Do Animals Really Go to Heaven?
The subject of Animal Immortality
"In God’s hand is the life of every creature, and the breath of all mankind.”
- Job 12:7
It was a cloudy morning with a slight chill in the air as I walked towards the nicest horse I ever owned. Jenny could see the bag of carrots that I was carrying and quickly came towards me. She placed her head on my shoulder in a sincere and loving manner as if she already knew what was going to happen that morning. As I fed Jenny her favorite treats my eyes welled up with tears as I looked into her eyes knowing that she will be no longer with us in a hour, and pondered the age old question of where do animals go when they die.
Our relationships with our animal companions are unlike human relationships, the death of a pet is like no other loss that we will experience. Sooner or later every pet owner is faced with the reality that their pet may not be with them much longer. Almost everyone has lost a beloved pet, they become part of the family and many couples who are childless consider their pets as their own children. So what happens to pets after they die? Do they go to heaven? Will we ever see our dearly departed pets again? What is their fate? This honest question has been a topic fervently debated by animal lovers and religious groups for many years.
What does the Bible say about animals after they die? These precious loved animals include dogs, cats, horses, and even a few unorthodox pets that families have grown to love and grieve after they are gone. Let’s see what the Word of God says about whether or not animals or pets go to heaven?The Bible states that God’s hand is in the life of every creature... "In God’s hand is the life of every creature, and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:7 and 10) “Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures” ( נֶפֶשׁ literally mean in Hebrew transliterated nephesh meaning soul, and life.) “and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” God created the great sea monsters and every living creature “nephesh” that a move, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:20–21) Animals are described as “living creatures/souls” in Genesis with exactly the same word as the soul in man “nephesh”. “And God said, let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.”
God created both man and animals out of the ground, Genesis 1–2 tells us that living things human beings included, were made of dust of the ground. “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” (Genesis 2:7). “And out of the ground, God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man” (Genesis 2:19) Animals were made from the same dust as humans and have the breath of life in them as we do, but God made men and women in His own image and entrusted them with the responsibility of overseeing, protecting, and enjoying the rest of His creation. “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food;’ and it was so” (Genesis 1:26-30)
The distinction between man and animal is seen in Genesis 1 verse 7 “and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” The word breath πνεῦμα “pneuma” in the Greek means spirit; God’s Holy Spirit was breath into Adam. Creating him in the very "image" of the omniscient God and that image had not yet been damaged by sin and the curse. Both man and animal were designed by God for a specific purpose prior to the fall. "Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field" (Genesis 2:20). I find it fascinating that Adam and Eve had ability to communicate with animals prior the fall as seen in Genesis 3 as they both spoke to the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Also in the Book Numbers 22:21-35 the prophet Balaam is seen being rebuked by his donkey.
Today there are individuals like the Horse Whisperer who have the ability to understand animal behavior to the point where they can say what the animal is actually thinking. In the book of Job 12:7 we are instructed to “Ask the animals, and they will teach you.” Also in proverbs 6:6 states, “Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!” The Greek Septuagint Old Testament translates living creatures 600 times as πσυχη psuchê 'soul', the word from which we derive psychology and psychiatry, literally "soul ". “Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures “psuchê / soul” after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so.” (Genesis 1:24)
Ontologically, man and animal are not much different: Animals have the same feelings of anger, love, fear, affection, aggression, stubbornness, independence, etc. Animals have recognizable personality just like man. In fact, without the Holy Spirit abiding inside a person they are considered as a brute beast, The psalmist states: “I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.” (Psalms 73:22) The Apostle Peter also mentions this in 2 Peter 2:12, “But these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish.”The distinction between man and animal are clear in Genesis 1:26 where mankind is given authority to be the head over all creation. Then God said, “Let Us make man like Us and let him be head over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over everything that moves on the ground.” In Scripture, God imputes righteousness to a man who takes good care of his animal, “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal.” (Proverbs 12:10) Not many people think of measuring righteousness by this standard, but God does!
This brings a very important theological question to mind, will there be animals in Heaven? King Solomon the wisest man that ever lived pondered this same question, Eccl 3:21: "How can anyone be sure that the human spirit goes upward while an animal's spirit goes down into the ground?"
God speaking to Noah sheds a little light on this matter stating: “Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; and with every living creature “nephesh / soul”, that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth.” (Genesis 9:9–10)
Hosea the prophet reiterates the same covenant during the future Millennial Reign of Christ in Hosea 2:18 “In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety.”
Christ’s New Covenant made on Calvary is clearly distinct from the covenant made to the animals and the earth. The prophet Jeremiah states: "This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the Lord. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the Lord. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." Hebrews 9:15 declares, “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”
In Genesis 9:16 the covenant made with the earth and its inhabitances is seen “Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” and the Apostle Paul also mentions this covenant in Romans 8:20- 22 “Against its will, all creation was subjected to God's curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to 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.”
