"UP IN HEAVEN"?
[Before you read this article, let me say up front that we’re not talking about whether animals, including our pets, continue to live after they die. We talk a lot about that elsewhere, but that’s not the point here. The point here is whether they’re actually “up in Heaven” with God after they die. Let me also say that every creaturely soul that lives on is automatically with God wherever they are, anyway—even if that’s not “up in Heaven.” That’s because God is everywhere and there’s no place where He’s not found. It’s important to remember that animals do not have to be in Heaven in order to be with God, who is their Creator. He is their life and He is with them no matter where they are. They may be in some other special location, or they may even be right here with us in another realm, without our even knowing it. So why should it matter where they are as long as we know that God is with them? Besides, eventually, we’ll all be together again, and that will be forever more. Isn’t that good enough? Having said all this, I maintain the possibility that our pets may be there anyway; so don’t get flustered just yet, OK? Now let’s begin.]
So, do you really believe your pets are in Heaven? You do? Well then, OK. There’s really nothing wrong with that. But what about all the other animals that have ever lived since the world began? You know the ones I’m talking about. Not only the creatures that have lived in the wild, but particularly those awful specimens that we’ve learned to loathe and despsise our entire lives. Are they also frolicking about the Throne of Glory at the feet of God? Truthfully now, doesn’t it bother you just a little bit to think that rats and cockroaches, and maggots and slugs are all living “up there,” too? Do you believe they, too, are walking about the Streets of Gold along with lice and wood ticks, and Gramma and Grandpa?
Do you actually mean to tell me that all the animals that have ever lived are “up in Heaven” with God Almighty and all the holy angels, not to mention all our loved ones who’ve also passed away to a better life? It’s a most attractive thought, isn’t it? Well, OK, maybe not; but do you believe it’s really true?
And let’s not forget that God don’t make no junk! Whatever He has made is perfectly good and wonderfully made. Even the vilest specimens (as we tend to think of them) are really miraculous works of art and beauty, and are serving His purpose by their very existence. It is we who are the vile ones and therefore unqualified to pass any real judgment on the loveliness of a tree toad, or lack thereof. Nonetheless, do we really believe all these creatures (beauteous or not) are “up there” in Heaven even now?
Although I really don’t know, and neither do you, I have my doubts. And let me tell you why.
It’s not that I don’t think there’s an afterlife for all His creation—even the most vile and repulsive ones--for I do (at least for some). [See Article,“RESURRECTION OF ALL”] In fact, my belief in all of creation living again is actually more inclusive than most! And I’m certainly counting on seeing my favorite pets again—alive and well. They do live again and they will live again. That’s not the issue here. What we’re talking about here is whether or not they live “up in Heaven” in the mean time, that is, until the end of history and the beginning of the eternal age.
And it’s also not that I don’t think they have souls, either—for I do (at least for most life forms). Besides, as you see elsewhere, it really doesn’t matter if they have souls or not, anyway, as to whether they’ll live again. [See: Article, “NO SOUL? SO WHAT?”]
But the first reason they’re not “up in Heaven” right now (with the possible exception of our pets) is that they were never made for Heaven to start out with. And guess what? Neither were we! We weren’t made for “Heaven” either, though we go there when we die (if we’ve received His gift of eternal life, that is). They were made to live out their existence right here on good-old planet earth, just like you and me.
For instance, consider the earthworm. Here on earth, earthworms are of great value to gardeners and farmers alike, and hence, we all benefit from them. They’re instrumental in the aeration and irrigation of the soil and the production of humus through their ingestion of dead leaves, etc., which is good for the soil, too. Now, in Heaven, is all this necessary? Does Heaven need earthworms to constantly aerate the Heavenly Kingdom and ingest dead foliage? I rather doubt it. But here on the earth it is necessary, as it will also be in the New Earth, as well. And who’s going to do the all-important job of the earthworm in the “New” Earth? Why not those who’re already experienced at it, as are the earthworms from the “old” one?
