It wasn’t until the last few years that I reconsidered the importance of animals in terms of how God views them (and even if animals would go to Heaven). I’d always just considered them to be sort of an accessory to humans. Nothing more than beings to serve us when we wanted them to but of little value when we didn’t. That despite the fact I’ve always been close to animals. As a boy, I had lots of pets including turtles, frogs, lizards, taranchulas, fish and even snakes. But my favorite pets by far have been dogs.
Unlike reptiles, dogs and most other mammals can have feelings of closeness, loyalty, happiness, sadness and silliness. In fact, a recent study showed that dogs (and cats) mourn for lost loved ones as deeply as humans (source). I recognized those emotional capabilities in my dogs and knew that I cared about them as well, but it seemed as though the teaching of the day from preachers was that animals mattered little. I was taught to believe that animals didn’t go to Heaven and that when they did die, it was the complete end of them. Though that teaching wasn’t pleasant, I learned to accept it. Apparently God didn’t care as much about animals as I did. Or did he?
Fast forward to the year 2001 when Joe Beam invited me to co-author a book about Heaven with him. We both waded through books that seemed to contain more speculation and cliches than solid, scriptural teachings about what Heaven would be like. We were determined to be different and decided to simply go to the Bible itself. One of the questions we knew we had to answer was on what happens to animals when they died and I assumed it would be an open-and-shut case in which I would tell readers that animals didn’t go to Heaven. I figured I’d write something with happy-spin to it about how much humans mattered to God and that animals were only put here for us to eat or use in some way. Simple, right? But then I opened my Bible.
Starting early in the biblical text we read about God making a covenant with animals. It came after God saved humans and animals from dying out during the worldwide flood in which he purged the earth of people (and apparently the nephilim) who were so wicked that the Bible says, “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). God chose to save animals so that they wouldn’t die out and the Bible says that he made a covenant with them after the flood.
“Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: ‘I now establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you – the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you – every living creature on earth.'”
God’s plan for a renewed earth after the flood included animals.
Continuing our survey of the Bible for clues into how God feels about animals, we read Psalm 50:10-11:
“[F]or every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.”
God claims animals as his own. Not ours. Therefore, it makes sense to say that we will answer to God for how we treat them. Proverbs 12:10, for example, says:
“The righteous care for the needs of their animals . . . .”
So in order to be righteous, we must “care for the needs” of our animals. Caring for animals is, then, a righteous thing to do. I could also use that passage to directly say that God cares for animals because he is righteous.
Even in our increasingly secular-minded world, we have laws against cruelty to animals. Somehow, we know that animals should not be mistreated and that we should provide them some sort of defense against harm that might come from our actions. That idea was first presented to humans in God’s Scriptures.
As most of us remember from the story of the Garden of Eden, God had Adam name all the animals, and during this process Adam learned that none of the animals were a suitable helper for him. He learned them, watched them, and figured out names for them based on their behavior. It is within us to enjoy their company and share life with them. Every pet owner knows that very well.
Just as God made angels different from humans, he made humans different from animals. He designed all of his creatures to function and interact with each other in the beginning, and he will restore that fellowship on the New Earth.
“For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:16-20)
Note that it says that God will “reconcile to himself all things.”
Colossians 1:16-20 was one of the first passages that made me realize that the chapter on animals for our book about Heaven would require more study. Another was Romans 8:19-25 which says:
For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children 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 freedom and glory 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 first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
You might want to read those six verses again. I remembered having read that passage before and someone even having pointed it out to me, but I was so set in my belief that I completely dismissed it.
St. Augustine once said, “If you believe what you like in the gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”
It’s not that I didn’t “like” what Romans 8:19-25 said. It just sounded too good to be true and it was the exact opposite of what I’d always been taught. But when it was time for us to work on the book, I needed passages that provided objective answers. That helped me to take it for what it said. And it says that “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
Will Animals Go To Heaven?
If we’re getting a New Earth as the Bible repeatedly tells us, why wouldn’t animals be there? God wanted them there when he first made the earth. They were part of his plan. Why wouldn’t he want them there when he restores the earth (Acts 3:21)? According to the Bible, God cares about animals and expects us to as well. Furthermore, our relationship with them, though strained now because we live in a fallen world, will be restored to the level it was in the beginning when animals weren’t predators. Joe and I go further into how the world fell, the promised New Earth and what Heaven will be like in our book, The True Heaven.
Does this mean that animals should never be used as food? I don’t believe so. The Bible records people eating animals and that includes Jesus. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be humane and responsible in our treatment and use of them. My point isn’t that animals are equal to humans, but that God made them just as carefully as he made humans. He put them on this earth before he put us here. The bottom line is that apparently pet lovers have it right. God cares about animals and expects us to. If you want to be right with God, He expects you to care for animals.
The True Heaven
Do you want to know what Heaven will be like based on what the Bible actually says rather than wild speculation or cliches?
If so, best-selling Christian author Joe Beam and Lee Wilson have teamed up to provide a fast-paced, exciting book on Heaven and the afterlife. They answer the tough questions, such as:
- Will we have bodies in Heaven or just be spirits?
- Will we be able to recognize loved ones there?
- Will animals and pets be in Heaven?
- Where is Heaven?
- Are the dead aware of what is happening on earth now?
- Will we still be male and female in Heaven?
- Will there be romance in Heaven?
- What is the New Earth and what will be its use?
- What will life be like on the New Earth?
- Will we keep our memories of this life in Heaven?
- Who will be in Heaven?
- If we still have free will, what will keep us from sinning again?
- And other questions you might not have even thought of! BUY NOW