Friday, March 27, 2009

Pets in Heaven? 3 Views: Yes

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

I was zipping through the TV channels in the typical male fashion the other night and came to a screeching halt (more like a crash, really) on Jack Van Impe's television show "Jack Van Impe Presents." In the 2-3 seconds I give per channel, hearing the words "your pets will definitely be waiting for you in Heaven" caused my rapid channel changing to immediately cease.

What actually did feel like watching a car crash, I was frozen spellbound as Jack and his wife continued to explain that everyone's Rex, Fluffy and Mojo that had ever died now reside in the hearafter, ready to pick up the ball once more and play with their old masters. They then presenting a video they had made that supposedly proves everyone's pets are waiting for them in the afterlife, and stated that over 500 noted theologians agree with them.

Can this be true — are my dearly departed pets waiting for me up in Heaven? And if so, what kinds of theological problems do I now have to contend with? What if not just pets, but every animal, tree and microbe that ever lived since Creation is waiting for me in Heaven as well? Will the New Earth be big enough to house all of these creatures? Am I going to have to share my heavenly mansion with cows and chickens and rhinos and things? Are animals also going to be raptured, as every fish I've ever owned and snakes and squids and aardvarks fly up with me to meet Jesus in the clouds? And on the flip-side, shouldn't animals that trample people, sting babies and devour children go to Hell?

All I had wanted to do was cool my brain watching that cute Shaun the Sheep, and instead my mind was left racing over whether Shaun has a soul or not. (Well, actually, Shaun is claymation, so at least that problem's solved.)

Because of the afterlife and eschatological boondoggles the Van Impe's had put me in, I decided to seek answers by watching a "Christ in Prophecy" Dr. Reagan had made a few years back based on a letter from Michelle Shannon of Houston, Texas, titled Will Our Pets Be in Heaven? Mrs. Shannon has done a lot of good research into the subject of whether pets go to Heaven, and has written the following article in support of the view that, yes, pets do go to Heaven.


View #1: Yes

Our dog, Sable, died when she was just over 9 years old.

We had taken her to the vet just six days earlier and a tumor was found. But the vet said she was otherwise in great health. So, we decided to have the tumor removed after our camping trip that weekend.

When we returned Sunday, Sable was dying. She struggled to greet my husband, Steve, and then slumped down, breathing laboriously. She would not get up again.

We knew she would not make it through the night, so we stayed with her, gently stroking her fur and scratching her favorite places, until she was gone — just before midnight.

What a blessing it was to us to be able to be there for her in her last moments. We are greatly comforted that she was not alone.


Seeking an Explanation

It's been a long time since we lost a pet. This time, though, we had a 5-year-old who would need an explanation. But, we knew what to say. It would be "easy," regardless of our tears because we ourselves believed what we would say: "Yes, honey, Sable is in heaven with the Lord Jesus, and He is taking great care of her. And, yes, one day we will see her again."

Over the past few years, it has been very disappointing to hear what other Christians have to say about animal death. One source said, in referring to the New Earth (our eternal abode), "there will be no animals at all..." Another said, "The Bible does not give us any reason to say yes to the question of whether or not a pet goes to heaven."

Well, I have a problem with these conclusions. While it is true that the Bible is about Man, not animals, and that there is much about animals we are not told, God has given us just enough to comfort us.

God cares for the animals He created:

  • Revelation 4:11 tells us that all things were created for God's pleasure.

  • Matthew 10:29 says that even when a little sparrow falls to the ground, God notices.

  • Luke 12:6 says that God never forgets about the animals.

  • Psalm 104:21-30 and Matthew 6:26 describe how God Himself feeds the animals.

  • Proverbs 12:10 declares that a righteous man cares for the needs of his animals.

  • Job 12:10 assures us that "In His hand is the life of every creature."

Man's sin brought death and suffering to animals. God had decreed in Genesis 1:29-30 that green plants and fruit were to be the diet for all creatures. People and animals alike were to be strictly herbivores. Carnivorous activity necessitates death and suffering, which, of course, in the beginning, would have had no part in the beautiful creation God had called "very good" (Genesis 1:25).

Man was given the responsibility of serving as overseer of the animals. In fact, it wasn't until after the flood experienced by Noah that animals became afraid of people (Genesis 9:2). When Man chose to rebel against God, Man brought down not only himself but also all those for whom he was responsible. In Genesis 3:17 God told Adam: "Cursed is the ground because of you..." According to Hosea 4:3 this curse affected animals too: "Because of [the sins of Man], the land mourns, and... the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying." Paul confirmed this in Romans 8:20 when he wrote: "For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it..."

