Welcome, Animal Lover!
Congratulations on joining my Do Animals Go to Heaven? community. Scroll below to read the introduction and chapter one of my upcoming book, Heaven Is for Animals, Too.
And God said, Let the waters swarm with swarms of living souls, and let fowl fly above the earth in the expanse of the heavens. And God created the great sea monsters, and every living soul that moves with which the waters swarm, after their kind, and every winged fowl after its kind. And God saw that it was good. —Genesis 1:20–21 DAR
Do our pets go to heaven? Will all animals have a place in the afterlife, where they will be welcomed and embraced by a loving and compassionate God?
Interest in the subject has never been greater than it is now. Both inside and outside the Christian community, we have seen a growing spotlight pointed at all matters related to heaven. At the same time, the specific issue of animals being included or excluded from heaven has been explored and debated in expanding circles, from Christian websites and magazine articles to dueling neighborhood church billboard postings.
I offer this book to the continued focus and exploration on this matter. I enter this public forum with a definitive point of view and a strong belief. I have arrived at my own resounding answer to this question, and I believe that clear, ample evidence in the Bible backs and supports it.
Yes, our pets and all the animals go to heaven! I do not mean doggy heaven; I mean God’s heaven. I do not mean mankind’s version of heaven but rather God’s actual afterlife, a paradise of beauty and grace. To extend the phrase from the current popular book and movie, heaven is for real … for animals too!
Allow me to share with you a little bit about who I am … and who I am not. I am a Christian and deeply devoted to Jesus. I’m not a theologian, although I have at times contemplated studying theology in school and may yet do so someday. I am not a noted biblical scholar, though I suspect that the amount of hours I’ve logged combing through the many versions of the Bible over seven long years could bring me close to becoming an expert on this subject matter. After all, this is not a subject taught in seminary.
Professionally, I’m an airline pilot. I fly 747s to such far-off destinations as Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, and Beijing. If you have ever worked under the union label, as I still do to this day, you can appreciate how I often tell those who know me that the Bible is my “union contract.” As I have sought answers and evidence in response to the question of whether animals go to heaven, I have remained bound to the Bible as my guide and source.
I would also call myself a proud lifelong animal lover. Though I currently live in Southern California, I grew up in Virginia, in a region populated with equestrian racetracks. By age eight, I had progressed beyond pony rides to the point where I would walk right into a racehorse facility and insist to anyone I met that I could ride their horses. By the time I was twelve, I was riding those horses. I went on to become a competitor in jumping and eventually became a full-time dressage rider, competing at the international level and earning the Silver Medal Lifetime Achievement Award from the United States Dressage Federation. I have studied natural horsemanship under the guidance of renowned horse whisperer Pat Parelli. I have limited experience with marine mammals as well. I am a certified dog obedience trainer through the Animal Behavior College. Currently I own four horses and two dogs, including a German shepherd that I trained in police protection. I still own a dog training business, and I once was fortunate enough to receive many referrals through an organization recommended by Cesar Millan, TV’s famed “Dog Whisperer.”
Animals matter to me. When one of my pets or any animal I have loved dies, I grieve the loss. Most of us who love our animals mourn their passing as we would any departed loved one. The bond is that strong.
Knowing that our animals will be in heaven with us can lift our spirits and inspire us to become ever more grateful for God’s grace and God’s mercy.
So if you have been guided to this book because you have lost a beloved pet or animal, I welcome you to the exploration. May you also be comforted by the many reasons to believe that God has not forgotten our animals. Perhaps you simply love animals and are concerned about their welfare, both on earth and in whatever you believe an afterlife may be. Maybe you are a minister or biblical scholar who is interested in discovering different views and possible new evidence that point to animals going to heaven. Perhaps you are in the camp that strongly contends that animals do not go to heaven and you are curious about the evidence and the beliefs you are about to encounter. If so, there’s room for us all! You will find that I have provided my sources in a detailed manner so that they are available for you as well, should you desire to continue study.
