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Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Will Our Pets Be With Us In Heaven?

Jul 6, 2019

OK, this is not the usual sort of thing I might write about. This is not as hardcore as dealing with, say, creeping sharia or the culture wars. But it is well worth exploring nonetheless. Most people have pets and love their pets dearly. And if you are a Christian, you believe this life is simply a brief prelude to eternity.

So some believers may legitimately be asking if they will see their beloved pets in heaven. The very short answer from the biblical data would be this: at best, we just do not know. The truth is, there is nothing specifically said about this matter in Scripture.

But there is still biblical information that we can run with. Notice that I did not ask, “Will there be animals in heaven?” That seems to be much more likely. In Isaiah 11:6-9 and Isaiah 65:25 for example we read about animals living together in peaceful existence in some future state – specifically the new heavens and new earth for the latter passage.

However, in Isaiah 35:9 we have a conflicting account – one that speaks about a future state in which “No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast”. In Revelation 19:11-16 we read about the heavenly warrior riding on a white horse. So in various places we seem to find animals in the next world. Admittedly we have little biblical detail about all this, so we can only speak tentatively here.

Another question that arises in this regard is this: “Do animals have souls?” If by a soul we mean the ability to think, feel and choose, then it seems some of the higher animals may well have a soul. We all sense that our beloved pet dog can “feel” joy or sadness, can make limited choices, and perhaps can reason at least to a limited extent.

And one common Hebrew word for soul – nefesh – does refer to humans and animals. See for example Genesis 1:20-24, Job 12:10 and so on. But even if animals can be said to have a soul, that does not answer the question of whether they will continue on after death.

Indeed, the ability to survive beyond death – due to sin – is remedied at Calvary for those who repent and believe. Living with God forever is something for redeemed human beings, and Scripture never speaks about the work of the cross being specifically applied to animals as well.

Yes, all of creation is impacted by the work of Christ in general, but that is not the same as saying that animals will live forever because of it. Only humans are mentioned in the great salvation texts, such as John 3:16. Yes, one could raise a text like Ecclesiastes 3:21 here, but that book as a whole is often difficult to correctly interpret anyway.

That the Bible does speak about animals quite often is certainly true. In Psalm 8:6-8 we read about how mankind is to be a good steward of the animal world:

You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

Treating animals well is enjoined in Scripture. Thus in Proverbs 12:10 we read, “The righteous care for the needs of their animals”. And in Psalm 36:6 we read this: “Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.”

Also, consider the gospel accounts, and how important animals are there. Just think about Peter’s rooster or Jesus’ colt for example. Moreover, in the Old Testament we also find that animals often have important roles to play in the biblical drama, be it Abraham’s ram, Jonah’s great fish, Balaam’s ass, or Daniel’s lions.

So they certainly are vital – at least in this life. And we can speculate further here. If God was so keen to save animals from judgment at the time of the flood, might he not do the same at the final judgment? Again, much of this is speculative, and none of this directly and finally answers the question of whether our pets will be with us in heaven.

But I conclude by looking at what others have thought about all this. A number of theologians and Christian thinkers have discussed such matters from time to time. Let me mention five of them. Martin Luther once said this: “Be thou comforted, little dog. Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail.” And Billy Graham put it this way: “God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in heaven, and if it takes my dog being there, I believe he’ll be there.”

In his book on heaven Randy Alcorn says this:

Throughout Scripture we read that animals praise God. I don’t know exactly how animals praise God, but our inability to understand it shouldn’t keep us from believing it. Consider the psalms. Psalm 148 commands all of creation to praise the Lord, including the animals….

When we grasp these passages, we’ll see the error of the statement, “Clearly animals do not fit into the main purpose of heaven, which is the articulation of God’s praise.” On the contrary, the primary beings shown articulating God’s praise in Heaven, along with angels and humans (the elders), are animals!

