Part Twenty-Two: Will “Otherworldly” Animals Inhabit Heaven?
In my last blog article, we looked at two evidences that revealed the same varieties of animals presenting inhabiting this earth will also dwell in the eschatological New Earth (Heaven). There is a third evidence that further confirms this, and one often overlooked. It’s the presence of otherworldly “creatures” praising God in Heaven. Although these beings are not same kinds of creatures presently inhabiting this earth, they nevertheless illustrate that animals will reside in Heaven. This article will explain why.
In Revelation chapter four, the apostle John observed some of the most amazing “otherworldly” beings found anywhere in Scripture:
Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as
In the center, around the throne were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come.” (Rev. 4:6-8)
Several interpretations have been given to explain these four creatures. Some consider them to symbolize attributes of God. Other commentators see them as angels representing all creation. Bible scholar Richard Bauckham believes they specifically symbolize animate creation. In his book, Living with Other Creatures, he analyzes the four living creatures and concludes they are worshipping God as representatives “on behalf of the whole animate creation, human and non-human.” Bauckham explains: If the four “living creatures resemble one of the four earthly creatures, such an interpretation would suggest that each living creature represents one major category of the animate creation: the living creature like a lion represents the wild land animals, the one like an ox represents domestic land animals, the one like an eagle represents birds, and the one with a face like a human face represents humans” (165, 178). Even if these creatures are only representative or symbolic, they still imply the existence in Heaven of the animals they represent.
Randy Alcorn, in his acclaimed book Heaven, also comments on the four living creatures, but makes no bones that they are real animals when he writes:
Somehow we have failed to grasp that the “living creatures” who
cry out “Holy, holy, holy” are animals—living, breathing, intelligent and articulate animals who dwell in God’s presence, worshiping and praising him. . . . Perhaps they’re the prototype creatures of Heaven after whom God designed Earth’s animals. But even though they’re highly intelligent and expressive, they’re still animals; that’s what Scripture calls them. . . .
Once we recognize that the living creatures are animals, we need not see other references to animals in the present Heaven as figurative (379, 380).
Regardless of the actual identity of these creatures, that the Bible shows them praising God in Heaven alongside angels and accompanied by “every creature . . . on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them “(Rev. 5:11-14) is strong evidence that animals will dwell in the eschatological New Earth. It seems unlikely the Bible would describe animals praising God in Heaven and on earth in such detail if they were not going to be included in the everlasting Kingdom.
Will There Be Resurrected Animals in Heaven?
In light of all the biblical evidence we’ve examined in this and the previous twenty-one articles, I believe I’ve presented a compelling case that the eschatological New Earth (Heaven) will not only be inhabited by angelic beings and redeem humans, but also animals. The question now is where exactly do the animals that will dwell in Heaven come from? There seems to be only three possibilities.
God could recreate the same kinds of animals that presently inhabit this earth to dwell in the heavenly New Earth. Or He could create entirely different kinds of animal, varieties unlike any presently living on earth, to populate the New Earth. The third option is that God will resurrect animals that have lived and died on this earth to populate the New Earth. I believe this is exactly what will happen, and this brings us to the next several blog articles.
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