Do Dogs and Animals go to Heaven? (Isaiah 11, 60 and 65)
Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, January 29, 2023
We have always had a love for animals, haven’t we?
I remember a Twilight Zone episode about a man and his dog.
Hyder Simpson is an elderly mountain man who lives with his wife Rachel and his hound dog Rip in the backwoods. Rachel does not like having the dog indoors, but Rip saved Hyder’s life once and Hyder refuses to part with him. Rachel has seen some bad omens recently and warns Hyder not to go raccoon hunting that night. When Rip dives into a pond after a raccoon, Hyder jumps in after him, but only the raccoon comes up out of the water. The next morning, Hyder and Rip wake up next to the pond. When they return home, Hyder finds that neither Rachel, the preacher, nor the neighbors can hear him or see him; they are under the impression that he has died.
Walking along the road, Hyder and Rip encounter an unfamiliar fence and begin to follow it. They come to a gate tended by a man, who Hyder initially believes to be Saint Peter. Explaining that he is only a gatekeeper, the man explains that Hyder can enter the Elysian Fields of the afterlife. Simpson is appreciative, but disheartened to hear that neither raccoon hunting nor any of his other usual pleasures can be found inside. Told that Rip cannot enter and will be taken elsewhere, Hyder angrily declines the offer of entry and decides to keep walking along the “Eternity Road,” saying, “Any place that’s too high-falutin’ for Rip is too fancy for me.”
Later, Hyder and Rip stop to rest and are met by a young man, who introduces himself as an angel dispatched to find them and bring them to Heaven. When Hyder explains his previous encounter, the angel tells him that the gate was actually the entrance to Hell. The gatekeeper had stopped Rip from entering because Rip would have smelled the brimstone inside and warned Hyder that something was wrong. The angel says, “You see, Mr. Simpson, a man, well, he’ll walk right into Hell with both eyes open. But even the Devil can’t fool a dog!”
As the angel leads Hyder along the Eternity Road toward Heaven, the angel tells Hyder that a square dance and raccoon hunt are scheduled for that night. He also assures Hyder that Rachel, who will soon be coming along the road, will not be misled into entering Hell.
The closing narration is:
“Travelers to unknown regions would be well advised to take along the family dog. He could just save you from entering the wrong gate. At least, it happened that way once—in a mountainous area of the Twilight Zone.”
I wonder if our love for animals is because God created animals and He created animals as part of Eden.
Genesis 1:30 (ESV)
And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
This passage references animals in the Garden of Eden and also references the “breath of life in them.” Animals were in paradise when God first created it prior to the fall of man. In the eternal Heaven, in Revelation 22 it seems that that Heaven reflects the first Garden of Eden. We will see a Tree of Life again in verse 2 as there was a tree of life in the first Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9). We see a river in the eternal Heaven in Revelation 22:1. We see two rivers in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:10 and 13. It does seem that the eternal New Jerusalem Heaven is going to be like the Garden of Eden was meant to be, only much better. It would seem that since animals were in the first garden they will be with us in eternity. Let’s talk about this for a moment.
My Theme today:
Animals were created by God as part of paradise and that will continue into the new creation.
I hope this is encouraging for you.
- Let’s start by talking about souls. Do animals have souls?
- Let me lay my cards on the table. I like animals, I really do. I really like pigs because they give us bacon. I like chicken because they give us eggs. I like a good steak as well. In seriousness, I love to hear the birds in the morning. I love to watch deer. I grew up with tropical fish and I have had aquariums as large as 135 gallons. While serving my last church I had a 55-gallon aquarium in my office with African Cichlids. Even with all of that, as I began this research I was reluctant to think that our pets are in heaven. On that note, let’s continue with this message.
- When God breathed a spirit into Adam’s body, made from the earth, Adam became nephesh, a “living being” or “soul” (Genesis 2:7).
- Randy Alcorn shares: Remarkably, the same Hebrew word, nephesh, is used for animals and for people. We are specifically told that not only people, but animals have “the breath of life” in them (Genesis 1:30; 2:7; 6:17; 7:15, 22). God hand-made animals, linking them both to the earth and humanity.
- Am I suggesting animals have souls? Certainly they do not have human souls. Animals aren’t created in God’s image, and they aren’t equal to humans in any sense. Nonetheless, there’s a strong biblical case for animals having non-human souls. I didn’t take this seriously until I studied the usage of the Hebrew and Greek words nephesh and psyche, often translated “soul” when referring to humans. (Nephesh is translated psyche in the Septuagint.) The fact that these words are often used of animals is compelling evidence that they have non-human souls. That’s what most Christians in the past believed. In their book Beyond Death, Gary Habermas and J. P. Moreland point out, “It wasn’t until the advent of seventeenth-century Enlightenment . . . that the existence of animal souls was even questioned in Western civilization. Throughout the history of the church, the classic understanding of living things has included the doctrine that animals, as well as humans, have souls.”
- So, it seems that they do have some sort of a soul.
- How will people and animals relate?
- It seems that we will relate similarly to the way we were to relate in the Garden of Eden.
