You welcome them into your home. You tend and care for their needs. They fill your life with laughter and affection, but then there is the day when they are no longer with you.
When a pet dies, no matter what species or how long they have been in your family, it is gut-wrenching. Death was never part of God’s perfect plan, hence why we struggle with accepting death in any form.
But then comes the doe-eyed question from your child: “Do animals go to heaven?”
Our minds go blank, and the knot in our throats tighten. We want to say yes, of course. One, to ease the hurt of the loss. Second, it is hard to imagine heaven, the perfect place full of joy and no tears, would be void of a creature that brought you and your family love so much. But what does the Bible say about animals going to heaven?
Does the Bible Mention Animals in Heaven?
We know the Bible mentions animals throughout its pages, from their creation on day six in the beginning (Genesis 1:24) to the end at the restoration of creation in the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 22). Leviticus even lists 150 different types of animals.
Animals are mentioned in the Bible many times, usually in symbolism, analogies, or in reference to sacrifice service or deliverance. But only once in the Bible does Scripture mention an animal being treated as a pet. In 2 Samuel 12, the prophet Nathan tells a story of a poor man caring for his single lamb, like it was a daughter to him. But this was a parable to reveal sin to King David, not an actual animal. For the most part, animals are not referenced in the way that our culture views animals as pets.
Despite all the animal references, the Bible is not clear if animals go to heaven.
Revelations 4:6 does mention creatures around the throne of heaven, but creatures with six wings and covered with eyes all around are not like any creature we know of on the earth.
This begs the question... who gets into heaven?
Who Does the Bible Say Will Go to Heaven?
Thankfully, the Bible is very clear on this question. Jesus said it best in John 14:6, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.”
If we have to recognize our need for a savior and accept the gift of Jesus’ death and resurrection for our souls to go to heaven. Can animals make this decision? And the question that twists in our gut: do animals have souls?
Does the Bible Say Animals Have Souls?
As humans, we are comprised of three parts: body, mind and spirit. Scripture mentions this several times, such as Jesus’ command in Mark 12:29-31, “Love the Lord you God with all your heart (mind/emotions) all your soul(spirit) and with all your strength [body].’”
When God created animals on day five and six of creation, he spoke them into existence and called them good. As Clarence L. Haynes Jr puts it, “Animals were formed by the word of God and were able to exist and operate in their full capacity.”
But when God formed Adam in the dirt, it wasn’t until God breathed into him that he came into being; this is the distinction between humans and animals.
While we can’t dispute that animals have personality, memories, fears, and instincts, they do lack the spirit or a way to have an eternal relationship with God.
Will There Be Animals at the Final Resurrection?
This is an element of our question where the Bible does provide clear references.
Romans 8:19-21 says, “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation [animals] were subjected to frustrations, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it [man] 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.”
Scripture teaches that, as creation itself has been subject to the effects of sin, so when Jesus comes to redeem and heal the world, the animals and the rest of creation will be made new.
Isaiah 65:17: “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create.”
Then, further down in Isaiah 65:25: “The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.”
So when Scripture is complete, and God brings down his new heaven and new earth, all of creation will be restored, which includes animals. It is not clear if Fluffy and Mr. Bubbles will be there, but since animals are part of God’s creation, we can rest knowing there will be animals in the final resurrection.
And won’t that be glorious to be able to rest in the mane of a lion without fear, and to welcome snakes and bugs without the bite and itch?
What Does the Bible Clearly Say about Humans and Animals?
Though the Bible has no concrete answer to the question, do animals go to heaven, we can rest in these three things
1. God created animals with purpose
Animals were never a plan B but were created with purpose, not unlike humans. All of creation was given to us to care for and reveal God’s character. Romans 1:20 even states that ‘since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.’
2. God cares for the animals he created
Not only does Scripture make clear that God created animals, it also testifies to God’s loving care of animals. An animal’s life is under the eye of God. Jesus declares that no animals “fall apart from the Father’s will” (Matthew 10:29). God provides for and sustains every living creature upon the earth.
3. God cares for you
God knows every hair on your head (Luke 12:7) and collects every tear you cry (Psalm 56:8). He knows if you are hurting or grieving the loss of a precious animal. He wants so desperately to be with you that while we were yet sinners, he died for us (Romans 5:8).
We can rest in who God is and what he has done to redeem us. As we do that, we remember what he has planned for us, and can have peace when our pets are no longer with us. Though the Bible is not clear on if animals go to heaven, we can know we don’t grieve alone, and the animal you have lost was a beloved creation of God given to you for a season.
Sources and Further Reading:
Further Reading: Getty Images/Orla
Valerie Fentress is the author of An Easter Bunny’s Tale and Beneath the Hood: a retelling woven with biblical truth. She aims to engage believers, especially kids, in the wonder and identity of who God is and who God made them to be.
You can find out more about Valerie, her books, and her blog at www.valeriefentress.com.
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