"Do animals go to heaven? I hear a lot about people going to heaven, but what happens to animals when they die? What does the bible tell us about the spiritual afterlife of animals?", (Question from Patricia Sutter).
Animal life vastly outnumbers human life on this planet. This often leads us to wonder whether or not animals go to heaven. If animals don't go to heaven then where do they go? In other words, do animals have any kind of an afterlife?
The bible says very little about the spiritual nature of animals, much less where they go when they die. There are a few scriptures from which we can glean information, but none that explicity tell us about the spiritual afterlife of animals.
The fact that the bible doesn't directly tell us if animals go to heaven doesn't mean that it's a bad question, or that we shouldn't ask it. However, we probably shouldn't overly concern ourselves with the spiritual afterlife of animals. It is enough to know that God loves animals, and they do have value in his eyes, "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel" (Proverbs 12.10 KJV bible). We have to leave certain questions about the spiritual nature of animals in God's hands, trusting in his righteousness.
To understand whether or not animals go to heaven, we need to consider whether or not they can go to heaven. We know that heaven is a spiritual place, and not a building floating around in the sky. Therefore, to be able to go to heaven, an animal would need some kind of spiritual soul that continues on after death.
Solomon helps us to understand whether or not animals have souls in Ecclesiastes 3.18-22. He starts by speaking of the nature of flesh man, and how that he is like the animals of the earth, "I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts" (Ecclesiastes 3.18 KJV bible).
Solomon tells us that in the end, flesh man is nothing more than an animal. Some of us might have lofty notions of ourselves, but we are frail creature of flesh and blood, often living according to our own self-interests and desires. The end of both flesh man and animal is the same, and all are equal in death, "All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again" (Ecclesiastes 3.20 KJV bible). Flesh man has no place above the beasts of the earth, because all are born, strive, and inevitably return to the dust.
However, Solomon tempers his statements by also recognizing that there is a deeper spiritual nature to both man and beast. There is a soul that continues on apart from the flesh, "Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?" (Ecclesiastes 3.21 KJV bible). Solomon inquires into the mystery of the afterlife for both man and beast. He asks whether the spirit of man ascends upward, and the spirit of the beast descends downwards. In this question, he is recognizing a spiritual component or vestige to both man and beast. Solomon doesn't tell us where animals go when they die, but does indicate that animals have unique personal spirits that continue on after the flesh.
One passage that can help to fill in some of these gaps about animal life is Romans 8.18-23, "For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (Romans 8.19-22 ASV bible).
There are many differing interpretations of Romans 8.18-23, and a lot that can be said about it. First we need to consider what Paul means here by the term "creation" (Greek: krisis). What is clear is that in referring to the creation or created thing, Paul is not talking about the children of God. He says that the creation looks forward to being liberated by them. Neither can Paul be referring to nonbelievers, as they will more or less receive wrath at the revelation of the sons of God, "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn..." (Matthew 24.30 KJV bible). Clearly the passage is not referring to mankind, but some other part or parts of the natural world.
While we don't know exactly what part of the natural world is meant by creation, Paul is most likely referring to plant and animal life. Paul says that the creation groans to be set free from the bondage of corruption. The nonliving parts of the world such as rocks, atmosphere and soil aren't subject to death and corruption, at least not in the normal sense. They change and deteriorate over time, but don't experience the travails of living creatures such as predation, stress, disease, and senescence. So in Romans 8, Paul is most likely referring to the collective desire of living creatures to be set free from the state of bondage and corruption to which God has subjected them.
So Romans 8 connects back with Ecclesiastes, and Solomon's description of the futility of the flesh. Similar to Ecclesiastes, Paul speaks of the vanity to which the creation has been subjected to, namely the transient nature of the flesh, "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of our God shall stand forever" (Isaiah 40.8 KJV bible). Therefore, Romans 8.18-23 tells us that on some level living creatures desire to be set free from their fleshly state of futility and corruption.
Now if we assume that animals and living creatures only exist in the flesh, then how is it possible that they desire the revelation of the sons of God? More specifically, why would they desire the Day of the Lord, when Christ will reign with the children of God?, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (1st Peter 3.10 KJV bible).
The vanity and futility of the flesh will be brought to an end at the revelation of Christ and his Kingdom. If animals don't continue on at a spiritual level, then why would they long for their own destruction at the second advent? Clearly they long to exist at the spiritual level, and this will happen when they are freed from the bondage of corruption within the flesh.
