Updated: Oct 31, 2019
I decided to see how a poll would go over on social media. I asked Do pets go to heaven? with my picture of my beloved Riley. The response was 93% yes and 7% no on one site. And 71% yes and 29% no on another site.
Years ago my friend and I were taking a class called the Pentateuch about the first five books of the Bible. A couple was taking the class with us and came a little late to one of the classes. They apologized for being late and said they had been busy dealing with the death of their pet. I can't remember what their pet was - a dog, a cat, or maybe a guinea pig or a hamster. Their kids had asked them if the pet was in heaven and they had to explain to the kids that no, pets don't go to heaven because they don't have a soul. WHAT?
My friend and I looked at each other. After class we immediately began talking about it. Where did they get that? I asked her if she thought our pets will be in heaven. She did and I did too! I'm sorry, but telling your kids their beloved pet isn't in heaven is just child abuse. OK, I'm being dramatic, but seriously, what's the harm? How do they know their pet doesn't have a soul and won't be in heaven?
At the time I looked up what the Bible has to say and I read article after article online. This was years ago and I don't remember everything I looked into. But I remember the Catholics said oh yes they will. The Protestants were mixed, some saying yes and others no, that animals don't have souls and won't be going to heaven.
This has been the question people have wrestled with for forever.
Check out this church marquee debate for a good laugh:
This just cracks me up.
I remember reading about Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, and it became customary for Catholic and Anglican Churches to bless animals on October 4th each year. Aw, how sweet. A little strange to me, but sweet.
At the end of reading all of this I concluded no one knows for sure, but as for me; I believe animals in general and our beloved pets will be in heaven. I do.
But this stance is a bit problematic. We used to have a little Jack Russel terrier who was a handful. As she got older she got ornery. Growling at us if we came near her food bowl. Occasionally biting someone on the hand. I loved that little dog, but she wasn't very nice. She was a bad dog.
What about someone's pit bull that mulls a person? Is that dog in heaven? What about the bad pets? Is there such a thing as bad pets? I can assure you there is. Just watch The Lion King and you know there are some good animals and some bad animals. Definitive proof. Ha.
What does the Bible say? Actually the Bible is silent on the subject. It doesn't confirm it or deny it.
God created four items. (This from a theology class I took from a PhD.) God created:
1. Stuff (heavens and earth)
How's that for being technical? Smile. People will argue animals don't have the capability to reason and make moral decisions. I don't know about that. Have you ever seen a dog know they did something wrong and cower or hide from you? Well, cats don't care what you think. But a dog who got into the garbage will hang their head and avert their eyes. Yes, a dog knows when they did something wrong. But just knowing right from wrong doesn't save someone. All humans know right from wrong. The argument runs that only humans are able to accept or reject salvation. That's not really true either. Angels can reject it too - hence they become a fallen angel.
The redemptive plan put forth in the Bible is for people. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16) True that pets can't choose salvation the way humans can. But what if God has a different yardstick for animals? A different way of judging them? The Bible doesn't say.
God created animals as part of the original creation and we are told they will be part of the new heavens and earth (Isaiah 65:17). Check out Isaiah 11:6, Isaiah 11:7-9 and Isaiah 65:25 which all tell us that the wolf and the lamb will dwell together. The cow and the bear will graze together. The lion will eat straw like the ox. "They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain," says the LORD. (Isaiah 65:25b). And His resting place will be glorious. (Isaiah 11:10b) Maybe even the dogs and cats will hang out together too.
There will be animals in the millennial kingdom, but will they include our beloved pets or perhaps be new animals God creates? The Bible doesn't say.
We have a very limited understanding of what heaven will be like. We try to mold it into what we can relate it to, what we desire it to be. We need to accept we just don't know what it will be like except that it is going to be glorious! And if the Almighty God knows we need our pets there to make it glorious, I imagine they will be there.
Believing my beloved Riley is in heaven waiting for me does no harm or foul. It's not bad theology. It doesn't dishonor God. And it brings me joy to believe that. I can't prove I'm right. You can't prove me wrong.
The Bible tells us what we need to know. Where the Bible doesn't address a topic, we can't give a definitive answer.
If you want to believe your pet who was part of your family crossed that rainbow bridge and is in heaven, you go right ahead and believe that. I'll join you.