Will Animals, Including Our Pets, Live Again?

Chapter 40 of Heaven by Randy Alcorn

Christ proclaims from his throne on the New Earth: “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5, ESV). It’s not just people who will be renewed but also the earth and “all things” in it. Do “all things” include animals? Yes. Horses, cats, dogs, deer, dolphins, and squirrels—as well as the inanimate creation—will be beneficiaries of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Christ’s emphasis isn’t on making new things but on making old things new. It’s not about inventing the unfamiliar but about restoring and enhancing the familiar. Jesus seems to be saying, “I’ll take all I made the first time, including people and nature and animals and the earth itself, and bring it back as new, fresh, and indestructible.”

How Closely Are Animals Tied to Our Resurrection?

Did Christ die for animals? Certainly not in the way he died for mankind. People are made in God’s image, animals aren’t. People sinned, animals didn’t. Because animals didn’t sin, they don’t need a redeemer in the same way.

But in another sense, Christ died for animals indirectly because his death for humanity purchased redemption for what was brought down by humanity’s sin, including animals. Romans 8 is explicit on this point:

“The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth. . . . We ourselves groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for . . . the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:21-23).

This is a clear statement that our resurrection, the redemption of our bodies, will not only bring deliverance to us, but also to the rest of creation, which has been groaning in its suffering. This seems to indicate that on the New Earth, after mankind’s resurrection, animals who once suffered on the old Earth will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.

If God created a new race of humans on the New Earth—rather than raising the people who had lived on the old Earth—would it fulfill the promise in Romans 8 of redemption, deliverance, and resurrection? No. Why? To have meaning, the people who are redeemed and resurrected into the new world must be the same people who suffered in the old world. Otherwise, their longing for redemption would go unmet. As goes mankind, so go the animals. If we take to its logical conclusions the parallel Paul makes between humans’ and animals’ groaning, then at least some of those animals who suffered on the old Earth must be made whole on the New Earth.

It’s not some abstract “animalkind” that cries out. The creatures that groan and cry out for their resurrection are specific suffering people and specific animals. They cry out for their deliverance, not another’s. I believe this suggests that God may remake certain animals that lived on the old Earth.

Many passages indicate that God will bring judgment on “men and animals” or “man and beast” because of mankind’s sin (Exodus 9:22-25; Jeremiah 7:20; 21:6; Ezekiel 14:12-13, 17). God’s blessings on the righteous include blessings not only on their children but also on the offspring of their animals (Deuteronomy 7:13-14; 28:1-4).

This fits the words anticipating Christ’s coming: “And all flesh will see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:6, NASB). The Greek word translated “flesh” is sarx. Some Bible versions translate this as “all people” or “all mankind,” but the word is more inclusive. “All flesh” includes animals. They too will behold and benefit from Christ’s redemptive work.

Psalm 104 demonstrates God’s intimate involvement with the lives of his animals and his purposes for them. The psalm speaks of birds, cattle, wild donkeys, rock badgers, and lions, saying “the earth is full of your creatures” (v. 24). It speaks of “the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number—living things both large and small” (v. 25). It says, “These all look to you” (v. 27). Then the psalm writer adds, “When you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust” (v. 29). But then we’re told something amazing: “When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” (v. 30). The “they” seems to refer to the animals who’ve died and returned to the dust. What does God mean that he sends his Spirit and creates them? It appears that he’s talking about re-creating animals after they’ve died. Why? To “renew the face of the earth.” The same “they” who die are the “they” who are created or re-created as part of the earth’s renewal (Matthew 19:28).

Will Extinct Animals Live on the New Earth?

Someone wrote to me, “My children are hoping extinct animals will be in Heaven, maybe even dinosaurs.” Is this merely a child’s fantasy? I think it’s a question based on a rational conclusion. Were dinosaurs part of God’s original creation of a perfect animal world? Certainly. Will the restoration of Earth and the redemption of God’s creation be complete enough to bring back extinct animals? Will extinct animals be included in the “all things” Christ will make new? I see every reason to think so and no persuasive argument against it. I think we should fully expect that extinct animals and plants will be brought back to life. By resurrecting his original creation, God will show the totality of his victory over sin and death.

It’s apparent that the Curse that fell on the earth resulted in some species dying out. But God promises, “No longer will there be any curse” (Revelation 22:3). And because it seems that the Curse will not merely be nullified but reversed, it seems likely that God might restore extinct animals and plants on the New Earth.

Animals are created for God’s glory. What could speak more of his awesome power than a tyrannosaurus? When talking to Job, God pointed out his greatness revealed in the giant land and sea creatures behemoth and leviathan (Job 40–41). Why shouldn’t all people have the opportunity to enjoy these great wonders of God on the New Earth?

