Friday, August 8, 2014

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

Part Twenty-Six:  Why We Can Believe Pets and Other Animals Will Be Resurrected—the First Evidence  

We saw in the previous blog articles that the Bible reveals both wild and domesticated animals will inhabit the prophesied New Earth (Heaven). In this and the concluding three articles in this series, we’ll investigate the evidence that these animals will be the same animals that lived and died on this present earth. This means that animals, like humans, will someday be resurrected!  This is made possible, as these remaining articles will demonstrate, because the redemption of all creation is tied directly to the redemption “of the children of God” (Rom.  8:21-23). That is, to people who have received the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. 

To fully understand this, we must begin at the beginning of the Bible, where Scripture reveals that in the Garden of Eden animals—like humans—were created to live forever.   

Before the Fall 

God’s created home for Adam and later Eve, as well as their animal companions, was the Garden of Eden. It was a perfect environment, a literal paradise—unspoiled, undefiled, and uncontaminated. Humans and animals lived peacefully together and both were vegetarians. Food was bountiful and readily available.  Most wonderful of all, there was no death in the Garden of Eden and no curse on creation. Humans and animals had the potential to live forever (see Gen. 1 & 2). 

The Fall and Curse of Nature  

Sadly, the idyllic garden paradise was lost. This tragic event was set in motion when Adam and Eve rebelled against God and were subsequently banished from the Garden. This is referred to as the “Fall,” and it impacted all creation: nature was “cursed” and evil, suffering, pain, and sin entered the world (see Gen. 3). From that dreadful day onward, a great gulf emerged and steadily widen between God’s original creation and what it has become today. Hardship and toil became a way of life. Human dominion over animals was no longer peaceful coexistence (see my book Should Christians Be Environmentalists?).  After the Fall the entire human race and all animal life were condemned to live out their lives in a marred, hostile environment plagued by weeds and poisonous plants, diseases and parasites, droughts and famines, dangerous animals and natural disasters. 

What’s important to see here is that nature itself was not sinful, it did not fall. Nature was cursed due to Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God (3:17; cf. Rom. 8:19-21), and to this day it’s the victim of bad human choices. As theologian Hanlee Barnette put it, “Man’s sin against God pulled nature down along with man.” (The Church and the Ecological Crisis, 40).  The great Reformation theologian John Calvin agrees. In his Commentary on the Epistle of Paul to the Romans he wrote, “All created things, both on earth and in the invisible heavens, which are in themselves blameless, undergo punishment for our sins; for it has come about that they are liable to corruption not through their own fault. Thus the condemnation of mankind is imprinted on the heaven, and on the earth, and on all creatures.”   

Down through the ages, numerous other Christian theologians have commented on how the Fall affected animal life. Fifteenth century reformer Martin Luther pointed out that along with “thorns, thistles, vermin, flies, [and] toads . . . the savagery of wild animals were part of the punishment for human sin.”  Eighteenth century English theologian John Wesley taught that animals were innocent victims of the Fall. Their vulnerability to predation, disease, parasites, plagues, starvation, crippling accidents, and other calamities were directly linked to the rebellion and iniquity of Adam and Eve. Creatures “could not sin,” wrote Wesley, “for they were not moral agents. Yet how severe do they suffer!—yea, many of them, beasts of burden in particular, almost the whole time of their abode on earth.”  

Divine Justice  

Since animals experience pain and suffering due to human sin, some theologians argue that it “seems to require that some animals who lived, suffered, and died on the old Earth must be made whole on the New Earth.” (Heaven, 386)  John Wesley, for example, expressed hope in a “general deliverance” of animals where they will be compensated after death for the suffering they endured on this earth. “Many Christian thinkers,” writes philosopher Michael Murray, “have argued that animal immortality plays an important role in explaining the reality of animal pain and suffering in the earthy life. Perhaps there is a connection between the earthly life of animals, filled as it is with pain and suffering, and a blissful, eternal existence [‘as resurrected beings’] for those animals in the divine presence.” (Nature Red in Tooth & Claw 122)  In other words, God will grant animals’ eternal existence in resurrected bodies to compensate for the suffering they endured in this life, for no fault of their own, due to creation’s curse brought on by sinful humanity. 

The argument that divine justice will include animal resurrection is a legitimate biblical position. Christian theologian and author of many books and articles on animals and Christianity, Professor Andrew Linzey, sums it like this:  “The issue of suffering and evil endured by animals makes the question central to theodicy [justifying divine goodness in light of evil]. However we may construe the origins of evil in the world, a just and loving God must in the last analysis be able to offer recompense and redemption commensurate with the evil that has been endured.” (Animals on the Agenda, 118)  

Because nature’s curse and the consequent plight of its non-human inhabitants is tied directly to human sin, its release from the curse, and the ultimate resurrection of at least sentient animals, is wholly dependent upon mankind’s redemption. The link between human redemption and the animal kingdom is crucial to understand, if we are to substantiate animal resurrection. This will be the subject of next week’s blog article

*  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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