I know Jesus says marriage ends with death, but I don't understand WHY marriage ceases to exist with death. I prefer Catholic answers to this question.

  • The main reason is that otherwise remarriage would be adultery!
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 3, 2022 at 0:50

4 Answers 4


The purpose of marriage is the procreation of children. 1917 canon 1013:

The primary end of marriage is the procreation and the education of children

Cornelius à Lapide, S.J., commentates on St. Matthew 22:30 ("For in the resurrection they shall neither marry nor be married, but shall be as the angels of God in heaven."):

there will be no need then of marriage and generation; for these things have been instituted for the perpetuation of the race and the individual, by means of children. Because the father is mortal, therefore he begets a son, that after death he may live and continue in his son. But in Heaven there shall be no death, and they shall live for ever. Marriage, therefore, and procreation of children would be without an object there. Wherefore S. Luke adds (20:36), Neither can they die any more. Appositely says S. Augustine (Quæst. Evang. in Luc. xx. 35):

Marriage is for the sake of children, children for the sake of succession, succession on account of death. Where, therefore, death is not, marriage is not.

Though marriage ceases, the bonds of charity between friends endure (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II-II q. 26 a. 3 "Whether the order of charity endures in heaven?"); "there seems to be the greatest friendship between husband and wife" (Summa contra Gentiles lib. 3 cap. 123 [6]).


Catholic teaching that marriage ceases with death

Good question (although Jesus didn't exactly say marriage ends with death), especially with the secular culture promoting the idea that "marriage is forever" (e.g. wedding ring seller: "diamond is forever"). Also, with the Catholic church assiduously protecting the indissolubility of sacramental marriage before death (if valid and consummated) and how one has to go through a possibly complicated canonical process for remarrying, why does the Catholic church teach that the marriage bond ceases with death? (see below)

Canon Law 1141, quoted by CCC 2382 says:

Can. 1141 A marriage that is ratum et consummatum can be dissolved by no human power and by no cause, except death.

Scripture also provides the legal basis of marriage dissolution at death consistent with "Until Death Do Us Part" in the marriage vow (see the history of it in a magazine article Why We Say "Until Death Do Us Part" In Wedding Vows). Romans 7:3:

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.

What will survive and will be transformed: love between spouses

To answer this question, we need to understand which aspect of earthly marriage survives to heaven according to the Catholic church. A reddit question has a good answer (emphasis mine):

Marriage is a sacrament. Sacraments are "visible signs of invisible grace" that help us encounter God and His Love in tangible ways. When we are in heaven, we will have no need of sacraments any more because we will be dwelling within God's love eternally. We won't need to receive the Eucharist, for example, since we will eternally be in God's presence.

Marriage, in particular, is a sacrament that makes God's love known on earth (to each spouse in the marriage and to the community who witnesses their love). We won't need marriage to witness to God's love in heaven, however, because we will be IN God's love already. It would be superfluous.

Of course, that's not to say that a lifetime of loving one another won't mean anything at all in heaven. The love I have for my husband, for example, will still be present.

A similar explanation is offered by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa in his commentary on the readings for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (cycle B) which also addresses other scenarios (unhappy marriage, remarriage after first spouse's death, etc.).

A third support can be had from the conclusion of St. John Chrysostom's Letter to a Young Widow (whose husband died after only 5 years of happy marriage) that marital love will be transformed into a "far nobler kind":

Wherefore desisting from mourning and lamentation do thou hold on to the same way of life as his, yea even let it be more exact, that having speedily attained an equal standard of virtue with him, you may inhabit the same abode and be united to him again through the everlasting ages, not in this union of marriage but another far better. For this is only a bodily kind of intercourse, but then there will be a union of soul with soul more perfect, and of a far more delightful and far nobler kind.

(Source: NC Register article Is There Marriage in Heaven?)

What ceases: procreation and vow

The Catholic church teaches that the marriage covenant

is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring ... (Canon 1055)

Although in Mark 12:25 and Matthew 22:30 Jesus didn't exactly say that marriage ceases with death, Jesus explicitly said that there will be no new marriages and that couples will live like angels in heaven, implying that there will also be no procreation (like angels). Since what is "good of the spouses" has been transformed into something better (see previous section), then it makes sense that there is no more reason for the marriage covenant after death.

Also, in Romans 7:1-3 Paul implied that once a spouse has died he/she will no longer be bound by law to the other.

Non Catholic Views

It's interesting that for LDS marriage survives death: see LDS answer to the question "Do Mormons believe that marriage is eternal?"

Also, among non-Catholics there are several views of the marriage covenant that become important when considering whether Remarriage after divorce should be allowed; see a book in the Counterpoints series: Remarriage After Divorce in Today's Church: 3 Views.