Imagine Jurassic Parkwith all of the awesome majesty of those huge creatures but none of their violence and hostility. Imagine riding a brontosaurus—or flying on the back of a pterodactyl. Unless God made a mistake when he created them—and clearly he didn’t—why wouldn’t he include them when he makes “everything new”?

Will Our Pets Be Restored on the New Earth?

Humorist Will Rogers said, “If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” This statement was, of course, based on sentiment, not theology. However, it reflects something biblical: a God-given affection for animals. I’ve often thanked God for my golden retriever, who, when I was a boy, crawled into my sleeping bag as I lay in my backyard gazing up at the stars. Although I didn’t know God then, he touched my life through that dog. Nanci and I have experienced many hours of laughter and joy in animals.

Certainly people can go to unhealthy extremes with their animals. Still, though we understandably roll our eyes at pet psychologists or estates left to Siamese cats, we should ask ourselves why so many people find such companionship, solace, and joy in their pets. Is it because of sin? I believe it’s because of how God has made animals, and us.

That’s why the question of whether pets will be in Heaven is not, as some assume, stupid. Animals aren’t nearly as valuable as people, but God is their Maker and has touched many people’s lives through them. It would be simple for him to re-create a pet in Heaven if he wants to. He’s the giver of all good gifts, not the taker of them. If it would please us to have a pet restored to the New Earth, that may be sufficient reason. Consider parents who’ve acquired a pet because of their child’s request. God is better than we are at giving good gifts to his children (Matthew 7:9-11). And if we object that animals won’t make us happy in Heaven, we betray our Christoplatonism again—for by finding happiness in God’s creation, we will find happiness in him.

We know animals will be on the New Earth, which is a redeemed and renewed old Earth, in which animals had a prominent role. People will be resurrected to inhabit this world. As we saw, Romans 8:21-23 assumes animals as part of a suffering creation eagerly awaiting deliverance through humanity’s resurrection. This seems to require that some animals who lived, suffered, and died on the old Earth must be made whole on the New Earth. Wouldn’t some of those likely be our pets?

It seems God could do one of three things on the New Earth: (1) create entirely new animals; (2) bring back to life animals that have suffered in our present world, giving them immortal bodies (this could be re-creating, not necessarily resurrecting); (3) create some animals brand-new, “from scratch,” and bring back to life some old ones. [1]

I’m avoiding the term resurrection for fear that it could lead to theological error that fails to recognize the fundamental differences between people and animals—something that certain “animal rights” advocates are guilty of. However, in the broad sense of the terms, the words redemption and resurrection can appropriately apply not only to mankind but also to Earth, vegetation, and animals. A resurrected field, meadow, flower, or animal, of course, would in no sense be equal to resurrected humans; it’s simply that just as Creation and the Fall rode on the coattails of mankind, so will redemption and resurrection.

In many of his writings, C. S. Lewis commented on the future of animals. He said, “It seems to me possible that certain animals may have an immortality, not in themselves, but in the immortality of their masters. . . . Very few animals indeed, in their wild state, attain to a ‘self’ or ego. But if any do, and if it is agreeable to the goodness of God that they should live again, their immortality would also be related to man—not, this time, to individual masters, but to humanity.” [2] In The Great Divorce, Lewis portrayed Sarah Smith, a woman ordinary on Earth, as great in Heaven. On Earth she loved both people and animals. In Heaven she’s surrounded by the very animals she cared for on Earth. [3]

In her excellent book about Heaven, Joni Eareckson Tada says, “If God brings our pets back to life, it wouldn’t surprise me. It would be just like Him. It would be totally in keeping with His generous character. . . . Exorbitant. Excessive. Extravagant in grace after grace. Of all the dazzling discoveries and ecstatic pleasures heaven will hold for us, the potential of seeing Scrappy would be pure whimsy—utterly, joyfully, surprisingly superfluous. . . . Heaven is going to be a place that will refract and reflect in as many ways as possible the goodness and joy of our great God, who delights in lavishing love on His children.” [4]

In a poem about the world to come, theologian John Piper writes,

And as I knelt beside the brook

To drink eternal life, I took

A glance across the golden grass,

And saw my dog, old Blackie, fast

As she could come. She leaped the stream—

Almost—and what a happy gleam

Was in her eye. I knelt to drink,

And knew that I was on the brink

Of endless joy. And everywhere

I turned I saw a wonder there. [5]

Is It Wrong to Grieve a Pet’s Death?

Many people grieve deeply when their pets die. Some have told me they’re embarrassed or even ashamed at this. Their loss is great, and they long for hope that they’ll see their pets again.

If we regard pets as God-created companions entrusted to our care, it’s only right that we should experience grief at their loss. Who made these endearing qualities in animals? God. Who made us to be touched by them? God. Do we love animals because of sin and the Curse? No. We love animals because God created us—and them—to love each other. We can turn people into idols, but it doesn’t mean it’s wrong to love people. The same is true of animals.

