Many pet owners wonder if they will see their beloved pets in heaven some day. Even wise King Solomon wrestled with this question. "Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?’" (Ecclesiastes 3:18-21).
God does not make creatures in vain. If He breathes life into a person to make them a living soul, then he would not seek to annihilate them after death. Quite the contrary—Jesus tells us that every person who lives, or has ever lived, has an eternal soul. "Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life" (John 6:47). Even people who do not believe will likewise live forever, though they will not spend their eternity in heaven. He illustrated this principle when he spoke of separating the "goats" from the "sheep": “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46).
Do animals also have souls? In an earlier post, Do Animals Have Souls?, we discovered that the Bible says that animals do indeed have souls. First animals, then Man, were infused by God with the “breath of life,” which in the Hebrew text is nephesh. So if those with the breath of life (nephesh) have eternal souls, and both people and animals have nephesh, then it follows that animals will also enjoy eternal life.
Some in the early church had preconceived notions about what happens after death. Some didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead at all, and some believed in reincarnation as a different life form. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul elucidates to his readers there is indeed a resurrection, because Christ is living proof of it. In addition, Paul said that when creaturesdie, they are a like a seed that is sown, and that the kind of body resurrected corresponds with the type of body that lived on earth.
"But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another…So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable." (1 Corinthians: 38-42)
This points to the resurrection of different kinds of nephesh—humans, horses, giraffes, elephants, cows, deer, pigs…and our pet dogs and cats as well.
When Jesus spoke of the New Heaven and the New Earth, he said, "Behold! I am making all things new" (Revelation 21:5). Jesus is not making new things; He is remaking new that which was of the old order. Randy Alcorn, author of the bestselling book, Heaven, wrote, "Jesus seems to be saying, 'I’ll take all I made the first time, including people and nature and animals and the earth itself, and bring it back as new, fresh, and indestructible.'" How glorious it will be when resurrected people and their animals are reunited in eternal bliss!
“I also said to myself, 'As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?’" (Ecclesiastes 3:18-21)
But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.
So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man. (1 Corinthians 15:35-49)
All creatures look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.
When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.
When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground. (Psalm 104:27-30)