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Pets in Heaven?|
Q. Do you think our dogs and cats will be with us in heaven? It really hurts to lose a pet (J.M., Mt. Vernon, WA).
Q. My son and daughter were devastated when our pet died, and so was I. I honestly don't know what to believe about pets in heaven. Do you?
Family Reference Tools
In response to questions like these, every family who affirms that Heaven exists needs to read what the Bible says and does not say about this subject. We also suggest Randy Alcorn's book, Heaven, and C.S. Lewis' classic, The Problem of Pain, as reference tools to acquire for a complete library. Questions and answers about suffering, death and the afterlife are foundational to our faith. Our response to the questions raised in this article are primarily based upon these books.
Garden of Eden
In the original Garden of Eden God filled this idyllic place with animals of every description. There was so much variety that God brought these creatures to Adam and commanded that he should give them names.
"And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field" (Genesis 2:19-20, ESV).Adam was a zoologist and biologist! This "naming" of animals was much more than just an exercise. It meant that man would have dominion over the animals. It meant that he would rule over and care for them.
"God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them [mankind] have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth" (Gen. 1:26, ESV).
Mankind was originally granted awesome stewardship over the earth and its animals. Furthermore, this God-ordained stewardship is still in force. It is not something to be taken lightly. Our love for and appreciation of our earth and its animals is a God-inspired instinct. To neglect or abuse our planet will have serious consequences. There is a time coming when God will "destroy those who destroy the earth" (Rev. 11:18).
Making all things New - Not making New Things
A theological "law of continuity" tells us that in a new earth and heavens God promises to restore or regenerate the Garden of Eden for his children. In other words, God will not be creating all new things. Rather, he is making all things new. The Garden of Eden will be restored, regenerated, renewed - whichever "r" word you prefer. We find stunning promises in the New Testament book of Revelation, chapters 21 and 22, and sprinkled throughout the Old Testament in books such as Isaiah.
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…" (Rev 21:1). "Behold, I am making all things new" (Rev. 21:5)…."For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth…" (Isa.65:17).
"Making all things new" embraces words such as "Redeem," "Restore," "Recover," "Return," "Renew," "Regenerate," Resurrect." The prefix "re" suggests a return to an original condition that was destroyed or lost. For example, "Redemption" means to buy back something formerly owned. "Renewal" means to make new again, to restore to the original condition.
Concerning the earth and its life-forms which have been subject to the 2nd law of thermodynamics - death and dying - God promises to return things to their original state prior to the Fall - in an undying state.
…"when our perishable earthly bodies have been transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die - then at last the Scriptures will come true - 'Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?'" (1 Cor. 15:54-55)
Animals with People
"Eden was perfect. But without animals Eden wouldn't be Eden. The New Earth is the new Eden - Paradise regained, with the curse of the first Adam reversed, transformed into the blessing of the last Adam (Jesus) (Rom. 5:14-15). Would God take away from us in Heaven what he gave, for delight and companionship and help, to Adam and Eve in Eden? Would he revoke his decision to put animals with people, under their care? Since he'll fashion the New Earth with renewed people, wouldn't we expect him also to include renewed animals?" (Alcorn 2004, 392).
The book of Isaiah contains many references to a restored earth during the Millennial Kingdom such as this one:
"The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatted calf together, and a little child shall lead them. …They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isa. 11:6-9, ESV).
Beyond the Millennium
However, there is still death in the Millennial Kingdom or the one-thousand year reign of Christ on earth prior to the final judgement. Believers are promised something beyond the Millennial Kingdom where there is no more death or mourning. The regenerated new heavens and earth will be patterned after the best of the old.
In Isaiah 65:17 God mentions creating a New Heavens and a New Earth. The New Heavens and Earth are regenerated from the old burned-up heavens and earth - see 2 Peter 3:10, 3:13. Alcorn mentions that in subsequent verses from the book of Isaiah the text seems to move back and forth from the millennial kingdom to the New Earth. In the transition from a Millenial Kingdom to the new heaven Isaiah does not say animals are excluded. God lets us know that He will have animals during the Millennial Kingdom and during the final, regenerated new heavens and earth. (Is. 65:25, 66:20) (Hos 2:18-19).