Let us prepare to journey down this path of understanding why we have reason to believe that animals really do go to heaven. As you travel with me, you may encounter evidence, ideas, and revelations that will surprise or startle you, perhaps even challenge preconceived notions you have held. That’s okay. Even when I doubted what my Methodist minister told me about animals not going to heaven, I didn’t initially know anything about why that was untrue.
As the chapters unfold, I will show you the following:
- Contrary to what you may have heard, animals do indeed have souls and spirits. The Bible clearly says so, if we take the time to navigate through the translations that have resulted in the original meanings getting lost or significantly altered.
- God has always held animals in the highest regard, as evidenced by almost all the major stories in the Bible. From the start, he declared them “good,” just as he did for Adam, when creating a paradise for Adam and the animals to share as neighbors. Examples abound throughout the Bible that build on God’s love for animals, their important status, and how they honor God. You will learn why the evidence points clearly to the conclusion that it would simply be inconsistent for a loving, caring God to forget the animals or leave them out of the end times. To welcome and embrace his animals in heaven is simply in God’s nature!
- The concept of “dominion” has been falsely used as a rationale to adopt an attitude in which we feel that animals are ours to do with as we like, believing that they are secondary characters on earth and simply have no place in God’s heaven. This idea is critically misguided and cries out for reevaluation. The biblical evidence reveals that the word “dominion” really means that we are commanded to be good stewards to the animals, just as God is a good steward to us.
- Animals are not forbidden from heaven because they are not made in God’s image or likeness. In fact, many inhabitants of heaven are not in God’s likeness.
- Animals do not have to repent or claim Jesus to be admitted to heaven. They were victims of the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, so they do not have to be “saved” to gain entry to heaven.
- Before Jesus, sacrificing an animal and its sacred blood would atone for a man’s sins. Jesus, through his death and resurrection, became the last sacrificial lamb. We will explore the intriguing and profound implications of this link, as well as how the story of Jesus provides multiple compelling illustrations of his love and reverence for animals. Remember, when Jesus was born in the manger, he was surrounded by animals. When he went to the wilderness after being baptized, he spent those forty days and forty nights living peacefully among the wild animals.Heaven Is for Animals Too will also discuss familiar stories such as Noah and the ark, Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, the book of Job, the book of Daniel, and less familiar but equally important stories and Bible verses. We will consider the importance of angels and cherubim as well, and we will look at the relevant words and actions of such notable figures as Saint Francis of Assisi, John Calvin, John Wesley, and Pope John Paul II. Along the way, we will stop often to reflect upon the true nature of God and how that relates to his protection of his animal kingdom.
In building on the belief that animals do indeed go to “real” heaven, there is no silver bullet or one piece of evidence that tells the whole story and settles all arguments. As we build upon the body of evidence, the defense of our position will show strength. It may help to think of each piece of evidence in the Bible as a bead with which we are going to craft a necklace; only after all the beads are strung onto a single thread do we see a beautiful piece of jewelry. I hope this book strings an ornament of understanding and that some of the beads will represent for you a deeper love of God and the clarity that he loves all that he created.
The emphasis throughout this book is showing God’s love, grace, and mercy for the redemption of our world and all that it contains within—and that includes our pets and all the animals. I have done my best to consider God’s nature fully, especially as it shines over his animal kingdom. We also will consider the nature of heaven itself. It simply fits that if you’re going to hold to a point of view on the question regarding an animal afterlife, whether on one side or the other, it would be an advantage to have a sense of heaven as part of the foundation of your belief.
As we dig into the biblical evidence that reveals that heaven is just as real for animals as it is for humans, we will chisel away the misconceptions and misunderstandings that have arisen through the many different translations of the Bible. Key words, phrases, and meanings have been lost, altered, or twisted far from the original intended meanings of the writers of the Bible. It would seem, unfortunately, that man and his pride can create a low-lying fog that can cloud what the Bible, especially the Old Testament, actually tells us. You may be quite surprised at what happened when the Hebrew words of the Old Testament and the Greek words of the New Testament were translated into English.
