I was asked a while ago if our pets will go to heaven. I’ve been asked this before, and every time I try to give an answer I always get some pushback from parents who have been telling their children that their beloved pet will be waiting for them in heaven, and they are very upset that I would suggest otherwise. It’s as if the “All Dogs Go to Heaven” line is the untouchable doctrine of our squishy theology – right there next to Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny.
We are living in a generation that has rejected the Authority of Scripture; treats our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as though He were that really good friend you only call when things get really tough because He’s always there to bail you out; and the Church is nothing more than a social club that would have a whole lot more people there if they could finally get the music right and make the preacher stay under 15 minutes. I guess it should not surprise me then when I face an uproar because I had the audacity to tell someone that while our pets are wonderful gifts from God, we have no assurance that we will meet a resurrected Fluffy when we enter into paradise.
Was Fido created in God’s image and called into fellowship with his Lord? Did he fall from grace in sin? Did Christ come to bear the guilt and wrath for his sin? Was Fido’s righteousness found in the righteousness of Christ, evidenced by faith and the fruit of the Spirit?
What about the inherent “Petism” that is revealed here? Am I the only one whose noticed this? Sure, we tell out children that our dogs and cats will be waiting for us in heaven, and maybe when we flush the goldfish we are sending him to paradise via a Potter-esque means – but what about the Cows, the Hogs, the Chickens, and even the Rats, Bats, and Snakes. If all dogs go to heaven, then what about the other animals?
It never fails to amaze me how little we turn to scripture for the answers we need for eternity. I should be used to this by now. Already Christians act as though the 4th Commandment (Honor the Sabbath and keep it holy) didn’t exist; we are silent on the issue of the sanctity of life (how is abortion not a violation of the 6th commandment); the Church has acquiesced on the teaching of sexual purity and honoring marriage (thou shall not commit adultery!)… and I could go on. I suppose that when it comes to our understanding of Heaven then, I should expect an “whatever-makes-you-happy-and-helps-you-sleep-at-night” attitude.
Here’s the principle we have to come to terms with if we are going to profess to be Bible-Believing Christians: Anything beyond what scripture teaches is pure speculation. God’s Word is inspired and authoritative, it is our only rule of life and faith. When we sit down to teach our children the matters of faith, it isn’t up to us to “make it up as we go along.” You can’t just repeat some explanation you heard on your favorite TV show, or say whatever you think will make them happy. We turn to the word of God, and we pass that faith from generation to generation.
But it’s not as if we are without a witness; Scripture does tell us what we need to know. Heaven is the place where those who have been redeemed in Christ finally come to rest in His glory (Hebrews 4:9), where we enter into the eternal joy of our heavenly Father (Matthew 25:21). Only those who have been redeemed by the atoning sacrifice of Christ, only those who have been covered in the righteousness of Christ by faith in Him will know the blessed delight of eternal life (John 3:16), and Christ is the only way unto our Heavenly home (John 14:1-7). This is not exhaustive, but it is a start.
This is not to say that animals will not be present in the new Heaven and new Earth. The wonder and diversity of creation will not cease to exist in God’s Kingdom, but it will be set right and released from the curse. Still, that which separates mankind from the rest of the created order is that man was created in the image of God, created with a spirit that is designed for eternity. In the resurrection, the faithful are promised a new body, it too fitted for eternity, so that we shall be with the Lord forever.
So many want to find comfort in the fact that their beloved pet has gone to heaven, but there is no biblical warrant for such a doctrine. Some have even said that heaven would be incomplete without their pet there – that they could not find happiness there without their animal. If your hope for heaven is in anything other than finally being in the presence of the resplendent glory of God Almighty, that is idolatry, and I urge you to allow the word of God to teach and guide you. John Piper once noted on this very question, “It is spiritually perilous to cultivate a love for an animal that has such a prominent place in your heart that you think that you need him for eternity.”
My thanks to my friend Magrey DeVega, who has an abundance of creativity (and apparently free time), the artist responsible for the included image.
Here is a link to the interview with John Piper: