My family used to keep dogs as pets in the house for generations, e.g. Chinese chow dogs, German Alsatians, beagle, terrier, etc., and when we were unhappy or felt lonely, we took our dogs to run all over the neighbouring hills, go for a walk or fetch balls with us: they were just like part of the family or nannies, and we grew up together. I remembered at one time, before I left for oversea studies, my sister had buried one of our pets’ corpses in the back-garden, instead of sending it away to the city’s waste incinerator. We all love our pets and it’s everybody’s wish that they will go to heaven too, like humans do. But whether one’s pet will go to heaven or not is not for us to decide, and we will examine how it is said in the bible.
Where is heaven?
According to Deffinbaugh1, ‘the Hebrew word for heaven is shamayim and the Greek word, ouranos. Both of these words are used in three ways: a) as air or atmosphere directly above the earth (Ge 1:20); b) as the celestial realm where the sun, moon and the stars are (Ge 1:14); and c) as the abode of God (Isa 63:15) far above a) and b)’.
Would dogs go to heaven?
There have been conflicting opinions on this topic:
a) The Bible.org2 says ‘Since heaven is the abode of God, only good angels and human beings created in the image of God with a soul and animals have souls, but the breath of life (spirit) from God (Ge 6:17; Ps 104:29-30), such that, when they die, their bodies will return to the dust.’ The scripture has also never mentioned that animals had been created in God’s spirit will go to heaven”. In fact, according to Bible.org, ‘only the Old Testament’s saints who had come under the covenant with God and looked forward to the coming of Christ, or the New Testament’s born-again Christians, who had built a personal relationship with God, will go to heaven (Jn 3:3-18)’. In fact, Christians are meant to be witnesses of the gospel to the world and their perished ones will come back with Christ on His second coming to rule the world for a thousand years (Rev
20:4). Therefore, it seems that in God’s redemption plan for mankind, there is no place for animals in this covenant doctrine;
b) On the other hand, many of the world’s Christian scholars and ministers, such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Dr. Andrew Linzey, St. Francis of Assisi, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, Randy Alcorn, Jack Van Impe, etc., believed that there should be a place for our animals in Heaven, according to Heavenquestions.com3; and
c) Some would argue that since Revelations 19:11 & 14 mentioned that Christ would return with the saints riding on white horses, assuming animals would also go to heaven too.
Do only man go to heaven?
Nothing in God’s plan exists without a purpose: man exists for 3 purposes:
a) To tell of His works with songs of joy (Psalms 107:22); b) To sing (praise) to the Lord all his life (Psalms 104:33); and c) To give glory … and bring an offering ... to Him (Psalms 96:8). According to Heavenquestions.com, when man sinned, they needed to be redeemed by the blood of Christ, while animals didn’t sin, they still formed part of God’s plan for the New Heaven and New Earth, ‘(when) the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together …’ (Isa 11:6). God love our animals too; He entrusted them to us to be taken care of – to teach us about love, mercy, compassion, patience and understanding. Animals were provided refuge in Noak’s Ark when God was infuriated by man’s wickedness and had to destroy the earth with a flood (Genesis 6:19-22) in olden times.
What should people do if they miss their pets?
They should remember that ‘God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes’ (Rev 21:4). In contrast to what others may do in remembrance of their pets, such as: preserving their pet’s body like mummy, or dedicating a poem to their pet by Prince Edward and Mrs. Wallis Simpson, George Sandison and Staff4 advise that, in such time as this, ‘people should seek Jesus, the Master of life and death, knowing that their loved ones are safe in his strong and sympathetic keeping; as ‘his grace is sufficient’ to give them strength to bear this burden of grief and enable them to lead others to Jesus.’
‘Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?’ (Ecc 3:21), for as long as our pets have been our companions and friends during their life-time, and good memory has been cherished, that counts.
1 Deffinbaugh, R.L. A heaven to seek (Rev 21:1-22:5) http://www.bible.org (30 June 2004)
2 Do dogs go to heaven when they die? http://www.bible.org (1 Jan 2001)
3 Will our pets be in heaven? A Biblical View of the Loss of a Pet http://www.heavenquestions.com(2013)
4 Sandison, G. and Staff Bible Answers for 1000 Difficult Questions (World Bible Publishers, Inc., March 30, 1996), p.368.