So it is through the destruction of the world on the Day of the Lord, that the things of the world will be ultimately reconciled back to the one who created them, "And he [Christ] is before all things, and by him all things consist...And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven" (Colossians 1.17,20 KJV bible). This is why the creation collectively desires the revelation of the sons of God. Christ's return, and the tearing down of the current order, will lead to the things of the world being reconciled back to their creator.
All things considered we know very little about the spiritual nature and afterlife of animals. There is no biblical refererence to anything other than people dying and going to heaven. However, the bible does indicate that animals do have a spiritual existence beyond the flesh. It also tells us that they collectively long for the time when they will be reconciled back to their creator.
Clifford 18 Mar 2011, 05:47Ever wonder what it would be like to ride a grizzly bear, or play wrestle with a mountain lion? Well this too will become a reality in God's Heaven. The animals will be tame, none will prey upon others, and a little child will lead them. Isaiah 11:6-9, Isaiah 65:25
Josh McGinnis 18 Mar 2011, 16:44Awesome article!
Doug Buckley 19 Mar 2011, 14:58Thanks Josh, looking at that site I realize how important the issue of animals in heaven is to alot of people. Revelation 5.13 relates to Romans 8 in that the creation wants righteousness in the world.
Josh McGinnis 20 Mar 2011, 00:08You're welcome!
Doug Buckley 20 Mar 2011, 12:08Yeah, Isaiah 11.6-9 definitely describes how there will be peace in the animal world after Christ returns with the sons of God, which is also when the millennium starts.
Louise Medado 14 Jul 2011, 10:03Cool!! I really am looking forward to seeing my deceased pets in heaven...(((:
Doug Buckley 14 Jul 2011, 14:52Thanks Louise. Heaven is just a temporary place. In the future the world will end and the souls in heaven will come to earth. After Judgment Day, there will be a new heavens and earth with animals. The question about getting kicked out of heaven is tough. My feeling is that we won't be perfect and it will be possible to sin, but all the souls in the world will love God and accept his authority.
Louise Medado 19 Jul 2011, 08:21Oh. Thanks with the helpful answers! :)
la chito 10 Dec 2011, 21:16Louise Medado
GP 22 Dec 2011, 22:24When we leave the corporial state and are believers of the Word, we have to assume that we will be filled with the Holy Spirit and therefore will know all of God's laws and would not want to break them, more importantly we would not and could not as we will be of the same nature and mind of the Trinity. Praise GOD
GP 22 Dec 2011, 22:35Please allow me to correct myself. We do not need to assume as GOD has told us through his word,JESUS, that we will be given a new heart and God's Spirit will be given to us.
Elden 23 Apr 2012, 00:18(moved comment here)I cannot reconcile in my mind how animals can have souls. Webster's Dictionary of 1828 (the standard for biblical definitions for the English speaking people) defines the soul as: "The spiritual, rational and immortal substance in man, which distinguishes him from brutes; that part of man which enables him to think and reason, and which renders him a subject of moral government. The immortality of the soul is a fundamental article of the christian system. Such is the nature of the human soul that it must have a God, an object of supreme affection."
Josh 23 Apr 2012, 00:19Ok, Elden, please go to this link and read the article in the link:
Doug Buckley 23 Apr 2012, 00:31Hey Josh, that is an excellent article about animals being in heaven. Its very true that it literally says that God opened the donkeys mouth so that she could talk to him.
Josh 23 Apr 2012, 02:13Thank you Doug.
Doug Buckley 25 Apr 2012, 01:48Yeah I see it in the "do animals have souls section". It seems that the usual "animals don't have souls" teaching is more modern than I would have thought.
Josh 25 Apr 2012, 15:04Ok.
sandeepsingh 19 May 2012, 08:40The god said in Bhagawat Geeta that i lives everywhere and everyone creature that is .soul is one and god is one as trees have
Nathan Harker 12 Jun 2012, 07:42is there any bibical eveidence that animals are judged for there deeds? or do they automatticaly go to heaven since right&wrong?