Let’s stop for a moment here to clarify what we’re talking about. When we talk about all the animals of history living up in Heaven with God, we have in mind their “souls,” if you will. Their bodies are still in the earth. One way or another, they’ve all returned to the dust from which they came. So when we talk about cockroaches, for instance, scurrying about the Heavenly Throne Room, we’re not really picturing them, as they were on the earth, scurrying about in a physical, bodily form. However, of course, there are those who maintain that human beings in Heaven do have some sort of a “temporary” body in which they reside until the resurrection of their earthly ones into glory and, I would suppose, they’d more than likely have the same idea in mind for the animals, as well. They’d probably say the cockroaches in Heaven really do have a body, though a “temporary” one to scurry in. Still others, who believe that Heaven will always be Heaven as it is now, will have to affirm that the heavenly bodies of roaches, et al., are really eternal ones, or else that they will be. But the notion of temporary bodies is an on-going debate in Christian circles that we won’t get into here.
Now, while it may or may not be so (that even we have temporary bodies in Heaven), I still maintain that even the souls of all the animals of earthly history are really not either necessary or desired by God to actually be in “up in Heaven,” anyway. Their purpose, as we’ve noted, has always been to perform certain functions both for God and man on the earth itself. With the possible exception of our pets, that is (but this I’ll mention in a few moments, in “Reason 2” below).
And this test of creaturely usefulness and purpose in Heaven is one we can apply to all His creatures in this life. Really, what good would they be “up in Heaven?” Oh, they could sit and lay around up there forever and ever and have a good old time basically doing nothing but enjoying God. But what “purpose” would they serve in Heaven, which is only a temporary location anyway? God seems rather to have a purpose and a reason for all His creation to perform and that’s where we all find our fulfillment. We’re never pictured in the Bible as just sitting and lying around Heaven with nothing else to do. And the same goes for this life, too. When this age is over and the heavens and the earth have been purged, then God, and all those of us who are with Him, will come down from Heaven to the New Earth to live forevermore (Rev. 21:1-5) and THIS is where we’ll all live. And THIS is where all these animals are usefully serving their Creator’s purpose for them even now, and will continue to do so then, too—doing and being what they were made to do and to be.
Remember “in the beginning” when God created us all—both them and us? Not only were we living together in paradise here on the earth, but God Himself was also here with us! We were all made to live together right here on the earth with our Creator. We all had our own purpose and responsibility right here. And guess what again? If Adam and Eve had never sinned, we’d probably STILL all be living right here on earth—forever—just as He had planned, doing all we were meant to do right here. No one would have ever died and neither would any of the rest of His creation. They’d all still be here. All of His creation was meant to be just that—all of His creation. There’s no real need for all of it to be transported temporarily to Heaven, but all our lives and purposes will be fulfilled in the New Earth!
But then, in the midst of this original paradise, came the “fall.” That is when our first parents rebelled against God and from that moment on He separated Himself from us all. As for humans, this separation is “spiritual death.” He no longer walked the earth with us nor did His Spirit remain in our bodies—His temple. And this separation is one of the main reasons why God is always considered to be “up in Heaven,” Himself. He could no longer stay here with us in the same manner as before. But even He will not reside there forever, so why should all of creation be there with Him now? He was our spiritual life in the beginning, but then He was gone. We were separated from Him spiritually and we also began to die physically, as well. And so did the rest of creation, too. His departure meant we were all left to die for the sins of man. So, again, just because man (and perhaps the pets associated with him) goes to Heaven to be with God, until this earth is cleansed of all its sin and corruption, is no reason to suppose that all the rest of fallen creation must follow him there.
However, in the course of time, God paid the price for our rebellion by giving His own life in exchange for ours and, for those of us who would like to be reunited with Him, He will now return to live in our hearts—our bodies once again being the temple of His Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19). If we let Him, that is. This is the new birth we must have in order to live with Him again (John 3:1-5).
