Part Twenty-Three: Will Our Pets and Other Animals Be Resurrected?
My family and I have raised—and buried—four dog friends over a span of thirty-eight years. My kids literally grew up with the first one, my wife’s large and lovable golden retriever, Bear. He shared our lives for over eleven years, hiking, camping, playing, jogging, and just hanging out. Bear died on the day of our twentieth wedding anniversary. At the time my wife and I were in Moab, Utah, visiting Arches National Park, and only my son and daughter were home to comfort Bear as he died. At the time my son was fifteen years old, and he had the heartbreaking task of burying his canine “brother.” Something he’ll never forget, and something that still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it after all these years.
People who have raised and buried dogs, cats, and other pets know exactly how we felt loosing Bear. Pets become family. And like anyone who dies that is close to us, we find consolation in the hope that someday we’ll be reunited “on the other side.” But let’s admit it. For most Christians, the hope that we’ll see our pets in Heaven is based more on wishful desire than confident assurance. I hope this series of articles have begun to remove the uncertainty about the eternal destiny of pets and other animals. I believe the Bible gives us enough information, even if indirectly, that we can replace our worry about ever seeing our deceased pets again with a reasonable confidence we’ll be reunited in Heaven.
This brings us to the very heart of this study: Will pets be resurrected and reunited with their human companions in the future new heaven and earth? Likewise, will the wild animals roaming the earth today eventually resurrect and live without fear of humans in the Peaceable Kingdom? I believe the answer to both questions is, yes. But before we examine the evidences for this, let’s look at two other possible origins for the animal that will dwell in the New Earth (Heaven).
The Best Option Is Resurrection
In his book Heaven, Randy Alcorn purposely avoided using the word “resurrection” when speaking of animals “for fear that it could lead to theological error that fails to recognize the fundamental differences between people and animals—something that certain ‘animal rights’ advocates are guilty of.” (386) This is a valid concern, but I’ve make it clear several times in this series of articles that animals are not on a spiritual or moral equivalency with humans. With this warning in mind, I still see no other way to consider the role of non-human life in the Eternal Kingdom without referring to them as being resurrected.
We saw in previous two blog articles that animals will definitely dwell in Heaven. So skeptics who reject animal resurrection must still account for the source of these animals. Could these creatures have an origin other than resurrection? Or is the resurrection of earthly animals the best choice? The theological evidence in Romans 8:18-23 clearly supports animal resurrection (as I’ll show in a few weeks). Nevertheless, there are two other options for the origin of the animals that will dwell in the New Earth. Eliminating them as possible sources confirms that the animals presently living on this earth will eventually be resurrected to inhabit Heaven.
God Recreated Animals for Heaven
The first option is that the animals that will inhabit the New Earth could be the same kinds of animals presently dwelling on this earth, but recreated anew for Heaven. It could be argued, however, that this view compromises God’s righteous judgment. Rather than recreating the same kinds of animals now living on earth and placing them in Heaven, it seems more just (and reasonable) that God will resurrect existing animals, which for no fault of their own are innocent victims of mankind’s sin (i.e. the curse—Gen. 3). Furthermore, nowhere does the Bible suggest that God will re-create the same kinds of animals now living on this earth to populate the restored New Earth. He didn’t do this after the sin-cleansing Flood during Noah’s time—He preserved existing animals to repopulate the earth. Why would God do any differently in the restored New Earth?
God Created New Kinds of Animals for Heaven
A second possibility is that the animals that will inhabit the New Earth (Heaven) are different kinds of animals than today’s earthly varieties. God could create entirely new species of animals specifically designed for Heaven. The problem with this theory is that there no biblical precedent for making such a claim; nowhere in Scripture is there a hint that God will create new varieties of animals in the eschaton. The animals the Bible mentions in the Old Testament, which will dwell in the new heaven and earth, are the same kinds of animals presently inhabiting this earth (e.g. Isa. 11:6-8). When Jesus makes His grand appearance prior to the final events in Revelation, He will be riding on a white horse (19:11), and the apostle John “heard” an eagle in Heaven (Rev. 8:13).
Animals Inhabiting Heaven Are Resurrected Earthly Animals
The third option is the most likely: The animals that will reside in Heaven are those that have died under the curse, redeemed alongside saved humanity, and resurrected at the end of this age. This is even more probable in light of the biblical revelation that God has given sentient animals’ immortal souls, as demonstrated in several earlier blog articles.
Look at it like this. Why would God give animals’ immortal souls if they were not going to be resurrected in imperishable, physical bodies? I believe He gave animals immortal souls precisely because they will be resurrected! If the redemption of God’s people includes resurrected bodies in the age to come, it reasonably follows those soul-bearing animals—which will share in the same redemption (Rom. 8:19-23)—will also be given resurrected bodies. This is not only consistent with God’s great love for and enjoyment of the animals He created to inhabit this earth, but it’s also consistent with divine justice (more on this later).
Now, before we go any further, and before you conclude that all this is my personal fantasy or wishful thinking, I want you to see that many theologians and other scholars agree with me. Next week I’ll share some of their comments on animal resurrection.
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