This is a question that we would love to be able to answer with “yes.” We all love our pets, and many believe that they will go to Heaven when they die. But will they?
The Bible does not explicitly answer this question. However, it does give enough information so we can discern and then reason about what the answer might be. So what do we know about the destiny of animals at death? Is there any indication that there might be animals, especially our pets, in Heaven?
The Bible Says…
Both man and beast have the breath of life (Genesis 2:7; Genesis 1:30, 6:17, 7:15, 22). We know they both breathe air through a respiratory system. However, Adam had a breath of life breathed into him that gave him a different kind of life. It gave him a spiritual life in his soul, in addition to his physical life.
Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
The breath of life God breathed into Adam was the very breath of God, the life-giving Spirit of God. Before he sinned, Adam’s life was sustained physically and spiritually by the Holy Spirit. His life was in the Spirit (after Adam sinned, man’s life was in the blood. Leviticus 17:11)
While both man and animals have the breath of life in their lungs, only man was made in God’s image:
Gen 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
In all creation, only man was created in the image of God. Animals were not. That means man is a triune in his being, just as the Godhead is triune. God is Father, Son, and Spirit. Man is body, soul, and spirit. Man has both physical and spiritual life. Animals do not.
The Destiny of Man and Animal
In Ecclesiastes is a passage that speaks about the breath of life in the respiratory system of both animals and man, and about where their bodies go when they take their last breath.
Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.
This is speaking about physical death. The “one breath” referenced in verse 19 is the breath generated from the respiratory systems of humans and animals. It’s well understood that this breath will cease for both humans and animals. These verses are not speaking about eternal destiny. Verse 20 further confirms that this is about physical death. “All go to one place” is a reference to the physical bodies of both man and animals going to the grave at death, And what happens then? “All return to dust” is a reference to the decomposition of the bodies. Clearly, these verses speak about the destinies of man’s and animal’s physical bodies. The physical bodies of both go into the grave.
Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 spoke about the death of the body only, so this raises the question, what about the soul and spirit? Verse 21 reveals this answer.
Ecclesiastes 3:21 Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?
This verse indicates that both man and animals have spirits. The Bible doesn’t explain about the spirit of an animal, but we know that man has a human spirit so we can accept that this verse is saying animals have an animal spirit. A simple reading of Ecclesiastes 3:21 tells that the spirit of man goes upward—an indication that it goes to God who gave it, and “the spirit of the animal …goes down to the earth”—into the grave along with the body. Does this mean that all humans go to Heaven? No, what it means is that all humans will be judged by God.
Hebrew 9:27 tells that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” At physical death, a soul that has been made alive (regenerated) by the Holy Spirit is received into Heaven to live eternally with Jesus. This is because the person has trusted in the One who paid for their sins and washed them away with His blood (Rev 1:5). A Christian’s sins were judged and paid for at the cross. The soul of unregenerate man will be judged unworthy because they die in sin. They will go to the abode of the dead, the place in the belly of the earth that we call Hell.
Animals do not have a spiritual destiny. Jesus died to pay for the sins of mankind, those who are created in the image of God. Jesus was clear that the only way to Heaven is through trusting in Him (John 14:6). Animals can’t do that.
But what about “All Dogs Go to Heaven?”
For those who remember the movie by that name, you’ll remember it was an entertaining movie. But it was not theologically sound. There is nothing in the Bible that confirms our pets being in Heaven.
There are passages that speak of animals in the Millennial Kingdom. The book of Isaiah tells that these animals will be at peace with each other and with man.
Isaiah 11:6-9 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
The Millennial Kingdom is an earthly kingdom. It is not Heaven. The Bible does not tell where these animals came from, but just as there will be people who will live through the seven-year Tribulation and enter into the Millennial Kingdom, it is reasonable to think there will also be animals that will survive the Tribulation and be on earth when Christ returns to rule and reign. There will be household pets and undomesticated or wild animals. The only thing we know for certain from Isaiah is that there will be animals during the 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth and they will live at peace with man.
Are there horses in Heaven?
We read of Jesus returning from Heaven on a horse (Revelation 19:11), but even that is not biblical support for animals going to Heaven when they die. Are there horses in Heaven? Possibly, but they wouldn’t be horses that had died and gone to Heaven. Yes, Jesus is described as returning from Heaven on a horse, but where the horse came from we do not know. In Revelation 6 the Antichrist comes on a horse, and we know the Antichrist does not come from Heaven.
Again, the Bible does not explicitly tell the destiny of animals, but biblical reasoning reveals it’s likely that there is no afterlife for our beloved pets. Just like all creation (with the exception of man) animals live for a season and then die. That’s very sad, and it’s not what we would like to think.
- There is only one way to Heaven and that is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. One must repent and trust in Jesus to receive forgiveness of sins, and new life in the Spirit.
- Jesus’ atonement was for the sins of man, the sins of those who are created in God’s image. It was not for animals, nor was it for fallen angels.
- Only man is redeemed by Jesus and given His righteousness so when one stands before God he has been made worthy to enter Heaven. (Read The Gift of SalvaTION: Justification & Imputation)
We don’t want to hear that our pets won’t be in Heaven. We also don’t want to hear the our loved ones who never trusted in Jesus won’t be there either. But we know that what God does is just and right.
Since God has given us animals to love and to enjoy here on earth, we should thank Him for our pets. We will grieve when they die and we will miss them greatly. But Jesus will comfort us in this sorrow, just as He does in the sorrow of a lost loved one. In the death of a beloved pet, give thanks for the joy it has brought you and be quick to say:
…the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away;
blessed be the name of the LORD. (Job 1:21)
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