No Sex in Heaven!
Christianity’s teaching on sex is counter-cultural in a variety of ways. First, the Bible never blushes when talking about the God-given goodness of sexual desire and expression within the context of marriage. In the book of Proverbs, a wise father counsels his son to reject the dangers of adultery and instead let his wife’s breasts “…fill you at all times with delight,” (Prov. 5:19). An entire book of the Bible, the Song of Solomon, is a description of marital, romantic and sexual love between a husband and a bride. Unfortunately, this truth about the inherent goodness of sex is often more countercultural within the church than in the world. Sadly, far too many of us have only heard sex mentioned in a church setting in the context of a discussion about avoiding sexual sin. Counselor and author Jay Stringer says this well in his book Unwanted when he mentions that the church’s teaching on sex is often like teaching someone how to cook but only giving instructions about the dangers of food poisoning. God’s design in marital sex is for a husband and wife to enjoy an undeniably good gift He gives to bless the covenant of marriage. In a fallen culture that praises sexual sin and glorifies various shades of sexual brokenness, it’s important that Christians boldly proclaim the essential goodness of this gift. The longer I counsel and the more I am sexually sanctified, the clearer it becomes that sin is a parasite on something good. Evil doesn’t create sexual sin from nothing. It perverts, twists and distorts something stamped with the glory and goodness of God. Sexual sin corrupts good desires – desires for connecting with others both relationally and physically. Often sexual sin is about looking for the right things in all the wrong places. Evil entices us to take our sexual hunger to the dumpster of sin instead of filling our hunger for relational connection through God’s design for sexuality. Whenever we go to the dumpster and fill our appetites with evil’s trash, our hearts are left even more empty and hungry. Sexual sin is about not knowing what to do with our hunger and eating in places that make us spiritually sick.
Second, Christianity’s teaching on sex is countercultural because it tells us that sex is not our salvation. It’s not where we find our deepest joy and satisfaction in life. Our greatest problems in life, sin and suffering, are not cured through “sexual healing,” as Marvin Gaye sang in his popular hit song. Our culture constantly reminds us of the pain and brokenness that comes whenever we buy into its lies about sexual idolatry. The more we look to sex as our god, the more our desires are frustrated and the more we experience the exact opposite of what we long for in sex. Sexual idolatry leaves us lonelier, disconnected and relationally lost. C.S Lewis captures this dynamic well in his classic The Screwtape Letters where he powerfully articulates the work of Satan to cultivate in us “…an ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure.”
Another countercultural Biblical teaching is that sex is temporary, not eternal. A variety of other religions like Mormonism and Islam believe that earthly marriage and sexuality continue in the afterlife. Christianity uniquely views our present experience of sexuality and marriage as temporary symbols of an eternal, coming reality. Our present experience of sex is meant to point us toward the day when Jesus comes again, heaven and earth become one, and we are forever united to Him as His pure, spotless bride. This coming reality of perfect union and communion between God and His people is the eternal truth that our present experience of sex is designed to prepare us for. This heavenly experience will be greater and more satisfying than any sexual experience here on earth. It will be more pleasurable than any orgasm, more captivating than any fantasy and more desirable than any imaginable earthly sexual experience. If you want to consider how well your heart is doing with sex in the present ask yourself, “How do I feel about the fact that there will be no sex in heaven?” Does this bring disappointment? Or maybe even a touch of outrage toward God? Perhaps the thought, “If there’s no sex in heaven then I’m not sure I even want to go there!” If you expect your present experience of sex to be heaven instead of a foretaste of heaven that helps you wait for more, then it is a good indicator that sex is holding too large a place in your heart. It has become an ultimate source of fulfillment, a means of salvation, or even an idol that is causing chaos in your life. If that is descriptive of your heart toward sex, then God wants to help you loosen your death-grip on it so that you can see and enjoy Him and his gifts in a deeper way.
The reality of sex being a temporary symbol of an eternal reality should be a great source of strength and encouragement for Christian marriages. An important but painful truth about sex within marriage is that there will be seasons where sex is disappointing or frustrating even when sexual sin is not present. There are a variety of ways that married couples feel the pain of sexual frustration. For instance, it is not uncommon that intercourse is physically painful for wives which can also cause emotional pain for both spouses. In many marriages, there will be a fundamental mismatch in sexual desire so that one spouse (usually but not always the husband) has a desire for sex that is more intense than the other spouse. The frailty and weaknesses of our bodies can present obstacles and challenges to a fulfilling sex life, things like depression, fatigue, hormonal imbalance, anxiety or sexual dysfunction. Some of us have stories of sexual harm from our past that complicate our experience of God’s good design for martial sexuality. Others fight feelings of shame that make it hard for us to believe that our spouse can receive and enjoy our body. There will be seasons of marriage where sex might feel dull or routine, more of a task to perform than a pleasure to enjoy. And couples can experience all these things even as they are navigating well through friction or struggle within their marriage. Evil highlights these struggles and divides husbands and wives by enticing them toward blame or withdrawal during sexual frustration. Instead, spouses can learn to faithfully groan through the struggle. Husbands and wives can groan together when they are both willing to patiently wait, acknowledge their longings and trust God’s truth that marital sex is preparation for something eternally good. They can grow in their faith that sex is meant to train our desires and longings for heaven, the place where we will experience perfect union and communion in God. Taking this path enables us to demonstrate grace and understanding toward one another amid sexual brokenness. If sex is meant to point us to something eternally greater, then we should expect our present experience of sexuality to leave our hearts half-empty, longing for something more. The truth that needs to be embraced more openly and honestly about marital sex is that couples must be willing to have sex by faith. Husbands and wives can give and receive sexually from one another even if the gift of sex feels broken in some way, both trusting by faith that sex is meant to point us to something greater than itself.
It’s crucial that we as Christians can name and face by faith the places where sex and sexual desires are tainted with fear, futility and disappointment. Sex is a place where we often battle the pull of evil the strongest on our hearts. Satan seductively deceives us into believing that we will find sexual relief by either denying sexual desire or dumpster-diving in the poisoned pleasures of corrupted sexual desire. There are a variety of traps we can fall into whenever we believe the lie that before Jesus comes again we will be able to escape the painful frustration of our sexual longings. Pornography, masturbation, sinful fantasy sex outside of marriage or other forms of sexual sin are the places many of us feel the temptation of a false escape. We must see that sexual sin is not only about turning to something that distorts our good desires into something sinful and wrong. It is also a way we are running away from our deeper desires to have what our souls ache for and what we are destined for, being forever united with God in a place where we will never again be disappointed, frustrated or hurt. Often even in the brokenness of our sexual sin, we are really trying to find heaven by rummaging through hell. God instead wants us to learn how to walk on a better but harder path. He wants us to learn how to walk the path of faith that knows how to wisely handle our frustrated desires. God’s good path of sexual wholeness is the path where we learn how to “…groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). And we can trust that God is training us even in the midst of our sexual disappointment to turn our eyes toward heaven, the place where all our desires and longings will be perfect and the place where they all will be perfectly fulfilled in God.