Part Twenty: What Kinds of Earthly Animals Will Inhabit Heaven?
We saw in previous blog articles that there will be continuity between our present earth and the eschatological New Earth. We also saw that this New Earth (Heaven) will be a world purified of sin and evil, spiritually redeemed and physically transformed, and set free from nature’s curse. It will be rich in vegetation, abounding in scenic wonders, and vastly more beautiful than any wilderness or garden our most creative imaginations can conjure up.
This sets the stage for a closer look at what kinds of animals will inhabit this amazing new Paradise. In the next few articles, we’ll see that the new heaven and earth, prophesied in both the Old and New Testaments, will be populated with the same kinds of animals that presently dwell on our present earth—with two major differences. Predation and death, as a result of the curse, will no longer exist, and, second, heavenly animals will coexist in perfect tranquilly with redeemed humans. People, angels, and animals will live together serenely with our Lord Jesus Christ in an eternal “Peaceable Kingdom.” As theologian and Christian environmental advocate, H. Paul Santmire, put it, “The wilderness [in the New Earth] will remain, to be sure, for God also loves the alligators and the mountain lions and wills their fulfillment. But the dream of wilderness without darkness and violence and pain will come true” (p. 110).
Depending on the interpretation of some Hebrew words, well over one hundred animals are mentioned by name in the Bible. For example, Psalm 104 refers to a stork, cattle, wild donkeys, wild goats, coneys, and lions. Job 39 mentions a doe and fawn, wild ox, ostrich, hawk, and an eagle. Isaiah 60:6 speaks of camels; Revelation 19:11 mentions a horse. The question is will all these varieties of animals inhabit the New Earth? To answer this, the place to begin is with the account of the worldwide Flood. It gives compelling support that animals on this earth will continue to exist in the restored New Earth.
Prior to the sin-cleansing Flood, God instructed Noah to take into the Ark, at least two of every kind of animal that inhabited the earth, at that time (Gen. 7:2-3; 8:19). God didn’t recreate animals after the Flood, He preserved those that already existed to repopulate the earth: “Then God said to Noah, ‘Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it’” (Gen. 8:15-17). Would God preserved this incredible menagerie of animals from the judgment of the great Flood, and then prevent the same kinds of animals from inhabiting the New Earth, when He removes the curse and redeems creation in the eschaton? This would seem to be inconsistent with God’s great love for the animals He created, later protected on the Ark, and used to repopulate the earth.
Here’s another way to see this. The apostle Peter juxtaposes the destruction (divine judgment) of the earth during to the Noahic Flood (2 Pet. 2:5) with the future judgment of the earth prior to God establishing a “new heaven and earth” (3:3-13). If the great Flood prefigures God’s ultimate end-time judgment of evil and the redemption of saved humanity, surely the same kinds of animals that embarked from the ark will be included in creation’s future redemption on the New Earth—especially since creation’s redemption is tied directly to human redemption (Rom. 8:18-25—we’ll look at this in detail in a few weeks).
How about our pets specifically? Will there be pets in Heaven? Why not? God allowed many animals on this earth to be our servants and helpers as well as our devoted and faithful friends. It would be consistent with God’s great love for His people that some animals will continue their role as our friends and companions in the age to come. Our Lord may include pets in Heaven for no other reason than to bless the people who loved and faithfully cared for them in this life. There is nothing in the Bible that should cause us to doubt this.
I like the way philosophy professor Peter Kreeft answers the question of whether or not animals—and specifically pets—will be in Heaven. In His book Everything You Every Wanted to Know about Heaven . . . But Never Dreamed of Asking, he writes:
Would the same animals be in Heaven as on earth? “Is my dead cat in Heaven?” Again, why not? God can raise up the very grass; why not cats? . . . We were meant from the beginning to have stewardship over the animals; we have not fulfilled that divine plan yet on earth; therefore it seems likely that the right relationship with animals will be part of Heaven: proper “pet-ship”. And what better place to begin than with already petted pets? (p. 45)
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