Will our pets make it to heaven? Well if I were to give an answer off the top of my head I would say that dogs will be but cats won’t be (they will be sent to hell to torment the devil)! I’m kidding! Actually it’s a real question that many kids (and adults ask) and so I thought I would give my two cents on the subject to encourage the precious souls that care so deeply for the little critters in their lives.
First of all there will certainly be animals in heaven (Isaiah 11:6-8) and they will be different from they are on earth because they will seemingly all graze (including present day carnivores). And God did create the animals and call them good! It seems strange to me that something created by God that is good and intended for our pleasure to enjoy (to play with or eat) wouldn’t be in heaven which will be an improvement on our current home. Add to that our firm belief at Southland that heaven is a real place with real geography and real physics and all that, and I don’t know how the earth would even function without animals such as, say butterflies, to pollinate flowers. It’s not as if all the heavenly flowers just cease to require pollination.
That being said, it is hard to know whether the animals in heaven are the new embodied souls of our deceased pets or just new creations. There are different “types” of animals on earth, what Hugh Ross from www.reasonstobelieve.org calls “soulish animals” which were created for our enjoyment, companionship or to help in work (described in Hebrew as “nephesh” animals – animals with a “soul”). These animals would include mammals and birds and are distinguished from reptiles and fish for example. They are typically animals that portray human-like emotional responses. Part of me wonders if they souls of these animals are preserved, but that doesn’t help Jonny who loves his iguana, or (heaven forbid) pet salamander. Of course we know that more animals than just soulish animals will be heaven because apparently the kiddies are going to be playing with really deadly snakes and not being harmed; again I’m not positive that they are the souls of long-lost reptiles and tarantulas.
But then again, we wouldn’t really notice would we? I mean you WOULD notice if your dog was in heaven because it would likely notice you! That is a key distinction between soulish and non-soulish animals. A cat would recognise you too (although pretend not to) but reptiles, arachnids and other such creepy critters really don’t acknowledge our presence in the same way. I know that we can train gold-fish, for example, to exhibit certain behaviours based on feeding times etc, but those are more like refined instincts, they don’t feel emotions and respond in the same way that soulish animals do.
My conclusion? I can’t claim to be an authority on animal eternity, but I think we can lovingly reassure people that we are going to be completely fulfilled and happy in heaven and if pets will aid in that, then I think God in His mercy will provide them! My suspicion is that particularly the soulish animals will be preserved somehow over the great divide, but to be very honest I’m not sure I want to see Monty when I get to heaven, because I had to shoot him and he’s either going to be grateful to me for ending his suffering (he was hit by a truck) or he’s going to be ticked off at me for not trying to save his life.
Regardless, I am completely ok telling a child that their favourite pet will be there to greet them in heaven if they go on before, always with the caution that we don’t become attached to any pets in an unhealthy way!
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Remember this really isn’t an issue of salvation nor is the Bible definitively clear one way or the other; but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an important topic to think about because we’ve all lost precious pets in our lives. (Or at least smoked an innocent deer that we felt a bit bad about.)