If you grew up in church, you most likely asked the question or heard some variation of the question “will my pet go to heaven?” Because the Bible doesn’t explicitly say “yes your pets go to heaven” or “no your pet will not go to heaven” people get different answers, but for the most part, most will answer no. The most common argument is that animals do not have souls like humans do. Yes, animals do not have souls like humans do… but does that mean they don’t have a soul at all? Could it be possible that animals have animal souls? A dog has a dog soul, a cat has a cat soul etc.
Scripture describes humans and animals as living creatures and puts them in a different category than plants. Anyone who has had pets knows that there is an undeniable life inside them, not just biological life, but something deeper. They have distinct personalities and the evidence of diverse emotions is displayed all the time. They get sad if you leave, are happy when they see you and feel scared with loud noises, I could go on with many examples and stories of my own pets but you get the point. Humans and animals have the same Creator so it isn’t surprising when we see similarities, yes, only humans are made in God’s image but that doesn’t mean that all other creatures are not important to God.
In fact, God created all of us as vegetarians (most likely vegans actually) in the beginning (Genesis 1:29-30) no creature was supposed to be eating any other creature. It wasn’t until after The Fall that God allowed anyone to have meat, (Genesis 9) it was because of Adam and Eve’s fault that a sacrifice had to be made to cover our sins. God had to slaughter an animal in order to cover Adam and Eve’s naked bodies. If God didn’t find animals worthy, He would not have accepted so many as offerings in the Old Testament! But God found His animals to be so worthy that He accepted them to cover OUR sins!! Think about it, no human was ever worthy enough to be a sacrifice for even one of our sins but animals were. Animals were the only thing worthy enough for God to accept as sacrifices before Jesus came. This says something about how we should be treating animals. Countless animals died because of our sin before Jesus’ final sacrifice. Today millions continue to die because of us, although no longer for sin but for food. The point is God loves the animals He created and He protects and cares for them, Psalm 36:6 says that God preserves both man and beast.
Scripture also gives reason to believe that God communicates with animals and gives them tasks, these are a few examples. During the great flood, God brought Noah the animals to get on the ark, Noah didn’t run around trying to catch two of each animal on his own. Consider also why the dove that Noah sent out would come back to him with a freshly picked leaf. Any regular bird would just leave and start making its home in the trees it found, why would it go back to Noah? Unless God was guiding it, it would have had no reason to (Genesis 6-9). Another good example is that of Elijah, in 1 Kings 17:4 God tells Elijah that He has commanded the ravens to provide for him at a designated place and sure enough when Elijah obeyed God and went where he was told, the ravens brought him bread and meat. Can you imagine if the ravens began to complain or rebel against God’s command to bring Elijah food? It’s funny to think about, but we never see animals questioning God’s will or direction, they simply follow and as Matthew 6:26 puts it, God feeds them.
As we have seen, scripture mentions the roles of different animals many times but by far the most famous one is that of Balaam and the talking donkey. Numbers 22:21-39 highlights the pretty crazy story of a guy named Balaam who was on his way to a place God did not want him to go. God therefore sent His angel to stand in the way to prevent him from going any further, Balaam couldn’t see the angel but his donkey could and continually tried to steer him away from the path. This caused Balaam to become frustrated and repeatedly hit his donkey. Suddenly, God opened the donkey’s mouth and it spoke to Balaam. Now, the majority of people say that God spoke through the donkey but a closer reading of the story will reveal that God did not speak through the donkey, but God allowed the donkey to speak for itself. “What have I done to you that you have struck me these three times?” were the first words out of the donkey’s mouth, does this sound like something God would say to Balaam? God was not the one being hit, but the donkey!! Balaam then explains to the donkey that he hit her because he felt mocked since she wasn’t going where he was leading her. To this the donkey asks if this is something she usually does to which Balaam answers no (all this time it doesn’t faze him a donkey is speaking to him!! Haha!!). It was after this that God opened Balaam’s eyes and he was able to see the angel. Reading the conversation between Balaam and the donkey, it is clear that it is the donkey speaking her own thoughts and questions. It just wouldn’t make any sense if it was God speaking through the donkey as the dialogue has nothing to do with God and Balaam but with the donkey and Balaam! Of course the main point of the account had to do with Balaam’s relationship with God but at that particular point, it was about Balaam’s relationship with the donkey. For me, there is no clearer evidence that animals indeed are reasoning, emotional and self aware, God made them this way. I am not saying they are at the same level of reasoning and understanding as humans, but I’m saying they are lot more sentient than we give them credit for.