C. S. Lewis in his classic book, The Problem of Pain famously spoke to this matter. The second last chapter of the book is on “Animal Pain”. In it he says this:

Man is to be understood only in his relationship to God. The beasts are to be understood only in their relation to man and, through man, to God….
Man was appointed by God to have dominion over the beasts, and everything a man does to an animal is either a lawful exercise, or a sacrilegious abuse, of an authority by Divine right….
If a good sheepdog seems “almost human” that is because a good shepherd has made it so….
I am now going to suggest – though with great readiness to be set right by real theologians – that there may be a sense, corresponding, though not identical, with these, in which those beasts that attain a real self are in their masters. That is to say, you must not think of a beast by itself, and call that a personality and then inquire whether God will raise and bless that….
And in this way it seems to me possible that certain animals may have immortality, not in themselves, but in the immortality of their masters.

Finally, Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft in his book on heaven puts it this way, in answer to the question, “Are there animals in heaven?”:

The simplest answer is: Why not? How irrational is the prejudice that would allow plants (green fields and flowers) but not animals into Heaven!. . . . Would the same animals be in Heaven as on earth? “Is my dead cat in Heaven?” Again, why not? God can raise up the very grass; why not cats? Though the blessed have better things to do than play with pets, the better does not exclude the lesser. We were meant from the beginning to have stewardship over the animals; we have not fulfilled that divine plan yet on earth; therefore it seems likely that the right relationship with animals will be part of Heaven: proper “petship”. And what better place to begin than with already petted pets?

In sum, yes it is certainly possible that we might find our pets with us in heaven. The biblical data is just not all that specific in giving us a definite ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to this question. But a good solid ‘maybe’ seems to be the best we can run with!

For further reading

These books are all quite helpful in discussing the afterlife, heaven, the eternal state, and related matters. Some of them deal with the topic of animals in heaven as well.

Alcorn, Randy, Heaven. Tyndale House, 2004.
Boettner, Loraine, Immortality. P&R, 1962.
Fabarez, Mike, 10 Mistakes People Make About Heaven, Hell and the Afterlife. Harvest House, 2018.
Gomes, Alan, 40 Questions About Heaven and Hell. Kregel, 2018.
Kreeft, Peter, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven . . . But Never Dreamed of Asking. Ignatius, 1990.
Morey, Robert, Death and the Afterlife. Bethany House, 2001.
Morgan, Christopher and Robert Peterson, eds., Heaven. Crossway, 2014.
Pache, Rene, The Future Life. Moody, 1962.
Twelftree, Graham, Life after Death. Monarch, 2002.
Williamson, Paul, Death and the Afterlife: Biblical Perspectives on Ultimate Questions. IVP, 2017.

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14 Responses to Will Our Pets Be With Us In Heaven?

  • Umm, I cannot imagine heaven with dog poo around…. but that may be a different question.

  • Of course there are animals in Heaven, if my late cat isn’t there, as far as I’m concerned it won’t be Heaven. Imagine when the late, great Doris Day arrived there to find none of her beloved rescue dogs were there, she’d be devastated! The Bible can’t and doesn’t answer everything, but according to dozens of people who have come back from a Near Death Experience, there are certainly animals on the other side! I have no doubt!

  • This is what I tell my children-

    Matthew 19:26: But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

  • Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers has said on the show ‘While there is a distinction between human souls and animal souls, the classical teaching between rational human souls and animal souls, and that that only the rational souls survive death. That is not Church teaching, it is a theological opinion”.

    That for me leaves puts this in the I don’t know region whether we will see our pets again. Someone like Aquinas I think says that an animal soul will not survive death but that Peter Kreeft in Bills closing paragraph leaves open the possibility that we will. Thanks for a nice, little interesting article.

  • OK, what about animals that aren’t pets? Will the kid’s pet chicken be there but not the 100,000 you raised and sold for food?

    Some people have pet mice or spiders. Would God discriminate against these?

    And where’s the boundary? I’m thinking of the billions of billions of flys that have existed.

    I think I’ll “Pass” on this one.

    In jest, and perhaps over thinking it, Adrian

  • Thank you for an intriguing and lovely article Bill. Last year, I lost my beloved cat suddenly. He was quite old at nearly 21 but the suddenness of his death and how he died, was devastating. He was one of the most lovely and sweetest natured cats I’ve ever owned. I can’t imagine he would not be in Heaven. I can’t imagine God would create any creature on this Earth, with all their intricacies and wonder, and then discard them. No, animals may not think like us, or have a sense of their selves, although elephants seem to be aware of death and many animals exhibit a high intelligence. Who’s to really know what they know? Perhaps God decided not to give animals as much self-awareness as humans, because when you think about it, it was humans, who sinned, not animals, in the Garden of Eden. I once read a story about horses and at the end, the writer expressed the notion, that Heaven would not be heaven if it did have the sound of thundering hooves across its plains.

