This is a fun question, and a popular one among pet lovers:
Do animals go to heaven?
For the record, I love animals, and I love pet lovers! I understand the difficulties of losing our furry friends. I grew up on a small farm and have experienced the death of animals quite regularly: from goldfish, dogs, and birds to cows, goats, and snakes (that I killed myself). In case you’re wondering, I’ve always been a dog person.
But, let’s be honest. Doesn’t this question seem a little selfish? I don’t mean to be insensitive, but I think we should take a God-centered look at this issue. What I mean is, many people who ask this question are looking for a type of comfort in knowing that Fluffy will be faithfully waiting at the door of eternity when they get there. Now, there’s nothing wrong with missing your furry best friend, but shouldn’t the idea of being in God’s overwhelmingly glorious presence diminish our wanting of anything else? The problem is all we know — all that we relate to — is what we’ve experienced in this
life. We cannot fathom the immeasurable goodness and delight of that day when we worship at the feet of Jesus.
Another example of our human-limited thinking is found in Matthew 22 when the Sadducees question Jesus about marriage after our resurrection. Silly Sadducees, there is no marriage in the resurrection (see Jesus’ response in Matt 22:30); we’re all brothers and sisters! (This may burst someone’s bubble. For that, I’m sorry.) My point is, we may need to adjust our thinking. (Isaiah 55:9) Regardless, let’s address our original question. When we ask “do animals go to heaven,” I think we’re really asking “does my pet go to heaven
.” This would be a flawed question.
- First of all, are we just concerned that our golden retriever goes to heaven? What about our goldfish? Or the ant farm, the tarantulas, snakes, mice, etc. In other words, do certain types of pets get heavenly privilege over others?
- Secondly, why aren’t we concerned whether or not non-pet animals go to heaven? (e.g. vultures, whales, bats, electric eels, geese, armadillos, poisonous caterpillars, slugs, and so on)
- Third, if we’re asking if animals go to heaven, why aren’t we asking about plants?! They’re living things too. Sure, they don’t have a brain, but neither do jellyfish!
Never-mind the fallacies behind the question for now, LET’S ACTUALLY TRY TO ANSWER IT!
While scripture does not directly answer this question, I do believe it gives us some clues:
- Mankind is made in God’s image (spiritual beings) and given dominion over the animals – that is, to take care of them. (Gen 1:26)
- Men are to fear God, animals are to fear man. (Gen 9:2)
- God gave us animals to eat (Gen 9:3) and for other resources.
- God appointed certain animals for sacrifices. (Num 6:14)
- Certainly, God cares about the animals, they are part of His Creation after-all, but He cares much more for His prized Creation: humans. (Luke 12:24)
- We are commanded to not kill other humans (spiritual beings in God’s image) but never told not to kill animals. (Ex 20:13)
- My favorite – Jesus did not appear to be concerned for the spiritual well-being (or lives) of 2,000 pigs when He cast demons into them. (Mark 5:13)
- We are to preach the gospel to all mankind (Matt 28:19-20). Jesus never taught concerning the salvation of animals.
- Jesus surrendered His life to redeem mankind, not animals. (Eph 1:7)
From these examples above, we can determine that 1) God created man superior to animals, 2) God seeks a special relationship with humans, not animals, and 3) animals have no need of salvation. Now, looking at the previous list, you may notice that nothing mentioned what happens to animals after they die. This is correct. While it doesn’t directly address our question, it does raise the question: WHY would animals go to heaven?
(besides our me-istic wanting?)
Just saying: if there’s no death in heaven and all animals that have ever existed are on their way there, that’s a lot of mice!
I am NOT saying that no animals exist in heaven. Certainly, the Creator of all things will create and do as He wishes! If He wants animals in heaven, there are animals in heaven (probably unlike anything we’ve ever seen!). Yes, there are scriptures that mention animals in heaven, but most of these scriptures are visions or prophecies and mostly symbolic. (One exception to this is 2 Kings 6 where Elisha is surrounded by God’s “horses and chariots of fire!”)
Now, let’s go a step further. Keep in mind that God gifted man with free will and the ability to reason. That means we have the choice of A) accepting Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, believing by faith, and living our lives for Him, or B) living a life of sin, rejecting God, and being eternally separated from Him. Check out what Peter says when talking about false teachers:
But these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish.
2 Peter 2:12 NIV
Now we seem to be getting somewhere! As far as I can tell, this is our biggest clue to answering our question of whether our furry friends are curled up around God’s armchair.
Why is this important?
I’ve heard many people say that their pet will be in heaven, because “God wants me happy and there’s only happiness in heaven.” Therefore, because it will make them happier, God will surely give them their pet for eternity. Let me caution you, this is a good sign that you’re finding your “happiness” in the wrong things, and the only
reason you should be looking forward to eternity is to be with our Lord. Think about this: was heaven created for you or for God? (He did place Adam and Eve on Earth after-all.)
If the idea of possibly not having your pet in eternity bothers you, I encourage you to reevaluate your spiritual priorities and realign your heart to His. I’ll remind you of 2 Corinthians 12:9 when the Lord told Paul “My grace is sufficient for you.” Yes, God deeply cares for you (and the animals), but do not forget nor neglect His Lordship, and never think any of this is about you (or your happiness). It’s all about Him.
So, what’s the verdict?
While perhaps these clues may still feel inconclusive, I lean toward believing animals do not
go to heaven when they die. One more item to consider: When God saw that wickedness covered the earth (Gen 6:5), He decided to wipe the slate clean with a great flood. Does it seem right to assume that all the people that died in that flood went to hell while all the animals went to heaven? Or perhaps all the animals went nowhere and simply perished? I believe they simply returned to the dust from which they came.
But, I could be wrong…
Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?
Ecclesiastes 3:21 ESV
You decide! If you’re totally offended or completely agree, comment below!