Then, of course, with the advent of many individual sects of the Christian faith, we have seen various churches attempt to shed their own light on what the controversial thoughts and teachings of the Bible really mean to that particular church. As a result, the question of animals redeeming the reward of becoming part of Christ’s family in the afterlife has been cast in many different notions and often clung to with a general attitude that when it comes to animals in the stories of the Bible, animals are no more than “furniture in the room.” They are present but not truly important. How sad it is that something God created, prior to the creation of man, is so easily overlooked and dismissed in the eyes of many theologians and clergymen.
My intent is not to be critical or judgmental of others and their personal beliefs but to seek the truth and shine more light on these nonhuman souls who feel joy and suffering, and who, as we will learn, honor God. I’m often struck by the response I receive in discussing my beliefs, and the compelling biblical evidence that supports them, from those who steadfastly insist that animals do not go to heaven. “Where is the biblical evidence to support your belief?” I ask. “Have you looked at the translation of the original words of the Bible, which confirms that animals have souls and spirits, and that they are fully included in God’s plan for an afterlife?” Usually they simply say that their belief is true and well known, yet they are unprepared to present evidence. Some religious officials have even driven followers from their church with casual remarks about how they should not expect to see their pets in heaven. To me, that is such a shame.
From my perspective, those who dismiss the notion that animals could be allowed in “real” heaven may be making judgments from a human perspective, without taking into full account that God made this planet and only he really knows the answers to such complicated questions. What I have presented is my personal belief, based on my research. If you do happen to doubt that animals go to heaven, or insist that they do not, I humbly request that you take the time to look at the evidence that stems from this research.
In an attempt to simplify the journey, you will notice that when I address the Bible directly with quotations, I provide the version of translation. There are many different translations, and I have made decisions on which ones to use to: (1) facilitate understanding; (2) present a version that represents the original Hebrew, or the original Greek, more precisely; and (3) demonstrate how these versions differ, which can then develop into problematic issues of interpretation and understanding. For your clarification, these are the main versions I will reference: the New International Version (NIV), the King James Version (KJV), the New Living Translation (NLT), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the Darby 1890 Version (DAR), the Darby New Translation (DNT), the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), and my favorite, the Interlinear Bible, Hebrew-Greek-English (LITV).
I have done my best to organize and structure this book so that it will be easy for you to navigate through it or simply skip around if you so desire. I also invite you to travel into the field of facts that I present in the appendices. Because Heaven Is for Animals Too is built around evidence in the Bible, we will start with the earliest Bible stories. After the initial chapter takes a personal look at the loss that we pet owners experience when our beloved animals depart, we will begin our biblical exploration by revisiting the Garden of Eden. We will consider the true meaning of the word “dominion.” From there, we will go back to Noah and the ark to illustrate how animals, although suffering the same earthly consequence as humans, were granted an equal place on the ark to guarantee that they too would endure, and that even when Noah was granted permission to eat animals, they were protected by God’s strict rules. Then we’ll proceed to the glorious story of Jesus, stopping to pay careful attention to the prominent appearance of animals at almost every turn, and reflecting on the meaning of Jesus as the last sacrificial lamb. As our exploration continues, we will be moving more fluidly through both the Old Testament and the New Testament to cover the trail that we need to follow.
My desire is for you to find comfort in these words and discoveries when your beloved pet passes away. You can feel confident that what you will be reading is not simply comforting words but rather part of a real, substantive, biblically supported body of evidence that can bolster your belief that animals go to heaven, that heaven is as real for them as it is for us, and that we will share the same afterlife together.
So let’s start down the trail to see what lies waiting for us to uncover.
* * *
For the Lord thy God is a merciful God; he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them. —Deuteronomy 4:31 KJV
It is 2:00 a.m., and I awaken from a light, anxious sleep. Outside, fires are raging. Inside, Noel is coughing and gasping for air at my bedside. In a selfish way, I feel blessed that my dog is still with me tonight. I know it is close. Tears flow. I am agonizing over the decision process. Today? Tomorrow? When? Should the vet come to the house? He is only available on certain days. Noel needs to go out to the bathroom. I grab a flashlight. Her tumors are large and have grown aggressively within the last eight weeks. It started with a small bump on her leg. Now they are everywhere, from her lungs to her kidneys. Geez, she is only two years, eight months old. Are all German shepherds this susceptible to cancer? Her eyes are seriously bloodshot. She is exhausted by the simple act of breathing.
