Articles and Questions
Can animals go to heaven? There is a lot of discussion about people going to heaven, but what happens to animals when they die? What does the bible tell us about the afterlife of animals?
There are many more animals in the world than humans. Some of them are parts of our families. This often leads to the question of do animals go to heaven. If animals don't go to heaven then where do they go? Do animals have any kind of an afterlife when they die?
The bible says little about the spiritual nature of animals. There are a few scriptures from which we can gather information, but none that clearly tell us about the spiritual afterlife of animals. We need to go deeper into the scriptures to answer these questions.
We know that God loves animals, and they have value in his eyes, "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? (Luke 12.6 KJV bible), "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel" (Proverbs 12.10 KJV bible).
The bible says that there should be some dignity in the treatment of animals, "If a bird's nest happens to be before you in the way...you shall not take the mother with the young. But in every case you shall let the mother go, and take the young for yourself, so that it may be well with you, and you may prolong your days" (Deuteronomy 22.6-7 LITV bible).
If animals are inanimate creatures then why does the bible give us these examples of how to treat them? If an animal has no spiritual nature then why should we consider its welfare? If it's an organic machine then there's no reason for compassion.
To understand whether animals go to heaven, we need to consider if they can go to heaven. We know that heaven is a spiritual place, and not part of the physical world. Therefore, to go to heaven, an animal would need a spiritual part that continues on after death.
Ecclesiastes 3.18-22 helps us to understand whether animals have souls. The writer starts by speaking of the nature of flesh man, and how he is like the animals of the earth, "I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts" (Ecclesiastes 3.18 KJV bible).
The writer tells us that in the end, flesh man is nothing more than an animal. Some of us might have lofty notions, but we are frail creature of flesh and blood. By our nature we live according to our own self-interests and desires.
Flesh man has no place above the beasts of the earth, because all return to the dust. Man and beast are equal in death, "All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again" (Ecclesiastes 3.20 KJV bible).
However, the writer tempers his statements by recognizing a deeper spiritual nature to man and beast. There is a soul that continues on apart from the flesh, "Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?" (Ecclesiastes 3.21 KJV bible).
The writer inquires into the mystery of man and beast. He asks whether the spirit of man ascends upward, and the spirit of the beast descends downwards. In this question, he recognizes a spiritual part to both man and beast. He doesn't tell us where animals go when they die, but he does say that animals have spirits that continue to exist.
One passage that can help to understand the animal world is Romans 8.19-22, "For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (Romans 8.19-22 ASV bible).
There are many interpretations of Romans 8.19-22, and a lot has been said about it. First we need to consider what Paul means here by the "creation" (Greek: krisis). What's clear is that in referring to the creation, he isn't talking about the children of God. This is because he says the revealing of the children of God brings liberty to the creation.
Neither can the creation refer to nonbelievers, as they will certainly not be liberated by the revelation of the sons of God, "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn..." (Matthew 24.30 KJV bible).
The nonliving parts of the world such as rocks, atmosphere and soil aren't subject to death and corruption. They change and deteriorate over time, but don't experience the travails of living creatures. They don't experience predation, stress, disease, and death the way that living creatures do.
While we don't know exactly what's meant by creation in Romans 8:19; clearly the passage is not referring to mankind or inanimate objects. Paul is most likely referring to plant and animal life because he says the creation groans to be set free from the bondage of corruption.
So Romans 8.19-22 is likely referring to the collective desire of living creatures to be set free from the state of corruption they've been subjected to. It tells us that on a deeper level living creatures want eternal life, "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of our God shall stand forever" (Isaiah 40.8 KJV bible).
The passage connects back with Ecclesiastes, and the futility of the flesh. Similar to Ecclesiastes, Paul speaks of the vanity that the creation has been subjected to. Then he goes beyond Ecclesiastes in describing a future liberation from this state.
Now if we assume that animal life is only a physical creation that can't exist spiritually, then how does it desire the revelation of the children of God? Why would it groan spiritually for the revelation of Christ and his Kingdom?
How can living creatures look for any kind of liberty if they only exist on the level of flesh and blood, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (1st Peter 3.10 KJV bible)?
The dominance of the flesh will be brought to an end at the coming of the Kingdom. If animals don't have a spiritual nature, then how could they exist at this time? They must have some spiritual capacity that desires to be part of a world that's free from the bondage of corruption.
So it's through the changing of the world on the Day of the Lord, that the things of the world will be reconciled back to the One who created them, "And he [Christ] is before all things, and by him all things consist...And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven" (Colossians 1.17,20 KJV bible).
This is why the creation collectively desires the revelation of the sons of God. Christ's return, and the tearing down of this order, will lead to the world being reconciled back to the Creator (see The Millennium Kingdom). This includes all parts of the creation that were subject to the bondage of death and corruption.
Animals are understood as a part of creation. They come in many forms and varieties. Some are helpful and some are destructive. Some are vicious and some are gentle. Some are clean and some cause disease. Some are intelligent and some are stupid.
There are many varieties of animals, but none of them are like us. They don't have our spiritual capacity for good and evil. They can't be children of God who do his work. Neither can they be children of the Devil who speak his lies. They are affected by the world, but not directly part of the struggle between good and evil. They are a lower order of creation than humans and angels. They don't need foregiveness the way that we do.
There are no biblical accounts of animals having a relationship with God or going to heaven. However, the bible does suggest they are more than organic machines. Animals have a spiritual nature that wants to experience the much better world that will exist after Jesus returns.
Comments are Welcome... Rules: (1) Post on topic. (2) No slanderous or abusive posts. (3) No repetitive or continuous posting.