Will animals be in heaven?

Will animals be in heaven?                                                                   By Jack Kettler                                     

What do the Scriptures say about animals in heaven? Related to this, will you see your pet dog or cat in heaven? A word of caution for those having lost a pet. Due to an emotional factor, your emotions can easily affect your interpretation of the Scriptures. Because of emotions, it is easy to read things into Scripture that are not there.

This study is not about eschatological views; nevertheless, it is somewhat unavoidable when seeking an answer to the main question. The astute reader will notice how the timing of the millennium will change how the main question is answered.

Millennial passages:

“And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)

“And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox… They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:7, 9)

“The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.” (Isaiah 65:25)

A question of timing:

A premillennialist would place these three passages on this earth during the millennium prior to the second, second coming of Christ. Note: in premillennialism, Christ comes at the beginning of the millennium and again at the end of the millennium prior to heaven. Thus, there are two-second comings in premillennialism, which is problematic.

Isaiah 2:4, in particular, cannot be talking about a future literal millennium. If so, then when Isaiah says, “neither shall they learn war any more” is not true. At the end of the premillennial literal millennium prior to heaven, there will be war again in Satan’s final revolt. If the millennial reign of Christ is prior to the “new heaven” and “new earth,” then the premillennialist can find no support from the Isaiah passages for animals in heaven since they would be prior to heaven.   

In contrast with the premillennial view, the above passages from Isaiah are pictures of the “new heavens” and the “new earth” as understood by non-premillennialists. For example, the amillennial and postmillennial views both place the millennium during the church age and consequently give support for the belief that animals will be in heaven. The following commentary entry provides support that Isaiah’s prediction will find fulfillment in the “new heavens” and “new earth.”

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on Isaiah 65:25:

“25. A last feature of the new earth is the peace, which shall reign in the animal world. See on Ch. Isaiah 11:6-9, from which this verse is quoted. The second and fourth lines are cited literally from Isaiah 11:7; Isaiah 11:9, the first is a condensation of Isaiah 11:6-7 a. The only clause not represented in the original passage is the third line: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat an allusion to Genesis 3:14.” (1)

The next two passages from Isaiah tie Isaiah’s thoughts together with 2:4, 11:7, 9, and 65:25, thus finding fulfillment in “the new heavens” and “the new earth” rather than of literal future millennium prior to heaven.

“For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” (Isaiah 65:17)

From Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Isaiah65:17:

“(17) Behold, I create new heavens . . .  The thought reappears in many forms in the New Testament—verbally in 2Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1, substantially in the “restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21), in the “manifestation of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19). The “former things,” the sin and sorrow of the past, shall then fade away from the memory of God’s people, absorbed in the abounding and everlasting joy.” (2)

“For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.” (Isaiah 66:22)

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible how Isaiah’s words are permanent and abiding:

“For as the new heavens and the new earth – (See the notes at Isaiah 65:17).

Shall remain before me – They shall not pass away and be succeeded by others. The idea is, that the state of things here described would be permanent and abiding.

So shall your seed and your name remain – (See the notes at Isaiah 65:15)” (3)

The New Testament likewise looks for “new heavens” and a “new earth,” rather than an earthly millennium.

“Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (2Peter 3:13)

John, in his revelation, concurs with Peter.

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.” (Revelation 21:1)

God’s concern for animals is seen in the following passages:

“And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living creature that is with you–birds, livestock, and all wildlife of the earth that are with you–all the animals of the earth that came out of the ark.” (Genesis 9:9-10)

“A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” (Proverbs 12:10)

“Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?” (Luke 12:6)_

Luke 12:6, in particular, may have relevance to the main question. Consider the Greek:

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon

STRONGS NT 1950: ἐπιλανθάνομαι

ἐπιλανθάνομαι; perfect passive ἐπιλελησμαι; 2 aorist middle ἐπελαθόμην; the Sept. often for שָׁכַח; to forget: followed by the infinitive, Matthew 16:5; Mark 8:14; followed by an indirect question. James 1:24; in the sense of neglecting, no longer caring for: with the genitive, Hebrews 6:10; Hebrews 13:2, 16; with the accusative (cf. Winers Grammar, § 30, 10 c.; Matthiae, § 347 Anm. 2, ii., p. 820f), Philippians 3:13 (14); with a passive signification (Isaiah 23:16; Sir. 3:14 Sir. 32:9 (Sir. 35:9); Wis. 2:4, etc. (cf. Buttmann, 52 (46))): ἐπιλελησμένος forgotten, given over to oblivion, i. e. uncared for, ἐνώπιον τοῦ Θεοῦ before God i. e. by God (Sir. 23:14), Luke 12:6. ((From Homer on.))” (4)

Comments:

If Thayer is correct on ἐπιλανθάνομαι then God’s care for the sparrows is ongoing, they are not forgotten or uncared for.

