While millions of people grapple with questions about what really happens when they die, now a brand-new book is probing what might actually happen to people’s beloved pets.
The title of the book asks the timeless question, “Do Our Pets Go to Heaven?” and features biblical analysis of the issue, along with amazing stories of pets that saved people and provided companionship as well as healing.
“I must admit I cannot recount the number of times when, as a pastor of more than two decades and as a public and media personality since, I have been approached by an adult or child – eyes filled with questions – who wanted to ask me very sincerely if I believed their pets would go to heaven,” says Tom Horn, who co-authored the book with Terry James and other contributors.
“It seems to be one of the biggest secrets in Christianity,” Horn continued, “that our Western mindset has made it difficult to discuss what people in other countries as well as theologians down through time believed to be an important and theological question. Most are also usually unaware that the Bible itself has some important things to say about the issue, and that many celebrated theologians and philosophers – past and present – concluded a long time ago based on these Scriptures that our pets most likely will be in heaven.”
Ironically, the Bible itself doesn't even say the ultimate reward of saved men and women will be floating on clouds in the sky, but it does indicate Jesus Christ will raise His true believers from the grave, grant them eternal life, return to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and rule with them here on planet Earth.
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Yet there are plenty of verses in Scripture indicating the presence of animals in the coming kingdom of God.
The prophet Isaiah is famous for this future glimpse depicting people dwelling with animals, whose aggressive nature will have been reprogrammed and tamed by God in the kingdom:
"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6–9)
Horn writes in a chapter of his book:
Indeed, we find that God values His living artistry so much that He even made some of the angelic beings to reflect the animal's faces (see Revelation 4:6–8; Ezekiel 10:14). In addition to their artistic value, God loves the company of these creatures to the point that not even a tiny sparrow falls to the ground that He doesn't account for (Matthew 10:29). Another amazing example of God's concern for animals comes from the story of Jonah, in which it appears that the people of Nineveh were spared destruction because God wanted to have mercy on their children and animals (see Jonah 4:11)! Of course, to the delight of my wife, Nita, God is an equestrian and has already filled Heaven with lots and lots of horses (Revelation 6:2–8; 19:11; 2 Kings 6:17). His Son, Jesus, will even return someday on one such horse (Revelation 19:11–14).
It is further written in the Bible that:
- God holds the lives of animals in His hands (Job 12:10).
- He, Himself, feeds them (Psalms 104:21–30; Matthew 6:26).
- They were created for His enjoyment (Revelation 4:11).
- God never forgets about them (Matthew 10:29; Luke 12:6).
- People who mistreat their pets are judged by Him as "cruel" (Proverbs 12:10).
- Those who treat their pets kindly are called "righteous" (Proverbs 12:10).
Horn notes the idea of pets in heaven is not some rogue notion among famous Christians, stating, "Billy Graham, C.S. Lewis, Mark Hitchcock, Dr. David Reagan, and hundreds of other clergy and theologians agree that the chances are very good our pets will be in heaven."
When Graham was once asked by a little girl whose dog had died that week whether her pet would be in heaven, he replied, "If it would make you any happier, then yes, he will be."
Horn also cites verses in Scripture stating it won't be just resurrected human beings offering praise to God in the future:
Animals are included with men as those who are commanded to praise the Lord! This was true in the Old Testament in places such as Psalms 148:10–13, where we read:
"Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl: Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth: Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children: Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven."
And this amazing fact – that animals praise the Lord – will also be true in the future, as they are seen offering praise unto the Lamb of God extending into eternity in Revelation 5:13:
"And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever."
But the idea that pets go to heaven or have a similar reward to obedient human servants of God is certainly not ubiquitous among faithful believers who study the Bible.
Among them is Philip Shields, a Christian speaker and online host of LightontheRock.org, who stresses there's a clear distinction in the book of Genesis at the time animals and mankind were created.
"Elohim (God) spoke all things – including animals – into existence," he explained. "But to mankind only did He breathe His breath into. All humans have a spirit in man, and that spirit goes back to God after our death. But not animals' spirits."
He cites Ecclesiastes 3:21, which states: "Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit (breath) of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?"
Shields says, "It is this spirit in man that gives us mind (Job 32:8), enabling there to be an interface with God's spirit so we can understand godly things, which animals don't. Animals have their own breath, ruach [in Hebrew], or spirit, but that goes back to the earth. Man is the only one that God did mouth-to-mouth on. That did not happen to hippopotamuses and alligators, or to dogs or cats. I think that's an important distinction, that they don't have the breath of God."
"I'd love to think my beloved Duchess would be resurrected or something, but I don't think so," he added.
"And where do you draw the line? Are the bad animals – maneaters, for example – burning in hell? Is every cockroach or mongoose or tarantula up there, too, by the billions and trillions? How about the trillions of ants and mosquitoes? And if not, why not?"
Shields also asks rhetorically, "Did Christ die for animals, too? Can animals sin?"
Anyone searching the Internet for answers about pets going to heaven will find no shortage of posts on the matter.
ClarifyingChristianity.com offers a study on the matter, and agrees animals will be present in God's coming kingdom. However, it points out "the question is 'Were these animals new creations or do these animals include reborn earthly creatures?'"
By the end of its treatment, the site says, "The Bible is silent regarding an afterlife for animals. However, we do have one hope. The key passage for this question does not deal with animals directly, but rather God's promise to those who inherit God's kingdom – those people who have gotten right with God and will go to heaven themselves. For them, the passage in 1 Corinthians chapter 2 [verse 9] applies:
"But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written: 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.'"
"Obviously, what God has prepared for us is wonderful beyond comprehension. Therefore, love your pets as much as you can while they are here. Those of us who go to heaven will later understand that everything worked out perfectly regarding our pets."