Part Twenty-One: Animals That Dwell in Both Heaven and on Earth
In my last blog article, we saw that the same kinds of animal now inhabiting our present earth will also dwell in the eschatological New Earth. There are three compelling evidences to confirm this. We’ll look at the first two in this article.
The Peaceable Kingdom
Hanging on my study wall is a reproduction of a Native American painting of the Peaceable Kingdom (derived from Isaiah 11:6-9). In the Isaiah passage (below), children are living safely among wolves, lions, bears, poisonous snakes, and other dangerous animals. In my painting, the message is the same but the scene is entirely different. The background is barren southwest desert. The animals include a bison, deer, peccary, Gila Monster, armadillo, skunk, rattlesnake, jackrabbit, porcupine, mountain lion, and other animals indigenous to the American Southwest. All of the animals are huddled around a Navaho child who is hugging a coyote. The coyote is cuddling a lamb.
I love this painting because it reminds me that God’s eternal Kingdom—Heaven—will embrace a vast pageantry of created life from around the globe, including the wild creatures living in the native habitats near my Southern California home. Here’s the passage my Native American painting replicates:
In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard and the goat will be at peace. Calves and yearlings will be safe among lions, and a little child will lead them all. The cattle will graze among bears. Cubs and calves will lie down together. And lions will eat grass as the livestock do. Babies will crawl safely among poisonous snakes. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes and pull it out unharmed. Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain. And as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord. (Isa. 11:6-9—NLT).
It’s likely the prophet Isaiah had an image of Eden in mind when he penned this passage (see Isa. 51:3). He wrote it around seven centuries before the birth of Christ, and it eloquently reveals one of the most incredible, yet wonderful, features of the future Messianic Kingdom. More than any other passage in Scripture, it provides a tantalizing glimpse of what the relationship between humans and the animal kingdom will be like in the New Earth—as well as the relationship that will exist among animals themselves.
The Isaiah passage further confirms that earthly animals will one day dwell in Heaven. Since the Peaceable Kingdom is a fundamental feature of the New Earth, it clearly shows that animals on this earth will be of the same varieties that populate Heaven.
What is most striking about the Isaiah passage is the incredible transformation that will occur in order for humans and domesticated animals to live peacefully with wild predators and poisonous snakes. Moreover, not only will dangerous animals become harmless to people, but there will also be reconciliation among animals themselves; between wild and domesticated animals and between predators and prey.
Animals Praise God in Heaven and on Earth
The second evidence that earthly animals will inhabit the New Earth is the Bible’s portrayal of animals praising God, alongside angelic beings and humans, in Heaven and on the earth (Rev 5:11-14). Verse 13 states that,
Then I [the apostle John] heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them singing:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”
Several books in the Old Testament, but especially the Psalms, portray animals praising God on our present earth as well as in Heaven. In Psalm 150:6 (the last verse in the Psalms), for example, the Psalmist cries out for “everything that has breath [to] praise the LORD” (150:6). In fact the Psalms make it clear that all of creation—not just humans, angels and animals—acknowledge and praise the Creator (see 65:12-13; 69:34; 96:11-12; 103:22; 145:10). That animals are revealed praising God in both Heaven an on earth further illustrates the continuity of non-human life between our present earth and the restored New Earth.
The most all-encompassing Psalm portraying animal life praising God is Psalm 148. Here rulers of nations, men, women, children, angels, and all of creation, both living and inanimate, are called upon to “Praise the LORD from the heavens” (v.1) and to “praise the LORD from the earth” (v.7). This includes “great sea creatures and all ocean depths . . . wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds” (v. 7, 10). Even trees, rain, wind, mountains, and the sun and moon are told to praise their Creator (vs. 3, 4, 8-9).
Now, this needs some clarification. In Heaven, the future transformed New Earth, it may be that animals can somehow communicate verbally (I may explore this possibility in a later blog article). But in this age and on this earth, passages describing animals voicing praises to God should probably be considered metaphorically. Nevertheless, and this is the point, these passages communicate the reality that all creatures bringing glory and enjoyment to God simply by fulfilling the purpose of their creation—a purpose that will continue on and reach perfection in the Peaceable Kingdom.
Next week we’ll look at the third evidence confirming that the same animals now inhabiting earth will also dwell in the eschatological New Earth.
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