Outside, I see the orange glow of the fire in Camp Pendleton. I see the flames behind the mountain range that separates me from the marine base, a mere fourteen miles away. I am used to the routine activity of the base: the Hueys, the Cobras, the Black Hawks, the training exercises, the bombings. But this … What is going on? There is no local news on the TV concerning this particular fire.
The horses? I only have a three-horse trailer, and I own four horses. I had better measure the side door of my horse trailer to see if one horse can fit into the tack room. I can’t leave one horse behind. My husband is in Tokyo, and Southern California is riddled with fires. Evacuate?
Shoot. I can see with the beam of my flashlight that Noel is urinating solid-red blood. Her kidney tumor must have ruptured. Tears. Lord help her … and me. Madness.
Have you lost your best friend? Have you experienced the anguish of losing a pet and the unconditional love that our animal companions bring to our lives? Bereavement can bring on intense, stifling emotions, and the feelings of loss can linger for a lifetime. When the storm clouds swoop over us in our time of loss, the thunder booms with frightening questions:
- Does my pet have a soul?
- Will my pet go to heaven?
- Will I see my pet again in the afterlife?
- What is my pet feeling as life on earth ceases? Is there pain?
- If there is a God, where is he now?
Do animals have souls? In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth. This is the first line of the Bible. Nineteen verses later, God made the animals. Whether or not you believe in the creation theory or whether you see this as illustrative, there is a relevant fact regarding animal souls. And did you notice that in Genesis 1:20–21, quoted at the start of the introduction, animals’ souls are mentioned twice? What is significant in this verse at the beginning of the Bible is that it is a direct interpretation from the original Hebrew. In the common English translations of the Bible that we have come to know today, the word “soul” has been left out completely. This is something we will examine in detail down the road.The second and third questions listed above are, for many people who love animals, the big ones: will my pet be in heaven and will I see my pet again? We will soon see that pets are given spirits as well as souls. Their spirits/souls will be lifted up and returned to God. But when you experience the death of a pet, you may naturally start to wonder about death and your own mortality. When we die, do we sleep until the coming of Christ? Do we go in spirit to heaven? Is there a third possibility? Many of these questions that beg for answers during the time of loss are mysteries, but they are mysteries that we can dive into together. We will soon look at many mysteries of the Bible, from Genesis to the book of Revelation, the last and most exciting book of the Bible. It includes details about the end times and the defeat over evil. Rest assured that there are animals mentioned in this apocalyptic story as well. This futuristic event, when redemption begets heaven and eternity is reality, has been described by several Old and New Testament prophets. They clearly include the animals in these predictions.
So what does a pet feel, and does it experience pain when death comes? As I held my dying dog in my arms, as my fingertips felt the weak heartbeat lapse into silence, I certainly pondered where her essence was as she took her last breath. We know that animals are sentient beings, and sentient beings have understanding. As John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, said in Sermon 60:
What then is the barrier between men and brutes? … It was not reason. Set aside that ambiguous term: exchange it for the plain word, understanding: and who can deny that the brutes have this? We may as well deny that they have sight or hearing.
I do not believe that anyone doubts whether animals feel joy, happiness, loneliness, hunger, shame, sadness, and pain. Because animals operate under instincts from God, their pain is not always obvious to us. The fact that animals are under instinct is actually an advantage in their case of inheriting eternity. When we look at man being the recipient of free will, accountability comes along with the responsibility of making a decision. Animals were not given free will, and therefore they are not under the same scrutiny that we humans are. Yes, they are under the earthly curses that we humans have lived with since the fall of Adam and the eating of the forbidden fruit. Yes, animals experience pain in their world. They hunt each other and eat flesh, also operating under the instinct or inclination that God gave them. This differs from us in that when they take their last breaths, their spirits and souls returns to God immediately. Our souls can do so also, but under different conditions. However, God is the Creator. He made the heavens and the earth. Therefore, in the end, he has all the sovereignty over all that he made. Keep these thoughts in mind when questions about your animal’s fate begin to haunt you.
