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.