[This post is part of a series covering eight little known theological truths about the Christian’s body]
The following post is frank about marital intimacy, but not graphic. Read at your own discretion.
The body is for the Lord not for sexual immorality. However, he clearly designed our bodies to have sex. So how do we have sex to the glory of God? How is our body for the Lord even while engaging in intimate relations with the one we love?
First, you need to confine sex to marriage. But our bodies being for the Lord doesn’t just mean that we confine sex to marriage.
It also means we receive marital sex as an appetizer for heavenly pleasure with thankfulness. As Christians fighting against pornography and lust, we must never give the impression that sex within marriage is the main course. Doing so will result in disillusioned married men and women.
That said, sex within marriage is indeed one of the most powerful teasers for the future heavenly pleasures awaiting followers of Christ. But similar to the Old Testament temple and sacrificial system, it foreshadows the future promise by way of symbolization.
In a previous post, we looked at some of these symbols. Here are four more:
The symbol of unity (and nearness)
Our unity with Christ is the foundation for all of the benefits of salvation. Because we are united to him we are declared righteous, our sin is forgiven, we are adopted as children, we are guaranteed a resurrection like his, and many more.
However, the symbolism of unity in marital intimacy foreshadows the more relational and experiential side of our unity to Christ. The way that it will feel to be finally one with our Lord and at home with him in heaven is foreshadowed in marital intimacy.
It will be expressed in different ways in heaven, but the feeling will be similar. That sense of wholeness and completion that causes people to say to each to each other “You complete me” or “You’re my better half.”
There will be that nearness and likeness to each other so that you are not sure where one ends and the other begins. Yet, you will feel more like yourself than ever before. You will feel more connected and more of an individual all at the same time.
God cares about feelings. They are important to him. They are not the goal, but they are a crucial part of experiencing him. He designed sex in marriage to be a foreshadowing of the feelings of heaven.
The symbol of mutual vulnerability
With marital intimacy, there is literally a tossing away of the protective layers that we wear when we are out in the world. Even our closest friends aren’t allowed access to this kind of vulnerability in our lives.
To be naked with your spouse is to say, “All of who I am is yours. I hold nothing back. Every single part of me I give to you. Now and always, until we die.”
Jesus himself was stripped naked on the cross and gave himself with such vulnerability to his beloved bride. In heaven, we will be clothed with his righteousness, we will not be physically naked. Yet we will still enjoy that mutual vulnerability where all of who God is is ours and all of who we are is his.
The symbol of exclusivity
Revelation 2:17 says that in heaven you will be given a new name that only you and God know. Of course, in biblical times names were not just picked out because they sounded cool. A name always meant something. It always said something about your character or history.
There will be something about you as a person that only you and God will know. Out of the trillions upon trillions of people in heaven you will still have an exclusive, intimate relationship with God. The exclusivity of marital intimacy is a symbol of that.
The symbol of contrast
A husband and wife are clearly different from each other. They say opposites attract, but even if two similar people marry there are always differences. That is one reason why all couples fight. But it is also part of what makes the relationship so rewarding and enjoyable.
Likewise, much of the joy of marital intimacy is that it is someone unlike you that you are experiencing. There is a unity and nearness and meshing together so that it can be hard to tell where one person starts and the other begins. Yet there is also the stark contrast. Your spouse is different from you. And the difference is pleasant.
Likewise, God is very much different from you. When you encounter him it often grates against who you are. But his difference is also what we are drawn to. He is eternal; we are finite. He is omniscient; we have limited knowledge. He is strong; we are weak. This too is symbolized in bodily marital intimacy.
This is what you are longing for when your body desires to have sex. Don’t be mistaken, it is no mere physical desire. Your whole being is involved. The physical desire is primarily a symbolic representation of your spiritual longing for intimacy with your maker.
So how can sex with your spouse glorify God? Start by receiving this heavenly appetizer with thankfulness. Then encourage thoughts that examine the symbolic nature of the act. Stop dwelling so much on technique and the mere physicality of it. Relish in the holistic joy given to you from God in this intimate pleasure.
What did I miss? How else does marital intimacy symbolize the future pleasures of heaven?