Friday, February 28, 2014

Will Pets (and Other Animals) Greet Us in Heaven?

Dan Story photograph

Part Four:  “If the Bible Says Animals Will Inhabit Heaven, Will More
                           People Be Drawn to Christ?”

A friend recently told me about a pastor who declared to his congregation, during a Sunday sermon, that animals will not be in heaven. This bothered me for several reasons. For one, the pastor’s comment was unnecessary and insensitive—considering the millions of people who grieve over the possibility of never seeing their pets again. But it was also without biblical justification (as this series will show). It was merely an assumption. But in this case even worse; his comment chased away a spiritual seeker who was attending the service. This person was an environmental scientist, so obviously had strong feelings about the animal world.

This may not be a very good reason to walk away from church, and I pray this person will reconsider and return. But this account did cause me to reflect on why I’m writing this series of articles. And because of this, I’m taking a short detour in this article to explain why the eternal destiny of animals is important to me.  I actually have several reasons for writing this series, but there are two in particular.

First, I want an answer to the question of animal immortality myself. Little has been written on this subject and, to be honest, what I’ve read has been mostly fluff: personal opinions and assumptions with little theological justification. Most people who comment on this issue are like the pastor above—but with the opposite view. Instead of stating emphatically that animals will not be in heaven, as the pastor did, they state emphatically that animals (pets in particular) will be in heaven. But like the pastor, their opinion has little or no biblical justification. So, one of my goals for writing this series of articles is to provide a comprehensive, well-researched, theological, and even scientific study of this issue.

But there is another reason I’m writing these articles, and the incident of a person  leaving church because a pastor denied animal immortality opened my eyes to it.

For most of the past thirty years, my ministry has been Christian apologetics. Through my books and articles, and occasional classes and talks, I answer the tough questions that critics raise to challenge Christianity. I also try to remove the doubts of genuine spiritual seekers. So almost everything I write is related to apologetics, even if it’s not my specific purpose. Moreover, if you read the brief biography in my website, you will also see that I  have had a great love for nature and all things wild, lonely, and beautifully since I was a child. This has played out in dozens of articles on wildlife and even a book (Where Wild Things Live). More recently, I’ve written articles and a book on Christian environmentalism (Should Christians Be Environmentalists?). So, in retrospect, it seems natural to me that I took up the case of animal immortality—but with an apologetic slant.

Here’s why I’m sharing this. As a Christian apologist, I understand that there are myriad reasons why non-Christians fail to give Christianity a fair hearing. More often than not, they reject it even before considering the incredible amount of objective and historical facts supporting it. The above story of a spiritual seeker’s disillusion with church because the pastor said animals will not be in heaven may seem trivial to some Christians, but it was this person’s particular issue. It was real and important to her. And in light of the fact that millions and millions of other Americans are also concerned with the eternal destiny of their beloved pets (and for nature lovers like myself, all animals) this isn’t a trivial issue—it’s a huge issue.

Evangelists and apologists in today’s postmodern world are seeking culturally relevant points of contact with unbelievers. By “points of contact” I mean areas of common concern and interest that both Christians and non-Christians share. These points of contact can be starting points for dialogue, stepping stone that can lead to sharing the Christian world and life view. For example, my writings and talks on Christian environmentalism is a point of contact because global environmental degradation is “top of the list” of concerns for young people today. I likewise believe the question of the eternal fate of pets and other animals can serve a similar apologetic and evangelistic point of contact. Hence, the other reason I’m writing this series of articles. I believe that people who love their pets and wildlife may be moved to consider Christianity if they understand we have something relevant to say on this issue. We have the probable answer to the eternal fate of their pets and other animals.

By pointing out that a strong biblical case can be made that God’s people (i.e. Christians) will be reunited with their beloved pets in heaven (and that wild animals will inhabit it too) just may be the point of contact some people need to open the door for productive dialogue with Christians. So, my hope is that readers will take this topic seriously. It just may prevent someone else from walking away from church—or draw a spiritual seeker to consider Jesus Christ. (I’ll give Jesus’ view of animals in a later article.)

Next week I’ll get back on topic and give specific examples of how God shows His love for animals. This biblical insight will help skeptics see that animals—both wild and domestic (including pets)—are important to God, and because of this there is every reason to believe He will extend His love for them into the next life.

*  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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