Friday, June 6, 2014

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

 Al Hochrein photograph

Part Seventeen:   What Will the Physical Environment in Heaven
 Be Like?

In my last blog article, we saw that at the end of this present age the earth will not be obliterated but restored and redeemed as a “New Earth.” God does not create another earth from scratch; He will renew this earth.  Isaiah, Ezekiel, and other Old Testament prophets clearly foretold this, and it’s confirmed by Romans 8:19-23. So, what will this transformed earth be like? Here’s what we can glean from Scriptures.

The New Testament (i.e. Revelation) does not describe the natural environment in the prophesied New Earth. On the other hand, the Old Testament does give tantalizing glimpses of what the New Earth’s physical environment may look like. The Jews understood that the future kingdom of God would be on this earth; spiritually restored Israel would be an earthly abode. For example, the prophet Ezekiel wrote that on the renewed earth the Dead Sea will be purified with fresh water and inhabited by “swarms of living creatures (47:8-9). Indeed, the Old Testament prophets foresaw the new earth as being similar, in many respects, to the Garden of Eden. 

The New Earth Will Resemble the Garden of Eden 

Speaking about the prophesied future kingdom of God, Isaiah told the Israelites that “The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing” (51:3). The Prophet Ezekiel made a similar statement: “They [the Israelites] will say, ‘This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden ‘”(36:35). 

What did the Garden of Eden look like? Since God was its Creator, it would have been unspoiled, pristine, and indescribably beautiful. There was no death in Eden since it was created before the Fall and nature’s subsequent curse (Gen 2-3). Thus, natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and tsunamis, would have been unknown. Furthermore, there could not have been predators or other dangerous animals in Eden, and poisonous and harmful plants would have been absent.  Adam and Eve, and all the animal inhabitants of the Garden, were vegetarians (Gen. 1:29–30). Clothes for warmth and protection were unnecessary for the first couple (2:25), and food was bountiful and available merely by harvesting it (2:16). Adam and Eve’s only responsibility was to tend and care for the Garden (2:15). They didn’t even have to water it (2:10). In short, the Garden of Eden was a paradise, a place where humans lived in harmony with other living creatures and in friendship with God. 

The Bible further describes the natural environment in which God placed the first couple as having “all kinds of trees . . . that were pleasing to the eye and good for food” (Gen. 2:9). Perhaps these trees resembled the great forests of Lebanon, which God planted (Ps. 104:16). Ezekiel parabolically compares the ancient cedars of Lebanon, whose magnificence was widely proclaimed in the ancient world, with the trees in the Garden of Eden (Ezek. 31:8-9 cf. Isa. 35:2). In any case, Eden would not have been a manicured garden in the sense of what we think of as a garden today. (It’s probably referred to as a “garden” because God planted it—Gen. 2:8.) Yet certainly the Garden of Eden would have included an abundance of flourishing, edible green plants to feed and shelter both humans and animals (Gen. 1:29-30), as well wild, stunning, natural forests embracing a variety of exotic, colorful vegetation. 

Other prophetic passages that refer to the New Earth provide similar parallels with the Garden of Eden. For example, the Holy City (new Jerusalem), which will descend onto the earth from Heaven (Rev. 21:10), will have, like Eden, a flowing river and tree of life (cf. Gen. 2:8-10; Rev. 22:1-2). Isaiah declares that the new earth will have no deserts or wastelands (51:3; cf. 35:1, 7).  In chapter eleven Isaiah further reveals that the future kingdom of God will have no predators or dangerous animals: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together. . . . The cow will feed with the bear . . . and the lion will eat straw like the ox. . . . [T]he young child [will] put his hand into the viper’s nest” (6-8).  So although wolves, leopards, and lions will inhabit the New Earth, they will no longer be carnivorous or dangerous to humans and each other. In fact carnivores will become herbivores (v. 7), and wild nature and humanity will peacefully co-exist. What an amazing and wonderful world! 

Notice that all of the prophetic passages I’ve quoted or referenced, which illustrate parallels between the Garden of Eden and the New Earth, were made within an historical context that anticipates an eschatological Kingdom. Even Old Testament passages that seem to focus primarily on the spiritual restoration of Israel forecast the future New Earth as an eternal Peaceable Kingdom (more on this later). We can be certain that the renewed ecological balance, restored habitats, transformed predators, and peaceful relationship between humans and animals will be a literal reality in the New Earth. 

The New Earth Will Surpass the Garden of Eden 

 Although the Garden of Eden may be its prototype, the future New Earth will be far more magnificent. It will surpass even Eden in grandeur, wonder, splendor, beauty, and enchantment. In other words, it will be more than a reinvigorated Garden of Eden. It will be Heaven itself!  As such, it will have many astonishing features that differ radically from what we experience on our present earth. For example, there will be no oceans in the new earth (Rev. 21:1). Nor will light be derived entirely from the sun and moon (Isa. 60:19-20; Rev. 21:23). Unlike Eden, the New Earth will encompass more than nature. There will be civilizations, including nations, rulers, and cultures (5:9-10). Indeed, the metaphorical language used to describe the new Jerusalem (precious minerals, pearls, golden streets, etc.—Rev. 21:18-21) indicates a world that humans words cannot adequately describe. 

Best of all “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” in the new Heaven on earth (21:4). Nor will the human population include “the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murders, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (21:8). In a word, there will be no evil or sin or the possibility of a second Fall in the redeemed and restored new earth because Satan and his minions would have been cast into hell “for ever and ever (20:10). But what makes this New Earth truly Heaven—and distinct from the Garden of Eden—is that God will dwell there with His people (Rev. 21:3).  While God occasionally visited the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:8,) He will actually live in the new heaven and earth (Rev. 21:3)! Saved, resurrected humans will see the Lord Jesus Christ face-to-face and live with Him forever (1 Thess. 4:16-18; Rev. 22:3-4). 

Next week’s blog article will explore the meaning of Old Testament prophesies concerning the eschatological restoration of Israel in the future “new heaven and earth.” As I said previously, my recent blog articles may seem to drift away from the central focus of this series, that is, to demonstrate that soul-bearing animals will inhabit Heaven.  But there is a reason for apparent “rabbit trail,” and it will be clear shortly.

*  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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