By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
One of the questions I have often wondered about, and which I myself have been asked by several individuals, is whether or not animals will be in Heaven.
Lots of people ask this question because they love animals. Some have told me that when their animals die, it is almost like losing a member of the family. I still remember the pain of the death of animals that were beloved pets in our home when I was growing up.
Dare we hope that animals may be in Heaven?
In examining this subject, we will ask and answer the following questions in this article:
Does God Care About Animals?
Do Animals Have Souls?
Does The Bible Teach Animals Will Be In Heaven?
Does God Care About Animals?
In the very first Book of the Bible, we learn some very important facts about animals.
Genesis 2:19-Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.
Please notice from this passage that God “formed” the animals, just as He “formed” Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:7). The word carries with it the idea of moulding something into a form, and was used to refer to a sculptor who made a beautiful masterpiece. This tells us that God put careful planning and care into His creation.
We also learn from this passage that God gave mankind the responsibility of naming the animals. This implies that God was going to put mankind “in charge” of the creation, which of course He did (Genesis 1:26-27).
There is another important thing to consider from the Book of Genesis in this regard. The Scriptures are clear that in the beginning, God made humans and animals to be vegetarian. We read:
Genesis 1:29-30-29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.
30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so.
It is not until many years later, AFTER the Global Flood, that we read of God authorizing mankind to utilize animals for food:
Genesis 9:3-Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.
Even with this provision in mind, we see several passages of Scripture which demonstrate clearly that God cares for animals.
When God was teaching Jonah about the importance of learning and showing mercy and lovingkindness, He brought up all of the people and animals which would have died in the city of Nineveh if Jonah had his way:
Jonah 4:11-And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?
We are reminded in several Scriptures that God provides for animals and preserves their lives:
Psalm 36:6-Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O LORD, You preserve man and beast.
Psalm 145:9-The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.
Psalm 147:9-He gives to the beast its food, And to the young ravens that cry.
Matthew 10:29-Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.
Do we not see in Numbers 22 the care and concern that God has for animals?
The prophet Balaam had disobeyed God and the Lord had sent an angel to kill him. Three times, the angel appeared to kill Balaam; yet his donkey saw the angel and turned aside, saving her master’s life. Each time, Balaam (who did not have the ability to see the angel) struck the donkey!
We are told:
Numbers 22:22-27-22 Then God’s anger was aroused because he went, and the Angel of the LORD took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him.
23 Now the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. So Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back onto the road.
24 Then the Angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side.
25 And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she pushed herself against the wall and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck her again.
26 Then the Angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.
27 And when the donkey saw the Angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam’s anger was aroused, and he struck the donkey with his staff.
When the angel appeared to Balaam, he told Balaam that his donkey had saved his life. We then are told these intriguing facts:
Numbers 22:32-33-32 And the Angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me.
33 The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live.”
Isn’t it interesting that the angel was furious with the way that Balaam had treated his donkey? These facts go to show me that God does, indeed, care about animals.
This passage also teaches us what God thinks about cruelty to animals. He is furious with sinners every day (Psalm 7:11), especially when they mistreat the creation over which He has placed us over as stewards (Psalm 8).
(On a side note: it is fascinating that Balaam’s donkey was able to see the angel of the Lord, even when Balaam couldn’t. Is it possible that animals are somehow able to see more in the spiritual world than we human beings? This passage certainly supports this notion!).
Do Animals Have Souls?
The next question to examine deals with whether or not animals have souls.
Now, to many in our materialistic generation and world, there will be an immediate denial that animals have souls. Even among Christians, there is usually quick denial that animals have souls.
Of course, this attitude is actually of “recent” origin. It wasn’t until the Enlightment of the seventeen century that doubt about the existence of the soul of animals became an issue in the West. Certainly, there are several passages of Scripture which teach that animals have souls. Notice that God in Genesis clearly tells us that animals have souls:
Genesis 1:30-Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life (nephesh), I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so.
Furthermore, there are several places where animals and humans alike are said to have the “breath of life” (a phrase similar to nephesh):
Genesis 6:17-17 And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die.
Genesis 7:15-And they went into the ark to Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life.
Genesis 7:21-23-21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man.
22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died.
23 So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive.
In the Book of Ecclesiastes, we are told about how animals and humans both have a spirit:
Ecclesiastes 3:21-Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?
In the Book of Revelation, we read of “souls” (Greek, psuche) being associated with animals:
Revelation 8:9-And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
Now, we need to be sure and notice that the soul of an animal is not the same “kind” of soul that human beings have.
For example, only mankind is said to be made in the image of God (Genesis 1;26-27).
