If the new earth is a restoration of the original Creation plan by God and God affirmed marriage or the role of a spouse in Gen 2:18, how do you deal with the Mark 12:25 passage of people will neither marry nor be given in marriage? Is marriage and procreation a result of sin to be burned away in the refinement of passing over? Was it intended to be a temporary blessing only viable for the first stage of existence not long term?
These are very good questions. I think the key to understanding them involves Our Lord's statement in the gospels that we will be like the angels of heaven, neither marrying nor giving in marriage, and St. Paul's statement in Romans 7 that death ends marriage, so that spouses who remarry after being widowed are not committing adultery. These statements directly address the situation of death and the next age, and so they provide the framework within which to understand the Genesis mandate to procreate.
Undergirding both Genesis, the Gospels, the Epistles, and the whole rest of the Bible is a moral vision that understands sex and procreation–for humans–to be something that must occur within marriage. The affirmation that we will not be married in the next world thus implies the absence of sex and procreation, making us like "the angels of heaven" in that regard.
If that is our reference point then it sheds light on the original Genesis mandate, as well as on God's intent in the renewal of the world–the appearance of the New Heaven and the New Earth.
If life in the next age is as Jesus describes it then it would seem that the renewal of the world is not meant to be simply a restoration of his original plan for creation. It is similar in many ways to a restoration of the original plan (e.g., an environment in which man lives in harmony with God, in which there is no sin; Revelation even depicts the New Jerusalem as being planted with the tree of life from the Garden of Eden).
But it appears to go beyond a simple restoration. If it were the latter then it might well involve an ongoing place for human marriage, sex, and procreation.
Or maybe not. It also could be that the original plan was to have these play a role only for a time–until a certain number of humans were in existence–and then they would pass away.
One strand in the history of theology is the idea that God created our first parents in a probationary state. They were subject to a moral test ("Thou shalt not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil"), and had they passed this test then they would have been confirmed in holiness rather than losing it.
One could hypothesize that, had the human race stayed faithful to God, it one day would have been granted the kind of glorified state that does away with the need for marriage and procreation.
Presumably there would have been some limit to the number of humans needed. Unless God were to radically restructure the world, the earth–or even the whole physical universe–could not contain an infinite supply of them.
What would that maximum number be? We don't know. We are in a realm of pure speculation. However, one speculation that has found a place in the history of theology is that the total number of humans God wished to create is equal to a third of the number of angels.
Why? Because in Revelation 12 the dragon (the devil) is depicted sweeping away a third of the stars in the sky. This has been commonly interpreted (though it is not certain) as a reference to the fall of angels, and if a third of the angels fell then it could make sense for God to create that many humans as new, rational beings to take their place.
Only humans are not the same as angels. We may both be rational beings,but humans incorporate matter in a way angels don't, and angels appear much more powerful than us (as well as being different in other ways–like that non-procreation business, for example).
If humans are meant (and again, this is pure speculation) as a repair effort for God's original plan for the angels then it would seem God often repairs things in a way that go beyond the original plan–just like the New Heaven and New Earth seem to go beyond God's original plan for the present world.
It thus may be that marriage and procreation may have been intended–even in the original plan for this world–to be of finite duration and later to be superceded. Or it may be that God's restoration plan involves an upgrade to the human condition that is different than what the original plan called for.
Either way, it appears from Our Lord's statement that God has deemed there will be enough humans in the next world that there won't be a need for more (at least by marriage and sexual procreation).
Though we can't be sure of all the details, this seems linked to the fact that we will be immortal (meaning incapable of being killed or dying, in this sense of the term) in the next life. Thus there will not be an ongoing need to replace humans who have died.
An additional way that the next world appears to be different than what the original plan involves the role of Christ. Had man never fallen then it is possible Christ would never have become incarnate as a human, never died on the Cross, and never incorporated us as Christians into his mystical body, the Church.
One strand of theology has proposed that he might have become incarnate anyway, but this is speculative. At least it would not seem that there was a need for him to do so if mankind were not in need of redemption.
Because the incarnation and death of Christ seem to be motivated by our need of redemption, and because our being incorporated into his mystical body is based on us becoming partakers in the redemption he supplied, it seems that God has become more intimately involved in the universe, and we more intimately involved in him, than might have been the case had we never fallen.
The fall thus may have opened up a door to a new and more glorious situation between the Creator, the created world, as us as his creatures. For this reason St. Augustine, and later a line in the liturgy for Easter Vigil, refers to the fall of man–paradoxically and ironically–as a felix culpa or "blessed fault." On this view it was a fault that brought about a more blessed state of affairs than what would have been the case otherwise.
Or so we may speculate.
To pick up one last thread from the initial question, it by no means appears that marriage, sex, and procreation were a product of sin. Marriage is created, and procreation is implied, all the way back in Genesis 1, which does not envision the fall at all. The fall does not come along until Genesis 3, and sex is at no point implied to be a moral violation. In Genesis 2, God may make a rule against eating the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but he does not make a rule against Adam and Eve having sex and procreating children. Indeed, he seems to expect them to.
