Spirit: Animals and Heaven

We enter the world of conjecture with an inevitable next question: If animals are spiritual, do they go to heaven?  Perhaps the question should be rephrased: did God create intentionally expendable creatures, creatures to be destroyed when their usefulness is over?  Those who follow some sort of evolutionary theory, where the lower animals are disposable once the “higher level” animal is produced (“survival of the fittest” and all that) (and even then, all creatures are ultimately disposable, anyway), then of course, why should God bother about them and clutter up His heaven with obviously inferior occupants?

As a reminder, we review some essential facts: the Source of “life” and “spirit” is God:  “… He gives life, breath, and all things to all “ [Acts 17:25].  Although “breath” here is not the same word as “spirit,” they do come from the same root word; and “life,” although indicating the idea of “living,” as in Luke 1:75; 12:15, it also is linked to “eternal” life, for example, Matthew 19:16-17, 29; Mark 9:43-45.  This is that “Life” which is in the “Word” (Jesus), the “Life” that is the Light of men [John 1:4].

Particularly in “Spirit, Soul and Life: Humans and Animals” we wrestle with how the same words are used for both humans and animals, and it is not always clear when we should slide between the different translation meanings.  Just when should we use “breath” instead of “spirit,” and is our decision based less on the evidence in the original text and more upon our discomfort in attributing something, here to animals, that which we feel they ought not have?  And then, is it proper to use such passages to “prove” our doctrinal outlook?

For example, even though the words for “living soul” appeared more frequently in regard to the animals than to man in Genesis, the King James translators often avoided applying “soul” to animals, I suppose because they did not believe animals should have such things.  Therefore, since we do not find in the KJV “soul” applied to this class of creature, is this then proof that animals do not have “souls”?  This has the ring of circular reasoning.

When it comes to whether animals will populate heaven, and if they are the same animals which had lived here on earth, the Bible really does not make specific statements either way.  Perhaps that is because the mission of the Bible is not to inform us of everything that God will do, but rather it is focused on our relationship to Him.   The Bible also has no information in regard to what God is doing in Alpha Centuri or any other place in the universe.  Does that mean that He is doing nothing anywhere else except here?  That could be true – the whole rest of the vast universe may be merely for the decoration of it.  Or He may be doing all sorts of things in His plan for the cosmos, yet He has no need to inform us about any of it.

God created the animals, not for our sakes (although we also can enjoy them), but for His own sake, in His love of all creation and in His enjoying of them all.  Is it really in character that He would just flip animals away into oblivion with the backward brush of His hand?  That has quite an uncomfortable feel about it.  Really, is there any good reason why God would not bring the animals into His Kingdom?  Yes, they are part of corrupted creation – but so are we.  We are dearly beloved, yet is the rest of creation simply dismissed as immaterial?  “For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.  I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine” [Psalm 50:10-11].

Yes, we have been specifically saved by God’s gift of His Son and that Son’s death for us. However, death and corruption came to all creation not because of its fault and sin, but because of human sin.  Paul claims that

The earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.  Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.  [Romans 8:19-23]

Jesus’ death was retroactive to all humanity, going all the way back to Adam and Eve.  So how far back does the deliverance “from bondage to corruption to the glorious liberty of the children of God” go in regard to creation?  On the one hand, that there will be a new heaven and a new earth is true [Revelation 21:1], “the former shall not be remembered or come to mind” [Isaiah 65:17], the old will indeed pass away.  Yet we have been part of that “old” – what then will cease, and what then will be preserved?

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Would such an admission somehow diminish the salvation we have?

In earlier posts, the point was made how even a theistic evolution is contrary to a central characteristic of God, which is Love.  How likely is it that the One Who is concerned about the helpless and hopeless would simultaneously be callous and disinterested in the rest of His creatures, of which Jesus asserts, “And not one of them is forgotten before God” [Luke 12:6]?  Or the One Who looked upon His creation and proclaimed it as “very good” [Genesis 1:31], also regards it as merely tossable surplus?  It seems strange to turn around and say, “but He doesn’t really care about them anyway.”

Theistic evolution was rejected in that series of blog posts, because using death and suffering was identified even by committed evolutionists to be the most cruel way for an omnipotent God to create.  In that post the comment was made: “Death is described as the result and judgment of sin, yet when God describes His Glory as His steadfast love, grace, mercy and justice, it appears as an apparent contradiction if billions of life-forms are condemned when their only ‘crime’ is that they are no longer determined as ‘useful’.”

Paul said, “Creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope” – what is the “hope” that “creation” would have?  Is it the same kind as evolution offers, that eventually, perhaps some future, eventual offspring will finally make it to the grand goal?

Or perhaps creation will simply be annihilated and some copy of them will be recreated to suggest what had once been on this earth.  Ironically this sounds similar to the Jehovah Witness concept of the resurrection: Jesus was not really resurrected – His body is possibly somewhere in heaven in a showcase.  What appeared after the crucifixion was really the recreated archangel Michael – he had been “dissolved” at Jesus’ “conception” and from his “pattern” Jesus had been created as a continuation of Michael.  Now that Jesus is dead, Michael is recreated but now with the experience of Jesus included.  There is no actual resurrection, just a creational slight-of-hand.  Is this the way we are to regard Paul’s “creation” which is “in hope” “delivered from the bondage of corruption”?

The Bible is basically silent about animals that may populate heaven, it is silent about our pet dog and cat, but then it is silent about a lot of things in regard to heaven.  It is not good to build any doctrine based upon silence.  However, that also includes any doctrine as to what God will not do.  Still, is it permissible to ask whether there may be guiding principles as how we may view those things in the realm of silence?  Would the consideration of the nature of God and His love suggest that animals, and perhaps even our beloved pets, will indeed be part of our heavenly experience?  Ultimately, we will not know until we get there.  Still, it may be a good question to ask.

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.  The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.  The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.  They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters cover the sea.  [Isaiah 11:6-9]

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says Jehovah.  [Isaiah 65:25]

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