Sue 2015. (Photo by Ashley Jones.)
I’m sad to report that our sweet fur-baby, Sue, passed away earlier this month due to cancer. Sue was a big part of our lives for over four years, and we’ve never known a sweeter, kinder creature. This has been a devastating loss for Robby and me, but we take heart knowing that Sue is in heaven and that we’ll see her again.
[To read more about Sue’s story, click here for the blog “Faith lessons from my cat, Sue.”]
When I was a kid, Grandma and I would marvel at God’s creativity, in the way He made everything so unique and varied, from sunsets to giant whales. Eventually, our talks always meandered to heaven; we’d wonder what heaven looks like, what people eat there, and what kinds of animals and other creatures are there (and, of course, if they can talk).
Throughout the years, I’ve heard laymen and pastors alike say that animals don’t go to heaven. As a child, this didn’t jive with my understanding of God—and it still doesn’t today. I’ve searched the Scriptures for answers, and I believe whole-heartedly that there are animals in heaven.
I normally don’t write about these kinds of topics because I don’t want to cause confusion or detract from the main teaching of salvation through Jesus. However, I’ve noticed that a lot of confusion already exists in this area. Pet parents grieve the loss of their furry friends, and if they can’t find comfort in the Church, they search for it elsewhere. I think it’s time we just explored what the Bible has to say on the subject.
In the beginning, God created animals and let Adam name them and rule over them in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 1). God gave all creatures “every green plant for food,” meaning all animals were herbivores (see Genesis 1:29-31). All of the animals lived in harmony with one another and with Adam and Eve.
Then there was the “fall,” when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were banished from the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3). It was then that animals began to kill and eat one another, and man began to eat animals. This is the state we’re in now.
Man became so sinful that God flooded the earth. Only Noah and his family found favor with God. When God directed Noah to build the ark, He made sure that every kind of animal would fit on it, as well (see Genesis 6).
Genesis gives us a glimpse of what our life is like without sin: direct communion with God and harmony with all His creatures, both man and animal. It seems that everything God has done and is doing right now is intended to restore us to that state of direct communion with Him.
God told the prophet Isaiah what this kind of peaceful future looks like:
“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. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6-9 NAS)
No doubt this is a figurative reference to peace among God’s people. But I see no reason why it doesn’t also speak of a literal peace among God’s animals and between man and animal.
Then there’s the book of Revelation, which describes John’s vision of the end times and the hope Christians have in God. John writes of many different creatures and animals, some familiar to us and some strange; some originating from heaven, and some from the earth. He even states that Jesus will ride a white horse when He returns (see Revelation 19:11).
In fact, all of the creatures John mentions serve God and do His bidding. They also praise Him:
“And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’” (Revelation 5:13 NAS)
John gave an account of an amazing event and, again, there is no doubt that much of it is figurative. However, much of it may also be literal, such as God using animals in heaven for His glory.
It seems that the fate of animals is intertwined with mankind. When we live peaceably with God, there is peace in the animal kingdom. When we fall from grace, they suffer with us. When God saves Noah’s family in the flood, He also saves every kind of animal. In the end, when the whole earth praises God, the animals will praise Him, too.
I have not found Scripture that specifically states our pets will be in heaven. But if there are horses in heaven, why not cats and dogs? And if God created them with such love and care, why wouldn’t He want to keep them near Him?
If you’ve lost a beloved pet, seek comfort in God’s Word and in His presence. Regardless of whether you believe animals are in heaven, the Bible is very clear on one point: God loves us and wants to restore us to Himself. Above all else, take comfort in that.