I love animals. Even cats! I love animals so much that when Jessica and I visited Rome we spent one morning visiting the Rome zoo. Who does that? I do that. I love animals so much that I am in favor of scientists bringing extinct animals back to the earth. Bring back the Brontosaurs and the T-Rex!
And so, of course, I love animals so much that I hope animals will be in Heaven. The joys of animals on earth will surely extend into eternity, won’t they?
Now before we tackle this, we need to say something about Bible interpretation. We have seen that the Bible has a lot to say about the New Heavens and New Earth. Though not exhaustive, we know far more about the New Heavens and New Earth than most people realize. On the other hand, the scriptures about heaven are hard to interpret. Are they literal? Are they figurative? Are they both?
And so as we do our biblical interpretation about Heaven, I think it’s a good idea to put our thoughts into three categories: (1) What willbe true about Heaven, (2) What will probablybe true about Heaven, and (3) What maybe true about Heaven.
What we know about animals in heaven falls across all three categories. It’s absolutely truethat animals will be in heaven. It’s probably truethat we will have animals as pets and have animals assist in our work. It maybe true that we will be reunited with the pets we had on earth. It’s this last idea that I want to tackle in this post.
So there are essentially three questions that will help us answer this. First, do animals have souls? Second, is there biblical evidence that animals here will be brought to Heaven. And, third, is this something we think would be in line with God’s character?
So, the first question: Do animals have souls?
Before I started this series, I would have said no to this. Animals don’t have souls.And therefore they don’t pass on to the next life and come to Heaven. To be sure, the human soul and body stands apart. We, not animals, are created in God’s image. And so even if animals do have souls, they are not human souls. But is it possible that animals have “souls” in a different sense?
This is more complicated than I realized. In Genesis, the Hebrew word for soul is the word “Nephesh.” And it’s the word God uses when he “breathes life” into Adam.” For example, Genesis 2:7 says: “[T]hen the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature,” (italics mine). That’s all well and good.
But the interesting thing is that this same word is used to describe animals as well. For example: Genesis 1:30: “And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life,” (italics mine). So is it possible that animals have souls? I think, possibly, yes.
In fact, this is what most Christians have believed throughout history. It was only in the last few hundred years that the existence of animal souls was even questioned. J.P. Moreland and Gary Habermas say this: “It wasn’t until the advent of seventeenth century Enlightenment …. that the existence of animal souls was even questioned in Western Civilization. Throughout the history of the church, the classic understanding of living things included the doctrine that animals, as well as humans, have souls.”
Again, I am not implying that animals have human souls. But I am saying that it is at least possible that animals have souls in some sense.
Second Question: Is there Biblical evidence that animals on this earth will be brought to the new one?
- Romans 8:21–22 says that “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” Now this could mean that creation in general will obtain freedom. But it could be argued that this refers to specific creation, too. That parts of this creation–including animals–will find new life in the New Earth.
- Luke 3:6: “and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” The word “flesh” in the Greek is a word that refers to humans. However, it can also be used to refer to animals as well.
- Psalm 104 seems to imply that while animals return to the dust when they die, God can also send forth his spirit to bring them back to life “to renew the earth.”
- John Wesley said this: “Something better remains after death for these poor creatures . . . that these, likewise, shall one day be delivered from this bondage of corruption, and shall then receive ample amends for all their present sufferings.”
- Just to be clear, I am not implying that animals would be saved in the same way humans are.
Last question: Would it be in line with God’s character to bring our pets to Heaven?
I think yes, absolutely. Remember that God is both infinitely powerful andinfinitely loving. And so it would not be beyond God’s power to bring our pets to Heaven. He can do anything! It would also not be beyond God’s love to bring our pets to earth. He will be in the business of making us as happy as possible!
I love how Joni Erickson Tada answers this:
“If God brings our pets back to life, it wouldn’t surprise me. It would be just like Him. It would be totally in keeping with his generous character . . . . Exorbitant. Excessive. Extravagant in grace after grace. Of all the dazzling discoveries and ecstatic pleasures heaven will hold for us, the potential of seeing Scrappy would be pure whimsy–utterly, joyfully, surprisingly superfluous.”
John Piper, in a poem about the New Heavens and New Earth, writes:
And as I knelt beside the brook
To drink eternal life, I took
A glance across the golden grass,
And saw my dog, old Blackie, fast
As she could come. She leaped the stream—
Almost—and what a happy gleam
Was in her eye. I knelt to drink,
And knew that I was on the brink
Of endless joy. And everywhere
I turned I saw a wonder there.
So let’s end where we started: I think it is entirely possible that God maybring our pets from earth to heaven with us. There is no direct scriptural support for this, but the evidence we do have gets me excited! How will our Father make us happy in Heaven? I can’t wait to find out!
– Pastor Ryan