But there is good news! Animals share in and even look forward to the redemption of Mankind accomplished by Jesus on the Cross. Because God cares for His animal creations, as seen above, they also reap the benefits of the redeeming Cross of Jesus. When He returns, the creation will be restored to its original "very good" state, and carnivorous activity will cease. This promise is found in Isaiah 11:6-11 where God says, "the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox... They will neither harm nor destroy on all My holy mountain for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord..." (Isaiah 65:25).

In his allegorical book, The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis gives us a beautiful picture of a redeemed lady arriving in Heaven with a glorious processional of animals. An observer asks his angelic teacher:

"And how... but hullo! What are all these animals? A cat — two cats — dozens of cats. And all those dogs... why, I can't count them. And the birds. And the horses."

"They are her beasts."

"Did she keep a sort of zoo? I mean, this is a bit too much."

"Every beast and bird that came near her had its place in her love. In her they became themselves. And now the abundance of life she has in Christ from the Father flows over into them."

I looked at my teacher in amazement.

"Yes," he said. "It is like when you throw a stone into a pool, and the concentric waves spread out further and further. Who knows where it will end? Redeemed humanity is still young, it has hardly come to its full strength. But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life."1

And, so, Sable, we know exactly where you are... in the caring palm of your Maker, bringing Him the pleasure for which you were created.

We look forward to seeing you in our processional.


Notes

  1. C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), pp. 106-107.


In the next of this "Pets in Heaven?" series, we'll look at the answer "Maybe."

30 comments:

hartdawg said...

"maybe" is indeed my answer. in randy alcorns book "heaven" he also speculates pets will be in heaven. while his book uses a lot of imagination and speculation he does have a lot of scripture to go with it. there is very good reason to believe it. god knows how important our pets our to us. my mom in alaska has a cat who literally walks in and checks on my mom when she is sick every 20 minutes or so. the cat will put his paw on my moms forhead and one time my mom had serious food poisening that got so infected she nearly died. the cat sat outside the door meowing so loudly someone came in to see what was up and called an ambulence. true story. a dogmatic no to such a question is simply uncalled for

hartdawg said...

and furthermore since death entered the world with sin then to say only humans will live again wouldnt that give satan a partial victory? just a thought, my answer is maybe

son of thunder said...

It's kind of funny, but my wife and I were just talking about this about 2 weeks ago. One of her co-workers (a Lutheran) stated that pets go to heaven when they die. Another co-worker (a Baptist), said no.

Somehow my wife got pulled into this debate, so she e-mailed me about it, and here is my response:

Genesis 1:25: "And God made the beast of the earth after his [the animals own] kind, and cattle after their [own] kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after [their own] kind: and God saw that it was good."

Now compare that with Genesis 1:26-27 and Genesis 2:7: "And God said, Let Us make man in our own image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.... And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

Notice that the animals were not given this same treatment. Man was made to be special. God's crowning achievemnet of creation. We were given the spirit or breath of life (the Hebrew word for breath or air and spirit is ruach and the Greek word is pneuma). That's why we have the commandment "You shall not commit murder." But, we can kill animals. Why? Because they do not have the spirit of life breathed into them specifically by God.

But, like I said earlier (in a previous e-mail), there will be animals in heaven. Animals give us great comfort and enjoyment, as well as a good meal, so God would never take that from us. We are told that children will be able to play near venomous snakes, Isaiah 11:8, and not be hurt and that wolves and lambs will eat together, Isaiah 65:25, so all animals will be vegetarians (again).

So there is nothing that says animals go to heaven when they die, but on the other hand there is nothing that specifically says they don't.

But if animals go to heaven automatically and their owners have not put their trust in Jesus as the only way to heaven and given their hearts and lives over to Him, then we'll have a lot of orphaned pets.

Paul said...

As much as I would like to believe that I might see my beloved German Shepherd Cleo again, I don't really believe it.

Eccl 3:18-21
18 I said in my heart, "Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals."
19 For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity.
20 All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.
21 Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?
NKJV

Verse 21 gives hope to man that there is the possibility of life after death for man, the spirit of the animal goes down to earth.

I am afraid we tend to make idols of our pets. We often love them more than people who are going to hell. I know I am guilty of that.

But I sincerely hope I am wrong and God presents us with our pets as wonderful gift.

hartdawg said...

in the seattle area there are more dogs than christians and people (christians) spend two-three times as much on dog food than tithing or missions.

son of thunder said...