Compared to us, animals do God’s will far more often than we do. A lion is doing just what it was created to do- be a lion. A bird does exactly what God created him to do- build nests, fly, lay eggs… Humans are much more complicated, how often do we question God’s requests for us? How often do we complain about and rebel against His word? Humans much more often do not live as they were intended to- to worship, trust, love and serve God. Animals on the other hand, are perfect examples of obedient creatures to their creator. I’m not saying animals have no flaws, just as all of creation and humans, animals too have defects and problems that came with the fall, all I’m saying is that perhaps their issues are not nearly as deep as ours since they were not at any fault before the fall. Animal’s relationship to God is very different than our relationship to God. Although we will never fully understand it, I’m pretty sure it is a much purer and less complicated relationship than ours since they didn’t sin against God. Animals do exactly what they were created to do, they are not like us constantly fighting God’s good and perfect will.
But having all this said… do animals go to heaven? I’d like to point out that heaven is not the same thing as eternal life or salvation. Many people are hesitant to say animals go to heaven because the only way they understand heaven is as a gift for putting your faith in Jesus Christ as your savior. Heaven is not just a reward, it is a place that exists outside of our acceptance of it or not. It is going to be a physical perfect living space that God is preparing as we speak. We, human beings, have a serious problem that if it is not solved will keep us out of this perfect place and place us into a not so perfect place. Humans are born spiritually dead and need to repent and be born again through faith in Jesus Christ in order to get into heaven, an animal’s dilemma isn’t so great. The plan of salvation is only for humans but that doesn’t mean that animals cannot get to heaven through different means. Because animals do not have the same kind of relationship to God as humans do, God can deal with them as He pleases and since we see that God really loves His animals, it’s not so far fetched to believe they too will be in His presence when they die. If God intends our pets to be in heaven, they would not get there through faith and repentance, clearly God intends that for humans. If we are going to see our pets in heaven, they will get there through a different means, most likely simply because God created them and He loves them. I’m not saying there is more than one way to be saved, I’m not, there IS one way to be saved … for HUMANS. But again, just because we don’t know more about God’s relationship to animals, doesn’t mean He doesn’t have a completely different plan for them too. Now, some will make a distinction between just animals in general and pets or specific animals on earth. Many people do think there will be animals in heaven because if there was animals in Eden (the perfect garden that God created in the beginning) then there will most likely be animals in heaven. Where they begin to doubt is if the same animals on earth, their specific pets, will be in heaven. If it’s so easy to believe there will be animals in heaven, is it really that far a stretch to believe our animals will be in heaven? All life belongs to God, He is the only one who can give it and take it which means that all life will inevitably go back to Him at their death. As I stated in the beginning, the Bible does not specifically say if yes or no our pets go to heaven, though I cannot make a definitive statement, I can make a pretty confident one. While the plan of salvation is exclusively for humans, heaven is open to all of God’s creatures that He gave life to. Considering their obedience to Him, their worthiness to be sacrifices and their obvious intelligence and self awareness I can say I will most likely see my pets in heaven. Pets have a pretty good chance of getting there (heaven), but if they do, will they see you there? We humans need to be made alive through faith in Christ in order to get to heaven, animals don’t. We humans are much more likely to reject God’s word, animals aren’t. You must ask yourself if you are born again, if you have truly received Christ’s life, your pet doesn’t. The important question is not if your pet is going to heaven, but are YOU going to heaven?!