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Spiritual Children: Wanting Their Pets In Heaven

August 10, 2012 3 comments

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.

Nations in the Eternal State: The New Creation Model

May 2, 2012 3 comments

From Vlach’s “Has the Church Replaced Israel?” (see my review here), chapter 15 brings out some further thoughts concerning the biblical understanding of the Eternal State and God’s purpose for nations.

Last year I blogged (this post) about the New Creation model of eternity, as contrasted with the Spiritual Vision model which has dominated the Christian church, after reading Vlach’s blog series (see the last one, part 7 here). The Christoplatonism that Randy Alcorn describes has come about from the Greek philosophical influences upon Christianity during the Augustinian era (4th and 5th centuries A.D.), along with other negative effects of allegory on the Christian church.  Yet a closer look at the Bible’s descriptions of the Eternal state, especially in Revelation 21-22, show a very different concept of eternity:  a world with nations and kings, people traveling in and out of gates, and engaging in activities similar to our present experience.

When I first studied premillennialism, I recognized the idea of nations during the 1000 year millennial kingdom.  Now I see more clearly, from what is said in God’s word, that the role of nations (as well as the concept of time) extends beyond that period, into the New Heavens and New Earth.  For one thing, the Abrahamic covenant promises dealing with the land do not stipulate a time limitation (i.e., 1000 years), but “forever.”  Reference Genesis 13:15, Genesis 17:8, and 48:4.

If the land promise is “forever,” that suggests that the people the promise (a group of people, a nation) is made to will also exist forever, which goes beyond phase 1 of the Millennial Kingdom.

Revelation 21 and 22, along with parallel statements in Isaiah 60, specifically mention the nations and their rulers.

  •  Revelation 21:24-26:   By its lightwill the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, andits gates will never be shut by day-andthere will be no night there.  They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.
  • Revelation 22:2:  The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Isaiah 60 verses 5 and 11 speak of the nations coming and bringing their wealth, and the gates being open, and “their kings led in procession.”  Isaiah 60 may refer to the Millennial Kingdom, but not exclusively, and the parallel to Revelation 21 certainly suggests that the Eternal State, New Heavens and New Earth, is also in mind.

Many other texts throughout the Bible speak of nations:  the Psalms often speak of the nations giving praise (which has never been the case in this world).  God has used nations to deal out his vengeance upon erring Israel, and also punished nations by supernatural action.  Isaiah 19 describes “in that day” the existence of three nations that will be blessed: Israel, Egypt and Assyria.

Chapter 15 of Vlach’s book addresses in more detail the issues mentioned above – the New Creation model and what the scriptures have to say about the nations — and then takes the matter to its next logical step.  If nations exist in eternity, and people in the New Earth have identity with nations, then why not have Israel as a nation as well?  The biblical case for nations, both in the Millennial Kingdom as well as in the New Creation Eternal State, is abundantly clear, so why would God’s purposes for the nations exclude the nation Israel?

Time and Eternity: Time is No More, Or Never-Ending Time?

May 31, 2011 3 comments

Michael Vlach has recently done an interesting series on the topic of heaven and the eternal state, contrasting the predominant Christian “Spiritual Vision” model — and its accompanying Christoplatonism introduced by allegorizers including Augustine — with the earlier biblical “New Creation” model.  Vlach cites Randy Alcorn’s book “Heaven,” as well as Craig Blaising (the New Creation model), and also points out some interesting scripture concerning the eternal state.  See “Models of Eschatology Part 6: Answering Questions About the New Creation Model (2)”, which points out the contrasting ideas people have concerning the after-life, and why the New Creation model is important.

One intriguing idea is the notion of timeless eternity, versus everlasting, non-ending time, and here Vlach points to the New Creation model and the description of nations during the Eternal State (Rev. 21-Rev. 22).  Further, Revelation 22:2 talks about the tree of life, “with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month,” which also suggests a time-bounded existence.  Everlasting life involves time that never ends — but not the cessation of time, of existence outside of the dimension of time.

