Friday, February 21, 2014

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

Steve McSparran photograph

Part Three: 

“Does God Love Animals As Much As He Loves Humans?”

Let’s be clear about this up front. The answer is no; God does not love animals as much as He loves humans. Only people were created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). We are the “crown” of creation (Ps. 8:4-6) and of more value to God than animals (Matt. 12:11-12; Luke 12:6-7). But the psalmist also points out that God preserves both man and beast (Ps. 36:6). And Jesus said that not a sparrow falls to the ground that God isn’t aware of it (Matt. 10:29). God tells us that He feeds the ravens of the field and all the other creatures on earth (Ps. 145:16; 147:9).

If the title question above is, “Does God Loves Animals Independently of Humans?” the answer would be an emphatic, yes! And understanding this is the first step in developing a comprehensive theology affirming the likelihood of animal immortality; that is, today’s earthbound animals will inhabit the “new heavens and earth” prophesized in both the Old and New Testaments (Isa. 65:17; Rev. 21:1; cf. Isa. 11:6-9).

Look at it like this. If God created, loves, provides for, enjoys, and bestows (at least on sentient animals) immortal souls—and I will show in a future blog article that He does—it seems likely God will redeemed them along with His people at the end of this present age. Certainly Paul seems to imply as much in Romans 8: 21: “All creation anticipates the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay” (i.e. the “curse,” NLT). This seems even more likely when we consider that animals were cursed as part of the consequences of mankind’s rebellion against God and technically not fallen (Gen. 3:17). Rather they are victims of human sin. Thus, they have no need for a savior, at least in the sense that humans do. Again, Paul implies this in the Romans 8:19-23 passage.

I’ll explain all this in more detail later. For now, I need to lay a foundation for the following couple of articles, which will show that God does love animals independently of humans. The best way to do this is to survey God’s perspective on non-human life. My goal is to demonstrate in Scripture that God does indeed love, provide for, and enjoy earthly animals independent (but not equal to or above) His love, provision, and joy in humans. If so, why would He not continue this love on into the next life, as He does with His people? There is no biblical or rational reason He won’t!

“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it”

This statement in Psalm 24:1 is key to understanding God’s perspective on non-human life. People do not own the earth. God does—and everything else He created. This is plainly stated in other passages in the Bible. Centuries before David penned Psalm 24, Moses wrote in Deuteronomy, “To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it” (10:14). Everything means everything, and everything includes animals. In fact God specifically emphasized his ownership of the animal kingdom: “Every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine” (Ps. 50:10-11).

The Bible mentions dozens of animals by name, and even in antiquity biblical characters recognized their inherent value. King Solomon “taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish” (1 Kings 4:33). Job told his accusers that people can learn from fish, birds, and other animals (12:7–8). Furthermore, God often used animals for His own purposes. When He instructed the prophet Elijah to go into hiding, He used ravens to bring him food (1 Kings 17:1–6). God used a great fish to save Jonah’s life (Jon. 1:17) and a small fish to provide the money for Jesus and Peter to pay the temple tax (Matt. 17:24–27). In the account of Balaam and his donkey, it was the donkey—not Balaam—that saw the angel sent to prevent Balaam from doing evil (Num. 22). Jesus used the sparrow and raven as illustrations in spiritual lessons (Luke 12: 6-7, 24). It’s noteworthy that Jesus chose birds for His illustrations that people generally considered insignificant (the sparrow) or devious (the raven). Perhaps most remarkable of all, wild animals accompanied Jesus during His temptation in the wilderness (Mark 1:13). We’ll examine this amazing passage in a later article.          

This is all the space for now. Next week we’ll see more specific examples of how God oversees and provides for wild animals, and we’ll discover that much of what occurs in the lives of wildlife is beyond human observation or awareness. Only God is present to observe the events in animal lives. All this biblical data will help you to see that animals—both wild and domesticated (including pets)—are important to God. But the question remains, are they important enough that they will “greet” us in heaven? I’ll continue to build my case that they are—which is the thesis of this entire series.

*  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 send links to these articles, with a brief introduction, to your personal email list, Facebook friends and groups, or other people who may enjoy them. Or post a link on your own website. If you would like to be added to my personal blog email list (people who receive an email notice whenever I post a new blog article), contact me through my website:

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