Do Pets Go to Heaven?
Remembering Joy the dog with joy! 2007-2019
Janet L. DeCaster
Since writing “Dog Tales & Pup Parables: 31 Devotions for a Dog Lover’s Heart” (© BroadStreet Publishing, 2016) I have had the question posed to me, “Will my pet be in heaven?” by Christians who are bereaved over the death of a faithful pet. While I have not formed a detailed theology on the matter and cannot answer the question definitively, I thought it good to share some brief thoughts on the topic and to point my readers to hopeful Bible passages to study and contemplate. After much prayer and looking into God’s Word, I would like to bring hopeful expectation to believers’ hearts. Following are some passages my readers may want to look into as they consider this question. I believe that studying them will build hope on this topic. Forgive the length, but as a Christian writer, who was also trained as a lawyer, I like to ‘make my case’ with clear evidence from God’s written Word, found in the Bible, rather than a ‘feel good’ reply based upon my emotions. So….here goes.
As I personally contemplated this question over the past couple of months and wrote in the past couple of weeks, I knew I would be facing the loss of my beloved older dog, Joy, soon. On Wednesday, January 23, 2019 we lost her. She died of natural causes with my daughter, Hannah, and I at her side, at my Mother’s vacation home in Florida. She was eleven years old. Joy has had progressing congestive heart failure for the past several months. Through prayer and extraordinary Veterinary care, we had been blessed with her life extension since last summer. She will be greatly missed by myself, both of my daughters and Sadie, her ‘packmate.’ Joy’s life mattered to us and she was truly a source of joy and a daily symbol and practical reminder of God’s unconditional love for us as well.
Praying, as I walked with my sweet dog Joy each day for the past eleven years, has given me the time to listen to the Holy Spirit’s still, small voice. It also served as inspirational time to develop my first, and soon-to-be other animal-themed devotional books. My love for Joy, my younger dog Sadie, the pet horses, dogs, turtles, fish, birds and cats that I grew up with, has been a blessing and comfort to me throughout my life. So it is with a love for God and the creatures that he created, that I share some Bible passages that bring us hope of animals, and perhaps our own pets, presence in heaven.
1) Creation Account: I first look for hope to the account of creation in Genesis 1 and 2. There we see the Creator, God, creating human beings in his own image, but also creating the animals, and charging man (his unique image-bearers) with their proper care. For example, in Genesis 1: 26-31 (NKJV), the text states (in part):
26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” 27 So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” 29 Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. 30 And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened. 31 Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day.
God called all that he had created “very good”, which included animals. Similarly, in Genesis, during the flood, as detailed in Genesis 7: 1-16, we see God carefully instructing Noah to include male and female pairs of animals on the ark, in order to preserve their lives, along with the lives of Noah’s family. In fact, God sent, in some supernatural way, the animals to Noah. While there is a clear distinction between humans, who are the sole created image-bearers of God, and animals; the Genesis accounts show us the care of God for all that he created, including the animals. They are a gift of God to humanity. I take hope from the creation accounts that God has compassion for all that he has created.
2) Other Old Testament References:Other places in the Old Testament show us God’s care for his creation including creatures.
a) Proverbs 12:10 (TLB) states, “A good man is concerned for the welfare of his animals, but even the kindness of godless men is cruel.”
b) In Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy, we see the Prophet detailing a future vision of the new heavens and the new earth this way, found in Isaiah 11: 6-8 (TLB):
6 In that day the wolf and the lamb will lie down together, and the leopard and goats will be at peace. Calves and fat cattle will be safe among lions, and a little child shall lead them all. 7The cows will graze among bears; cubs and calves will lie down together, and lions will eat grass like the cows. 8 Babies will crawl safely among poisonous snakes, and a little child who puts his hand in a nest of deadly adders will pull it out unharmed
c) In addition, the Psalmist writes in Psalm 148: 6-12
“let every created thing give praise to the Lord, for he issued his command, and they came into being.6 He set them in place forever and ever. His decree will never be revoked. 7 Praise the Lord from the earth, you creatures of the ocean depths, 8 fire and hail, snow and clouds, wind and weather that obey him,9 mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, 10 wild animals and all livestock, small scurrying animals and birds,11 kings of the earth and all people, rulers and judges of the earth,12 young men and young women, old men and children.
