Will We Have Children In Heaven?
Spoiler: My answer is, I don’t know.
My goal here is to attempt to convince you that you may not know as well as you think you do either.
There is also the related question of whether we will have “sex” in Heaven. As Mark Winger put it in one of his YouTube videos, if this is something you are concerned about, as if it’s the only thing in this life worth having, you are missing out on a lot. I agree. I also think you’ll agree by the end of this that my logic and thinking are not related to this. I am abundantly confident in God’s ability to give us pleasures other than sex.
Why We Wouldn’t Have Children
It seems to me the dominant position in Christianity is that the answer is “no”. I think there are many reasons for this, roughly:
Jesus Said We Will Not Be Married In Heaven
In the resurrection, people will neither marry nor be given in marriage. Instead, they will be like the angels in heaven. - Matthew 22:30
Of the reasons, this one is the best, because it is at least something in the Bible, said directly by God. However I will discuss later why I believe this is overinterpreted.
Church Tradition About Angels
Church traditions have many things to say about angels and/or spirtual beings in general that are not in the Bible. Some of them are outright contradicted by the Bible, such as the idea that angels look like obese toddlers with wings and a genteel smile. Others are simply unsupported.
One of the traditions is that angels are completely without gender, any accompanying drives, and any form of reproduction. Thus, when Jesus says that we will be “like the angels” in this regard, it means we will be without those things as well.
Residual Puritanism and/or Gnosticism
I have tried to be at least neutral about the previous points, but I will go ahead and hold this one in open contempt: I think part of the reason people assume that there can be no sex/children in heaven is a residual Puritan or Gnostic idea that all sex is bad, and therefore, it can’t be in Heaven. And correspondingly, that in Heaven we’re going to just be sitting around being all holy and stuff, and, well, what we’re doing isn’t too clear, but it certainly won’t be anything as evil and sinful as sex or anything like it.
Opinions about Heaven and the Hereafter That Leave No Room
If we’re going to live forever here on Earth, obviously we can’t just be reproducing willy-nilly. As humans can reproduce exponentially, in a cosmic blink of an eye the entire mass of Earth would be humans, and obviously that’s impossible.
How much these ideas are brought to consciousness I don’t know, but I think there’s definitely a lot of at least subconscious or implicit belief that it just can’t be possible.
Why I Find Those Uncompelling
Not Married In Heaven
First of all, let me be perhaps a bit crass, but nevertheless accurate, in pointing out that marriage is not what produces children, not even here on Earth.
But that leads to my thinking that people make a very classic binary thinking mistake when it comes to the question of what “not married” must be. That is, to think that there are only two possible states, namely, marriage, and complete genderless lack of desire and indeed even capability.
This is simply untrue. Marriage and some sort of total abstinance/nonexistence are not the only two possible situations. Marriage is a particular point in a large space of possible relationships. When considered against all the arrangements possible in eternity as well, it is a very large space!
Our 70-ish years on this planet and the singularity of death limit us in a lot of ways, both in terms of relationships and what we can think about.
On a somewhat superficial level, but one that may still be true, eternal beings can not get married with modern wedding vows, if only because such beings incorporating “until death do us part” is meaningless. Would you agree that two people making the rest of the traditional vows, but deliberately leaving out “until death do us part” are not properly “married”? If so, then there is trivially not “marriage” in Heaven.
This may be a bit trivializing because it would make Jesus’ point trivially true… then again, He does not shy away from stating the trivially true, nor does He shy away from true statements that are nevertheless not entirely enlightening to everyone who hears them1, so I’m not sure that’s as disqualifying as it otherwise might be.
I believe Jesus saying that there is no marriage in Heaven is meaningful; He said it, it means something, certainly. But I think that just excludes one particular point, not all possibilities.
I could hypothetically start making examples of such alternate arrangements, but we are not capable of processing them in the here and now. Right now, we will inevitably attempt to frame them into our current situation, where they will fail for any number of reasons, not least of which is not matching that which God has commanded for the here and now. Plus there’s the arrangements that only make sense in terms of eternal time. I think it’s a distraction to start trying to imagine the possibilities, and I also want to disclaim that any such specific possibilities are my goal here.
I think the possibilities, at least from our point of view in the here and now, are far more open than people suppose. In Heaven, God is right there, guiding us and teaching us and protecting us, and I expect there will be many things that under such circumstances, and with perfect submission to Him, would not currently be feasible. I don’t just mean in the field of relationships; as another example, I expect every human will sooner or later have a degree of power that no living human could be trusted with in this life. This isn’t even that much of an extrapolation; Revelation outright says we will be Kings and Queens, and judge angels. I certainly am not ready to judge angels today, and by the standards of Heaven I am utterly unready for Kingship. There are many things we can only do through God that are simply unavailable to us today.
Church Tradition About Angels
Where, exactly, does the idea that angels are utterly neuter come from?
I’m not aware of it being in the Bible.
We are not told much about angels, or spiritual beings in general, in the Bible, and I am very suspicious about most if not all “traditions” around them. A lot of our ideas about them come from medieval poetry and literature, not the Bible.
