Friday, 12/14/18 – Tough Question

“Do Animals go to Heaven?”

Let me just say right off the bat that on this question I really don’t know the answer. The Bible, however, has much to say to tickle our imaginations on this. Let’s have a look together…

In Romans 8, speaking of our present suffering and the glory to come, Paul writes,

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

Paul states “the whole creation” is yearning along with us for that future day of redemption. Does this include the animals? If the animal kingdom “waits in eager expectation” then certainly it is expecting something good – not its annihilation!

black chimpanzee smiling

Scripture tells us that animals and mankind alike have the “breath of life” (Gen. 1:30; 2:7), though only mankind is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). “Man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7) says the scripture. But upon deeper study whether or not this indicates an added spiritual dimension to our being remains unclear. Throughout the Genesis 1 creation account the phrase “living creature” uses the same term (nephesh) as it does for “soul” in 2:7.

In Ecclesiastes 3:19-21 A pessimistic Solomon speculates,

19 Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?

portrait of a dog

This passage is often taken out of context. Here Solomon is in mid spiel about his conclusion that life is meaningless. Solomon had strayed from God and lost touch with his own wisdom. Having satisfied every pleasure and found nothing enduring in them he concluded that life had no lasting purpose. He was dead wrong!

We often hear people incorrectly citing the last part of verse 21 saying the human spirit rises upward (goes to heaven) and the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth (returns to dust) as if this was a statement and point of doctrine. But It is not a statement; it is a rhetorical question: “Who knows…” it begins. Solomon, in his darkness, is suggesting there is no hope for man nor animal, “the same fate awaits them both.” Why then is this passage even in the Bible? It shows us the futility of trying to find meaning in life apart from God.

Matthew and Luke both record Jesus’ statement that even the sparrow is not “forgotten” when it perishes (Mt 10:29; Luke 12:6). Does this mean they have an afterlife?

However, Peter and Jude liken sinful man to the beasts which they describe as “unreasoning,” “born… to be captured and killed,” “unreasoning animals.” (2 Pet. 2:12; Jude 10).

nature animal fog freedom

The book of Revelation – a book about end times and the heavenly kingdom of God – is filled with animal beings: there are living creatures like a lion, a calf, a man and an eagle (Rev. 4:5–9), there are the four horses of the apocalypse in chapter 6 and the white horse of chapter 19.

Rev. 20:1-7 speaks of the thousand year period when the devil is bound and Christ reigns triumphantly upon the earth. Several Old Testament prophets speak of animals being present during this time.

And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze, Their young will lie down together, And the lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.” (Isaiah 11:6–8; see also Isa. 65:25, Zech. 14:20)

Throughout scripture as well Jesus Himself is referred to as both a Lion and a Lamb.

Whatever eternity holds we know we can trust God that heaven will contain everything necessary for our happiness. “…no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” (Ps. 84:11).

As one mom replied to her young child, “Heaven is a place of happiness; if our pets are necessary for our happiness then our pets will be there.”

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

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