d) In another Old Testament reference, we see God supernaturally giving a donkey spiritual perception and an ability to speak in human language in order to protect a Prophet’s life and then rebuke that wayward Prophet for being unjustly cruel to him! See Numbers 22:22-31
These are just a few examples that show us that God is aware of and compassionate towards the animals he created.
3) New Testament References: In the New Testament, we see many references to animals, including references to animals in heaven.
a) I find the greatest hope in the words of Jesus Christ himself as recorded by Matthew in his Gospel, at Matthew 10:28-31 (TLB), 28 “Don’t be afraid of those who can kill only your bodies—but can’t touch your souls! Fear only God who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Not one sparrow (What do they cost? Two for a penny?) can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30 And the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t worry! You are more valuable to him than many sparrows.”
While speaking primarily of the priceless value of humanity, God’s image-bearers, Jesus indicates that not even one sparrow can die without the knowledge of God the Father. I find that very reassuring indeed.
b) In addition, in Romans 8: 18-20, the Apostle Paul discusses the redemption of ALL of creation, alongside God’s redeemed children this way, Romans 8:18-23 (NLT), “18 yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation are waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.20 against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.”
This seems to indicate that ‘creation’ ( including created animals) would possibly join God’s redeemed humanity in freedom from death.
c) While there is a clear distinction between humanity and the animals, namely that people have a God-given free will which they can exercise to choose to accept or reject the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and animals cannot; there is ample evidence of the presence of animals in heaven.
d) The clearest evidence, in my opinion, of not only God’s care and compassion for the animals, but also their sure place in heaven, can be found in the Book of Revelation. The Apostle John’s vision, as recorded in Revelation 19: 11-14 (NLT) states:
“11 Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. 12 His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. 13 He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses.”
Jesus himself was revealed to John, the revelator, to be the rider of a white horse, along with many other horses mentioned in Revelation.
This reference, among others in the Book of Revelation, seems to clearly indicate the presence of animals in heaven. Combined with the earlier prophecy of Isaiah, it is my opinion that the answer is clear; animals are there. How and why they got there, isn’t clear, and if they are the same one’s who were once alive on earth or once someone’s earthly pet is not clear, but to me it’s not relevant. Animals are part of God’s creation on earth, and somehow, in some mysterious way, they play a role in the coming Kingdom. That’s enough for me!
I am certain that I will be in heaven when I die, because the Scripture is clear that I can be certain of that through my personal repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. You can be certain too. Your own eternity in heaven is as close as a simple, heartfelt prayer.*
I cannot tell you for certain if my pet dog, Joy, (who I and my family loved dearly) will be in heaven waiting for me when I die, because the Bible doesn’t directly address that specific issue. I know that in our earthly lives she has been a great blessing and gift to me from my benevolent, loving, heavenly Father who must have smiled when he created dogs. But based upon the clear compassion of the loving God that created her, and all animals, as demonstrated in the Biblical text, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit!
May God richly bless you as you enjoy the lives of your pets and come to know the love of your heavenly Father more deeply through his Word.
With love in Christ,
Rev. Janet L. DeCaster
Author of “Dog Tales & Pup Parables: 31 Devotions for a Dog Lover’s Heart” ©, 2016, BroadStreet Publishing
* To be certain of your own place in heaven, look into these passages in Romans, let them provide a ‘road-map’ for YOU to get to heaven! Then pray for God, in heaven, to forgive your sin as you put your faith securely in him.
1) Romans 3: 23, “23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
2) Romans 6:23, ” 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
3) Romans 5: 8, “8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
4) Romans 10:9, “9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.