Saturday, January 25, 2014

Will Our Pets (and other animals) Greet Us in Heaven?

In my last blog article, I said I would begin a new series that will explore the possibility of deceased pets and wild animals inhabiting the new heaven and earth, as its described in both the Old and New Testaments. I believe this is a question millions of people—both Christians and non-Christians—would like to have answered. Unfortunately, there are very few resources available on this topic, and the few I’m familiar with are more emotional-based than Bible-based.  And of course the Bible is not explicit on the eternal fate of non-human life. But after studying this issue in depth, I think I can make a fairly good case that at least sentient animals (those that can feel and perceive things) will be redeemed alongside God’s children at the end of this age.

By way of introduction, I’ll briefly share how I came to be interested in this topic. The first time I remember wondering about the eternal fate of non-human life was on my 20th wedding anniversary. My wife and I were in Moab, Utah, exploring Arches National Park. When we called home that evening to check on our kids, who were in high school at the time, they told us our golden retriever, Bear, had died.  We were grief stricken, and felt terrible that we were not home to comfort him (and our kids) as he was dying. We also felt bad that our fifteen year old son was left with the sad chore of burying his dog “brother.” In our motel room that night, I tearfully wrote a “eulogy” for Bear to preserve my memory of his life. I wondered at the time if he would be there to greet my wife and I in heaven, someday.          

Then, a little less than three years ago, my dog Sam—one of my best friends and companion for over fifteen years—also died. Fortunately, I was home this time and was able to gently pet and comfort him as he drifted away. Sam’s death refocused my interest on the eternal destiny of non-human life even further, and I decided to research and write a book on the subject. The book itself is not completed (I’ll let you know when I find a publisher), but the material I will be using for this series of blog articles is going to be based on it.

C. S. Lewis believed that pets would be in heaven (I’ll explain his reasoning later on), but questioned whether or not wild animals would be. Readers who know me personally (or read my book Should Christians Be Environmentalists) know how much I love wildlife. In fact I’ve written a book and several dozen articles on wildlife, so it was natural for me to wonder if they too might inhabit heaven after physical death.  If Lewis is right about pets, why not wild animals?

In order to develop this topic, we’ll explore thing such as:  What is God’s perspective on non-human life—do they have value to Him independent of humans? What do animals think, feel, and experience? You’ll be surprised what recent studies in animal behavior have revealed! Do sentient animals, like humans, have immaterial minds distinct from their physical brains? What is there about sentient animals that would lead us to conclude they do have immaterial mind (and thus souls)? Are animal souls immortal? If so, will they be resurrected? You may be surprised to discover that well-known theologians think they probably will. I’ll share some of their thoughts down the road.

I know this is a controversial topic, so I will go through it carefully and methodologically, laying a solid foundation for my conclusions. Although the Bible doesn’t give us all the information on this topic we would like, I will try to justify my conclusions in Scripture. And let me assure you, nothing I will write on this subject will be contrary to what is possible within biblical boundaries—even when  a degree of speculation is required.

You can see this will be an intriguing series of articles. And from an evangelistic perspective, I think it has tremendous potential as a point of contact because many unbelievers have the same concerns about their deceased pets as Christians. Since this is material for a new book, I'd appreciate any feedback you can give me.

 If you know anyone who would be interested in this topic, give them my blog address. If they (or you) would like to get on my blog email list (people I notify by email whenever I post a new blog article), send me an email through my website (, and I’ll add you to my list. (I post notices on Facebook, but they’re easy to miss because of the huge volume of posts that pass through every day.) As in the past, I try to post an article every two weeks.

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