"Nephesh" - Breath of Life
Mankind was uniquely created in the image of God. However, all living, breathing life-forms on earth became "nephesh" - a "living being" or "soul," when they became a combination of flesh and the breath of life(Genesis 2:7). Animals and humans have the "breath of life" in them (Gen. 1:30, 2:7, 6:17, 7:15, 22). It wasn't until the advent of seventeenth-century Enlightenment…that the existence of animal souls was even questioned in Western civilization (Alcorn 2004, 388). We must stress, however, that this does not place animals on par with human beings.
Animals have Souls like Humans?
Here the Bible is clear. God made man in His image. This is completely different from animals. Therefore, we must never place animals on the same level as humans. To do so would imply that animals were made in the image of God. This is to be rejected completely.
God became a man - Jesus our Lord - as a flesh and blood embryo in Mary's womb. Christ suffered and died for the sins of mankind. God did not become an animal and go to the cross for them. God instituted the sacrifice of animals as a means of demonstrating to people the horror and waste of sin. This graphically showed how the entire creation, including animals, would suffer because of sin.
At no time did God require human sacrifice in the Bible. He did, in fact, condemn it as a practice of false religions. The incident of Abraham and Isaac is evidence that God supplied a ram to be sacrificed in the place of Isaac. Animals, while precious to God, are not as precious as His people. Animals do have the "breath of life," but this is very different from the immortal spirit of people.
Animals in Hell?
We ask (perhaps flippantly):
If animals will be in heaven, then is it not also logical to ask if animals will be in hell? This implies that animals might somehow be responsible to a Holy God for their thoughts and actions independent of man.
Do animals sin? If so, can they ask for forgiveness? Do animals apologize or repent of their actions? If they repent, do they go to church and congregate with other believing animals? Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Are you beginning to see the problem of trying too hard to make animals like people? We do not see in Scripture statements such as these. Nor do we see this in daily life.
We never see biblical examples of a time when animals ruled over or raised or cared for humans like "pets." The Bible tells us that mankind will be restored to his proper place as ruler and steward of the new earth. If there are to be animals in heaven, then animals will occupy their proper place under man's care and authority.
Deep Impact - Project Noah's Ark
In the movie Deep Impact, a comet is scheduled to hit the earth. In order to preserve life on the planet, scientists create an underground facility to support and keep alive representative life-forms on earth. It is called "Project Noah's Ark." The movie may offer an insightful look at how God cared enough about his original creation to preserve selected men and animals during the flood of Noah. With this caring love, God promises to regenerate the best of the old earth when He makes things new.
Covenants Include Animals?
"God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 'I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you - the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you - every living creature on earth…Never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.'" And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you….I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind…" (Gen. 9:8-17)Covenant of Redemption
"God's plan for a renewed Earth after the Flood emphatically involved animals. Wouldn't we expect his plan for a renewed Earth after the future judgment to likewise include animals? If the rescue of mankind in the ark is a picture of redemption, doesn't the rescue of the animals in the ark also anticipate their restoration as part of God's redemptive purposes?" (Alcorn 2004, 389).
Covenant of Restoration
"In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, with the birds of the air, and with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth, to make them lie down safely" (Hos 2:18-19)The context of this biblical passage speaks of God declaring that He will restore and claim His people. He will become like a loving husband to his wife. God states that this will be a forever relationship. It is one of the most hopeful passages in Scripture telling of God's loving kindness and mercy. The fact that animals appear to have a part in this covenant is compelling.
Not a Wasteful God
Our God is not wasteful. He pronounced all of His creation "good" prior to the Fall of Man and entrance of death into our universe. So, why would God need to create completely new creatures in the future when He created the animals and the earth and proclaimed them "good" in the past? This is God…not us. God doesn't make "mistakes." This is one reason why He will create all things new -not all new things.