It's a sign of how far our society has degressed. Animals are more important than people now. If you murder a child in the womb, that's fine because it's not really a people yet. You climb up to an eagle's nest and start smashing eggs, PETA or some other animal "rights" group would have you buried under the prison for killing an unborn eaglet.

Animals have become our idols mainly because we've been indoctrinated by evolutionists that they are our distant relatives.

....because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. - Romans 1:25

hartdawg said...

very true but still, animals dont have a HUMAN soul but maybe an animal soul? as for "orphaned" pets whose owners were not believers, there will be (i spose) tons of people who always wanted a pet on earth but never had the joy. i think it is very possible in heaven a loving father will grant that joy.

son of thunder said...

Now, I didn't say pets wouldn't go to heaven, but neither did I say they do.

I also think it's entirely possible that we will have pets, at least in the Millenial Reign of Messiah. Whether they are pets we know or have known....

I always wanted a pet elephant, I just never wanted to clean up after it.

hartdawg said...

i still vote maybe, i want a bangel. or a bobcat.

son of thunder said...

I used a lot of words to say, "Maybe." But my wife asked specifically if there was a verse that said yes or no.

My research (well over an hour) finally gave me a definate maybe.

hartdawg said...

mine too

G.M. said...

This discussion is very amusing. I owned some very wonderful cats who are now gone. In my opinion, I don't think they will be in heaven when I get there. I do think there will be animals in heaven, and obviously in the Millennium too, but not the ones who died on earth in this age. Besides, you could extend this principle to bugs then. Are spiders, ants, bees---or amoebas for that matter---all going to heaven when they die?

Furthermore, it's a little disturbing to thing that every pig I ate as bacon will be there to confront me about it!

Bacon is delicious.

Billy said...

Short Answer: I don't know and don't overly care.

Long Answer: I don't think pets will go to or are in Heaven. And I doubt we will even have a memory of our pets while on Earth.

My speculation is based on us not having memory of family/friends that were not saved. We can't since God says we will no longer shed tears of pain. I would be in despair for etertnity at the thought of an unsaved loved one not with me on the new Earth.

Would it be right for a pet to get to experience eternity on the new Earth and not a human being? Doesn't God say humans are infinitely more important than animals? So how could (or why should) a pet make it to eternal life?

I do think we will get to interact with animals that I think will be newly created for the new Earth. Maybe even dinosaurs? Maybe all sorts of new types of animals?

Who knows. I can only speculate and hope my speculations aren't against what the Bible teaches. If so, someone please correct me. These are just me random thoughts that I have no "investment" in. If I'm wrong I renounce them.

son of thunder said...

G.M. said: Are spiders, ants, bees---or amoebas for that matter---all going to heaven when they die?

I don't know about ants, bees, or amoebas, but spiders won't. Something that nasty could never go to heaven.

(You get the feeling I don't much care for spiders?)

And, personally, I like this conversation: it's fun and light-hearted; a nice break from all the arguing and debating from the last few weeks.

hartdawg said...

humans are more important than animals but animals are important. jesus said if a sparrow falls God takes notice. furthermore i agree this conversation is a nice break. i dont have a computer so i have to come to a library to access this blog and when i jump thru hoops to access it and all i see is stupid debates it is a real letdown

hartdawg said...

dont get me wrong i love the debates and discussions but not the SAME ONE. seriously. but back to the topic, i hate spiders too but in our ressurected body we'll see them for the beauty God created them in.

son of thunder said...

hartdawg, I am sure you're right about the spiders, and even now they amaze me. I think they are absolutely beautiful creatures, but they are also icky.

hartdawg said...

i always been scared of spiders. they say there are only a few poisonous spiders but i dont think thats true. i know of several people (in alaska nonetheless) who nearly died from spider bites. not black widows or a brown recluse but a rndom spider.

hartdawg said...

besides, we are not talking ALL animals, just are pets. i know of some cats whomaybe in hell!! a friend once had a cat who was just an old bitty. in all the years she had her this cat NOT ONCE let ANYONE pet her. she peed on the laundry quite a bit, would jump on a lap as if wanting to be petted then if you touched her she would bite hard. she even walked up and bit a baby!! she still has that cat todaay. if you come near that cat she will hiss at you. all she is good for is mooching food and bringing dead animals in the house yet this person (my sister-in-law) loves this stupid cat

son of thunder said...

Well, I guess if pets can go to heaven, then they can go to hell too.

That almost sounds like a cat a the kid across the street when I was a kid had. That thing was evil. One time he scratched my back from neck to derry-air just for fun. His schnauzer was evil, too. He about took my kneecap off.

hispeach77 said...

