One of my favorite features in the Wittenburg Door of the 1980s was a running account of “Dogs Who Know the Lord.” Having witnessed more Christlike traits in some pets than I’ve seen in many human lives, I considered the tongue in cheek title a definite possibility.
This week we bid farewell to a gentle and loving border collie who had been part of our family for more than a decade. She lived a long and full life, and like her our previous border collie, she enjoyed her family and the outdoors (both gifts of God) right up until the end. (Both had been “rescued” by us.) Then, when Tanner and Lady were each over 15 years old, simply remained on their blankets when the day arrived that they knew they had not the strength to rise.
There are two kinds of people. Pet lovers, and those whose hearts are desensitized to their affections. The latter group has already stopped reading this post. But pet lovers, yes you, can empathize with my family’s current grief. You understand our loss because you’ve suffered the same pain. And, some of you may even pause to say a short prayer for us.
As a pastor, I’ve had numerous conversations with people about the question of whether or not we’ll see our pets in heaven. It’s a provocative subject, and the fact that such questions persist is a tribute to the significance of these animals in our lives.
Contrary to what some would allege, posing questions about this matter does not trivialize faith; it reveals how our restored relationship with our Creator affects every dimension of our existence.
We cannot know, of course, the answer to the question. That’s something that those who respond with a snide “of course not!” should take care to realize.
Over the years my own views on this have broadened, and far from seeing the deliverance (i.e. not “salvation”) of animals as something unlikely . . . I now consider it likely that we will be greeted by our beloved pets in the new creation. Here are some reasons I consider this a definite possibility:
- First, it is true that Jesus died to redeem (save) human beings (not animals).
- Animals are “innocent” sufferers of humanity’s disobedience and fall.
- Some animals are uniquely precious and beloved by God’s children.
- Their presence in heaven would enhance our joy.
- The same God who created them would have no difficulty re-creating or restoring them.
- If the lion and the lamb will lie together in harmony, why should there not be room for our much-loved pets to frolic alongside them?
And, lest you consider the words above merely the sentimental ramblings of a grieving man, I take comfort in the fact that C.S. Lewis too regarded this as a possibility. In a 1962 letter, he wrote:
. . . in The Problem of Pain I ventured the supposal—it could be nothing more—that as we are raised in Christ, so at least some animals are raised in us. Who knows, indeed, but that a great deal even of the inanimate creation is raised in the redeemed souls who have, during this life, taken its beauty into themselves? That may be the way in which the “new heaven and the new earth” are formed. Of course we can only guess and wonder. But these particular guesses arise in me, I trust, from taking seriously the resurrection of the body.
16 thoughts on “Pets in Heaven?”
You have my sympathy, which is very fresh as it has not been long since I felt the same.
That is not the reason for my comment, though. I had never read that Lewis quote, and had never considered the possibility of the inanimate being “raised” in such a way. Sometimes doubt and unknowing are blessings, I think. Whether it be true or no, I will take pleasure in the possibility that it could be. Thank you for sharing, and blessings on you and yours.
I am so sorry about your friend being called home – her work done here: sent to comfort, teach, and bring joy.
He knows when a sparrow falls. They are all his creation – as are we. I can’t know for sure, but I won’t be surprised if companions are waiting to greet us.
I think this is what sanctified imagination is all about. Speculation on the possibilities in Christ for all creation, held with a humble and open hand. Sorry for your loss. May all your comforts come through a larger vision of the cross.
Excellent essay. We know from Genesis 9:2 that there came a time when the animals were made afraid of man–I suspect that pets were left out of that condition to remind us what all nature might have been like before the Fall, maybe even until the Flood. Something left behind for us, because the exile from nature following the expulsion from Paradise would have been something God wasn’t quite ready to have us suffer. I suspect that pets were left to us to remind us of Paradise, both the one we lost and the one we will regain. And that has to mean something in eternity.
Thank you for your kind words about the article Come Apart.
We liked the article about Pets in Heaven. When the time comes we sure hope our dog Buddy gets to go there.
Rob, I’d love for you to guest blog something like this (or somethng else on your on mind) on A Pilgrim in Narnia. junkola ‘[at] gmail
Reblogged this on A Pilgrim in Narnia and commented:
My son asked me yesterday whether the cat buried beneath the old maple stump in the back yard will go to heaven. I thought Rob’s essay might be a good answer for my seven year old. His follow up question though–aren’t there always follow up questions?–was whether JoJo, his favourite toy monkey, would go to heaven. “Maybe he’ll become a new monkey!” he suggested. I’m not sure Rob can address that, but here’s a blog worth reading.
In a 1950 letter Lewis goes one step further and suggests that creatures in general will participate in the future kingdom: ‘If (as I hope) the new earth contains beasts they will not be a mere continuation of (the present) biological life but a resurrection, a participation (to their appropriate degree) in Zoe…Nature will rise again now fully digested & assimilated by Spirit.’ A good scriptural place to begin such a discussion is Colossians 1:19-20, ‘For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.’
I have pondered and speculated on this very topic, having possessed many dearly loved pets. I would beg my kids to not bring home any more rescues, for one look into their eyes and I was hooked. There is so much “soul” in the eyes of those fashioned for human connection. At one time we had three dogs— small, medium, large—and an old faithful outdoor cat who guarded our sanctuary from mice.
We are now down to one medium-large absolutely perfect dog and two outdoor guardians of the mouse population. They are as much a part if the rhythm of life around here as we are. All waiting for our beck and call to just love us with unconditional love. They’ve just got to be in heaven someway, somehow—for this is a mark of some sort of divinity. It’s a secret known only to God and those who’ve gone before.
Delightful speculation, though.
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A friend of ours cut through Gordian’s knot in a brilliant way when her three children asked her that question: “Heaven is a place of perfect joy. If we need our pets to be happy there, God will see to it that they are there.”
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