Is close human companionship, reproduction and child-rearing all there is to marriage? Or was there a greater goal or purpose behind its institution?
Amazingly, the human marriage union, divinely designed and instituted by God (Genesis 2:24), was meant to portray, in physical type, the marriage between Jesus Christ and the Church, the assembly of God's called out and spiritually converted people, also known as true Christians or saints.
The apostle Paul shared marital instructions for a good and healthy marriage in Ephesians 5. And toward the end of the chapter, he provided a glimpse of the ultimate fulfillment of the marital relationship: "For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church" (verses 30-32, emphasis added).
The great mystery is that the human marriage union is a precursor to Christ's marriage to His Bride, the Church (2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7-8). And there's more to this great mystery.
Jesus shows us that the ultimate fulfillment of our marriage to Him, the Lamb, leads everyone to the New Jerusalem, which will come down from heaven. The apostle John described a vision of that future in which an angel told him: '''Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife.' And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God" (Revelation 21:9-10).
This highlights the saints' part in the New Jerusalem, but we also know that this heavenly city to yet come down will include the salvation of all of willing humankind for all time: "But the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all" (Galatians 4:26). This includes the salvation of all humanity who will ultimately follow God (see 1 Timothy 2:4; Romans 11:35; John 3:16-17).
The saints of the Church of this age are the "firstfruits" of a much greater harvest of human lives (see James 1:18), the greater ingathering to take place during the 1,000-year period of Christ's coming reign over the nations and the last judgment period to follow (Revelation 20:4-6, 11-13).
Scripture shows that Christ is now preparing a place for the saints and eventually all mankind (John 14:2) in the heavenly Jerusalem, the mother of all God's spiritual children, for all time.
The marriage union of oneness was designed for human beings in covenant with one another and God, and it will be ultimately fulfilled when all human beings who desire to be saved will enjoy a perfect oneness in covenant with Jesus Christ and the Father (see 1 Corinthians 15:22-28; Revelation 21:22). This is what earthly human marriage is meant to depict.
The marriage union of oneness experienced in our physical lifetime today is a type of humankind's ultimate marriage to Christ that will never end (Ephesians 5:31-32). So by the design and will of God, the divine institution of marriage is forever! Again, not the particular marital unions of today but marriage itself. (Still, we will no doubt remain close to our earthly spouse and others we are close to in this life throughout eternity in God's divine family.)
Be sure to learn more about what God intended in the marital union in our eye-opening free study guide Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension.