Q: #351. Do pets go to Heaven when they die?
By: Steve Shirley
A: This is a very sensitive topic to many, and one of the most often asked Biblical questions. I'll be honest here and say that the primary reason I have not addressed this to this point is because I am not really a "pet person." I have never owned a pet (other than a fish), and really have never desired to have one. For that reason, I felt that I might not answer this question with the same sensitivity as those who have lost pets. But, I feel like it is time to address this question, so here we go.
First off, almost anyone addressing this topic must admit that the Bible really has nothing to say about this. Those who make a case for, or against, pets being in Heaven, do so by conjecture. Honestly, I do not believe in the times that the Bible was written, this was even a thought. Historically, while there is evidence that some people may have had pets thousands of years ago, widespread pet ownership like we have today is a relatively new phenomena (especially having indoor pets). Most people in the past didn't have pets. So, they likely never gave much thought as to whether animals would go to Heaven or not when they died. In fact, and I know that this may upset many of you, dogs were a despised animal in Bible times. They are mentioned 41 times in the Bible, and always spoken of unfavorably. They are compared to prostitutes (Deut 23:18), greedy men (Isa 56:10), and evil men (Phil 3:2)(Rev 22:15). And, cats are never mentioned at all in the Bible.
Ok, having gotten that unpleasantness out of the way, let's move on. The Bible does show at least the possibility of animals in Heaven. For example, God sent down horses pulling "chariots of fire" twice (2 Kin 2:11)(2 Kin 6:17). Jesus is pictured riding a "white horse" at His Second Coming (Rev 19:11), and 4 horses are mentioned in (Rev 6:1-8)(also see: Zech 14:20). There are also animals spoken of in the millennial kingdom (Isa 11:6-9)(Isa 65:17-25). But, the question is, just because there is a decent chance that animals could be in Heaven, does this apply to our pets being there too? There is just no real way to know this.
However, there are many scholars out there who say "Yes" to this question. Let me share a few reasons why they believe animals/pets could be in Heaven..
#1. Based primarily on (Rev 21 & 22), it is believed by many that the New Heaven and Earth is basically going to be Eden restored. Since there were animals in the Garden of Eden, why wouldn't there be animals in the new Eden?
#2. Heaven is for redeemed sinners. People go to Heaven because they have accepted Jesus' payment for their sins. If they do not accept this payment, they go to Hell. Animals are not sinners, therefore, they need no redemption or payment for sin to go to Heaven when they die.
#3. (Rom 8:18-22) speaks of "all creation" anxiously awaiting the deliverance that is tied to the resurrection. By saying ALL creation, this could mean that animals are resurrected too. (Some even believe animals will be a part of the Rapture.)
#4. The Bible says in (Gen 2:7) that when God created man, He "breathed into
his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul." The word for
"breath" in this verse is the Hebrew word "ruwach." In three
(Gen 6:17)(Gen 7:15,22) , this same term, "breath of life" is used in regards to
ALL living things (i.e. animals). One meaning of "ruwach" is "spirit."
Therefore, this is taken to say that animals have a "spirit" (also see: Job
12:10, Ecc 3:19), and it is the same
"spirit" that a man has. As the "spirit" of a man goes to the Lord when he dies
(Ecc 12:7)(Acts 7:59), perhaps the "spirit" of an animal does as well.
** (Critics use Ecc 3:19-21, Ps 104:24-29, Ps 49:12,20, to contradict this notion.)
*** Some argue that in addition to a "spirit," animals also have a "soul." I personally do not see any clear distinction between soul and spirit in the Bible. I speak of this here.
#5. This is a quote from Billy Graham, and it kind of summarizes the views of many: "Heaven will be a place of perfect happiness for us - and if we need animals around us to make our happiness complete, then you can be sure God will have them there."
It is from this quote that I would like to give a differing view on this subject. Personally, I believe that almost all of us have a view of Heaven that is distorted to a great degree. We tend to think of Heaven through a filter of what would make us happy on Earth. Perhaps, the primary thing in regards to this is having those we loved with us in Heaven. Now, this is VERY tricky, but let me explain.
It will be AWESOME to one day see all of our loved ones who have gone before us to Heaven. As many of us grow older, we long for that day more and more. However, I think that many of us will have a few loved ones that are not going to be there. How are we going to be happy in Heaven if we know these loved ones are in Hell instead? Honestly, I have NO idea, and I can't answer this. But, we know that somehow we will (there will be no mourning, crying, or pain in Heaven: Rev 21:4). God loves each person on this planet more than we could ever love anyone. He wants all men to choose Him, and to be with Him for all eternity (1 Tim 2:3-4)(2 Pet 3:9)(Ezek 18:23,32). However, many will reject Him, and Jesus' payment for their sins and end up in Hell. In spite of this, God is still able to rejoice (Jer 32:41), be blessed (1 Tim 1:11), and have joy (Jn 15:11)(Jn 17:13)(Mt 25:23). It is my belief that in the same way God is able to have this, we somehow will as well.
The reason why I say this is that I do not believe we need ANYTHING from this Earth to make us happy in Heaven. This would include pets who have died. The descriptions of Heaven in the Bible are incredible! It will be an AMAZING place! But, what I think will make it amazing is that we are going to be in the presence of our Father and Jesus Christ for ALL eternity! Anything that we considered important before being in their presence will fade away. So, in addressing the Billy Graham quote again, I do not believe we will "need animals around us to make our happiness complete," or anything else from Earth to make us happy in Heaven. GOD will be enough!
Finally, I need to say this. Whatever position one takes on this matter, we must be careful to never to equate the life of an animal with the life of a man. The Bible is clear that God does not view humans and animals the same.
While all things are God's creation, humans are God's crowning achievement. We are created in His image (Gen 1:26-27), and animals are not. God has given man dominion over the animals (Gen 1:26,28)(Gen 9:2)(Ps 8:4-8). We are not to abuse or mistreat animals (Prov 12:10)(Deut 25:4)(Lev 25:7)(Prov 27:23), but they are given for our use and food (Gen 9:3-4)(Lev ch. 11)(Deut 14:3-21). God commanded different animals be used for sacrifice in the Bible (Lev 1:1-17)(and MANY more), but God strongly condemned human sacrifice (Lev 18:21)(Deut 18:10). God has never put the life of an animal above a human. He values and loves humans more than animals (Mt 12:12)(Mt 10:31)(Mt 6:26)(Lk 12:24)(Gen 9:3-6), and we should as well (many people have a problem doing this...). But, God does love animals, and the Bible shows in a number of places that He cares for them (Mt 10:29)(Lk 12:6,24)(Mt 6:26)(Job 38:41)(Ps 147:9)(Ex 23:11-12)(He preserved two of each on Noah's Ark: Gen 6:19-20, Gen 7:2-3).
In the end, we cannot know for sure whether God's care for an animal or a pet ends when it dies on Earth, or if it continues in Heaven. We will only know for sure when we get to Heaven. But, the most important question is: Do you know for sure if YOU will be in Heaven? If not, please go here to find out how you can go.