But we do have a very little bit about angelic sexuality (for lack of a better word) in the Bible, and you may be surprised to learn it actually cuts the other way:
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. - Genesis 6:4
(I am not here going to defend the claim that these are angels; I will leave that to Dr. Heiser. I accept this for the purposes of this post, if you do not you will not agree with this section either.)
That is not much to go on, and I do not want to fall into the trap of overinterpretation myself even as I criticize many others for it. I won’t even claim this is a proof of anything. I will simply observe that angelic beings looked down on the Earth, found human women (specifically) enticing, and managed to somehow impregnate them.
I have no knowledge of how this was done. For this point, all I need is simply to point out that they did indeed seem to experience some sort of desire2, one that contributed heavily to even dragging them down into sin. I do not want to overread into this any positive assertion about their capabilities, desires, or anything else, because this is nowhere near enough data. (Even if one accepts the further non-canonical elaboration on this story in Enoch, it isn’t enough data.)
All I want to point out is that this doesn’t correspond to what you’d expect if angels were truly utterly neuter, unable to even conceive of attraction. And therefore, even if we are “like angels” we men may still be finding human females attractive and desirable mates, for literal mating purposes, because it turns out, so did the angels. (Or former angels, as the case may be.)
The Residual Puritanism/Gnosticism
Well, I’ve already admitted to a certain open contempt for the Puritan and Gnostic aspects of this position, so I’m not going to further rebut them.
But in this slot, I will put my observation that the command to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28) predates the Fall (Genesis 3:6). If the world is to be entirely restored to its pre-Fall state, this command should be re-instated as well. (This command was also issued at a time when Earth was every bit the size it is now, which speaks to the next section.)
Moreover, the unique and beautiful blessing given to women is to bear and have children. But many women in Heaven will be there without children, without any children who also went to Heaven, without as many children as perhaps they should have had 3, and so on. If their lives are to be repaired and their God-given blessings to be restored, it seems like there ought to be a chance to have children.
Opinions About Heaven
Here is where I’d really like to crack open your mind a bit. I think people have terribly limiting views of what we’re going to be and do in Eternity. It is not their fault; we live in such a terrible place that to imagine a truly wonderful place and being there even for a day is beyond our imagination. I’m not going to claim to be any particularly better at it… mostly, I will just say that I can throw bigger numbers at the problem.
What do you imagine in Heaven? We know from the Bible it’s going to be on Earth (or, at the risk of a bit of spoiler, at least start there…). Does that gnostic “just going to be vaguely holy for all eternity” sneak back in?
I think we will be doing things. I don’t know much about exactly what. I think Heaven is probably already a more complicated and rich place than we realize. We have a sum total of maybe 10 kilobytes of text on the topic from a reliable source. This post comfortably exceeds that. That’s how little we really know about Heaven.
But among the things we know is that there are at least millions if not billions of angels, and in one way or another, they’ve been around at least 8 thousand years. That is me being conservative and polite to some of my brothers in Christ, but I am not a young-Earth creationist, so I go for, they’ve been around for at least 14 billion years 4. Have they just been sitting around?
I bet not. I bet they’ve been building. I bet they’ve been interacting. I bet they have something like libraries of their own writings, cities, all sorts of things we can imagine and a lot of things we can’t. And that’s just in Heaven. It seems they’ve been on Earth to.
A pet theory of mine is that the reason the tree of life looks like it “evolved” is that God did the initial amazing creation of life, but that the subsequent development was shared with his angels, and therefore the tree of life reflects the fact that they are not as capable as God is of novel creation, so there’s a lot more slow experimentation and development that looks superficially like evolution in the fossil record. That means the history of Heaven and its angels would include as a subset the entire past couple billion year’s development of life on Earth.
Big story. Big stories, plural. That we have hardly anything written about this doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen, just that in this very brief window we exist on this Earth prior to the Great Divorce, it isn’t important.
We do know of at least one big event, the War in Heaven and the Fall of Satan.
But it’s not like that was an atomic event either; it’s not like, in one second all the angels were in harmony and then literally a second later Satan had fallen and taken his rebels with him. I bet there was a process. I bet there was intrigue and communication and passionate speeches in both directions. I bet there were Divine Council meetings where the rebels were warned, prior to their final commitment to rebellion, about what exactly they were doing. I bet the stories on this alone could fill a lifetime of our own reading… and I bet it is just one interesting event in a place that has had more interesting events than we could read about in one human lifetime, at least in terms of how much information there is about it.
Along with Heaven just being sort of a vague bumming around on Earth, I think it’s also easy to read the description of Heaven in the Bible, and come away with the idea that it’s kinda maybe a medium sized city, it’s got a gate or three, and it must have some roads if they’re made of gold, maybe a temple, and a mostly blank landscape. The way it is often depicted in Sunday school art.