This still leaves us with questions, of course, about what the end of marriage and procreation will mean for us.
The reader continues:
I have a hard time believing that the procreation will stop in the New Earth or that God does not delight in the fulfillment of Gen 1:28 of his children. Or that when Jesus comes again it marks the immediate end of the relationships with my wife. I know in my head that heaven and new Earth the Church becomes the bride and Jesus the bridegroom fulfilling the original plan, but did not Adam have a special relationship with Eve as much as they both had with God?
It does indeed please God that his children be fruitful and multiply–per Genesis 1:28–but presumably only to a point. Unless the does some really interesting things (which actually would be awesome cool) then the physical world will only hold a finite number of humans, and so procreation would not seem to go on indefinitely. The question is when, and Jesus seems to indicate it will not continue in the next world.
In terms of our own personal experience, St. Paul builds on what Jesus says by indicating our marriages are brought to an end with death. Otherwise it would be adultery for widows and widowers to remarry, which St. Paul indicates it is not.
This leaves us with an existential question regarding our own spouses. How could it be that we could cease to have a special relationship with them? How could it be that sex simply stop? Wouldn't that interfere with the joy of heaven?
As the reader writes, Adam and Eve had a special relationship with each other as well as with God. Surely this special relationship would find a place in the next life.
The answer, I think, is that it does. We will still have special relationships with those who have been close to us in this life, including our spouses. Death will not end that. In fact, in the purified, glorified state that we will then exist in, these relationships will actually be more intimate and the ties between us more powerful than they were in this life.
In the glorified state we will be able to love each other more purely, more intensely than we ever could in this life–and without distraction or weakness or contrary temptation. We won't be our irritable, flawed, exasperating, flawed selves. We will be both more loving and more lovable.
And so we should not face the prospect of the next world as a life without love but as a life with more and more intense and more pure love than we have ever known in this world.
It is to be a life without sex, and this confuses us as in this life the sexual act seems incredibly powerful, but we must recognize that the sexual act offers only a glimmer of the love and intimacy of heaven. It is not heaven itself. Heaven is the real good toward which sex–and all earthly goods–point.
The situation was once addressed by C. S. Lewis. In one of his writings he considered the difficulty that we will not have sex in heaven and how that seems like a diminution rather than an increase of joy. He acknowledged this and compared it to the situation of a little boy and his perception of joy. The boy might think that the greatest joy is eating chocolates, and he might have a hard time understanding how a married couple having sex might have a higher joy that didn't involve eating chocolates at the same time. In this way, adults in the present life may recognize sex as a supreme form of joy and have trouble understanding how in the next life there could be an even higher joy that does not involve sex.
What we do know, again per St. Paul, is that the things we must forego (either in this life or the next) do not compare to the weight of glory that will be revealed to us. If the next life does not involve sex, that's okay. God's got something better in store. And something so much better that it will make sex seem like a pale shadow. It will be the thing that sex and all earthly goods ultimately pointed toward–and thus something that dwarfs them with the power of its reality.
Finally, the reader addresses a particular point of practical living in this life:
I am fully cognizant that I may at times place my relationship with my wife more at the forefront in my mind than my relationship to God. I can only hope that by serving or honoring her that I am serving Him at the same time.
I think this is exactly the right way to look at it. God created us with finite mental resources. This includes a finite amount of attention that we can devote to things and a correspondingly finite amount of emotional energy with can devote to them.
Because of these limitations, we are in a situation to which the science of economic applies–economics being the study of how to manage limited resources that have alterantive uses. We've only got so much intellectual and emotional wherewithal, and we can spend it on different things. So how does God want us to spend it?
We know that he must be our ultimate reference point. He is of infinite value, and anything in this universe that has value is only a reflection of him, the source from which all value–all good things–comes. This is what is meant by the command to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.
But he does not expect us to devote all our intellectual and emotional resources to him directly. Otherwise there would be no room left over for the command to love our neighbor as ourself.
Or even loving ourself!
God does not even expect cloistered monks and nuns to think exclusively of him 24/7. That kind of singlemindedness is simply not possible. And anyone who tried it would not only fail but starve to death in the attempt.
We therefore see that God wants us to devote our direct attention to things other than himself, to created realities, including our own personal needs and those of the humans around us–most especially our families and friends, the ones we are closest to.
By serving them, we serve God. As long as we have in the back of our minds the fact that God is the source of all goodness and that we wish to serve him by acknowledging and caring for the created goods he has made, we approach life with a fundamental orientation toward God.
It is thus okay–and even mandated by God–for our relationship with our spouse to sometimes occupy the front place in our mind. The virtual intention (as theologians call it) to serve God by serving others suffices to bring this relationship into alignment with God.
And so we do, indeed, server God by serving others, including our loved ones, who he wishes us to care for in a special way.