Speaking of the differences between human and animal souls, philosopher J.P. Moreland has offered these intriguing insights:
“It is sometimes a surprise to people to learn that the Bible teaches that animals, no less than humans, have souls. In the Old Testament, nephesh (soul) and ruach (spirit) are used of animals in Genesis 1: 30 and Ecclesiastes 3: 21, respectively. In the New Testament, psuche (soul) is used of animals in Revelation 8: 9. Moreover, it is a matter of common sense that animals are not merely unconscious machines. Rather, they are conscious living beings with sensations, emotions (like fear), desires, and, at least for some animals, thoughts and beliefs. The history of Christian teaching is widely united in affirming the existence of the “souls of men and beasts” as it has sometimes been put. But what is the animal soul like? Let us consider this question. How do we decide what an animal’s soul is like? Obviously, we cannot inspect it directly. We cannot get inside an animal’s conscious life and just look at its internal states. The best approach seems to be this: Based on our direct awareness of our own inner lives, we should attribute to animals by analogy those states that are necessary to account for the animal’s behavior, nothing more and nothing less. 16 For example, if a dog steps on a thorn and then howls and holds up its paw, we are justified in attributing to the dog the same sort of state that happens in us just after we experience such a stick. The dog feels pain. Now the dog may also be having thoughts about his unfortunate luck in stepping on the thorn, but there is no adequate evidence for this if we stick to what we observe about the dog’s behavior. Such an attribution would be unjustified. An interesting implication of this approach is that as we move down the animal chain to creatures that are increasingly unlike humans—from primates to earthworms—we are increasingly unjustified in ascribing a mental life to those animals. Now an organism either does or does not have a conscious life; for example, a worm either does or does not feel pain. But we have more grounds for ascribing painful sensations to primates than to worms according to the methodology above. All living animals have souls if they have organic life, regardless of the degree to which they are conscious, but we are justified in attributing less and less to the animal soul as the animal in question bears a weaker analogy to us. In light of this methodology, what can we say about animal souls? Obviously, our answer will vary depending on the animal in question. But it seems reasonable to say that virtually all animals have certain sorts of sensations, for example, experiences of taste and pain. Many if not most animals seem to have desires as well, such as a desire for food. Many animals appear to engage in thinking and have certain sorts of beliefs. For example, a dog seems to be able to engage in means-to-ends reasoning. If he wants to go through a specific door to get food, and if the door is closed, he can select an alternative means to achieve the desired end. Many animals also engage in willings: that is, they will to do certain things, though there is no adequate evidence to suggest that they have libertarian freedom. It is more likely that an animal’s will is determined by its beliefs, desires, sensations, and bodily states. There are several capacities that animals do not seem to have. We have already mentioned libertarian freedom of the will. Animals also do not seem to have moral awareness. Animals do not seem to grasp key notions central to morality such as the notion of a virtue, of a duty, of another thing having intrinsic value and rights, of universalizing a moral judgment, and so on. They cannot distinguish between what they desire most and what is most desirable intrinsically. Alleged altruistic behavior can be explained on the basis of animal desire without attributing a sense of awareness of intrinsic duty to the animal. Animals, therefore, do not seem to be capable of having a conflict between desire and duty, though they can experience a conflict between desires (e.g., to scratch the chair and to avoid being spanked). Animals do not seem to be able to entertain various sorts of abstract thoughts, for example, thoughts about matter in general or about love in general or even about food in general. Moreover, animals do not seem to be able to distinguish between true universal judgments (all alligators are dangerous) and mere statistical generalizations (most alligators are dangerous) nor do they have a concept of truth itself. While this is controversial and I may be wrong in this judgment, animals do not seem to possess language. 17 One problem that keeps people from getting clear about this is the presence of certain ambiguities about what language is. More specifically, the question of animal language cannot be adequately discussed without drawing a distinction between a sign and a symbol. A sign is a sense-perceptible object, usually a shaped thing like the characters “BANANA” or a sound (the utterance of “BANANA”). Now if an animal (or a human infant for that matter) comes to experience repeatedly the simultaneous presence of a sign (the visual presentation of BANANA) and the presence of a real banana, a habitual association will be set up such that the animal will anticipate the sense perception of a real banana shortly after seeing this shape: BANANA. In the case of the animal, BANANA does not represent or mean a banana, so it is not a symbol. Rather, BANANA is merely a certain geometrically perceived shape that comes to be associated with a banana in such a way that the latter is anticipated when the former is observed. By contrast, real language requires symbols and not mere signs. When language users use the word banana, it is used to represent, mean, and refer to actual bananas. Now the evidence suggests that animals have certain abilities to manipulate and behaviorally respond to signs, but it is far from clear that they have a concept of symbols. One reason for this claim is the lack in animals of grammatical creativity and logical thought about language itself that is present in real language users. Finally, St. Augustine once noted that animals have desires, but they do not have desires to have desires. They may have beliefs, volitions, thoughts, and sensations, but they do not seem to have beliefs about their beliefs, they do not choose to work on their choices, they don’t think about their thinking, and they are not aware of their awarenesses. Nor do they seem to be aware of themselves as selves. In short, they do not seem to be able to transcend their own states and engage in reflection about their own selves and the states within them. Animals are precious creatures of God and ought to be respected as such. But the animal soul is not as richly structured as the human soul, it does not bear the image of God, and it is far more dependent on the animal’s body and its sense organs than is the human soul.” (J.P. Moreland, The Soul: How We Know It’s Real And Why It Matters, 140-144 (Kindle Edition); Chicago; Moody Publishers)
These passages teach us that animals have some kind of “soul.”
