Do Pets Go to Heaven?
Yet the Bible teaches that God does save animals. For example, God brought Noah two of each kind of living creature in order to save them from the Flood. God chastised reluctant Jonah about the need to save not only the human inhabitants of Nineveh, but also its many animals. Such salvation is not, of course, quite the kind invited by the altar call. Even so, it should not be overlooked.
God not only saves animals. At times, his covenants include them. God's covenant with Noah included "every living thing of all flesh" (Gen. 6:18-19, KJV). In Hosea, God proclaimed a covenant "with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the creatures that move along the ground" (2:18, niv).
When God made a covenant with one of his chosen ones, he often marked it by assigning them a particular name: Abraham, Sarah, Israel, Jesus, Paul. God told Adam to name the animals and, in so doing, Adam reflected God's acts of naming. When we choose to take into our household creatures that share with us the breath of life and bestow them with names, perhaps we enter into a kind of covenantal relationship with them too. To echo C. S. Lewis in The Great Divorce, perhaps when we name animals, they "become themselves" and our salvation "flows over into them."
I have put away my childish thinking about heaven. Scripture describes eternity not as an ethereal cloud-top existence, but as both spiritual and material, just as our life is now. It is a new heaven and a new earth (2 Pet. 3:13) where "creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God" (Rom. 8:21). As foretold in Isaiah, animals will be there. "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat … and a little child will lead them" (11:6). Perhaps God will honor my acts of naming the animals by bringing Gracie, Kasey, Myrtle, Peter, Oscar, and so many more there, too.
I Wish We Knew
Ben DeVries is founder and administrator of Not One Sparrow, a Christian voice for animals.
Oddly enough, I was part of the animal advocacy community for several months before I took the question of whether animals have souls seriously. I had even written my seminary capstone paper on a biblical-theological foundation for animal welfare, and didn't feel compelled to address the subject directly.
When I heard others speak confidently of seeing their animal companions again, often "just over the rainbow bridge," I sympathized with their loss and the natural desire that arose out of it. But the hope of reuniting with our pets seemed more based in wishful thinking and eclectic spirituality than in a confessional hermeneutic. As a result, it seemed to compromise the clear scriptural calling, which does exist, to care for God's creatures.
Just over two years ago, when one of our own cats died suddenly from an unexpected complication after an otherwise successful surgery, I found myself looking at the question of animal souls in a much more personal light. Bubba had been a constant and beloved companion since we brought him home from an adoption center four years earlier. He was wonderfully affable, as his name suggests, and the perfect pet for our newborn son to grow up with. I took his loss hard, heartbroken as my wife and I said goodbye at the vet's office, and still sobbing as I buried him in pouring rain later that night. I wrote in my journal: "It's been a gut-wrenching couple of days …. I miss him everywhere I look in the house …. And I feel such a hole, especially not knowing if God has taken him back to himself for us to meet again or not. I so badly want to know if I'll see him again."