DNA is just one example of God's creative genius. It is astounding that scientists are coming to the place where "cloning" animals and people from DNA samples is a reality. Furthermore, scientists now know that the DNA records of more than 5 billion persons can be kept in just two aspirin-sized tablets! (Martindale 2005, 33). Is there a future purpose for DNA records?
Resurrection through Cloning Techniques
Many scientists recognize that cloning is a crude example of physical resurrection. In fact, it is possible that our DNA may be the blueprint for a future resurrection. Granted, our future heavenly, resurrected bodies will find us as perfect, undying, powerful creatures with memory of earthly life. Our memories are so important that God will grant us rewards for those things we did well here on earth. Naturally, that takes memory of things done in our bodies. Still, the current "cloning" science may allow us a glimpse into the technology God may use to regenerate our animals and us! Scientists don't know how to clone people or animals with "memory" of their previous existence. However, God does. Scripture says all people will be resurrected and will give an account of their lives on earth (Jn 5:28-29, 2 Cor 5:10).
So is God capable of restoring specific people and creatures if He chooses? - Of course. This is not a difficult feat for God. If He wills it He is capable of regenerating billions upon billions of life-forms.
Who did This?
Cloning from DNA material gives more insight to the idea that if God wills, He may recreate or regenerate your beloved Duffy dog or Angelo the cat for you to enjoy in the new heavens and earth. It is no accident that our pets give us much joy. It is no accident that pets reflect our moods, or that they even "look" like their owners. It is no accident that they lower our blood-pressure, give us precious company or times of frivolous joy and fun. Who created them like this? God, of course!
Your Dancing Dog&Fluffy Kitty
God made your little dog with his dancing legs and wagging tail. God made your precious golden cat who follows you with her mystical, marble-eyes. God gives you the innate desire to hug, hold, nurture, feed and love your little pets. He created them to respond to you and for you to respond to them. They are God's beautifully designed gift to mankind - and every one of them is precious in His sight. Not one sparrow falls to the ground without Him knowing.
"And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father" (Matthew 10:31).
Pets as Children?
Are pet owners "over the top" when they treat their animals like their children? We have already stressed that animals and people are not to be treated the same. Unfortunately, some people do treat their animals better than their children - but that is another topic.
Poor Man's Pet Lamb
Consider the story told by the prophet Nathan to King David. Nathan tells David that there were two men, a rich man who owned many flocks and a poor man who had only one lamb…
"a poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him" (2 Samuel 12:3, ESV).Killer of Lamb worthy of Death?
Nathan goes on to say that the rich man unjustly took the poor man's beloved lamb and fed it to his house guest because he did not want to give up a lamb of his own. After hearing this story, King David was furious with the rich man who had coldly destroyed the poor man's pet lamb which was, "like a daughter to him." The King said to Nathan, "As the Lord lives, the [rich] man who has done this deserves to die…" (v.5).
Just a Parable?
It is true that the story Nathan told to King David was a parable. However, the Bible does record that people did, at times, treat pets as one of the family. King David and God's prophet understood the emotional value of that lamb to the owner. The Bible does not say that the poor man was foolish for loving the animal with great affection. But, neither does it say that the lamb loved the poor man like a father. The real value of the lamb was that the man treasured it.
Pets a Family?
The point we are making is that the idea of treating an animal like one of the family is not forbidden or ridiculed in scripture. So go ahead and love your pets - just do not elevate them above people. Remember the two great commandments Jesus taught: "You shall love the Lord your God… and the second is you shall love your neighbor…" Animals do not appear in this context.
Pets in Heaven Biblical?
Unlike animals in general, we have not found scriptural passages that say our specific, individual pets will be in heaven. There are no lack of opinions concerning this question and admittedly most are speculation. But, wait…don't despair. Some of the best answers we have read on this subject come to us from authors like C.S. Lewis.
