It seems that several of our Village family have recently experienced the death of a beloved pet. That is a terrible time for most of us. We tend to think of our pets as family. Witness how we talk about them: “the grand-dog,” or our “fur kids.” We certainly anthropomorphize them and credit them with emotions and character. When their much shorter lives run out, we hurt. That leads to one of the most common questions that pastors are asked – and that some struggle to answer.
I have thought about this often enough that I do have an answer that works for me. Not all my colleagues would agree, but in fact I have a Biblical basis for my answer? By the way, my answer is yes, I believe they do.
Those who would disagree with my answer tend to do so because they believe animals simply die. They contend that animals do not have souls. I would ask them, where in Scripture does it state that animals do not have souls?
Okay, Scripture clearly teaches that humans are made in the “image and likeness of God” - but is that the same as a soul? And where in Scripture does it preclude that animals do not have a continued existence? It does not. In fact, the Bible is silent on this question. It neither confirms nor denies animals having a continued existence – but there is what some might call oblique evidence.
• We know everything was created for God’s glory.
• We also know that the whole of creation is destined to be redeemed through the work of Christ (Rom. 8:21).
• We are given images in both the Old and the New Testament of what heaven will be like. These images tell us about the wolf and the lamb and other animals being at peace with one another and of Jesus coming on a white horse.
• Those descriptions of heaven certainly point to a place where animals are present.
Beloved, the Biblical view of heaven is not just a consolation for the life we wished we had. It is a fulfillment and restoration of the life we always wanted. This means that hard and painful things like the death of our beloved pets will not only be undone and restored, but will in some way make our eventual joy and glory even greater. Everything sad is going to vanish and will by God’s grace somehow become greater for having once been lost. In the Resurrection, we'll get the life we longed for and it will be infinitely more glorious.
So yes, I fully expect all of us to see our departed pets as they somehow participate in the benefits of Christ’s redemptive work.
I have heard Heaven described as “The place that, when you go there, all the pets you have ever loved come running to greet you."