- Randy Alcorn shares: God created us to be stewards of animals. He holds us accountable for how we treat them. “The godly are concerned for the welfare of their animals” (Proverbs 12: 10, NLT). We are caretakers for the animals, but they belong to God, not us: “For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. Every bird of the mountains and all the animals of the field belong to me” (Psalm 50: 10-11, NLT). Some people regard emotional attachment to animals as a modern development. But many cultures’ historical records demonstrate otherwise. The prophet Nathan spoke to King David of the poor man who had a little lamb “who shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him” (2 Samuel 12: 3). There’s no suggestion this man’s affection for his pet was inappropriate. David, unaware the story was told to expose his own sin, angrily responded that the man who stole the precious pet deserved to die. We needn’t speculate how God might populate a perfect Earth. He populated Eden with animals, under the rule of people. God doesn’t make mistakes.
- Will animals praise God:
- This is new to me. I never thought of animals praising God.
- Consider the psalms. Psalm 148 commands all of creation to praise the Lord, including the animals: Psalm 148:10–12 (ESV)
10Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds!
11Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
12Young men and maidens together, old men and children!
- If in some sense fallen animals, shadows of what they once were, can praise God on this fallen Earth, how much more should we expect them to do so on the New Earth? “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6)
- We’re told eight times in Revelation of “living creatures” in the present Heaven: “Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’. . . The living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne” (Revelation 4: 8-9).
- Randy Alcorn writes about this: The word translated “living creatures” is zoon. Throughout most of the New Testament the word is translated “animal” and is used to indicate animals sacrificed in the Temple and wild, irrational animals (Hebrews 13:11; 2 Peter 2:12; Jude 1:10). In the Old Testament, the Septuagint used zoon to translate the Hebrew words for animals, including the “living creatures” of the sea (Genesis 1:21; Ezekiel 47:9). In extrabiblical writings, zoon commonly referred to ordinary animals and was used of the Egyptians’ divine animals and the mythological bird called the Phoenix (1 Clement 25:2-3). In virtually every case inside and outside of Scripture, this word means not a person, not an angel, but an animal.
- In the book “Heaven” Alcorn gets into greater detail. It is amazing to think that animals will praise God alongside us.
- It could even be possible that in a restored creation animals can talk.
- Will animals be resurrected?
- I can get into greater detail about animals and pets, but we will stop with this part.
- Psalm 104 is all about animals and then we get to verse 30 and it references renewing them. This seems to mean that they are resurrected in Heaven.
- It seems that it glorified God more by restoring than recreating. When God makes things right in eternity it is as if God is saying, “I can show you things can be redeemed.” God will redeem all things.
- If animals are resurrected this means your pet may be in Heaven as well.
- However, this is the part of today’s message I am least confident in.
- I am confident that animals will be in heaven, that is clear from Scripture, but I am not as confident that they are resurrected animals.
- A few thoughts:
- Heaven will be awesome with or without your pet.
- Heaven will be with God in paradise.
- Secondly: DON’T discourage people from grieving the loss of an animal. That is appropriate. God created animals for us, and we are sad when they leave us.
- I believe the Bible teaches us not to abuse animals. We are to take care of them.
- Romans 8 teaches us that all creation is waiting redemption, and this includes animals.
- In many of his writings, C. S. Lewis commented on the future of animals. He said, “It seems to me possible that certain animals may have an immortality, not in themselves, but in the immortality of their masters. . . . Very few animals indeed, in their wild state, attain to a ‘self’ or ego. But if any do, and if it is agreeable to the goodness of God that they should live again, their immortality would also be related to man— not, this time, to individual masters, but to humanity.” In The Great Divorce, Lewis portrayed Sarah Smith, a woman ordinary on Earth, as great in Heaven. On Earth she loved both people and animals. In Heaven she’s surrounded by the very animals she cared for on Earth.
- In her excellent book about Heaven, Joni Eareckson Tada says, “If God brings our pets back to life, it wouldn’t surprise me. It would be just like Him. It would be totally in keeping with His generous character. . . . Exorbitant. Excessive. Extravagant in grace after grace. Of all the dazzling discoveries and ecstatic pleasures heaven will hold for us, the potential of seeing Scrappy would be pure whimsy— utterly, joyfully, surprisingly superfluous. . . . Heaven is going to be a place that will refract and reflect in as many ways as possible the goodness and joy of our great God, who delights in lavishing love on His children.”
- Heaven will be more amazing than anything we can imagine. Look forward to Heaven.
- Now, the greatest of applications, this series is about heaven and heaven is possible for us because of Jesus’ shed blood on the cross.
- Whenever we talk about heaven, we must put this in the context of creation-fall-redemption-restoration. Currently, we live in a fallen world. We suffer because of the fall, because of depravity. Animals also suffer because of the fall. However, Jesus redeemed us and so we are looking forward for restoration. Someday God will make everything right. This does include animal life. It may or may not be your pets, but it will include animals without suffering. This is all because of God’s grace.
- God freely gifts us salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection. That separates Christianity from the other religions. Other religions are about our good works earning us heaven, or a better reincarnation, but Christianity is about what Jesus has done to gift us life in paradise.
- The question is will you be in heaven.
- 2 Corinthians 13:5 (ESV)
- 5Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
Do you know Christ?
God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)
 Alcorn, Randy (2011-12-08). Heaven (Alcorn, Randy) (Kindle Locations 7430-7439). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.