Saturday, February 8, 2014

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

Dan Story photograph (my forever friend Sam)

Part One: “ What Does Snoopy Say about Pets Going to Heaven?” *

In a 1989 cartoon in the Sunday paper, the late Charles Schultz let us in on a conversation between Lucy and Snoopy. Lucy is reviewing something Snoopy had written:

Lucy:  “ I don’t think your subject is serious enough. You should write something that is really thought-provoking. Write about something that has been a puzzle since the world began.”

Snoopy’s new title: “Are There Dogs in Heaven?”

I don’t know if Snoopy every finished his book, so I’ll try to do it for him because it’s my heartfelt belief that we will see our pets and wild animals in Heaven. And I’m not alone in believing this. According to an ABC poll, forty-seven percent of pet owners believe that after death they will be reunited with their beloved pets in heaven. Of course, polls and cartoons do not determine truth. The ultimate answer to the question of animal immorality is what the Bible reveals.

Theologically, this raises two issues. The less controversial is whether or not animals will inhabit the redeemed and restored “new” earth prophesied by Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Peter, John, and others. The Bible makes it abundantly clear they will—and there is ample biblical evidence to support this, as we’ll see as we move along.

The more thorny issue is whether or not the non-human inhabitants of the future “new heaven and earth” (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1-4) will include pets, domesticated animals, and wild creatures that presently dwell on this earth.  In other words, when Jesus returns at the end of this present age to set up His eternal kingdom, and populate it with redeemed, resurrected humans, will animals be part of that redemption (Rom. 8:19-23)?

This is a provocative and, admittedly, baffling question—one even Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, apparently pondered: “Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of animals goes down into the earth?” (Eccles. 3:21). In the following blog articles, I will present as much biblical evidences as I can muster to support my belief that animals alive on earth today will dwell in the eschatological Peaceable Kingdom described in Isaiah chapter eleven and elsewhere. To strengthen my case, we will examine two areas of scientific studies that I believe supports this view: recent studies in animal behaviors that point to greater cognitive and emotional states in animals than previously thought and new studies in brain science .

Now, admittedly, there is a necessary measure of speculation involved here. The Bible does not explicitly reveal the ultimate destiny of animals that die before Jesus returns to establish the redeemed new heaven and earth (Rom. 8:19-23). Nevertheless, I believe that by carefully and systematically analyzing relevant passages in Scripture, a compelling case can be made that at least sentient non-humans (animals able to perceive or feel things) will continue to exist after physical death in the future new heaven and earth, along with redeemed humanity.  Moreover, I’ll demonstrate that arguments against the immortality of non-human life are merely assumptions without legitimate biblical support. As C. S. Lewis put it in his book, The Problem of Pain, rejecting animal immortality because we lack full understanding of “God’s method in the revelation” is an argument from silence, which, Lewis points out, is “very weak”( p. 137).

Now, let me add this. Some readers will disagree with my conclusions, fair enough. But nothing I suggest in this book is outside biblical possibilities or contrary to established, orthodox biblical truths.

And, finally, please understand this: I am not elevating animals to human status, either on this earth or the age to come. Only humans were created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27), and we are far more valuable to God than non-human life (Matt. 6:26; 10:31; 12:11-12). Nor am I attempting to impart more intrinsic worth on animals than what God Himself does (Gen. 1:31). This will become clear in the next couple articles. Finally, what I conclude in this study is not out of character of the love, compassion, grace, and creativity of “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). ©

*  The blog articles in this series are adapted from copyrighted material and may not  be reproduced in book or article form, either electronically or in print, without my written permission. But feel free to link this blog with a brief introduction to your own website, personal email list, Facebook friends and groups, or other people who may enjoy it. 

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