Will Animals Be In Heaven?
We could make an argument from the answers to the two previous questions that animals will be in Heaven.
If God loves animals, and if animals have souls, then why would we NOT assume they will be in Heaven?
“The simplest answer is: Why not? How irrational is the prejudice that would allow plants (green fields and flowers) but not animals into Heaven! 69 Much more reasonable is C. S. Lewis’ speculation that we will be “between the angels who are our elder brothers and the beasts who are our jesters, servants, and playfellows”. 70 Scripture seems to confirm this: “thy judgments are like the great deep; man and beast thou savest, O Lord”. 71 Animals belong in the “new earth” 72 as much as trees. C. S. Lewis supposes that animals are saved “in” their masters, as part of their extended family. 73 Only tamed animals would be saved in this way. It would seem more likely that wild animals are in Heaven too, since wildness, otherness, not-mine-ness, is a proper pleasure for us. 74 The very fact that the seagull takes no notice of me when it utters its remote, lonely call is part of its glory. Would the same animals be in Heaven as on earth? “Is my dead cat in Heaven?” Again, why not? God can raise up the very grass; 75 why not cats? Though the blessed have better things to do than play with pets, the better does not exclude the lesser. We were meant from the beginning to have stewardship over the animals; 76 we have not fulfilled that divine plan yet on earth; therefore it seems likely that the right relationship with animals will be part of Heaven: proper “pet-ship”. And what better place to begin than with already petted pets?” (Peter Kreeft, Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Heaven-But Never Dreamed Of Asking, 483-494 (Kindle Edition); San Francisco, CA; Ignatius Press)
While there is a strong argument for animals being in Heaven from the above cited information, there are at least two passages of Scripture that we will consider which directly touch upon this issue.
The first passage is from the Book of Psalms. In the 104th Psalm, David describes the incredible creation of God.
Speaking of various animals in the creation (birds, storks, wild goats, rock badgers, lions, leviathan, all the bearcats of the forest, etc.) and how God provides for them, we are told:
Psalm 104:37-30-27 These all wait for You, That You may give them their food in due season.
28 What You give them they gather in; You open Your hand, they are filled with good.
29 You hide Your face, they are troubled; You take away their breath, THEY DIE and return to their dust.
30 You send forth Your Spirit, THEY ARE CREATED; And You RENEW THE FACE OF THE EARTH.
Did you catch that friends?
David describes the death of the animals, and then he describes their living again.
Furthermore, the text tells us that this is connected with the renewing of the face of the earth. Throughout Scripture, we are told about the promise of God that there will be “new heavens and a new earth” which will be accomplished at the Second Coming of Christ (2 Peter 3:9-13; Revelation 21:1-5).
Whatever this “new heaven and new earth” is, it would appear from this Psalm that it will include the bringing forth of the animals who have died.
The commentary of the famous preacher Adam Clarke on this passage are insightful:
“Do not these words plainly imply a resurrection of the bodies which have died, been dissolved, or turned to dust? And is not the brute creation principally intended here? Is it not on this account it is said, Psa 104:31, “the glory of the Lord shall endure for ever, (לעולם leolam),” to be manifest in those times which are secret, when Jehovah himself shall rejoice in his works; when the brute creation shall be delivered from the bondage of its corruption? See the notes on Rom 8:19-23.”
The second passage to which I would call your attention is from the Book of Romans.
In the context, the Apostle Paul is talking about how the redemption of the children of God is. When Adam sinned, the entire creation of God was cursed (Genesis 3:17-19). Now, because of what Jesus has done-and because of what He WILL DO-the reation has hope again. We are told:
Romans 8:19-22-19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;
21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
Notice that Paul teaches the entire creation itself “will be delivered” at the time of the Second Coming when God’s people are fully redeemed in “the glory which shall be revealed” (Romans 8:18).
What exactly is “the creation” that Paul talks about?
