San Diego, California
The topic of animals and pets going to heaven received extra attention when Pope Francis was mistakenly quoted as saying, “Paradise is open to all God's creatures.” However, these words about pets were actually spoken by Pope Paul IV years earlier. The question still remains, do our dogs go to heaven when they die?
One of the most poignant stories in the Bible is the parable the prophet Nathan told to King David. The prophet told the king of a poor man and his pet lamb. He said, “The poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him” (2 Samuel 12:3, NKJV).
Because we love animals, often the question arises, “will our pets be in heaven?” However, the Bible is silent on this question. It neither confirms it nor denies it.
Yet there are some points we can consider. God created everything—including animals—for His pleasure and His glory. The Bible says, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:11, NKJV). Human beings were specifically created for God’s glory. “Everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him; yes, I have made him” (Isaiah 43:7, NKJV). But the Bible speaks of even inanimate objects, such as the sun, moon, and stars, praising God (see Psalm 148:3). Of course, we know these objects cannot praise God in the same way we humans can. However, they praise God by shining. By carrying out the role God planned for them, they glorify their Creator.
Although all of God’s creation is for His glory and pleasure, human beings alone were created in God’s image. Animals were made from the same dust as humans and have the same breath of life in them as we do, but God made men and women in His own image and entrusted them with the responsibility of overseeing, protecting, and enjoying the rest of His creation. “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food;’ and it was so” (Genesis 1:26-30, NKJV). “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Genesis 2:15, NKJV).
Because humans can reason, we are able to make intelligent and moral decisions; animals cannot. God did not create animals with the ability to choose right or wrong, to accept or reject salvation. Only humans were given this ability to reason.
God warned Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—“for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17, NKJV). Only humans have the ability to make moral decisions for or against God.
The plan of salvation is designed for human beings, not for animals. Since animals cannot reason and make moral decisions, they are not included in the salvation God has offered to humans. Jesus died to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21, NKJV). We are saved through our faith in Him. John 3:16 (KJV) says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should nor perish, but have everlasting life." In order for one to be saved, one has to believe in Jesus. But animals cannot exercise saving faith in Jesus.
Another way to ask this question is, "Will there be animals in heaven?" Yes. God’s original creation has been subjected to degradation and decay through sin, but it will be restored as it was in the beginning. The apostle Paul wrote, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:20, 21, NKJV). Although our sins have destroyed ourselves and nature, God will restore both. Just as animals were part of God’s untainted, original creation, so they will be part of the world and life when He restores everything new—without the corruption of sin and death.
We must not insist that God orders things according to our desires or understanding. Perhaps God may allow our beloved pets to be with us in heaven. Or He may choose to create a new pet for you. We must be willing to allow God to order things as He sees best—and trust that we will be happy with the situation in heaven. God says, “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17, NKJV).
We may not know all the details of what God is preparing for us in heaven, but we do know that it will be far beyond anything we can imagine. It's in the Bible, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, NKJV).
The best advice is for us to love our pets and enjoy them while they are here with us—and trust God in everything for the future. He sees and knows all, and nothing is too hard for Him to do. God knows how much we love our pets and how much they mean to us. The Bible doesn’t directly address whether our pets will be with us in heaven, but we do know that God loves us and wants us to be happy. The Bible says, “No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11, NKJV). We can trust God that heaven will be a place filled with everything necessary for our happiness.