Anyway, this world, and all that’s in it, is still corrupted and God cannot return to live here with us in this current state, for He is holy and the world is not. Before He can return, all the vestiges of sin and corruption must be cleansed from it, and then He will return. In the mean time, however, when His children die, they go to Heaven where God is and they live with Him there in glory (2 Cor. 5.6-8; Phil. 1:23).
Yet, Heaven will not always be “up there.” Instead, when this world comes to an end and a fiery judgemnt (2 Pet. 3:10-13) has put an end to all its corruption, God will “renew” this earth (Rev. 21:5) and it will then become the “New Earth.” And then God will return to this “New Earth” from Heaven and live with us all forever (Rev. 21:1-5), just as He intended. [See Article, “HEAVEN--NOT WHAT YOU THINK?”]
However, even though we’re told His children live with Him in Heaven until that time, we are nowhere told that the animals do, nor any other part of creation. This is the second reason to believe that all the animals of earth don’t go to the intermediate and temporary location of Heaven, as it is now. We’re simply never told in the Bible that they do. Now I know we’re also not told that they don’t, either, and for that reason it’s still legitimate for one to believe that they do anyway. Now, if you’re one who chooses to believe that all the animals of earthly history are residing “up in Heaven,” go right ahead. There’s no penalty points awarded you. Sometimes I entertain the idea myself! After all, God is God and there’s so much more to Him than we’ll ever know. So, like I said, go right ahead. But, since there’s only two possibilities (either they do or they don’t) and since we’re never told that they do, then the burden of proof must fall on those who say they actually do. That’s all.
To be sure, there are animals in Heaven, but none that have previously lived on the earth, as far as we know. Those who are in Heaven were made to be in Heaven to start out with. We would certainly like to think that the animals in Heaven include those who’ve come from the earth, I know; but the fact remains that we’ve no Biblical reason to believe it. It just never says so.
OK, I can hear it now. Someone is saying, “But what about Rev. 5?” I know, I know. I’ve read other Christian’s books who point to this passage as a proof text that all the animals are “up in Heaven,” too. But the problem is, it doesn’t say that! In fact, if anything at all, it clearly states the opposite! To start out with, v. 9-10 quotes them saying they were redeemed “out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation,” and that “we shall reign on the earth.” It’s “on the earth” that they’re talking about reigning and nowhere is it said that they are “up in Heaven” now.
Then, to continue in v.13, we find John witnessing the praising of God by “every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them.” This is the verse that some of the others use to prove that all creatures from the earth go to Heaven but, again, what does it clearly say? Read it again. While John is witnessing events that are centered in Heaven, and he tells us of all these creatures, we need to ask, “But, where are they?” He even tells us where they are and gives no indication at all of them being anywhwere else—including Heaven! While he also witnesses that there are some “in heaven,” we already know there are animals there. They’re the ones that were made to be there to start out with and they’re still there. But, he continues to speak of those he saw that were “ON THE EARTH,” and “UNDER THE EARTH,” and “IN THE SEA.” Now, how is it that we “prove” all animals are going to Heaven, or are actually “up in Heaven” now, by quoting scriptures that tell us they are now elsewhere? It says they’re “on the earth” and “under the earth,” etc. I don’t know. It’s a mystery to me; it really is. [See Article, “POPULAR PET AUTHORS & THEIR STRANGE IDEAS”]
Now, I know it sounds tedious, but I must remind you that, wherever all His animals are, God is with them anyway. Their bodies, of course, are still in the ground or have been turned into ashes, etc., just like ours are when we die. And God is with those physical remains, too, wherever they may be. And these bodies will all be raised from their graves on resurrection day (John 5:28-29) and reunited with their souls, including, I believe, the bodies and souls of our pets and the rest of creation, too.