  • Loved this, I certainly believe that we can trust that God has it sorted all together for us. heaven is a place we can’t totally comprehend & the purposes of animals/pets in this current life can be so diverse and we can learn so much from the animals that benefit our world now. It is like a preview of the world to come.

    I believe my beloved pet dog Mookie died protecting my family. He got bitten by the 2nd most deadliest snake just outside our patio door and he managed to kill it also. While I was overseas helping feed children in India my family was out from home when this happened. He was like a sacrifice.

    Again recently my wife and I were on holidays in Canada and my new pet puppy Honey was being taken care of by my parents. While my elderly father took Honey and his dog for a walk my dog escaped her lead and dad could not keep up with her running all over the road after a few hundred metres, In desperation my father cried out and asked his own dog to help save Honey. To my father’s amazement the dog literally understood what he asked and ran down the street and rounded up my little dog Honey and guided her all the way back up to dad’s house where they had started from.

    God is good.

  • Woof Woof!

  • The Lord God made animals for us on earth; so of course animals will be in Heaven. How boring Heaven will be without our beloved pets & all animals of different kinds! Though Heaven will be wonderful compared to Earth. One of my favourite verses in the Old Testament is ‘A righteous man careth for the life of his beast; but the mercy of the wicked is cruel’. I can’t think where it is at the moment. So God made animals for us here; so they’ll be in Heaven, too! God says we’ll have ‘new’ bodies, too! ‘The lion will lay down with the lamb’! How wonderful that will be. I look forward to be able to pat – lions, tigers, snakes, sharks, etc.

  • Thanks for the article Bill….I am currently facing loosing my precious furboy due to nasal cancer and my heart breaks, but in the midst of it I thank God for each day He allows us to still have . And when I struggle I remind myself that God said the Eye’s have not seen and Ears have not heard, nor can we even image what He has prepared for us, so I can only trust that since God knows about our love for these animals , His fantastic future for us will be perfect no matter what.

  • Thanks Bill for the insightful look into pets in heaven.

    Personally, I believe they will be there & why?:

    #1) For about 6months now I keep seeing a picture of the Lord in my mind — it’s permanently stuck there and He’s standing before me in the white garb they wore in those days and in His right arm being held close to the Lord’s chest is my beloved little dog [15 lbs.] Pepsi. The Lord is smiling that beautiful smile that only He can do. Brown eyes of liquid pools of Love. The Lord is assuring me that if Pepsi dies before me He will be caring for him in heaven until I get there.

    #2) 3 times a week I pray over the phone with a group called, “Strike Force of Prayer”. For the most part I try to be on my knees. And when my little dog sees me he gets off the bed and gets down on the floor next to me and lays on the floor and he puts his two paws out in front of him as if he were in prayer. And he stays next to me quiet as a mouse. I could swear he is praying with me and knows exactly what we’re doing. They know so much more than what we are aware of. Heaven wouldn’t be heaven without our beloved pets. Dog is GOD spelled backwards.

    Thanks for letting me share.

  • We don’t what we will be. 1John 3:2 So how about animals. There’s verse in Eccles. that seems to say animals down believing humans up. I haven’t really read this article yet Bill. but will with time. Only what’s real love lasts.

  • I have some pet questions too: Why do people have pets in the first place? Why do some pets get elevated to the status of children? Can pets become idols, replacing our Saviour as a focus of attention and source of happiness?
    “Know your place” could be valid command to our pets.

  • Another thought on animals. I’m looking forward to seeing & patting the behemoths [dinosaurs] of Gods’ Creation! Also seeing all the animals that are in jungles, forests, air & under the sea, etc., that haven’t been discovered yet! I hope the Lord God punishes people who’ve been cruel & ill-treated animals! I believe in treating animals how I’d want to be treated if I was an animal! It’s only by Gods’ Grace that He’s let us come into the world as a human being & not an animal or plant!

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