I bet you’d be closer to the truth if you imagined it as at least as complicated as a city that covered the entire surface of the Earth, where every single block’s worth of space has something interesting and unique and is individually more amazing than anything we’ve ever seen on Earth. I’m not saying that’s what it is, I’m just saying, something like that probably gets you closer to the reality than an ugly vaguely Bronze Age building sitting on an empty expanse with a gate made of gold somewhere vaguely nearby, or gates sitting on clouds in the middle of nowhere.
(The only upper limit I will place on it is that it does seem like Earth is a very interesting place to them right now, and that all the higher ranking angels are taking a strong interest in it. This suggests to me that Heaven may not be something like quadrillions of times more complicated and interesting than the physical world right now, because in such a situation by sheer size we couldn’t rate such high-level angelic attention. But this is a very loose bound.)
What is the point of this diversion? As I mentioned, I think a lot of people subconsciously assume that all there is in the future is something like Earth as we know it now, and certainly we couldn’t be reproducing very long before that would be filled up. But I think that infinitely understates the nature of our future.
For one thing, look up.
A careful reading of Genesis yields the observation that the Garden of Eden was indeed a special place; some people come away with the idea that the entire Earth was the Garden, but it was not. Man was meant to go out into the wild Earth, as good as it may have been as God created it, and further work it to the Creator’s specifications. I say, if we squint a bit, we can look out into the entire rest of the physical universe and see it as yet more extension of the command to tame the world.
There’s good reason to believe that most of the rest of universe is currently uninhabitable5, but who is to say what we can do with God behind us? Even today, we conceive of ways we could fix up the Solar System around us; most of what stops us in the end is that we can’t conceive of how to do it on any time frame that any human would be interested in. That is not going to be a problem in Heaven.
That sky up there may be full of His glory in a new and different way.
And if you’re ready to really have your mind bent… that’s just this Universe. Did the angels in Heaven, spirtual beings in a spiritual world, perfectly suited and I’d imagine perfectly content being there, have any idea that God would create a brand new type of place, a physical world, and that they would get to do things in it? Well, I don’t know. Maybe they did. But it’s certainly at least conceivable the answer is no.
Likewise… who is to say God is done? He works big. His idea of a small bespoke craftsman’s batch seems to open in the billions. Is he truly done making new types of places with the “two” we’re aware of? I bet not. I wouldn’t even bet that there are only two… it is only two that we know of.
If we had children as quickly as physically possible, and our children had children as quickly as physically possible… we’d shortly run out of space to live comfortably on Earth. We’d shortly run out of space to live on Earth at all. It’s not even that much longer until the entire Universe would be filled if every bit of it were as habitable as the Garden of Eden.
But that’s not the important thing. The important thing is that exponentially growing number of people for all eternity would still never run out of God.
The limiting factor on our population isn’t space on Earth. It’s God’s plan. If He wants children, he shall have them. If He does not want them, He shall not have them. That’s the determining factor, not the limits of our imagination in how such a thing would work.
I’m Doing Bad Theology Here
This speculation is OK enough for speculation, but it’s bad theology. It is not supported very well by scripture in the way that one can make a case for the Trinity or something like that. All it really is is a flight of fancy. Theology should not be based on flights of fancy.
So, despite the fact I tagged this post with “theology”, it’s really not that far off a guy on some illegal drugs going like, what if, the whole universe is like, really big man? No, I mean, like, really big?
This is why I said at the beginning I’m going to land on “I don’t know.”
However, I offer this flight of fancy and then disclaim it as a flight of fancy, because in my opinion, the traditional Church’s answer on this topic is on the exact same footing. It has the virtue of historical tradition, but I don’t count that for that much, and it has the vice of being rather small minded, in my opinon, compared to our future. What little textual evidence there is on the topic at all does not support a very strong conclusion on the matter at all. So there is some small value in matching what I think is a flight of fancy with another flight of fancy, just to demonstrate that there’s more than one flight of fancy available to choose from, in the end all I’m really asking is that you perhaps downgrade your certainty that we will not have children in Heaven a tad. Not that you agree with my flight of fancy above. I’m sure in the end it will not particularly resemble the truth either.
But at least it’s big. I think the Truth is big. No, I mean, like, really big.
When he [Jesus] was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, “they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!” - Mark 4:10-12 ↩︎
It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own[a] head, because of the angels. - 1 Corinthians 11:10
Which I follow Heiser on on thinking that this is about angels and their history of attraction to human women. Again, the details of how that attraction works is not important to me here; merely the fact it exists where tradition would say it couldn’t possibly is all. ↩︎
Without going into too many private details, this is the situation my wife is in, and by extension, me. We are not childless, but for reasons utterly beyond our control, it became obvious it would be prudent and wise to stop trying to have children rather before we wanted to. ↩︎
Give or take how time here may or may not map to time there. All I’m looking for here is a belief that they’ve been around for a substantial time, though. ↩︎
Designed to the Core is an amazing book on that topic.
It doubles as my preferred defense of why I’m not a Young Earth Creationist, even though it never so much as mentions the topic, but diving into that is for another post. ↩︎
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