That being said, we still ask, “But where are the SOULS of our pets and all the other animals, if they’re not in Heaven with God?” Now that’s hard to say for sure and, to be perfectly honest, perhaps we must admit they actually may be in Heaven, after all! At least our pets, that is. Even though it’s unlikely that all the animals of earth are now in Heaven with God, still I wouldn’t put it past God to have our pets there, anyway, for the simple reason that they were so much a part of us in this life that He’d make sure we were together again the moment we arrived there, too. After all, one of their main purposes for living is to be our friends and companions, isn’t it? [SeeArticle, “PETS & DOMESTIC ANIMALS”] So, there really is a legitimate purpose for them to be there. They’re not only our companions but weren’t they also a part of the “family?” I know mine were! Still, though, we have no explicit Biblical affirmation of it. [See Article, "ANIMAL SOULS: VARIOUS OPTIONS"]
Yet still, on the other hand, we may at least have a clue where their souls are, or at least the souls of all the other animals. Ecc. 3:21 may indicate that the spirits of men go up to their Creator while the spirits of the animals “go down to the earth.” May, I said. Now, whatever this phrase really means, one thing it cannot mean is that they die, or fizzle out, or otherwise somehow become non-existent, as some would have us believe. It says nothing of the sort.
It’s also unlikely that it means they somehow go down inside the physical, material earth, as souls (or spirits) are not physical, material entities, but are rather “immaterial” entities. They’re not subject, therefore, to physical laws. Now, one thing this expression (“down to the earth”) can mean is that they remain “on” the earth, too, though not physically, of course. In other words, it’s quite possible that the souls/spirits of our dearly departed little pets may even be somewhere around us as we continue to live our lives and move about “without” them. They may still be nearby! Who knows? Which, by the way, is what the “Preacher” in Ecc. 3:21 is actually asking anyway—“Who knows…?” Biblical scholars point out that the Septuagint, Syriac, Targum, and Vulgate actually read “Who knows whether the spirit of the sons of men goes upward, and whether the spirit of the animal. goes downward to the earth? “
The fact is we aren’t told where their souls/spirits go or where they are now, but there’s one thing we can be sure of: Wherever they have gone, God is right there with them! The Bible tells us God is omnipresent. That means He’s everywhere there is and there is nowhere in the universe, physical or spiritual, where He’s absent (Ps. 139:7-10). He is literally everywhere and, since He is everywhere, then He must be wherever our pets are, too. So there’s no need to worry about them, wherever they are. Everything is all right with them, for God Himself is with them. And you really can’t ask for much more than that!
But, when this world has finally come to an end, and both we and God return to the “New Earth,” we will be reunited with all of His creation, for He’s paid the price to reconcile and to redeem all that He has made—all things in heaven and in earth (Col. 1:15-20; Eph. 1:10). [See Article,“REDEMPTION”]
But if all this is true, then why would the souls of humans go to Heaven until the end of the world, but not those of the animals? Well, for one, it’s because God has chosen it to be that way and, for whatever reason, it seems that He is pleased with such an arrangement.
However, the main reason for this arrangement is actually our third reason for animals not being “up in Heaven,” and that’s because we are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6; 1 Cor. 11:7 etc.), and they are not. He therefore has a special love for us that superceeds His love for the animals. It’s certainly true that He loves man and He loves the animals, too (and even more than we do!), but His love for man is of a higher order than that for the rest of creation. That’s the way He made man, to be more like Him—made in His image. Now, God is infinitely perfect in all His ways and therefore His love for the lesser creatures is still a perfect love, though of a different order. Yet man was made in God’s image in order to have “direct” communion with Him, whereas the animals were made for man, to have direct communion with man on the earth. And yet, even among all of them, it is only the most domestic of the domestic ones that actually do, at least since the time of the Flood [See Article,“PETS & DOMESTIC ANIMALS”].
And besides, He will yet prove His love for us all, humans and animals alike, in the New Heavens and the New Earth where He will dwell with us all forevermore (Rev. 21:1-5) as He has planned since before the beginning of time. And we’ll all be there together.
[See Article,“WHAT'S SO WRONG WITH THAT?”]
Note: More discussion on the topics of Articles such as this can be found in the book, "Will I See Him Again? (A Look at Pets in Heaven)," by Tom Waldron. The book is available from Amazon.com (see home page of Mybutchie.com for link). Also, please feel free to e-mail me with any comments or whatever you may have at: