Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Do Pets Go To Heaven?

There are those who will think that in the light of current events, the subject of this essay is frivolous and trivial and they may be right. Yet there are those who have lost animal companions to whom this question is very important. This essay was written to bring comfort, not division. If you disagree with my thesis, you may be correct, but should you encounter someone who has lost a dearly loved dog or cat, I would respectfully encourage you to keep your opinions to yourself and simply express acknowledgement of their sorrow. Sometimes maintaining theoretical theological purity on a secondary issue is nothing more than arrogant cruelty. Don't go there.

What follows is the full text of my essay from a Smashwords edition that is no longer available to the public. All rights reserved.


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Published by Alan Loewen on Smashwords

Do Pets Go To Heaven?
Copyright © 2012 by Alan Loewen

Smashwords Edition License Notes

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An elderly woman, one of my parishioners, had lost an important member of her family to death. With tears in her eyes, she asked me if she would ever see her loved one again.

However, the loved one she spoke of was not a spouse or child, nor even human at all. She spoke of her beloved little dog who had comforted her for many years in the loneliness of her old age and who had finally fallen victim to a long-term illness. This short essay attempts to answer her question.

I acknowledge that for some, the question, if not the answer in and of itself, will be controversial. For others, responses to even researching the question will range from contempt to even a possible charge of blasphemy.

Because of this reaction and many other reasons, the Christian church appears reluctant to tackle the subject of the eternal destination of animals. However, for those few individuals whose lives have been touched by the faithful, unconditional love of a pet, the question is very important, even if only more for emotional than intellectual reasons.

So the Church Universal should not shy away from hard topics. To do so gives other worldviews an opportunity to fill the vacuum and makes the Church look impotent in the face of real life questions. Jesus Christ commanded his Church to be the salt of the earth, the light that cannot be put under a shade, and to be the city on a hill.  So with that in mind, I ask you, Dear Reader to be Judge, Jury and Executioner. I will be the lawyer and attempt to present my case.

But before we begin, I pause for a moment to challenge you to consider that what appears to be a simple question about the eternal destiny of a beloved pet actually speaks to a much bigger question: Is the redemption of Christ restricted only to the human sphere or does it also include the whole of creation?

I submit to you the question truly transcends the destiny of somebody’s cat or dog. The answer affects our view on all of creation.

I want to be very careful what I say and I do not want to infer anything that is not found in Scripture, but as far as my research goes, when it comes to the question as to whether our pets are redeemed, I lean heavily toward yes and I believe I can safely do so with good reason.

The Parable of the Poor Man’s Lamb

In my opening argument, let's take a look at an incident from the Old Testament where the Prophet Nathan is talking to King David:

And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, "There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: but the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. 
"And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him." 
And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, "As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity." (2 Samuel 12:1-6)
Clearly, the Old Testament world, even with the reality of its hardscrabble existence, understood the concept of family pets. In the ancient Near East, sheep were nothing more than animals used for their wool, milk, and food. However, it appears David, who knew the life of a shepherd well before he became king, understood the idea that an animal could be so dearly loved it could be treated as a member of the family. Notice that neither Nathan nor David chide, shame, or ridicule the poor man for treating a lamb as a beloved family member. Instead, David’s venom is saved for the rich man who killed the poor man’s pet.

It is important to note the debate is not over the concept of simple property being stolen. King David equated the death of the lamb as equivalent to murder because of the emotional value the poor man put on his beloved lamb. Far more than property, the lamb had been elevated to family status and both Nathan and David accepted this reality with no problem. Evidently God had no problem with it either as it was originally his idea to have Nathan tell David the story.

God’s Attitude Toward Animals

In the poetry of Job 39, God challenges Job if he understands why he made the animals as he did, mentioning wild goats, wild asses, wild cattle (mistranslated as "unicorn" in the King James), peacocks, the ostrich, the horse, the hawk, and the eagle. God makes special note of them reminding Job that he is the creator of them all.

Even the most casual reading of that section reveals the joy of God in his creation.

In the gospels Jesus states that his Father cares for the smallest portions of creation:
"Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father." (Matthew 10:29) 
"Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?" (Luke 12:6)
If sparrows were truly of no value in God's world, if God considered them temporal, why does he waste his vast energies in remembering them?

And if he considers the small, twittering birds of the world, what more when he considers animals that his own children have deemed to be of great emotional value to them?

