So, what is it? Do angels marry or not? In the verses we’re discussing today, it would seem that they don’t.
The Sadducees have confronted Jesus about the issue of marriage and divorce. These are the seemingly secular religious rulers, if we can call them that. They were part of the Jewish Sanhedrin along with the Pharisees, but they had a completely different orientation. The Pharisees were extremely religious and showed that through their adherence to the Law of Moses, such that they became extremely legalistic; they developed extensive rules and regulations to interpret what God had set forth for them. In contrast, the Sadducees took a more literal view of the Law and Scripture. If they didn’t see something in God’s Word, they didn’t extrapolate a better understanding. For them, it was either there or it wasn’t. The major area of disagreement between the Pharisees and Sadducees that the Gospels depict revolves around the afterlife. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead, whereas the Sadducees did not.
Jesus had to correct the Sadducees’ misunderstanding of what happens after death. In fact, in Matthew 22:29-30, He accused them of not having any real grasp of the One they purported to follow:
But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”
Jesus was speaking about men and women who died knowing God, i.e. believers in Yahweh. Jesus declares that God is greater than they imagine, and the Sadducees haven’t really studied the Scriptures as deeply as they say. Then, Jesus says that humans, who have been resurrected from the dead, will have the same characteristic as angels – in heaven. They won’t marry: in the spiritual realm.
Why is this important? First, we need to clarify some terminology between the Old and New Testaments. OT Scripture shows us that there are numerous celestial beings called by various names. Among them are sons of God (bene Elohim), host of heaven, stars, cherubim, seraphim, and angels. In the NT, the term sons of God is applied exclusively to believers in Jesus Christ. Other than that, the primary spiritual entities discussed are angels. (Paul, in Ephesians 6:12, also references the demonic spiritual hierarchy we face.) It’s not that the other inhabitants of heaven have gone away, it’s almost as if the Gospel writers wanted to simplify their references. In addition, the concept of sons of God becomes critical in the NT, but that’s a discussion for another day.
This issue of angels marrying is seemingly contradictory to what we previously saw in Genesis 6:1-4:
When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
Some Biblical scholars dispute that the sons of God in this passage are actually spiritual beings. They hold that this term applies to a Godly line of men marrying an ungodly line of women. That’s not what the text says, and it’s a badly mangled interpretation. The bene Elohim in these verses are indeed spiritual sons of God.
And that’s the problem for some people. Didn’t Jesus subsequently say: “they [resurrected mankind] neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven”? Doesn’t that definitively prove that spiritual beings can’t procreate?
Well, no. The Genesis account says the sons of God, i.e. angels in NT terminology, took human wives who bore them children.
So, what is it? Can divine beings become like men and have sexual relations with women? That’s where it becomes important to parse the text more closely. Jesus referred to the angels when they were in heaven, i.e. in the unseen realm. He said nothing about when they step away from their true home.
Look at Jude 6:
And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—
And 2 Peter 2:4:
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;
The angels in this case were the bene Elohim – the sons of God. What did they do? They strayed from the spiritual realm and sinned. Sinned how? Read the rest of 2 Peter 2 and you’ll see that their sin was of an abominable sexual nature. In fact, that sin was so great in God’s eyes that He relegated these angels, i.e. His divine sons, to the lowest level of hell called Tartarus, until the final judgment.
Can there really be any other explanation for this punishment other than these spiritual beings had sexual relations with human women completely against God’s command?
The nature of angels is that God has given them great powers and capabilities, yet they have boundaries beyond which they are not to transgress. Despite God’s command in this regard, the Genesis account shows they rebelled against His explicit order. That sin resulted in such wickedness throughout the earth that God had no choice but to destroy all life on it except for the one righteous man Moses and his family.
As we draw near to the Tribulation, lawlessness is again rising mightily. Soon, a day will come when God pours out His wrath upon this rebellious unbelieving planet, once more destroying all who choose to follow their own ways rather than those of God. Disobedient sons of God – allies of Satan – will perform their evil deeds in greater measure to bring mankind with them into hell.
However, before this darkness descends completely, God will rescue those who trust and believe in His Son. Jesus will come for us in the clouds and take us to our true home – our heavenly home.