Nathan Harker 12 Jun 2012, 07:44i meant since they have no knowledge of right and wrong
Doug Buckley 14 Jun 2012, 02:57Hi Nathan, that's a deep question, and alot to consider. The bottom line is that there isn't anything in the bible about animals being judged for their sins. It only describes man and angels as being accountable for their sins. Animals are not made in the image and likeness of God and so don't know good from evil the way that man does.
Brian Cressman 19 Jun 2012, 20:33Very interesting and provocative website. The debate of whether peoples PETS go to heaven will undoubtedly continue until the Jesus returns in His glory (fullness). I believe Elden's commentary in April 2012 was brushed over too quickly. We all know the the scriptures...but what the scriptures do not state can also be a teaching point. (understand that ; For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
Brian 06 Jul 2012, 11:23I was thinking and I'm not like most guys .I hope animals exctint and living are in heaven :) ooh I love cupcakes !
Cynthiane 09 Jul 2012, 03:49Hi
Doug Buckley 12 Jul 2012, 05:58Hi Cynthiane, your points on Ecclesiastes 3.21 sound right to me. The verse is a question so Solomon isn't stating anything definitive about animals going to heaven or not. He does appear to be saying that animals have spirits that continue on after they die.
Rob 17 Jul 2012, 11:44Mark 16:15
Doug Buckley 17 Jul 2012, 13:26Hi Rob, Mark 16.15 is one of many strangely worded bible verses that leave people scratching their heads. Mark 16.15 says literally to preach to every "created thing" which makes no sense if its taken literally. Obviously animals and insects can't receive the gospel.
Tongue in Cheek 01 Sep 2012, 16:13Actually, according to the literal words in Revelation 22:15 there is one animal type that will not be in heaven. Contrary to the title of the movie, "All Dogs <b>do not</b> Go to Heaven".
Brian G. 01 Sep 2012, 16:27Perhaps Mark 16:15 includes the idea that we preach by what we do, in which case we certainly can preach to all creation. And perhaps it also means to preach wantonly, extravagantly, so that by preaching in every forgotten corner of the world, not just people, but also principalities and powers will hear the declaration of God's grace to mankind.
Nancy 28 Dec 2012, 12:57I myself believe when the earth and every living thing in it was first created That the animals and people were to live forever. In the first chapter of Genesis while Jehovah was creating things he ended it with "And GOD saw that it was good". It wasn't until Adam and Eve sinned that everything started to die. I don't think they knew what death was until after they sinned and started to see the animals die along with the vegatation. Thats when they understood what death was.
AMH 13 Jan 2013, 20:33This is a wonderful site. I am glad you approve of Pastor Arnold Murray. It is nice to find a website full of positive people as God would have us to be. Just think, when we die we return to the Father. I want to hear Him sing as well. He created all living things - "He" said "It was good." So if He created all things and they were good I'm sure there will be plenty of room in heaven for all of them and us. I'm not rushing it but I am anxious to get there...I have had many pets as well and for family, friends and the animals my heart swells to think God will keep them busy until I return.
Doug Buckley 14 Jan 2013, 18:48Thanks AMH, good to hear from you.
Aaron 29 Jan 2013, 20:17Thank you for this, the romans 8 part was very interesting.
Tina 31 Jan 2013, 01:09This is very interesting. I have been wondering about this for so long. My pet dog died today and he is a very big part of my family :( I would love to see him again in Heaven. That would be just great!! Thank you for discussing this topic!
Doug Buckley 31 Jan 2013, 15:50Thnks Tina and Aaron, good to hear from you both.
Tim 29 Mar 2013, 14:21Not going to quote scripture, just a personal opinion. We know that when the fallen ones came and took women and created the nephelim/giants, they also changed/made corupted animals. Could this be the unclean ones spoken of in old testement? After the cleansing blood of Jesus was given to the mankind and the earth, could that have been for the unclean animals as well. God bless Doug great site.
Doug Buckley 30 Mar 2013, 16:48Hi Tim, there was certainly some strange things going on before the flood, but we know that the law about unclean animals was written down long after the flood. Its pretty clear about which animals are clean or unclean. Things like pigs and rats and lobsters are all unclean. What makes an animal unclean is a harder question, and it has alot to do with the habits of an animal and what it eats and whether it carries diseases. It probably has some spiritual significance but doesn't mean that the animal is evil. Dogs and cats are unclean under the law.
Michael Coyle 22 Apr 2013, 15:45Very interesting and very encouraging
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