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Do Pets Go To Heaven?

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This question probably enters the mind of every pet owner, especially when they lose a beloved pet companion. We have pets that have personalities and feelings, and can think and reason. It seems as though whatever it is that makes each pet unique (a soul) is like that which makes each human unique. Therefore, we wonder if pets (or any other animals) go to heaven.

Before going on, it is most important to state that if pets do go to heaven, their owners will also have to go to heaven to see them. The Bible makes it clear that the majority of people will not go to heaven—see Matthew chapter 7, verses 13 and 14 (Mat 7:13,14) for one example. Therefore, it is critical that we remind everyone that they need to get right with God themselves or their chances of seeing a departed pet again are zero.

There are numerous examples of animals associated with heaven (including 2 Kings 2:11, Revelation 5:13 and 19:11-14) or the “new creation” (Isaiah 65:17-25). Still, the question is “were these animals new creations or do these animals include reborn earthly creatures?” Let’s look at the facts.

  • Both mankind and animals are formed from the ground (Genesis 2:7, 19). This reveals that the physical bodies of both are similar, but it does not tell us about their immortality.
  • God’s covenant with Noah included both people and animals (Genesis 9:9-11). However, that covenant was not one of eternal life, but that He would not again destroy the earth with a flood.
  • The fourth commandment as recorded in Deuteronomy 5:12-15 includes a Sabbath rest for animals as well as people. Again, it reveals some equality between people and animals, but makes no statement regarding animals going to heaven.
  • God takes care of both men and animals (see Matthew 6:26 and Psalm 104—verses 14 and 27-30 in particular). Although death is mentioned in Psalm 104:29, we learn nothing regarding an afterlife.
  • At some future time, Christ (a Rod from the stem of Jesse) will bring about a time of peace where all animals and man will be in harmony (Isaiah 11:1-9). Still, the description is not necessarily of heaven, and these animals are not necessarily reborn animals.

Notice the recurring theme, although animals are our “equals” in some ways, none of these passages tells us anything about whether an animal has eternal life.

Some writers claim that “all things” in passages like Acts 3:19-21, Philippians 3:20,21, Hebrews 2:8, and Revelation 21:5 include animals. The passage in Romans 8:18-25 certainly does include animals as part of “the creation.” Still, none of these passages reveals that the animals and plants included in “the creation” are reborn rather than newly created.

Ephesians 1:3-14 is a passage that speaks of redemption through Christ’s sacrifice. (Redemption concerns setting someone or something free that belonged to another.) Specifically, verse 10 states “that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.” Here, “all things” is universal—spiritual and material. That is, this passage is speaking about bringing everything back to a perfect “Genesis chapter 1” condition. Again, this does not directly comment on the eternal life of animals.

A Special Comment—This Topic’s Most Popular Passage

Probably the most commonly cited passage used for “proof” that animals go to heaven is Ecclesiastes chapter 3, verses 18-22. Since it is so commonly cited, we will examine Ecclesiastes chapter 3 in some detail.

First, King Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes. He was (next to Christ) the wisest man to walk the earth. He was also the wealthiest person in the world and could have anything he wanted. As a result, he experimented with everything that this world could offer him. It takes little reading in the book of Ecclesiastes to learn the conclusion: all that the world could provide was meaningless.

Next, let’s look at Ecclesiastes chapter 3, verses 10 and 11:

    10 I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied.
    11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.

Here we learn that God put eternity into the hearts of people. This makes a distinction between man and beast—not a physical distinction, but a spiritual one. (Notice the contrast with the other Bible passages dealing with animals. They do not refer to eternity or immortality.)

Next, verses 15 to 17 reveal that judgment is coming for wicked people:

    15 That which is has already been,
    And what is to be has already been;
    And God requires an account of what is past.

    16 Moreover I saw under the sun:

    In the place of judgment,
    Wickedness was there;
    And in the place of righteousness,
    Iniquity was there.

    17 I said in my heart,

    “God shall judge the righteous and the wicked,
    For there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.”

Of course, the average Jew (the original readers of this Bible text) probably thought, “this does not apply to me,” since they believed that physically being born a Jew (God’s chosen people) was their guarantee of entrance into heaven. Therefore, the text continues:

    18 I said in my heart, “Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.”
    19 For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity.
    20 All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.

This puts the Jewish reader “in his place” (along with the rest of us). In verses 18-20, the perspective is clearly that of a physical comparison of man to animals. (Solomon already made the spiritual distinction of man in verses 10 and 11.) Now in verses 18-20, we see that both have breath, both die, and both go back to dust. These physical comparisons point towards a completely meaningless existence (from a physical or worldly perspective).

With the a spiritual distinction made in verses 10-11, and the physical comparison made in verses 18-20, we now come to verses 21 and 22. They ask two questions that bring the reader to the point of the entire chapter (and the entire book of Ecclesiastes, for that matter).

Question one:
21 Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?

Answer: The “who” is God.

Question two:
22 So I perceived that nothing is better than that a man should rejoice in his own works, for that is his heritage.[1] For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?

Answer: Again, the “who” is God.

That is the point of Ecclesiastes: this world and what it has to offer us is meaningless by itself, therefore turn towards God, where you can find meaning. As Ecclesiastes states in chapter 12, verse 13:

    Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

    Fear God and keep His commandments,
    For this is man’s all.

[1] Note: People’s works only have to be their (meaningless) heritage if they ignore God. Anyone who gets right with God will have an eternal existence with Him forever in his kingdom. This is a heritage worth having.

So, where does that leave us? It leaves us with the truth—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 applies:

    7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory,
    8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
    9 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.

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