art credit: http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/animaljam/images/2/2e/Doggy_heaven.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20141017125605
Some content written by Melissa Balun. Much appreciation.
Growing up, my family always had pets. Dogs, cats, birds, fish, hamsters, ponies, spider monkeys – Ok, maybe not all of those. I mean, wouldn’t it be ridiculous to have a pet hamster?!
When one of them died, we lost a family member. We lost our best friend. We lost unconditional love that could never be fully replaced. That’s what animals do best: love us like we are the most important person in the world. It’s got to be one of the ways God expresses his love to us, don’t you think? No human could love us that unconditionally no matter what our faults are. They don’t care. We are perfect to them. Maybe God gives us these relationships with animals to love us a little Himself through them or let us experience that kind of truest love. I think that’s why it hurts so much when we lose them.
When I was a kid whenever a pet died someone would always ask, “Will we see her again in heaven?” It was then that I learned of “doggy heaven,” a place where dogs could run free without leashes and there would be no more fleas, no more fences, and no more mailmen who are obviously trying to get into the house through the mail slot. Ah, if only I was a dog! Doggy heaven sounds like a doggone good place to be.
Just like the stories of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the moon landing, I was skeptical. Was this just a place made up to comfort ignorant kids or will we get to see our beloved pets in heaven when we die?
Unfortunately the Bible doesn’t say much about this subject.
Many people who don’t believe in animals in heaven point to Ecclesiastes 3:19-21. “Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” Many would say that this proves that people go to heaven (“rises upward”) and animals just cease to exist and go “down to the earth.” This passage doesn’t prove anything. Read the whole book! The writer is speculating, trying to find the meaning of life. He is looking for answers. He has tried everything he knows and still wonders if “all is vanity.” He asks “who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” because he doesn’t know. In other words, he is asking the same question we are; he is not answering any questions.
A more definitive answer comes in the form of a question God rhetorically asks Jonah. After God mercifully spares Nineveh from destruction, Jonah protests because they are his enemies and they deserved it. When the tree he is using to shade him from the brutally hot sun dies, Jonah complains again. God answers with a question.
“You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” Jonah 4:10-11
God ends the book of Jonah talking about animals. Certainly God would be concerned about 120,000 people, but God goes one more step, asking if He should also care about people’s pets and livestock! God cares for us so much that He even cares about our pets. He even cares about our enemies’ pets!
God doesn’t just care about people’s pets; he cares about the smallest animals too. Those we might consider worthless like squirrels or an Etruscan shrew or Pygmy Rabbits or sparrows God still looks out for. He cares for them their entire lives just as He cares for us. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31
Isaiah describes heaven in vivid detail. Given how much God cares for animals, it should come as no surprise that animals are there. “The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.” (Isaiah 65: 25) Some might say that this is all a metaphor, but the context seems more practical than metaphorical. Earlier in the chapter Isaiah says there will be no more infant deaths or war or weeping in the new heaven. If the animals are metaphors, then of what is a lack of war, death, and weeping a metaphor? Isaiah goes on, talking about building houses and planting vineyards and reaping fruit rather than having someone else invade and take your houses and drink your wine. Are the houses a metaphor? What does drinking wine symbolize? Or could that too be more simply interpreted literally? When Isaiah speaks about wolves and lambs eating together rather than the wolves eating the lambs as they do now on earth, the context makes better sense literally rather than figuratively.
Where do these animals come from? If the humans are those who lived on Earth, wouldn’t it make sense that the animals would be those who lived among us as well? Romans 8:19-23. “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Paul is talking about all of creation: animals, plants, water, everything that God created. God knows how much they mean to us and, as we have seen, God Himself cares about animals and understands our love for them. They were part of his original creation. He delighted in them and called them “good.” They were our original companions even before Adam had Eve. God brought them all to Adam so he would name each of them not to keep him busy, but because names always imply a loving relationship with the one being named just as Adam named Eve, God renamed Jacob and Abram, Jesus renamed Simon Peter, and when Jesus merely said Mary’s name and she immediately recognized Him.
When Adam sinned, His relationships with God, the woman, and even the animals were damaged. Creation was subjected to the consequences of “the curse,” which didn’t just increase the workload for men and pain in childbirth for women, but also affected snakes and the ground (“Cursed is the ground because of you” Genesis 3:17). So when Jesus comes back and the curse is lifted, the frustration and groanings that all humans and creation alike have experienced will end.
I’ve heard humans groan – like pretty much every time a politician speaks – but I have never heard creation groan. Or so I thought. But think about it. If you didn’t have a voice box, then you couldn’t groan and make the sound that we would expect to hear. But the absence of a voice box doesn’t mean that you can’t groan. Creation is groaning all the time because it longs for how things should be, but we cannot perceive it because it doesn’t have a voice.
So what does creation’s groan sound like? Every earthquake is a groan. Every hurricane is a groan. Every wildfire, mudslide, flood, tsunami, tornado, and blizzard is a manifestation of the groaning of creation over the oppression that it feels from the curse of sin and death placed upon it after Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Douglas Moo defines the groans as “frustration at the remaining moral and physical infirmities that are inevitably a part of this” life. (The Epistle to the Romans, NICNT, p.519)
Just as creation groans, so do we. We “groan inwardly” every time we get sick or a loved one dies or innocent children are molested or a miscarriage of justice occurs. We eagerly await the day when none of these things plague us anymore. And so does all of creation.
For those who are still not convinced, ask yourself this: where do all the animals, precious stones, gold, and fruit mentioned in Isaiah 65 and Revelation 21 -22 come from? Will God create all new ones or will He redeem them when He officially adopts us as children of God on Judgment Day?
Both creation and humans have been groaning for the day when the curse is lifted and all are finally free; it stands to reason that all of creation will be in heaven with us. And since creation was subjected to the curse through no fault of its own, it will also benefit from the lifting of the curse when the new heaven is created.
Notice it is the WHOLE creation. Animals will not be judged as humans will be because they have no choice in the matter and do not know right from wrong. Hitler’s dog is no more evil than any other animal. As Paul said in Romans 8:20, creation has suffered the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin “not by its own choice;” in other words, animals do not have free will.
This brings up an even more important question: if all animals will be in heaven, will we be there with them? Trying to be a good person isn’t good enough according to the same Bible that we have been looking at for answers about animals in heaven. There is one who love us better than our pets. Jesus loves us unconditionally and even died for us, paving the way for our reunion with our beloved. If we trust Him and obey Him as our pets do us, we will be with Him and all of our animals forever.
Dedicated to Petey, Pierre, Frisker, Mindy, Baby, Buffy, Heidi, Ollie, Mister Kitts, and Catrina. See you in Heaven.