The last question on the list can be perhaps the most perplexing one, depending on your faith and your beliefs about God and his nature. As you watch your pet pass away, it’s hard not to wonder where God is or ask the related questions: who is God, anyway, and does he even know my pet? In my opinion, God does know your pet and will not forget your pet—the pet that he created. He sends his spirit to life; he gathers his spirit from life. In the Bible, God tells us joyously about how great his creatures are.
Every covenant and blessing God made included the animals. You will see through the stories of Noah and Jesus that God is intimately connected to the animal kingdom and always has been. “Is there anything too hard for God? Does the clay tell the potter what to do? God will show mercy to whom God will show mercy.” These are God’s words. Animals are important to God, and he uses them for his purpose. As Dr. Humphrey Primatt, an Anglican clergyman from the 1700s, noted in A Dissertation on the Duty of Mercy and the Sin of Cruelty to Brute Animals:
All who share with us the divine spark of conscious life, given by God at the creation, are our neighbors. All fall under the protection of the commandment to love them as we love ourselves.
Questioning The Nature Of God
I don’t know what your religious beliefs may be. As for who God is, and what he means to you, the answer will always reside in your heart, for your heart only. I can only say that if you have been left questioning the nature of God while suffering the loss of a pet, you will meet a God you can fall in love with: a God who loves all that he created.
Allow me to share with you something that made me smile regarding the challenge of understanding God’s nature. It’s an excerpt from Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Faith:
Imagine a bear in a trap and a hunter who, out of sympathy, wants to liberate him. He tries to win the bear’s confidence, but he can’t do it, so he has to shoot the bear full of drugs. The bear, however, thinks this is an attack and that the hunter is trying to kill him. He doesn’t realize that this is being done out of compassion. Then to get the bear out of the trap, the hunter has to push him further [sic] into the trap to release the tension on the spring. If the bear were semiconscious at that point, he would be more convinced that the hunter was his enemy who was out to cause him suffering and pain. But the bear would be wrong. He reaches this incorrect conclusion because he is not a human.
The analogy here is that the bear is a different species than the human and cannot see that the human is trying to be of some help. Is not God as different from us as we are from the bear? God is definitely not of the same species as we mere mortals. He is our maker. The vast difference in understanding between the bear and the human is smaller than the vastness between God and human. Therefore, God does not expect us to understand his ways completely as we read all the drama in the Bible.
I have come to believe that many of those who reject the notion of a loving God, a God who includes his animal kingdom in the afterlife, may be innocently placing God in a box. To suggest, as some theologians have, that animals are thought of by God as nothing more than furniture in the room seems to me to be a human-centered concept of God. As if we mere mortals can, with any accuracy, dictate what God is thinking … Yet that is what often seems to happen when the topic of animals going to heaven is addressed in our culture. We seem to be unable to think outside the box, and we attach our thoughts to what God would think and then pass a judgment. But we do not know God’s thoughts, as the Bible reminds us:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. —Isaiah 55:8–9 KJV
I simply cannot believe that a God of this magnitude is capable of creating a world full of beauty and life and then permanently destroying its parts, namely the animal kingdom, in the life hereafter, with his total sights on the human likeness alone. I wonder if those who believe God will reject the animals may be assuming that God has limited power. I suspect that they may be unable to think outside the box about God, and I am sure that God doesn’t ever think “inside” the box!
The first chapter of the Bible sets us up to understand God’s original intention. From the beginning, God teaches us about his idea of dominion. He provides dominion over us, and his first request to the human race is to be fruitful and multiply and to have dominion over the animals. At that point in time, the animals were man’s only companions. So in the next chapter, as we examine God’s introduction to us through the book of Genesis, let us look at how past behavior predicts future behavior. How does the beginning of time relate to the end of time? How does dominion today compare to the dominion of yesterday—the dominion God imagined? Fortunately, God is very clear about his future behavior, and it includes the animals.
Fire burned in the hills. It burned to exhaust what was left of my emotions. I did not have to evacuate that night. An act of God did not take my house. However, God did take Noel, my dog, who would never forsake me. How horrible is the pain, the heartache … the loss.