These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. Revelation 14:4

The ones spoken of in this verse are before the throne, having been redeemed from the earth. This reference to virgins in heaven is best understood as symbolic. This fits with other prophetic writing in the Bible.

Jeremiah describes God’s people firstly as a bride (Jeremiah 2:2) but then as a prostitute (2:20). He berates God’s people because they have forsaken God and run after foreign gods (2:25), worshipping wooden idols. He illustrates their faithlessness by using the terms “divorce” and “adultery” (3:6-9). Ezekiel also describes Israel’s heart as adulterous (Ezekiel 6:9) and poor Hosea becomes a living object lesson to the Israelites when God tells him to marry an adulterous wife (Hosea 1:2).

God freely employs the intimate symbols of love, sex, and marriage to illustrate how he feels about his people. When we desire other things, these days it is more likely to be wealth, prestige, or beauty rather than wooden idols. Yet anything we desire more than we desire God runs the risk of making us, spiritual adulterers. It’s powerful imagery and it doesn’t stop with the prophets.

When Paul explains that husbands must love their wives (Ephesians 5:25), he quotes “the two will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Paul then makes the astounding statement, “This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church” (verse 32). We apply this passage to husband and wife relationships but it’s actually about our relationship with God.

In symbolic language, God wants us to be virgins! He intends to be up close and personal in our lives and present us “to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:27).