Christians through the ages have echoed God’s love for animals. Saint Francis of Assisi (from whom the current pope took his name) loved animals and felt that all of nature was part of his ‘brotherhood’. He used to preach to the birds and he called animals his brothers and sisters!
So if we accept that God loves animals, we’ve still got to answer another question before we can figure out what happens to pets: what is heaven? Is it a physical place where we actually go? Is it a different reality that exists alongside Earth? Is it a renewed, transformed, heavenly version of Earth? If heaven is a new version of life here on Earth but without the brokenness, pain and evil, then animals will almost certainly be part of it. A book in the Bible called Romans says “the whole of creation” will be freed from death and decay. The whole of creation implies animals too. People have argued that if God’s original creation contained all kinds of animals, then a new restored heavenly creation will also. Isaiah, another book in the Bible, speaks of a future where humans and animals will live in peace together. Wolves will lie down with lambs and children will play with poisonous snakes without being hurt. Likewise, the final book of the Bible, Revelation, mentions ‘creatures’ in heaven.
Whatever heaven is or looks like, Christianity teaches that the route there is through people accepting what Jesus did on the cross and deciding to follow him. Some people argue that animals have no understanding of God and don’t have the capacity to welcome him into their life but others think Jesus’ death was to restore all of creation, not just humans. C S Lewis suggested that tame animals might enter heaven through their relationship with
humans, in the same way that humans enter through their relationship with Jesus.
It seems likely that there will be animals of some sort in heaven but there are a few unknowns. If heaven has no pain or death will there be wasps, sharks and mosquitos? Will animals just eat vegetables? Will humans be vegans? Will there be specific animals - will our pets be there? Will our relationship to them be the same? We’re told that relationships between humans won’t be the same in heaven, so it makes sense that pets may not be the same as they are here either. Maybe all of the animals will be pets!
The Bible isn’t clear on whether Basil, my dwarf rabbit, will join me in paradise but it does clearly tell me to look after and enjoy the pets that I still have here on Earth.
Questions to ask:
- Will the roast chicken you ate last week be in heaven?
- Are some animals better than others?
- How do you feel about your pet dying?