The book of Revelation chapters 4-5 the Title Deed of the Earth that was lost in the Garden of Eden is seen as Jesus is the only worthy to open it. In close proximity to the throne of God there are four living creatures “beings” with the twenty four elders. They fall down and worship the Lamb Jesus Christ, offering the same reverence to Him that they did to the Father (Revelation 4:10), proof positive of the deity of Jesus Christ. These creatures are described as having both the face of a human being and animals “The first creature resembled a lion, the second was like a calf, the third had a face like that of a human being, and the fourth looked like an eagle in flight.” (Rev 4:7) All creation is before God’s throne worshiping Him, “Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." (Rev 4:9-11)
These creatures as well as horses are seen and are mentioned in heaven. The Apostle John states: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.” (Rev 19:11) In fact, there are lots of horses, enough for the vast armies of heaven to ride (Revelation 19:11; 2 Kings 6:17). In the Old Testament the prophet Elijah was taken up to heaven in a chariot pulled by horses (2 Kings 2:11) Other animals aren't mentioned in the Revelation passages, apparently because they don't play a role in Christ's second coming. Isn't it likely that since there are innumerable horses in heaven there are all kinds of other animals too? As mentioned previously God makes clear he will have animals living there-either in the millennium or the New Earth or both (Isaiah 65:25).
Romans 8:18-22 says that the whole creation was subject to suffering and futility because of human sin. The creation groans in longing for the liberation that will come to humans, and thereby to all creation itself. Creation is under man's dominion and will share the rewards of his redemption just as it shared the punishment for his sin. Animals are a central part of that creation, next to man himself the most significant part. After all, besides his wife, Adam was called upon to give names only to one other part of the creation... the animals. (Genesis 2:19-20). Adam worked the garden, but he wasn't invited to name the vegetation. Clearly, the animals had certain qualities that set them above other creation. They were to be special to man, and his naming them makes his connection with them personal.
Since man is made in the image of God and since man can love an animal as much as a human, such a bond is worthy of eternity. Why would God allow us to create bonds with things we love and never see again? The Bible is clear that babies, young children, infants, or toddlers that die before they are able to accept Jesus Christ as Savior go directly into the presence of the Lord. When King David committed adultery with Bathsheba. The prophet Nathan boldly confronts David about his adultery and tells him that the child that Bathsheba has conceived will die. As a result of the confrontation, David confesses his sin, puts on sackcloth and ashes, fasts, and mourns the fact that he will lose his child. When David receives news that the child has died, he quits mourning and fasting and changes his clothing. The prophet Nathan comes to David and asks him why he quit mourning the loss of his son. David replies, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, 'Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, that the child may live.' But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me." (2 Sam. 12:22-23)
In the book of Isaiah 7:15 the prophet Isaiah alludes to an age of accountability, which speaks of a child who "will eat curds and honey at the time he knows enough to refuse evil and choose good." If a child dies before this time it would seem that he or she would go to heaven. When a parent loses a child, they have Biblical comfort with this fact, but this does not mean that they will not grieve them. If God has provided a way for children under the age of accountability, how much more God provide a way for pets who are loved and treated as a child and at times behave like if they were human.
Martin Luther, the well known reformer of the 16th century and the unwitting founder of the Lutheran denomination within Christendom, felt dogs go to heaven. Referring to his beloved dog Tolpel, he once said about dogs and other animals being in Heaven, "Certainly there will be, for Peter calls that day the time of the restitution of all things. Then, as clearly said elsewhere, he will create new Tolpels with skin of gold and hair of pearls. There and then God will be all in all. No animal will eat any other. Snakes and toads and other beasts which are poisonous on account of original sin will then be not only innocuous but even pleasing and nice to play with. Why is it that we cannot believe all things will happen as the Bible says, even in this article of resurrection? Original sin is at fault." (From Preserved Smith, "The Life and Letters of Martin Luther" London: John Murray, 1911, p. 362.)C.S.
C.S. Lewis imaginatively addresses the question of animal immortality in his book The Problem of Pain. Lewis wrote, "The theory I am suggesting...makes God the centre of the universe and man the subordinate centre of terrestrial nature: the beasts are not co-ordinate with man, but subordinate to him, and their destiny is through and through related to his. And the derivative immortality suggested for them is not a mere amend or compensation: It is part and parcel of the new heaven and new earth, organically related to the whole suffering process of the world's fall and redemption." (The Problem of Pain Chapter 9, 1940, p 145).
Billy Graham, is often referred to as the America's Pastor, once said, "I think God will have prepared everything for our perfect happiness. If it takes my dog being there (in Heaven), I believe he'll be there."The Bible is specific that God will create a new heaven and a new earth at the end of our current earth. This newness will be a "restitution of all things," says Luther. With the understanding that God plans on restoring creation, these Biblical scholars agree that within that restoration will be the restoration of our beloved pets.
It is difficult to be dogmatic about this issue, but we can rest in the fact that God is Loving, Holy, Righteous, and Just. Therefore, whatever God chooses to do with our pets will be best for them.