ALL of Creation Shall Be Redeemed

My final observation is that God's work of redemption does include all of creation:
For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (emphasis mine) For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:19-23)
I deem it unlikely that Paul is here speaking of creation in merely anthropomorphic terms. He speaks of creation with the implication of sentience, that it has “earnest expectation," and that it "waiteth," it "groaneth" and "travaileth." If creation is merely going to be replaced with something new instead of being made new, then it should be merely waiting for annihilation. Instead it waits for full redemption provided not only to humanity, but all of creation due to the finished, compelted work of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary.

Therefore, looking at the evidence that:

  • The Bible speaks of pets in a supporting fashion, 
  • That God clearly cares for ALL creation, and 
  • ALL of creation waits for future redemption, 

I submit to you: Judge, Jury, and Executioner, the inference is very strong that we will see our beloved pets again. You are welcome to visit my blog (the link is at the end of this essay) to discuss your verdict.

Speaking for myself, I think the question settled.

I leave you with a story I wrote about this many years ago where I indirectly address the issue of the full redemption of creation:

Fallen Angels and Fallen Sparrows

It was another space and time. Satan strode into the Throne Room ignoring the suffocating light of purity and the stares of the angels who refused to join him in rebellion so many millennia ago.

He looked over the panorama before him. These angels--these so-called Sons of God--had gathered to present themselves to Him who sat on the Throne. Satan's pride drove him to present himself along with his brothers.

There was no visible form on the Throne. Being Spirit, only the Shekinah glory of God occupied the megalithic Throne and permeated the room to such an extent, there were no shadows. Satan could barely endure that Light. It made him feel transparent.

A Voice spoke from the Throne; three voices of thunder speaking as One. "Satan, from where do you come?"

Satan flinched at the sound and the echoes, but he displayed no reverence or awe. "From going to and fro in the earth," he said, "and from walking up and down in it."

"And why do you come here?"

Satan clenched his fists in frustrated wrath. How many times had he come here before? How many times had he been humiliated in front of these poor excuses for angels?

"Your creation suffers," he said, spitting out the words in fury. "It suffers still even after you tricked me at Golgotha. Do what you will, but I have the last laugh. They suffer and you can do nothing."

The Voice spoke again and in spite of its thunder, there was a sense of sadness. "You know as well as all that with freedom and choice comes the potential of revolt and loss. All are tested, even Myself."

"They think you don't care."

"Not a sparrow falls without My knowing."

Satan leered into the Light. "But they fall nonetheless."

"And they fall into My Hand."

With that, a gigantic hand--its fingers closed securely--materialized from the Light. It opened and a small sparrow, bright and redeemed flew into the Throne Room.

There was a sigh of a fresh breeze and all the angels turned to see the glowing portal that had opened into Paradise. Satan too looked and for a moment there flashed across his face a look of immeasurable loss and regret, but only for a moment. With a sneer he looked upon the scene forever denied him where countless millions of animals stood on the infinite hills and valleys of Paradise.

Singing as if its throat would burst the sparrow flew through the portal to join the trillions of its feathered brethren.

And to join the children.

With undisguised lust, Satan could do nothing but glare at the children forever beyond his grasp; safe forever where his fury and rage would never touch them again. There they were; these creations of mud and dust bathed in ineffable Light they felt as Love, their memory of life on Earth overshadowed into insignificance by the Light of Glory.

And also there He walked with the animals and the children. Present with the Godhead on the Throne and also present in Paradise, this Creator that had left Eternity to be born of a human woman and clothed in a body of clay walked with the redeemed as if they were intimate friends.

Satan shook his head in disgust. Had God no pride?

The Voice spoke again. "It is finished. As Time unfolds to its end, I will undo all that you have done and those that choose to join you will do so, but for those who choose to be with Me will be in My Love for all Eternity. And with my own Hand, I will wipe every tear from their eyes."

Satan turned and fled from the Room, past the majestic doors, over the golden streets, past the Great White Horse that patiently waited for its first and only Rider.

Screaming his defiance, Satan fell back to Earth like a falling star. Time, he thought to himself. So little time.

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Cover graphic is taken from the 1834 version of Edward Hick’s "Peaceable Kingdom."

All scripture quotes are taken from The Holy Bible, King James Version. New York: Oxford Edition: 1769

Alan Loewen is an ordained pastor who lives with his wife and three sons in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania along with a Sheltie, a rabbit, a homicidal parrot lovingly dubbed "The Death Chicken," and far too many cats. You can follow his misadventures in writing by paying him a visit at 

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