Most people who’ve enjoyed the children’s stories of Beatrix Potter, C. S. Lewis, or others who wrote of talking animals have probably never seriously considered the possibility that some animals might actually have talked in Eden or that they might talk on the New Earth.
We’re told that in Eden the serpent was “more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made” (Genesis 3:1). More crafty suggests that some of the other animals were also crafty. Animals were smart, probably smarter than we imagine; the most intelligent animals we see around us are but fallen remnants of what once was. The serpent’s intelligence was demonstrated in reasoning and persuasive speech. People typically imagine that Satan possessed a dumb animal, the snake, but the text doesn’t say that. Today Satan can speak through a human being but not an animal because people can talk and animals can’t. But the fact that he spoke through an animal in Eden suggests the animal had the capacity to speak. There’s no suggestion Eve was surprised to hear an animal speak, indicating other animals also may have spoken.
When God spoke through Balaam’s donkey, was he merely putting words into her mouth, or did he temporarily give the donkey the ability to verbalize her instinct, perceptions, and feelings? On the New Earth, might God, as John Wesley surmised, restore or increase both the intelligence and the communicative abilities of animals? Whales and dolphins communicate in highly specific ways, as do many primates, in varying degrees. These are God-given abilities. We should assume they’ll be enhanced on the New Earth or at very least restored to the capabilities they had in Eden, where it’s possible more than one animal talked.
In a universe teeming with God’s creativity, should talking animals or intelligent non-human beings (such as angels and “living creatures” that not only talk but worship) surprise us? If people will be smarter and more capable on the New Earth, should it surprise us that animals might also be smarter and more capable? Remember, both in the Fall (sin) and the rise (resurrection), as goes mankind, so goes creation.
When in John’s vision of Heaven he says, “I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice” (Revelation 8:13), it may be figurative language. But when the serpent spoke to Eve and when the donkey spoke to Balaam, the stories are recorded in historical narrative, not in apocalyptic literature. Nothing in the context of the Genesis account or the Balaam story indicates these shouldn’t be taken literally. Furthermore, living creatures— animals—verbalize praise to God. And “every creature” in the universe is said to sing and give praise to the Lamb (Revelation 5:13). The word for creature in that verse is ktisma, which clearly means “animals” in its only other appearance in Revelation (8:9). Just because these passages are in the book of Revelation doesn’t mean they cannot be literal.
C. S. Lewis gives us a creative glimpse of what the resurrected Earth might be like. In The Magician’s Nephew, King Aslan declares the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, now in Narnia on its first day, to be his kings and queens. The talking animals make crowns for the first king and queen and express their delight in being ruled by these humans.
One of the animals who watches this scene is a horse named Strawberry, who drew a London carriage on Earth. He toiled, and sometimes his master Frank, a cabbie and a good man, whipped him to make him move faster. Strawberry, whom Aslan renamed Fledge, marvels at the new King Frank in the New Narnia: “My old master’s been changed nearly as much as I have! Why, he’s a real master now.”
Aslan later says to King Frank and Queen Helen, “Be just and merciful and brave. The blessing is upon you.”
All the people celebrate.
All the animals rejoice.
Aslan, Lord of all, is pleased.