FROM PASTOR MEYER’S DESK:
As a pastor, I find myself getting asked lots of questions. Some of those questions are deeply theological, like: “Where did God come from?” Or, “Could you please explain the Trinity to me, how God can be three yet one?” Or, “Why did Jesus have to be both God and man at the same time to become our Savior?”
And then I get asked more practical questions relating to everyday life, like: “Do you think I should leave my current job and take this new opportunity that has come my way?” “Did mosquitoes exist before the Fall or are they part of the curse?” Or, “What do you think of cremation?” I love being asked questions because if I don’t have the answer, it challenges me to go searching for it.
Well, without a doubt one of the most frequently asked questions I get is this one: “Will I see my pet that just died in heaven?” I’ve been asked that a lot lately because over the past few weeks at least five households in our congregation have experienced the loss of a beloved pet. So let me stick my neck out in this opening article of our newsletter and let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say about this.
When I did some research on the Internet, I found a wide variety of opinions on this matter. And one of the most common of those opinions was that the Bible is silent on this question. It neither confirms nor denies it. But there are some biblical principles that I believe are worthy of our consideration as we ponder what happens to our pets when they die.
To begin with, animals were created by God. The Creation account in Genesis 1 tells us that while the birds and fish were brought into existence by God on the fifth day of the Creation week, land animals were made on the sixth day. Revelation 4:11 says: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
Then secondly, those animals that we call pets are a real gift from God. They become part of our family. They bring great joy into our lives. They love us unconditionally. So when one of them dies or needs to be put down, it is heartbreaking and God certainly understands that.
Thirdly, though animals were created by God and our pets are a gift from God, the Bible clearly tells us that only one creature was made in the image of God, and that creature was man. While theologians have debated for centuries what exactly is meant by the “image of God,” most agree that it includes at least these three aspects:
- Morality – man was created perfect and holy like God. In other words, from the very beginning he was a moral creature bound by laws God had originally made and had written on man’s heart.
- Intellect – the capacity to reason from cause to effect which includes the ability to design things, to build, to discover, to calculate and estimate, etc. Because humans can reason, we can make intelligent and moral decisions that animals cannot make. Hence we find passages like this in the Bible where Moses says to the Israelites: “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)
- Spiritual – John 4:24 says: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” Unlike the animals, we human beings have a spiritual side and the Bible clearly teaches that this spiritual side continues to live on after we die. Ecclesiastes 12:7 says that when a human being dies, “…the dust (referring to the body) returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”
Then one more point that I believe is worthy of our consideration is that God’s plan of salvation was designed for human beings, not animals. In Matthew 1:21, when the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream to explain Mary’s pregnancy, that angel said: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” And John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
So will there be animals, especially your favorite pet, in heaven? Though we can’t say for sure, many theologians would say that based upon what the Bible says – not upon what we want or how we feel – in all likelihood there won’t be. But before you start booing that opinion, please know that I’m talking here about the heaven we go to when we die, which is not our eternal dwelling place. For in both the Old and New Testaments the Bible points us to “a new heaven and a new earth” that God will bring into existence after the fiery destruction of this sin-cursed world and universe that we inhabit right now. That new heaven and new earth will in essence be paradise restored. It will be like the world God originally created before the Fall. Were there animals in that world? You bet there were. Whether the animals in the new heaven and new earth will include your favorite pet or pets, I can’t say for sure. But I certainly wouldn’t put it past our kind, loving, and caring God to do just that…or to do even better than that. For the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:9: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” Put simply, whatever God has waiting for us in eternity, I can guarantee none of us will be disappointed.
Let me close then with one more thought. While it is pleasant and comforting to think of seeing a deceased pet or, better yet, a deceased loved one in the life to come, the best part of heaven will be seeing our Lord face to face, dwelling and basking in His glorious presence for all eternity. Nothing will ever be able to compare to that. Nothing will ever be able to compete with that. Perhaps the Apostle John said it best when he wrote in Revelation 21: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth… And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”
Looking ahead to what God has in store for us, knowing that the best is yet to come,