Friday, August 22, 2014

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

Part Twenty-Eight:  Will Mosquitos, Frogs, and Snakes Be in Heaven?

This second to the last article in my series, “Will Our Pets (and Other Animals) Greet Us in Heaven,” will be the most outlandish of all for some readers. But after twenty-seven articles on the subject, and to carry my thesis to its logical conclusion, I need to answer this question. Otherwise my task will be incomplete.  

 After sharing my belief in a home Bible study that pets will be in Heaven, someone asked me if mosquitos would also be there? This wasn’t the first time I’ve been asked this kind of question: will lower orders of animals be in Heaven? Although asked in jest, it was actually a good question. Where do we draw the line? Will just pets be in Heaven? Will only mammals be resurrected? What about birds and reptiles? And the most unlikely candidates of all, what about the trillions of insects and spiders that have already lived and died on earth? Will they be in Heaven?” Even Christians who firmly believe their pets will be resurrected have a hard time getting their minds around the image of insects and snakes lurking in Heaven.  

Simple creatures overwhelmingly comprise the vast majority of animals that have lived on earth, so the question of whether or not they will be in Heaven--either actually resurrected from Earth or recreated for Heaven--deserves an honest answer. 

C. S. Lewis would respond to this question by pointing out that lower forms of animals (insects, spiders, amphibians, and so on) would not be resurrected because “immortality has almost no meaning for a creature which is not ‘conscious,’’’ and only higher animals possess “selfhood.” In other words, only animals which are sentient (can perceive and feel things) possess selfhood. Thus, simple forms of animals will not be resurrected. I have three responses to this. 

First, as we saw in blog articles 13 and 14, during the past few decades a tremendous amount of new data on animal mental states has been discovered. These studies have revealed that animal emotions and cognitive abilities are far more sophisticated than previously assumed. If he were alive today, C. S. Lewis (who died in 1963) may have broadened his category of what kinds of animals are “conscious” and therefore will be in resurrected. Today, it’s well-known that even some simple creatures possess surprising “mental” abilities. 

My second response is to challenge the assumption that only complex animals will inhabit Heaven because it’s based entirely on human conjecture. It assumes that the eternal destiny of non-human life is in accord with our personal feelings and subjective opinions—not on what may or may not be God’s decision. Who knows if God allows simple organism to inhabit Heaven except God?

Although the evidence we’ve examined throughout this series of blog articles justly concludes that at least sentient animals will enjoy Heaven in resurrected bodies, only God knows if lower classifications of animals will dwell there. Skeptics need to understand that the fate of insects, spiders, amphibians, and other barely sentient creatures is not determined by people’s opinions but by God. He can certainly grant even the simplest animals’ eternal life in the age to come, if He chooses to do so. No one can justify denying this. But regardless of whether or not less complex animals are in Heaven, it has nothing to do with the fact that sentient animals will be resurrected.  

Having said this, I believe there is good reason to believe that even simply creatures will dwell in Heaven. The only “qualification” for animal resurrection seems to be (since animals are not “fallen”) that God gives creatures immaterial, eternal souls so that they can survive physical death.  The Bible doesn’t restrict what kinds of animals possess souls; it simply teaches that animals have souls (see blog articles 7-10). “All living animals have souls if they have organic life,” explains J. P. Moreland, “regardless of the degree to which they are conscious.” (The Soul; How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters, 142) This doesn’t mean all animals have “a conscious life,” as Moreland points out, but they still have souls. Since possessing a soul is essential for resurrection, and all animals possess souls, I see no biblical reason why all animals, including non-sentient creatures, wouldn’t be resurrected. The prophet Hosea speaks of a future covenant God will make with restored Israel, in the eschatological “new heavens and a new earth” (Isa. 65:17), which will include “beasts of the field” and “birds of the sky” and “the creeping things of the ground“ (Hos. 2:18; NASV). Animals creeping on the ground are mostly snakes, lizards, insects, and bugs! 

This brings me to my third response for why I believe non-sentient animals may dwell in Heaven. God may grant lower life forms eternal life for His own good pleasure—and for the pleasure they will bring to His people. It’s hard to image a redeemed and renewed earth without butterflies gracing flowers, frogs bellowing from ponds, lizards basking placidly on sun-soaked rocks, and the countless other simple animals that add beauty to nature and delight humans of all ages. If the New Earth is more glorious and beautiful than the present earth, surely the creatures that contribute so much to the beauty, wonder, ecological harmony, and magnificence of wild nature will inhabit the renewed New Earth. Even if not actually resurrected from Earth but recreated for Heaven.

Perhaps the ultimate answer to the question of whether or not simple varieties of animals will inhabit Heaven is—why wouldn’t they? I know of no biblical reason or persuasive argument why they won’t. 

Well, we’re almost at the end of this (longer than I thought when I first started out) series on “Will Our Pets (and Other Animals) Greet Us in Heaven.”  I hope by now you are as assured as I am that they probably will. But there is one more reason why I believe this, and I’ll end this series with these last thoughts next week.

*  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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