  • This is a good answer. In addition I would point to two things: 1) Mark 12:25 and Matthew 22:30, and 2) The Catholic Church's constant teaching that there will be no pregnancy/birth in Heaven, and therefore no need for copulation or marriage.
    – zippy2006
    Sep 3, 2022 at 0:30
  • 1
    @zippy2006 Thanks. Added the procreation angle into the answer. Sep 3, 2022 at 5:33

Because in Heaven your bond with everyone is greater than even your marriage bond is down here. As to the ends of marriage, the view of Dietrich von Hildebrand is everywhere the standard. Sticking strictly to the question this is said to allow other marriages. There is no dogmatic de fide statement about what the relationship of former spouses is in heaven. I do personally like St Thomas More's

Here lies Joanna, dear little wife of Thomas More, who intends this tomb for Alice and me. The first united to me in my youthful days, gave me a boy and three girls to call me father. The second, a rare distinction in a stepmother, was as affectionate as if the children were her own. It is hard to say if the first lived with me more beloved than the second does now. Oh how blessed if fate and religion had permitted all three of us to live together. I pray the tomb and heaven may unite us, thus death could give what life could not give.

Epitaph written by Sir Thomas More for his wives seen to this day in Chelsea Old Church

  • "in Heaven your bond with everyone is greater than even your marriage bond is down here" what is your source for this statement?
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 5, 2022 at 9:16

Jesus did not exactly say marriage ends with death. He said:

For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. -- Mark 12:25

Literally this means that a person cannot marry in the afterlife. It does not mean that a marriage is dissolved when a person dies.

Writing in the Catholic Standard, Msgr. Charles Pope writes:

... We ought not to conclude that a long marriage in this world will have no meaning at all in the age to come. In heaven our body and our soul will be perfected. So, too, our fundamental relationships, both spousal and familial. They will not be discarded or simply forgotten. Surely those who are spouses here will experience a far more perfect union in Heaven... While the juridical aspects of marriage may end at death, the union of hearts and lives will not.

The Catechism states in CCC ¶1026: “Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ.” It is hard to think of a truly blessed community that does not include families. Thus Msgr. Pope's point is well taken.

We also have testimonies from saints who, shortly before death, reported seeing their families in the next world. For example, St. Thérèse of Lisieux promised her her sisters that she would "be even more with you than I was before. I’ll will not leave you. I will watch over Uncle and Aunt, over my little Lèonie, over all of you. When they are ready to enter heaven, I’ll go very quickly to meet them." Is there a reason why married saints (there are about 500 of them) would not watch over their spouses as well, and welcome them eventually into heaven if/when they arrive there?

However, for Catholics, the focus in heaven is not humans, but on God. People who reside in heaven are "Absorbed in the beatific vision," but not so much that they do not recognize their relatives and still have special feelings for them.

As Sr. Marie Morgan points out, we also have countless testimonies from Catholic laypeople who report visitations from family members, including spouses, who have passed away.

(There are) innumerable stories told by people even today who lie on their death beds, sharing with us their experience of dying. How many hospice workers can attest to the fact that many people claim to have seen or even spoken with their loved ones as they lay dying! For some, it is easy to “write off” these experiences as drug-induced fantasies or as hallucinations caused by the brain “shutting down.” However, when these experiences bring great peace and joy to agitated souls, I believe they point to the presence of some sort of heavenly intervention. As my own mother lay dying nearly two years ago, she smiled and exclaimed that she could see her brother “up there!” I have no doubt that she did.

And if a nun will know her mother in heaven, it must surely be that that a happily married wife will know her husband, and the husband will know his wife. Jesus did not not tell us that marriages end in heaven, he said only that we will not get married there. Those already married remain so, at least in heart if not in law.

  • "he said only that we will not get married there. Those already married remain so." Marriage ceases, but the bond of charity between a husband and wife endures in heaven.
    – Geremia
    Sep 3, 2022 at 3:31
  • I didn't do the -1. I think this answer is right within the spirit of Catholicism but doesn't quite answer the OP question on WHY the Catholic teaching says the marriage is dissolved (in the eyes of the Church), consistent with the vow: "until death do us part"). In other words, while your answer is very good in the exegesis of Jesus's saying and in explaining the continuing aspect of the marital union, it fails to reconcile with the "dissolved" aspect that Romans 7:3. Sep 3, 2022 at 17:11
  • The "neither married nor given in marriage" quote is in context of a story of a woman who had 7 husbands, one would die and she married another, and Jesus was asked who she was married to in heaven. If the answer is "you stay married when you die," then she's married to 7 dudes in heaven, and her not getting married to an 8th after death doesn't at all address the point: she's still got 7 husbands, which Jewish law didn't permit and neither does ours. OTOH, if people don't stay married when they die but are "like the angels," the question is answered.
    – Maverick
    Oct 5, 2022 at 19:51
  • St. Paul also addresses this in Romans 7:2: For instance, a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage.
    – Maverick
    Oct 5, 2022 at 19:55
  • @Maverick, like Geremia, I would make a distinction between the law of marriage and the emotional bonds of marriage. The former are dissolved so that a widow may remarry. The latter may be retained so that families are not separated in the afterlife. Oct 5, 2022 at 20:34

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