Are there dogs in heaven? Maybe even cats? You have probably asked the question or at least thought about it. Children, especially ask these questions. If you don’t love dogs or cats or never had a pet, you probably won’t understand, but in many, if not most cases, they become part of the family. So one wonders, ‘Are there dogs in heaven (or even cats)?’ Before I seek to answer that question, let me tell you a story, something that happened to us just this last Christmas involving our pet dog Benji, my wife Dorothy’s faithful companion.
A CHRISTMAS DOG STORY
We were looking forward to Christmas with our daughter Beth and her two children, who were coming over from Germany. We were to have a family Christmas Dinner at our other daughter Joy’s home. We would have our two daughters and our six grandchildren with us for a traditional Christmas turkey dinner. Then it happened.
Christmas Day morning, our thirteen year old bichon dog Benji fell on the front steps and I was shocked to find he had hurt his front leg to the point where he couldn’t walk. So after I got back from our church’s Christmas Day service, Dorothy and I stayed home with Benji and the traditional Christmas Dinner was rescheduled.
Next day, we took Benji to our vet. His front paw just drooped down, and he couldn’t stand properly. The vet kept him overnight and gave him medication to relieve the pain. That afternoon, I was working in my study, concentrating on what I was doing and not thinking about Benji. Then, right through my mind, like an arrow, went a thought, ‘Benjamin is going to be all right.’ I felt God had given me a word of reassurance and I went quickly to share it with Dorothy.
Then the battle began. ‘Is that really you God?’ Was it a word from the Lord or was it just my desire to see Benji well again?’ It was like the story of Joseph in Psalm 105:19, ‘Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him.’ I sure felt tested. By Thursday, when Benji was still at the vet’s and still not right, it was decided that they would keep him there over the weekend.
On Monday morning, Dorothy, who had been in regular contact with our vet, received a call. We wondered how he was, knowing that if he couldn’t walk, he would have to be put down. The news was that Benji was doing great. He was walking again, and we could pick him up that day and bring him home. He is not one hundred percent but has improved remarkably from the time we first took him to the vet. PTL! God had kept his word, and Benji was alright.
Back now to the question, ‘Are there dogs (or even cats) in heaven?
ARE THERE ANIMALS IN HEAVEN?
Well, if the book of Revelation is more that just an allegory, a symbolic story, then there are animals in heaven for we have references to horses. See Revelation 6. Beyond this is the Biblical understanding of the restoration of all creation in the end times. It is interesting to see how some well-known Christian leaders and scholars have written about this. Let us look at one of these.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, claimed that the salvation of all creation included the animal kingdom. Allan R. Bevere, a Fellow in Theology at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ohio has an excellent article about John Wesley and the Redemption of Animals. He summarizes Wesley’s arguments in three parts.
“First, prior to the Fall, the entire creation enjoyed a harmony and an existence in keeping with the will of the Creator. Even though the animals were not created in the image of God, and did not have a place of value equal to men and women, God’s crown of creation, they nevertheless existed in the way God created them to be.
Second, the Fall of humanity affected all of creation, including the animal kingdom. It is the conviction of Scripture that sin has shaken the entire universe, knocking it out of kilter. Wesley is quick to point out Romans 8, where Paul states, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (v. 22). Thus, the sin of humanity does not just affect men and women; it is cosmic in scope. Not only is the relationship between God and humanity and between humanity and humanity broken, but so is the relationship between human beings and the animal kingdom, as well as animals with each other.
Third, since God is going to reconcile and restore all of creation, the animals will have a place in that kingdom. Thus, Wesley takes literally Isaiah’s future vision of harmony.
“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9).
The most intriguing part of Wesley’s argument is that God, in his moral perfection, owes redemption to the animals, since they had no hand in their suffering. To redeem humanity, the culprit in the rebellion, but to refuse to do so for the rest of creation, which is not responsible, would be, according to Wesley, an injustice on God’s part.”
I recommend that you read the whole article by Allan R Bevere (See Link Below). He challenges those who disagree will have to respond with the same intellectual vigor (i.e. as Wesley does) along with the necessary Biblical and theological complexity. It will not do simply to retort that animals will not share in the future glory because they do not have souls, something that is neither affirmed or denied in the Scripture.
Other theologians have written on this subject, including N.T. Wright and C.S. Lewis.
How we view all this will be colored by our view of the end times and heaven. I would suggest that too much of our thinking about heaven has been ethereal. It has been too spiritual and too personal. It needs to be seen as the redemption and restoration of God’s creation. John, in the book of Revelation, saw this bigger vision when he wrote, ‘Now I saw a new heaven and the first earth had passed away. . . . Then I, John, saw the holy city New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven.’ (Revelation 21:1-2)
Are there dogs (or even cats) in heaven? I believe so. How about you. I would be interested in receiving your feedback. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article by Allan Bevere on the Redemption of Animals http://www.allanbevere.com/2007/04/john-wesley-on-2-redemption-of-animals.html