C.S. Lewis' Sanctified Animals
C.S. Lewis suggests that animals belonging to believers may be "raised" as part of their owner's extended families (C.S. Lewis 1996, 124-125). Lewis feels that pets may be bonded to the destiny of individual believers. Interesting thought…
Lewis goes on to describe our current reality as the "Shadowlands" on planet earth. It is a reflection of the Garden of Eden in its perfection and a reflection of the new heavens and earth in their future, idyllic state. The best of our current world is just a type, a shadow, a dark reflection of better things to come (Col 2:17, 1 Cor 13:12, Heb 9:23&8:5).
Creation awaits Redemption
Furthermore, Romans 8:18-23 tells us that because of man's sin everything in creation is subjected to the curse of death&decay - including animals.
"All creation anticipates the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time…" (NLT).Removing the Curse
God promises He will remove the curse of death from redeemed men. In fact, all of creation will be restored to its original state of Edenic perfection. This promise of restoration is not a promise of destruction.
As a Wheaton College Professor of English says, "In Genesis nature is cursed. In Revelation the curse is removed. What would be the point of removing a curse from something that was to be simply destroyed?" (Martindale 2005, 42). This may mean that believers' specific, individual pets may be revived or brought to life again. Romans 8:18-23 strongly suggests it. The existence of incredibly complex DNA suggests it. (Why else would our pets have it)?
All Creation to Praise the Lord
When we get to Heaven we will spend eternity praising God! In a stunning revelation Psalm 148 commands all of creation to praise the Lord. Psalm 148 reveals that this includes all of the animals:
"Wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and maidens, old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted. His splendor is above the earth and the heavens" (verses 10-13). If men and animals are only shadows of what they once were, then on a regenerated earth Psalm 150:6 has even more punch: "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."
Pets&Animals Given as Rewards
When God made animals the Bible says He was pleased. This means that animals are valuable to God. Because man is made in the image of God we also see animals as having value. Throughout the Bible and all throughout history the possession of animals has been a sign of blessings, health, joy and wealth. A man was deemed wealthy by the number of animals he owned. Animals and our pets are God's gift to us.
Remembering a Friend
Because I so completely believe this to be true, I took the time to memorize the lovely, dark copper flecks in my pet's eyes before she died. I know (Lord willing) that someday we will see her precious face again in a healthy body framed with golden, fluffy hair - leaping toward us with joy. I have memorized her eyes so that I will recognize her instantly. I suggest you do the same with your beloved pet, just in case!
Heaven is the hope of God's people who love and obey Him. If there are to be animals in heaven then those animals will hold great value and give pleasure to God and His people. If our pets are in heaven, then they will be part of the riches we will receive in heaven from our Lord as rewards for being His good and faithful stewards.
Alcorn, Randy. 2004. Heaven Carol Stream, ILL: Tyndale.
Hitchcock, Mark. 2005. 55 Answers to Questions About Life After Death. Sisters, OR: Multnomah.
Deep Impact. 1998. DreamWorks Pictures. www.paramount.com/homeentertainment.
Lewis, C.S. 1996. Animal pain, ch. 9.The Problem of Pain. New York: Simon&Schuster.
Martindale, Wayne. 2005. Beyond the Shadowlands. Wheaton, ILL: Crossway.
Van Impe, Jack and Rexella. Animals in Heaven. videorecording. www.jvim.com.
Reagan, David. Heaven: Its Nature and Meaning. DVD. Lamb&Lion Ministries. www.lamblion.com.
Jeffrey Mays, the author of the question about pets in heaven, passed away in 2010. He was Valorie Emilio's brother and is fondly remembered and missed. It was because of Jeff's questions that Remnant Report was founded. Valorie Emilio holds an MA in History from UCLA and a Certificate in Persecuted Church Ministries from Oklahoma Wesleyan University. Ken holds a Bachelor of Science degree from CSULB and an MA in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University. They both write and teach for the Gospel Rescue Mission in Grants Pass, Oregon, where Ken also serves as Director.
If this article was meaningful to you, please feel free to print it out, photo-copy, and share it with your veterinarian and friends. Many adults and children need the real hope it offers.
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