“Creation is a significant term in this text. It cannot refer to redeemed believers because “the children of God” is one group distinct from “creation” itself. Creation yearns to experience the “freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Neither does it refer to angelic entities because they were never subjected to futility or enslaved to decay. It also does not refer to unbelievers because they are not delivered from the “bondage to decay.” Consequently, what Paul means by creation is the cosmos, which is Abraham’s inheritance (Rom. 4: 13). Creation refers to the heavens and the earth, which God subjected to futility in the wake of the original couple’s sin. This is the “curse” of Genesis 3. The world God created, though subjected to futility and enslaved to decay, is redeemed—like humanity itself, including “the redemption of our bodies”—from death through the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. Creation—the animals, trees, oceans, and skies—is the object of God’s redemption through the resurrection of Jesus….At the same time, the redemption of creation is not merely a return to what it once was. Redemption moves creation along to the purposes God had for creation initially. God’s creation will be free from sin, free from corruption, and free from death, and thus free to fully become what God intended in the beginning….The gospel is the story of how God fulfills the promises to Abraham in Jesus the Messiah. The gospel is the hope of Israel, which is resurrection. Resurrection proves God has not given up on creation or its purposes. The gospel is a message of salvation for not only Jews and Gentiles but the whole of creation. It is the message of the resurrected Lord, the resurrection of our mortal human bodies in the power of the Spirit, and the resurrected earth, as the redeemed live in communion with the Triune God. These three wonders are seamlessly sewn together in Paul’s biblical narrative.” (John Mark Hicks, Bobby Valentine, & and Mark Wilson, Embracing Creation: God’s Forgotten Mission, 1482-1500 (Kindle Edition); Abilene, TX; Abilene Christian University Press)
Several passages of Scripture tie together the animals in the world with the creation that suffers as a result of man’s sin. Furthermore, these passages indicate a “hope” for redemption, which Paul may have had in mind when he wrote his passage in Romans 8. Consider:
Joel 1:18-20-18 How the animals groan! The herds of cattle are restless, Because they have no pasture; Even the flocks of sheep suffer punishment.
19 O LORD, to You I cry out; For fire has devoured the open pastures, And a flame has burned all the trees of the field.
20 The beasts of the field also cry out to You, For the water brooks are dried up, And fire has devoured the open pastures.
Jeremiah 12:4-How long will the land mourn, And the herbs of every field wither? The beasts and birds are consumed, For the wickedness of those who dwell there, Because they said, “He will not see our final end.”
With these things in mind, the insights of one author who carefully studied these matters, deserve our attention:
“During my pet search, a gentle voice behind my mind seemed to whisper, “Read Romans 8.” I had read this chapter before, but now something beckoned toward a closer look. After paging my way to this New Testament section, this is what I found:…These words deserve careful consideration. In fact, this has become one of my main there-might-be-hope-for-Jax sections. In my Bible prophecy seminars, I always encourage my audiences to put away preconceived opinions and to pay close attention to the text—to the actual words of God. Only then can we really understand the message of truth. If we look closely at Romans 8: 19–23, the concepts are truly amazing. Paul revealed how Adam’s sin affected the “whole creation” (v. 22), which must include the animals, too. Yet sin will not continue forever. In the interim, the “creature itself” (v. 21) is portrayed as “eagerly waiting” (v. 19), in “hope” (v. 20), while yet “groaning … in pain” (v. 22) until the full restoration after the second coming of Jesus Christ. Then “the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (v. 21).” (Steve Wohlberg, Will My Pet Go To Heaven? 798-810 (Kindle Edition); Roseville, CA; Amazing Facts)
Will animals be in Heaven?
Based on the testimony of Scripture, I absolutely believe so.
The question is: will YOU be in Heaven?
Friends, we have a serious problem that animals don’t share with us: human beings are sinners. When we choose to break the Law of God, we separate ourselves from Him (Isaiah 59:1-2). This is why animals (as well as unaccountable human beings such as infants, small children, and mentally handicapped individuals-see Ezekiel 18:20; 28:15; John 9:41; 15:22) do not need to be saved. They have no need for salvation, for they were never lost; they are SAFE.
Yet Jesus Christ came to bring salvation to mankind (John 3;16). He died on the cross of Calvary, paid the debt for our sins, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Will you not today, as a believer in Jesus (John 8:24) repent of your sins (Luke 13:3), confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God (1 Timothy 6:12-13), and be baptized into Him to be forgiven (Acts 2:38)?
If you are a child of God who has turned your back on the Lord through sin, will you not right now-at this very moment-repent of your sin, confessing it to the Lord in prayer so you may be restored and forgiven again (1 John 1:8-2:2)?
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.