As Vlach noted, very little has been written by Bible scholars concerning the eternal state: a great deal has been said concerning the Kingdom of God, but not about Revelation chapter 21, the Eternal State.  Indeed, in my brief perusal of available commentaries online (including modules available for my Bible software The Word), I found very little said about Rev. 22:2 or the eternal state.  Yet from this I have learned that many have taught the idea of a timeless existence in eternity, as noted in John Gill’s commentary (see his notes concerning Rev. 10:6).  Often the commentators are silent concerning the mention of the trees yielding fruit each month; if mentioned, it is understood only symbolically.  One commentator took it more literally and thus concluded that Rev. 22:1-7 must be talking about the millennial kingdom rather than the eternal state.

Reasoning from this popular “time is no more” idea, John MacArthur even provided “scientific” support:

Now let me talk about that for a moment from the scientific side so that you can see the rationality of this. Peter tells us that the elements will be dissolved. Now remember, the Kingdom has ended and that is the end of time. We are now on the brink of eternity when there will be, according to chapter 21 verse 1, a new heaven and a new earth because the first heaven and the first earth passed away and there’s no longer any sea. And then we enter into the eternal state, time is no more. The thousand-year Millennial Kingdom is the end of time. And the elements will dissolve.

When God closes the book on time the universe as we know it has to come to an end. You say, “Why is that true?” Time and creation began together because scientifically you cannot have creation without time. You say, “What do you mean by that?” Let’s go back to Peter’s word “elements.” Peter uses a term in the Greek that means the basic units. The basic parts of matter. Elements refer to the basic components of creation, matter. And do you know what matter is? If you have a scientific background you know this, let me give it you simply…matter is particles in motion. Most of what you see is space. It’s hard to believe that, even harder if you try to go through it. It looks solid. But it is not. Matter is particles in controlled motion. You learned that way back in your science classes somewhere.

Listen carefully, science says motion requires time because if something moves from one place to the another there has to be time. It’s here and it’s there and the fact that it was here and there demands the passage of time, even it’s only a fraction. You cannot have matter unless you have time because you can’t have motion unless something can move from one place to another, and it can’t move from one place to another unless there’s a passage of time. No time, no motion…no motion, no matter…no matter, no elements…no elements, no creation.

Again, though, what does scripture say?  It describes nations, the tree of life and a river, and fruit coming forth each month — all of which involve motion and matter.  Additional evidence (though indirect) comes from the dispensational understanding of the restoration of everything to the Edenic covenant, to bring to completion God’s purposes: a restoration of Edenic conditions, yet a continuing state such as Adam would have had, if he had passed the test in the Edenic covenant.  Certainly the descriptions given in Revelation 21-22, as well as in Ezekiel 47-48, agree with the original description of the garden of Eden in Genesis.  Adam and Eve were not then in a timeless eternity but very much existing in time and space.

Along with Randy Alcorn, Craig Blaising, and Michael Vlach, S. Lewis Johnson is another who held to the idea of “endless time” as mentioned in reference to Revelation 10:6, where in passing he observed that “As a matter of fact, there is a question about whether we can actually say that there is no time in eternity; rather endless time might be a much better way to speak of eternity.”  Certainly that would also agree with his teaching concerning the Edenic covenant and God’s Divine Purpose.

Isaiah 65: The Millennial Kingdom or the Eternal State?

December 17, 2010 Leave a comment

S. Lewis Johnson’s Isaiah series dealt with a text that I had often wondered about: the description of the New Heavens and New Earth in Isaiah 65.  Is it talking about the Eternal State, or the intermediate state of the Kingdom?

Verse 17 says “create a new heaven and a new earth,” a phrase which sounds similar to the description of the eternal state (Revelation 21-22:5) — as in the words of Revelation 21:1.  Yet the context of the next several verses is clearly describing an intermediary state, in which people still experience death (after longer lives).   Evidently this passage even puzzled Scofield, whose Study Bible says that verse 17 refers to the Eternal State, but verses 18 to 25 to the Kingdom age.

S. Lewis Johnson observes here that the Hebrew word used here, for “create,” does not have to refer to a totally new creation. The word used there could as easily refer to the renewal of the earth.  We do have a New Testament precedent:  2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that we are “a new creation in Christ.”  Of course, we realize that we are not yet completely new creations, as we still are in our mortal, corruptible bodies and still awaiting the resurrection and our totally new, glorified bodies.  Yet we have been renewed and regenerated in our spirits — just as creation itself (Romans 8:21) will be renewed in the next age.  So SLJ’s explanation here, in reference to our new creation in the New Testament, and Isaiah’s “new heavens and new earth,” makes better sense of the overall passage verses 17 – 25.