I think it would be just like the Lord to have our beloved pets and animals greet us as we cross over to heaven! I think It is just part of the restoration process. They ( and us, too for that matter) just don't get much time on this Earth, but our Blessed Lord is preparing eternity for all who will put their trust in His Son for their salvation! Yeah!

son of thunder said...

Maybe I'm an ol' softy, but there's a couple of dogs I hope to see again. That is if pets go to heaven.

Provident 360 said...

Humans are like animals in that both are living souls; however, the Spirit is reserved for humans only. When man dies, his spirit returns to God. Elihu acknowledged to Job that the Spirit of God had made him and was the source of his life (Job 33:4). The animals were created when God sent out His "breath" (Ps. 104:30 HCSB, NRSV note). In the Old Testament the Spirit rested upon humans, not animals. In the New Testament Jesus promised the Spirit to His followers.

At the beginning, the Spirit at work in creation. In the end, the Spirit and the bride, the church, issue an invitation for all who are thirsty to come and drink of the water of life (Rev. 22:17).

Anonymous said...

For those who believe or nonbelieve that animals do go to heaven. The best verse is Psalms 118:8 It is better to trust the Lord than to trust people. Phil 4:6, do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, but always giving thanks. Col 1:16 ... all things were made through Christ and for Christ. Amen.

franca said...

I REALLY hope and Im sure that pets go to heaven. Most people dont know love until they get a pet,unless they now God first. Pets offer unconditional love that you cant get from people and I cant imagine that God would give us pets then not take them to heaven since pets know love more than people, love after all is the most important thing we can do on earth, IF YOU HAVE LOVE YOU HAVE LIFE. I think we were given pets to help teach us that.

Anonymous said...

Just for clarification on the Ecclesiastes 3:21 quote-the true meaning is, "Who knows the spirit of man, whether it goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, whether it goes downward to the earth?” Also, a great book with many biblical verses backing it up regarding our pets Who Will be in Heaven, is "Will I See Fido in Heaven?" It is an awesome and reassuring book. Animals have both a spirit and a soul, there is biblical proof. But of course we are higher than they are, as we were made in the image of God.

Carol said...

My dog Dusty died when I was ten years old. I asked my mother if Dusty was in heaven. Her wise reply: "If you need Dusty in heaven to make you happy there, she's in heaven."

Aleksandra said...

Anonymous, Franca and Carol -- I can really identify with your words! All is possible with God, God is good, and God's ways are different than man's. Maybe that is why some believers reason out their "no" reasons like they knew all about God and God's mind. But they don't. They read into the Bible theses that the Bible is silent about. Personally speaking, it just occured to me: if it were so sure our pets do not go with us then instead of rejoicing right now about going to the Lord and to heaven I would be mixing joy with grief because Lolenka was too much of God's messenger and tool for bringing us closer to Him not to hope to see her again. So there would be ambiguity to such a gift. And God's gifts are good, not ambiguous. Our dogs are certainly joy to Him and His obedient tools - and a proof of His exceedingly great sense of humor :-)) Besides, isn't the Bible a message addressed to man? It is not a message to animals! So we cannot presume it says very much about the relationship between God and animals. After all, angelic beings in heaven are only 1/4 "human", and 3/4 "animal". So maybe animals are not quite as "unimportant" as some would like to argue ;-))
Aleksandra
styraks@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

I am really tired of Christians using Ecclesiastes 3 to justify an ungrounded belief that our pets will not be with us in heaven. Solomon writes that he does not know- and so why would anyone claim that we won't have our pets based on someone saying he doesn't have the answer himself? Solomon turned away from God. He writes a lot of phooey in Ecclesiastes.

Of course they will be there. They have never sinned. Only people need redemption, not animals.

Heaven is not for men and is not a reward. Salvation is a gift and God gives us that through faith in Jesus Christ. Heaven is for God for us to praise God. Animals already do.

I think people who say "no" are the ones who simply don't care about animals, or who have mistreated them, or who simply never looked deeply into the scriptures.

Why would God deny us a creature that He loves and gave us to love?

Nancy McKee said...

When the theif dying on the cross along side Jesus, he asked Jesus to remember him when He comes into His Kingdom. Jesus answered "Today, you will be with me in paradise". Paradise without pets. God gave us pets in the Garden of Eden. They weren't there to eat and they didn't eat each other. So they were there for the pleasure of man. So yes, I believe that my pets will be waiting for me in heaven. Thank you Lord for the blessings our pets have given us and we look forward to be reunited with them when we enter your Kingdom, to Your eternal Glory. Amen.