Another big week ahead for us on the podcast. Our inbox is full of questions from listeners asking about remarriage after the death of a spouse. Here are two of them.
“Pastor John, my name is Preety from Indonesia. In July of last year, I lost my loving husband. He went for a surgery that was not supposed to be life-threatening, but he never woke up from the anesthesia. I was, and remain, in shock. We have been married for eight years, blessed with two beautiful daughters. My husband has been actively serving our Lord Jesus since the age of 18, while most of his friends are Hindu. His life was all about the gospel. We started a church and a few gatherings. He loved people dearly. Compassionate and generous. My question: Are there verses in the Bible that encourage widows to remarry? That sounds disturbing to me right now. My question is what’s left for me to hold on to in my relationship between my husband and me? I long to be always to be called his wife, but is that wrong? Each day I wait to be reunited with my husband again. Thank you, Pastor John.”
The second question comes to us from Patricia, who asks more directly, “Pastor John, does God allow remarriage after the death of a spouse?”
This is really fresh, it sounds like, and very present in the heart of Preety. I don’t know Patricia’s situation, but let me start with principles and then get to the point of Preety’s heart and the decision she is facing.
Free to Marry
Remarrying after the death of a spouse is pretty clearly addressed by Paul at least twice and by Jesus as well. In Romans 7:2–3, Paul says this: “A married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.” So, that is the first statement.
“Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.” So twice: verse 2, if her husband dies, she is released; verse 3, if her husband dies, she is free.
Then Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:39, “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” So, Paul simply adds to what he taught in Romans that any marriage of a believer should be “in the Lord,” that is, to another believer.
Polygamy at the Resurrection?
Now, Jesus addressed the issue because the Sadducees, who didn’t believe in the resurrection, tried to make remarriage look foolish. It looked like it produced polygamy in heaven. That was their shtick on why heaven can’t really exist (Luke 20:27–33). We would be polygamists there because of all the people that have married again after the death of a spouse.
“Paul wanted younger widows to remarry instead of being on the church’s special widow care ministry.”
So, they pointed to the Old Testament provision that a brother is to marry the widow of his brother and to raise up offspring. And they say: That happened. And it happened seven times. So, now she has had seven husbands. So — with a sneer — whose wife is she going to be in the resurrection?
So, what did Jesus say? Did he say, “Oh, well, I guess she shouldn’t remarry, because we certainly can’t have polygamy in heaven”? No, that is not what he said. He said, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:34–36).
In other words, a widow does not need to worry about polygamy in heaven when she remarries, because relationships are going to be so different in the resurrection. No one will think of marriage in a way that makes polygamy a problem. It is just not going to be there. There won’t be marriage and giving in marriage like there are here and now. So, at the principle level, widows and widowers are free to marry in the Lord.
Open to Remarriage
Now, just a word about Preety’s situation. She asks: Are there verses in the Bible that encourage widows to remarry? And the answer is: Yes, there are, like 1 Timothy 5:11–16 where Paul wants younger widows to remarry instead of being on the special widow care ministry that existed, evidently, so that they wouldn’t be a burden on the church and so that they wouldn’t be a victim of Satan’s temptation.
But I would caution to say that what Paul means there is “command to marry.” This is because of 1 Corinthians 7:39, where it says they are free to remarry whom they please, only in the Lord. It is not as though Paul is, I think, providing an absolute here that every widow must remarry, anymore than that every person must marry in the first place.
“Widows and widowers, don’t feel pressure to rush into any remarriage, or to exclude the possibility of remarriage.”
She adds: That encouragement or positive view of remarriage sounds disturbing to me right now. She asks: What is left for me to hold on to in my relationship with my husband and me. I long to always be called his wife. But is that wrong?
Now my response, Preety, is: Even if you remarry someday, which you feel right now is remote, if you do remarry someday, you may respectfully be known as the former wife of your previous husband. He had no other. You were his. That fact never changes.
That would only be a problem, to be known that way, if your emotional bond with your deceased husband was stronger than your emotional bond with your second husband. But, I would encourage you not to make any commitment not to remarry.
I would encourage you not to feel any pressure to rush into any remarriage or to exclude the possibility of remarriage. Time heals the deepest wounds, especially for believers like you who have had such sweet and good experiences that have been lost. Time heals the deepest wounds. Let time pass and let God show you over time what the future holds.