Home > Creation, doctrines, heaven, hermeneutics, S. Lewis Johnson > Spiritual Children: Wanting Their Pets In Heaven

Spiritual Children: Wanting Their Pets In Heaven


As a follow-up to this recent post, I recently encountered an example of childish Christian thinking: Christian “defenders of the faith” who are interested in doctrinal topics and what’s true and not (as contrasted with the nominal church-goers interested more in secular life) yet who became quite upset at the suggestion that their pets won’t be in heaven with them.  Instead, they insist that the Bible is silent on the matter and so they hold out the hope of seeing their puppies and other pets again in heaven.

This could be addressed from several angles, a few of which I’ll mention here.  First, this attitude – reviling those who pointed out the truth, that animals do not have the spiritual component that humans do – reflects our overall conception of heaven and eternity, and the similar differences between our own childhood and adulthood, as for instance 1 Corinthians 13:11.  Nathan Busenitz gave a great illustration of this, in the comments at this blog post about heaven:

Several years ago, my wife and I were talking to our young daughter about the fact that one day she would grow up and go to college. (It was just a passing topic of conversation; not a serious discussion, seeing as she was probably only six or seven years old at the time.) Though she was initially excited about growing up, our daughter was very disappointed when she learned that she wouldn’t be able to take her toys with her to college. We tried to reassure her that, when it came time to go, she wouldn’t care about her toys. But she just didn’t understand.

Her response illustrates the way that we sometimes think about heaven. The reality is that, once we arrive in the new earth, we won’t long for anything else. We will be perfectly satisfied with all that God provides for us there (starting with intimate fellowship with Him).

As good Bible teachers exhort us, we are to grow up spiritually; we are not to remain children or remain the “weaker brother.” It is disappointing to see such an attitude, and such opposition to the truth, from those who have been professing Christians for many years and who ought to have matured at least this far, to understand and accept the situation regarding humans and their pets.

This ought to be something understood even from natural revelation.  If animals had the spiritual component and were made in the image of God (reference Genesis 1:26-27), they would have a sense of spiritual things. Why is it that everywhere in the world man is so very religious, that even pagan men who have never heard the gospel message are bowing down and worshiping something greater than themselves? Yet has anyone ever seen a dog look up in worshipful attitude? Or seen a dog kneeling down in worship to some object it sees as god, or seen a dog praying? Has anyone seen a cow looking up and gazing at the sky and contemplating its purpose and meaning in life — instead of looking down at the grass and its next meal?

Yet scripture is not silent on the matter.  Genesis 1 does explain that man is different than the animals, that while animals have a soul (a “ruach,” the Hebrew word for “breath” or “life” in the sense of the physical life force in all living creatures), yet man alone was created in the image of God.  Genesis 9 further reveals that mankind can kill and eat of any of the animals, something repeated in Acts 10:9-14.  Yet God puts a special rule in place for mankind, that ““Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” (Genesis 9:6).  If animals had the same spiritual component as man, why this distinction made, that it’s okay to kill and eat all other animals, but not to kill man?  Only in the works of fiction, such as C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series, do we see talking animals.  And indeed we also see there the difference, as in the “talking stag” incident in The Silver Chair where the characters, in the company of man-eating giants, realize that they have been eating a talking animal, and realize the seriousness of such an offense.

An excerpt from S. Lewis Johnson concerning how man is made in the image of God:

Looked at from the outward side, how is man in the image of God?  He stands upright, not like the animals.  They crawl around or they move on their four legs, on all fours, but man stands upright.  Furthermore, he gazes off and because of the sphericity of the globe, he always looks at the heavens and so his appearance is of a person who stands upright and he always looks toward heaven.

Furthermore, man is able to display emotions on his face.  Now, I know you think your own pet animal laughs and cries, but it is man who particularly has the expressions that reflect the inmost being.  It is man who blushes, an animal does not blush.  And most of all, it is man who talks.  Now if we were looking only at the outward side of things, we would say in these respects man has been created in the image of God.

A final note:  a common argument brought forth, supposedly in support of pets being with us and in eternity, is what the Bible says regarding the Kingdom era about the presence of animals.  Yes, the Bible speaks of the regeneration of the earth (reference Romans 8:19-21), and other passages such as Isaiah 65 mention animals.  But that does not mean that those animals are the resurrected / regenerated pets from this age.  Scripture nowhere says that the animals which are part of the creation are the same animals from this age, and the normal grammatical reading of the Bible would never even suggest that idea.

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  1. August 10, 2012 at 10:34 am

    I’m speechless that some people actually feel they need to make having their pets in heaven be an issue of importance for them. I’d be afraid of what I might say to someone who felt like they needed to stand firm on this non-theological position.

    • August 10, 2012 at 11:30 am

      Yes, I was shocked at this attitude.

    • August 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm

      most people have not longed for a close connection with their Creator. When they do start searching to cling to their creator they would learn much and one of which is that the elements of plant form, animal form, inanimate form are different from man’s form (nefesh, ruach, neshama, chaya and yechida).

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