If the Scriptures surveyed so far take place in a future literal millennium, it could be concluded that there will be no animals in the “new heaven” and “new earth.” However, if the Scriptures surveyed thus far are a portrayal of heaven, then yes, there is Scripture support for the idea of animals being in heaven. The non-premillennialist position also has to be qualified by asking the question, are the passages in Isaiah literal or figurative. For example, the phrase “the wolf and the lamb shall feed together” is metaphorical, which does not necessarily take away from a literal understanding. However, a number of commentators see some of Isaiah’s phraseology to be figurative, and in which case, the main question still cannot be answered with certainty.

In the next verse from Romans, can the word creature or creation include animals?

“Because the “creature” [many translations use creation] itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21)  

 Calvin’s Comments on Romans 8:21:

“21. Because the creation itself, etc. He shows how the creation has in hope been made subject to vanity; that is, inasmuch as it shall sometime be made free, according to what Isaiah testifies, and what Peter confirms still more clearly. It is then indeed meet for us to consider what a dreadful curse we have deserved, since all created things in themselves blameless, both on earth and in the visible heaven, undergo punishment for our sins; for it has not happened through their own fault, that they are liable to corruption. Thus, the condemnation of mankind is imprinted on the heavens, and on the earth, and on all creatures. It hence also appears to what excelling glory the sons of God shall be exalted; for all creatures shall be renewed in order to amplify it, and to render it illustrious.

But he means not that all creatures shall be partakers of the same glory with the sons of God; but that they, according to their nature, shall be participators of a better condition; for God will restore to a perfect state the world, now fallen, together with mankind. But what that perfection will be, as to beasts as well as plants and metals, it is not meet nor right in us to inquire more curiously; for the chief effect of corruption is decay. Some subtle men, but hardly sober-minded, inquire whether all kinds of animals will be immortal; but if reins be given to speculations where will they at length lead us? Let us then be content with this simple doctrine, — that such will be the constitution and the complete order of things, that nothing will be deformed or fading.” (5)

Does Romans 8:21 and the word “creation” include animals? Humanity sinned by a rational choice, and this rationality is part of God’s image in humankind. Animals do not have rationality, and therefore, cannot sin. If left there, the passage does not support animals in heaven. However, if Paul includes the larger creation as being under the curse because of man’s sin, then yes, when the creation is redeemed, the animal and plant kingdom will experience the removal of corruption, a renewal, and would most certainly include them.  

In closing to look at the question of seeing your pet in heaven:

Pets in Heaven? The Bible Answer Man by Hank Hanegraaff:

“Scripture does not exclusively tell us whether our pets will make it to heaven. However, the Bible does provide us with some significant clues that animals will inhabit the new heaven and the new earth.

First, the Garden of Eden was populated by animals, thus there is a precedent for believing that Eden restored will also be populated by animals.

Furthermore, the Scriptures — from first to last — suggest that animals have souls. Both Moses in Genesis and John in Revelation communicate that the Creator endowed animals with souls (see Gen. 1:20, 24; Rev. 8:9). Throughout the history of the church, the classic understanding of living things has included the doctrine that animals, as well as humans, have souls.

Finally, while we cannot say for certain that the pets we enjoy today will be resurrected in eternity, I am not willing to preclude the possibility. Some of the keenest thinkers — from C.S. Lewis to Peter Kreeft — are not only convinced that animals in general, but that pets in particular, will be restored in the resurrection.

Dr. Kreeft, for example, is convinced that animals will exist throughout eternity. “Are there animals in Heaven? The simplest answer is: Why not? How irrational is the prejudice that would allow plants (green fields and flowers), but not animals into Heaven.” Regarding pets, he writes: “Would the same animals be in Heaven as on earth? ‘Is my dead cat in Heaven?’ Again, why not? God can raise up the very grass; why not cats? Though the blessed have better things to do than play with pets, the better does not exclude the lesser.”

One thing is certain: Scripture provides us with a sufficient precedent for suggesting that animals will continue to exist after the return of our Lord. Isaiah 11:6-9 provides a particularly stirring image.” (6)

Concluding thought:

After the Second coming of Christ, the animal world will experience restoration and will return to their original creative state. Therefore, there will be animals in the new creation. As much as many would like to believe our pets would be there, it would be going beyond what is revealed in Scripture to say definitively yes. However, with God, all things are possible.

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)

Notes:

1.       John Skinner, Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, Isaiah, vol. 2, Volume 20 of (Cambridge University Press, 1898), e-Sword version.

2.      Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Isaiah, Vol. 4, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 573.

3.      Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Isaiah, Vol. 7, p. 1545.

4.      J. H. Thayer, The New Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers), p. 240.

5.      John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Romans, Volume XIX, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House Reprinted 1979), p. 305.

6.      Hank Hanegraaff, The Complete Bible Answer Book, (printed in China, Thomas Nelson), p. 548-549.

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com

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