We know the stories of pets who’ve risked their lives and died for their owners because the animals’ instinct for love and loyalty outweighed their instinct for self-preservation. It’s noble for a person to lay down his or her life for others, so animals who do the same must also be noble. We needn’t be embarrassed either to grieve their loss or to want to see them again. If we believe God is their creator, that he loves us and them, that he intends to restore his creatures from the bondage they experienced because of our sin, then we have biblical grounds for not only wanting but also expecting that we may be with them again on the New Earth.

Let’s not “correct” our children and grandchildren when they pray that they’ll be able to see their pets again. The answer to that prayer is up to God. But he loves to hear the prayers of his children, and there is scriptural reason to believe he may answer those prayers. Remember too that our children’s instinctive grasp of Heaven—and what we should look forward to there—is sometimes better than ours. (Christoplatonism hasn’t gripped them yet.)

What Future Is God Planning for Animals?

On November 30, 1781, John Wesley, who spent a large part of his life on horseback, preached a remarkable message. He began by addressing the many passages that speak of God’s provision for cattle and birds, and not muzzling the ox that treads the corn. Wesley asked, “If the Creator and Father of every living thing is rich in mercy towards all . . . how is it that misery of all kinds overspreads the face of the earth? . . . All the beasts of the field, and all the fowls of the air, were with Adam in paradise. And there is no question but their state was suited to their place: It was paradisiacal; perfectly happy.” [6]

Wesley explained mankind’s appointed role on Earth and how the animals benefited from mankind’s faithfulness to God and suffered in human rebellion: “Man was God’s vicegerent upon earth, the prince and governor of this lower world; and all the blessings of God flowed through him to the inferior creatures. Man was the channel of conveyance between his Creator and the whole brute creation . . . so when man made himself incapable of transmitting those blessings, that communication was necessarily cut off.”

Wesley argued that animals originally had greater understanding, wills, passions, liberty, and choice. He said, “How beautiful many of them were, we may conjecture from that which still remains. . . . It is probable they sustained much loss . . . their vigour, strength, and swiftness. But undoubtedly they suffered far more in their understanding. . . . As man is deprived of his perfection, his loving obedience to God; so brutes are deprived of their perfection, their loving obedience to man.”

After recounting mankind’s sad record of cruelty to animals, Wesley asked,

But will “the creature,” will even the brute creation, always remain in this deplorable condition? God forbid that we should affirm this; yea, or even entertain such a thought! . . . The whole brute creation will then, undoubtedly, be restored, not only to the vigour, strength, and swiftness which they had at their creation, but to a far higher degree of each than they ever enjoyed. They will be restored, not only to that measure of understanding which they had in paradise, but to a degree of it as much higher than that. . . . Whatever affections they had in thegardenofGod, will be restored with vast increase; being exalted and refined in a manner which we ourselves are not now able to comprehend.

Wesley envisioned a magnificent restoration of the animal kingdom on the New Earth: “And with their beauty their happiness will return. . . . In the new earth, as well as in the new heavens, there will be nothing to give pain, but everything that the wisdom and goodness of God can create to give happiness. As a recompense for what they [animals] once suffered . . . they shall enjoy happiness suited to their state, without alloy, without interruption, and without end.”

Wesley then made an extraordinary speculation: “What, if it should then please the all-wise, the all-gracious Creator to raise them higher in the scale of beings? What, if it should please him . . . to make them . . . capable of knowing and loving and enjoying the Author of their being?”

Might Some Animals Talk?

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 inEdenor 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 inEden, 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, as we’ve seen, 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 Londoncarriage 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.” [7]

Aslan later says to King Frank and Queen Helen, “Be just and merciful and brave. The blessing is upon you.” [8]

All the people celebrate.

All the animals rejoice.

Aslan, Lord of all, is pleased.

 


[1] Steve Wolberg, Will My Pet Go to Heaven? (Enumclaw,Wash.: WinePress, 2002), 57.

[2] C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Macmillan, 1962), 139–41.

[3] C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, quoted in Wayne Martindale, ed., Journey to theCelestialCity: Glimpses of Heaven from Great Literary Classics (Chicago: Moody, 1995), 140.

[4] Joni Eareckson Tada, Holiness in Hidden Places (Nashville: J. Countryman, 1999), 133.

[5] John Piper, Future Grace (Sisters, Ore.: Multnomah, 1995), 381.

[6] This and subsequent quotations in this section from John Wesley’s sermon “The General Deliverance, Sermon 60” can be found, with comments by Randy Alcorn, atEternal Perspective Ministries, http://www.epm.org/articles/wesleysermon.html.

[7] C. S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew (New York: Collier Books, 1978), 167.

[8] Ibid., 172.

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Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of fifty-some books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries

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