Part Fifteen: If Animals Inhabit Heaven, What Will Heaven Be Like?
This blog article is a milestone in my series, “Will Our Pets (and Other Animals) Greet Us in Heaven?” Up to this point, my goal has been to demonstrate that at least sentient animals (animals that can perceive and feel things) possess an immaterial dimension to their being—a mind/soul—and therefore God has gifted them with immortality. What remains to be answered in this series are three things: (1) Assuming that earth-bound animals do possess immortal souls and will dwell in the new heaven and earth, which is prophesied in both the Old and New Testaments, what will such a heavenly environment be like? (2) If earth-bound animals inhabit Heaven, what will they be like and what will our relationship with them be like? (3) And (most controversial) will our pets and other animals—both deceased and alive—resurrect alongside God’s people when Jesus returns to vanquish Satan and his minions and set up His prophesied eternal Kingdom.
Before we begin exploring this exciting and intriguing dimension of animal immortality, I want to be sure you do not misunderstand what I am saying in this series. I am not saying that animals are equal to humans in God’s eyes. God does love and provide for non-human life independent of His love and provision for people; He wishes for all created life to fulfill the purposes for which He created them. Humans, however, are far more important to God than nature. According to Psalm 115:16, God had the human race in mind when He created the Earth, not to destroy it but to care for nature and it’s wild inhabitants. (I go into great detail on this in my book, Should Christians Be Environmentalists?—Kregel Publications, 2012). The Bible also says that only people were created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27); we are the crown of creation (Ps. 8); and we are more valuable to God than animals (Matt. 12: 11-12; Luke 12:6-7). But this in no way distracts from the reality of God’s love, provision for, and enjoyment of animal life—and that He has gifted them with an eternal immortal soul.
Will Earth-bound Animals Live in the New Heaven and Earth?
I want to start part two of this series with a quote from Randy Alcorn’s novel Safety Home:
The pure air of heaven filled his lungs. He saw horses and deer and dogs and cats and rabbits and squirrels and badgers and hedgehogs. Until now he’d never thought of animals celebrating or lost in joy, but that’s exactly the impression he got when seeing them run and frolic and play with each other and with people. He saw trees that cast light instead of shadows. Some of them hung heavy with citrus fruits, picked and eaten freely by passersby. . . .
The best parts of that other world, he realized, had been but sneak previews of this one. . . .
Compared to what he now beheld, the world he’s come from was a land of shadows, colorless and two-dimensional. This place was fresh and captivating, resonating with color and beauty. He could not only see and hear it, but feel and smell and taste it. Every hillside, every mountain, every waterfall, every frolicking animal in the fields seems to beckon him to come join them, to come from the outside and plunge into the inside. This whole world had the feel of cool water on a blistering August afternoon. The light beckoned him to dive in with abandon, to come join the great adventure (pg. 376).
Who would not wish for Heaven to be as Alcorn describes it? But is it a realistic portrayal? Will humans run, frolic, and play with horses, deer, dogs, cats, badgers and other wild and domesticated animals? Just how accurate is Alcorn’s description of heaven, when measured against biblical revelation? I believe the remaining articles in this series will reveal that it’s very accurate. And I for one look forward to joining the “great adventure” in the age to come.
Before we get started, a few preliminary things need to be said upfront.
First, the Bible doesn’t give us all the information we wish we had with regard to what heaven will be like. Rather, it’s more like the trailer of a movie—a stirring glimpse of what the full feature will reveal; a partial unfolding of the rose, but not the full blossom. Still, there is enough information about Heaven in Holy Scripture to allow me to draw some legitimate conclusions with regard to animal life, which I believe to be sensible and
Second, some of what I’m about to share may be interpreted differently by some readers. Fair enough. On the other hand, I believe that what I share can be reasonably assumed from Scripture and from what we know of God’s great love for all created life. And nothing I suggest is outside biblical possibilities or contrary to established, orthodox biblical truths. Heaven may very well be as Alcorn (and I) describe.
Finally, this and the following four articles may seem to drift away from the focus of this book—which is to demonstrate that pets and other earthly animals in will inhabit Heaven. But there is a reason for this apparent rabbit trail. The best way to envision why soul-bearing, earth-bound animals will inhabit Heaven is to see that there is a continuity between our present earth, its animal inhabitants, and the “new heaven and earth” prophesied in the Old and New Testaments. So, let’s explore this together beginning next week.
* 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: www.danstory.net.