of D. H. Lawrence (p. 63 Jesus Rediscovered, Malcolm Muggeridge).

What a contrast between what Jesus is teaching and what our culture celebrates. For our culture, this teaching in Luke 20 is a terrible shock and potential disappointment. It is spoken by the very person who created and affirmed the physical world (John 1:3, Colossians 1:16).  He also wanted us to keep the physical world in proper context and perspective.

It appears that this passage is as relevant today as it was when it was first spoken. We may not immediately put sex and heaven together, but Jesus does. In so doing, he has much to teach us.

Copyright © 2014 Timothy S. Lane. All rights reserved.

2 Comments

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.