This is the sixth installment of A Theology of Sex and Gender. Parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Consummation

 God’s plan begins with man and woman living in His sacred space (Garden of Eden) under His rule (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15-24). This is the kingdom of God. United in marriage, the man and the woman are “living pictures” of the coming union between Christ and His people (Ephesians 5:31-32). Human marriage not only testifies to the current reality of Christ’s relationship to His people, but also looks forward to the complete consummation of God’s plan in eternity. In the new creation, Christ will feast with His bride at the marriage supper of the lamb (Revelation 19:7-10). In the new creation, the dwelling place of God will be among humanity. The new humanity will be His people, and He will be their God. The two will become “one flesh” in a sense that God presence is now no longer hindered to the church because of her sin (Revelation 21:1-8).

Marriage in the New Creation

Before tackling that question of gender in the new creation, an easier question to answer would be: “Will there be marriage in heaven?” The Bible teaches us that  there will be no longer any human marriages in the new creation. Jesus argues that in the new creation people will neither “marry” or “be given in marriage.” Instead, believers will be like the angels in heaven (Matthew 22:29-30). Jesus seems to be saying that marriage as we know it won’t exist.[1] Scripture gives us a principle for interpreting itself: when the reality comes, the shadow passes away (Hebrews 10:1). Applying this principle to the issues of marriage, it shows us that when the reality comes (Christ) then the human institution of marriage passes away because it has reached its fulfillment. The picture (human marriage) is not the end-all, be-all. Christ is.

Sexuality and Gender in the New Creation

So what about gender? Will it pass away also since marriage will pass away in the new creation?  A likely answer is “no” for the following reasons. God created two sexes even before uniting men and women in marriage. So although marriage is a picture of the gospel and will pass away, it seems that our inherent humanness represented as male and female will persist into the new creation.

Furthermore, the Bible gives us very concrete, physical pictures of the new creation. The Old Testament, especially, gives us images of people building houses, eating and drinking, and even infants being born (Isaiah 65:17-23; cf. Zechariah 1:17; 2:4; Amos 9:11-15). Although God’s people are “one” in this new creation, the Old Testament seems to indicate that ethnic Gentiles will retain their ethnic identity alongside ethnic Jews (Isaiah 19:24-25; 66:19-20). Being “one” in Christ as Galatians 3:28 says does not obliterate the distinct way that God created us ethnically. There seems to indications in Revelation that ethnicity prevails in the new creation (Revelation 7:9; 21:24-26). If ethnicity continues into the new creation, it seems reasonable to conclude that our gender will not be done away with either.

Now, some complementarians argue that the principle of male headship continues into the new creation.[2] I believe this is mistaken. The Bible speaks of husband headship over the wife, not male headship over the woman. Thus, the authority-submission dynamic between husbands and wives will cease because the marriage relationship will receive its terminus in the coming of Christ and His consummated relationship with His people. Furthermore, in the consummation all people (whether male or female) are considered the “bride” and the “wife” and so all people (whether male or female) will be eternally submissive to the true husband, Christ.

As Wendy Aslup writes:

While the categories of male and female endure into the New Creation, the earthly roles of being husbands and wives do not. Or to be more eschatologically accurate, these earthly roles are finally fulfilled. Our earthly marriages—and the submission that happens within them—are but mere shadows of the one great marriage between Christ and His bride that will exist for all eternity. As our roles shift from being individual husbands and wives so too will the submission that flows from our individual relationships. As the collective Bride of Christ, we will all submit to Jesus as our Bridegroom. Christ remains the head of both man and woman. His supremacy (which Philippians 2 tells us is the direct result of his obedience to the Father) will govern our relationships with each other, male and female alike.

In God’s great design, He has made us to as complex creatures, able to glorify Him a multitude of ways both with our genders and with our marriages for those of us who are married. In all things, glory to God.

[1] Carson, Matthew 13-28, 461.

[2] Walton, “Roles and Relationships in the New Creation,” 15.

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