Do Animals Have Souls?
All my life growing up we had pets in our house. Most of the time it was just one, but there were times when we had as many as three. The hardest part of being a pet owner is when you reach that moment when your beloved member of the family – because that’s what pets are – passes away. When our last pet died, we decided not to get anymore pets.
When a pet dies questions often come up like do dogs go to heaven? If you believe Hollywood, all dogs go to heaven, which was a movie that came out in 1989. On a more serious note, the death of your pet or any animal for that matter may cause you to wonder if animals have souls. It’s an interesting question. Let’s see if we can find an answer.
What Is a Soul?
To define what is a soul, I will use a human perspective. As humans we are comprised of three parts, body, soul, and spirit. Here is an example of this from Scripture.
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
Your body is your physical shell, and your spirit is the part of you that allows you to connect and commune with God. Your soul is where your mind, will, and emotions live. I found a wonderful description of the soul from a Bibles for America post, that I want to share with you.
“Our soul is our personality, who we are. With our soul we think, reason, consider, remember, and wonder. We experience emotions like happiness, love, sorrow, anger, relief, and compassion. And we’re able to resolve, choose, and make decisions.”
Using this as a backdrop, let’s now apply this to animals.
Do Animals Have Souls?
People will often use the term soul and spirit interchangeably, and how you use the word will determine how you answer the question do animals have souls. If you are equating the soul with the spirit, then I would say that animals don’t have souls. If you are defining the soul as we did above as the place where your emotions flow out of, where you think, reason, and make decisions, then absolutely animals have souls. Animals can think, reason, sense danger, experience happiness, sadness, and all of the things we mentioned in our definition of the soul.
If you are or have ever been a pet owner, you know the joy that comes over your pet when you come home and they haven’t seen you all day. You also know that look on their face when they have done something they know they should not have. These are intentional emotions which flow out of the soul. If you have seen an animal hunt for food, protect their young ones in the wild, even mourn loss – these are all emotions that come out of the soul. I would argue that these are clear evidence that animals have souls.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/FamVeld
What Does the Bible Say about Animals?
According to Hillel, Natural History, the Bible records over 150 species of animals. One of the chapters that has an exhaustive list of animals is Leviticus 11 which I encourage you to read. In addition, God often would use the imagery of an animal in how he would describe other things.
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
All throughout Scripture you will find this type of imagery and there will be various times where God will use animals as part of his plan for sacrifice, for service, even for deliverance.
Do Animals Go to Heaven?
When I was younger, this was a question I often wondered about. I used to say my dog was a Christian dog and as I stated earlier all dogs go to heaven. However, to answer this question properly, I think you have to make the distinction between human life and animal life. This distinction is seen in creation.
When you read Genesis, there are two great differences between the way God created animals and the way God created humans. Let me give you an example.
“And God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.’ And it was so” (Genesis 1:24).
When God created the animals on the earth, the sky, and the sea, he spoke them into existence. He said let there be and there was. However, notice the difference when he made man.
“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).
Hopefully you see the difference. Animals were formed by the word of God, and when he spoke they were able to exist and operate in their full capacity. Man was formed by the hand of God, but it wasn’t until God breathed life or a spirit into man that he became a living being. This is the identifying marker between animals and humans. The true life in a human is their spirit. That is why when a person dies, their spirit departs, and their body returns to the form it was in before God breathed life into them. Because animals do not have spirits, I don’t believe animals go to heaven when they die.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/RUBEN RAMOS
Will There Be Any Animals in Heaven?
While I don’t believe animals that die on earth go to heaven (feel free to disagree with my opinion if you see it differently, I won’t be offended), there is reason to believe that there will be animals in heaven. Let me give you my reason why.
In Genesis 2 we see that God took Adam and put him in the Garden of Eden to work the garden. Not only were there trees in the garden that were good for food, there were also animals in the garden.
“Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name” (Genesis 1:19).
Since Adam existed in the garden it is safe to say that the animals existed there with him.
When you go to Revelation 22, John sees a picture of God restoring Eden where we now have access to the tree of life, which existed in the original Garden of Eden. If God is restoring Eden, then I would say that there is a good possibility that animals will exist in heaven because God is restoring things back to perfection, like when he first created them. If animals existed in the old Eden, then I believe they will exist in heaven as well. To be clear this is my best educated deduction from Scripture, and you may see things differently and that is ok if you do.
Conversations like these are fun to have as long as you keep it that way. From my analysis of Scripture, while animals have souls, I don’t believe they go to heaven when they die. However, if they do and we can be reunited with our former pets, then that would be a wonderful surprise. The only thing left to say is make sure you make it into heaven so we can find out together.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Monoliza21
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.