Animals in the Afterlife

Animals in the Afterlife May 18, 2020

My fellow Patheos blogger Mark Driscoll has written a fascinating post entitled Will My Pet Be in the Kingdom of Heaven?

Most arguments on the topic that I’ve heard are variations of “in Heaven we’ll be happy, and how can I be happy without my pet?”  But Pastor Driscoll actually digs into the Bible and cites evidence that animals–indeed, our pets–may be part of the afterlife.

First of all, let’s reframe the issue a little.  It isn’t whether there will be dogs in Heaven.  It’s whether there will be dogs at the Resurrection.

I think it’s pretty clear that animals do not have immortal souls, as human beings do.  When we die, our spirits go to be with the Lord or to judgment (2 Corinthians 5:1-10;Hebrews 9:27).  When animals die, their spirits go to the earth, to the dust (Ecclesiastes 3:21; Psalm 104:29). But at Christ’s return at the end of the age, the dead will rise. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).  God will give us new, incorruptible bodies (1 Corinthians 15).

So in the course of this new creation, this “new heaven and new earth” (Revelaton 21:1), the question is, will God make animals, as He did the first time?  Might He even remake animals, as He will human beings?  Might He even remake the animals we have known, that is, our pets?

Pastor Driscoll thinks so.  Read why at his post.

Briefly, he cites Biblical texts that show God’s lordship over animals (Psalm 50:10-11) and that He cares about animals (Proverbs 12:10).  He might have added the passages that speak about God’s providential involvement in the life, sustenance, and death of all of his creatures, giving food to the young lions, whales, and the “teeming” life in the ocean (Psalm 104) and attending to every sparrow that falls (Matthew 10:29).

Then he brings up something that I had never thought of before.  He points out that in the flood God saved not only Noah but animals.  Not only that, after the flood, God made a covenant not only with the human race but with the animals (my bolds):

 Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you,  and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:  I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,  I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.  When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”  God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”  (Genesis 9: 9-17).

So God makes an everlasting covenant with animals!  Animals can be part of an everlasting covenant with God!  And, I would add, since the New Testament describes what happened with Noah as a type of our salvation (1 Peter 3:20-22), such a covenant may be relevant to our question.

But Pastor Driscoll’s best evidence is a text that directly states that there will be what we would define as pets in the Kingdom of God.  I’ll quote him directly:

There will be pets in Heaven. Isaiah 11:6-8 says, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them….The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.” Yes, kids will have pet wolves, leopards, lions and cobras in Heaven with no risk of any harm.

But isn’t this just a figure of speech to express the peace that Christ will bring?  Maybe.  The context is certainly a prophecy of Christ, so that the “little child” may well refer to the Christ child, whose authority and power over demonic serpents is absolute.  And yet we should not always jump too quickly away from a literal reading of Scripture.  The more general meanings may well rest on particular meanings.

Then there are theological reasons to consider.  All of the animals slaughtered for food over the centuries have sacrificed their lives for human beings.  It would make sense if God raised them back to life.  Animals didn’t sin.  We did.  At our Fall, we dragged down our fellow living creatures, whom we were supposed to take care of, bringing suffering and death to them as well.  Perhaps our salvation would mean salvation for them as well.  It would make sense that, when Nature is restored and put right, animals would be included with the redeemed natural order.

So what do you think?  Will there be animals in the new creation?  Will there be the same animals, recreated, that have lived in the old creation?

I know, I know, this is rank speculation, though if the Bible addresses it, we should be able to consider it.

And we must make one more important point:  Though the afterlife will surely involve the communion of the saints–including communion with our loved ones–and might include communion with other living things, as we enjoyed in the Garden, our biggest joy will be communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

Illustration by Beverly & Pack via Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0.

 


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