Many of us have felt the heartache that comes from losing a family pet. And to soothe the pain, we may begin to wonder where are they now? Will we ever see them again? Do dogs go to heaven?
Recently, I sat across the table from a precious five-year-old girl in a kid’s church classroom and asked her how I could pray for her. Without missing a beat, she asked me to pray for her because her dog, whom she loved dearly, had recently died. My heart broke with her words. I could see on her face the pain she felt over losing her doggy friend, and so we prayed.
The Bible doesn’t give an outright answer on this question, but we as we dig into Scripture, we can piece together a conclusion on this tender topic. Let’s set the stage well for this discussion by looking at what heaven is and who will find their way to it.
Heaven is Better Than We Know
When you picture heaven, what is it that you see? Do you think of streets of gold and of beholding Jesus face to face? Do you think of seeing loved ones that have passed on? Or maybe the promises of Revelation 21:4 come to mind, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.”
No matter the picture you see, it is limited to the abilities of the human mind to imagine something that is entirely of God. Even our best guess of the kinds of joy heaven holds can’t come close to what it will really be like.
1 Corinthians 13:12 puts it this way, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.” Seeing the reflection of your children in the mirror is nothing in comparison to picking them up, swirling them around and holding them close to your chest. In the same way, our experience of heaven will be infinitely better than our small thoughts of what it may be like.
Heaven Is for Those Who Are Saved
There is only one way to enter heaven and it is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Anyone who believes in their heart and confesses with their mouth that Jesus is Lord will be saved (Romans 10:9). Whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but will have everlasting life (John 3:16).
Based on these verses alone we can start to form a conclusion. Heaven will only be good and full of every kind of joy, so whether we see animals there or not, we will not feel sorrow, grief or longing for what was on earth.
We also see that admission to heaven is granted to those who believe and confess Christ; these are two things animals cannot do. Jesus never once in all his ministry made an effort to bring salvation to an animal. In fact, in Mark 5:11-13, he actually allowed a legion of demons to enter a herd of pigs, which led to their death. But we have a few more passages of Scripture to search before we reach our final conclusion.
God Created Dogs and All Animals for a Good Purpose
The creation of all animals happened on days five and six of creation. Sea animals and birds were created on day five and God said they were good. Land animals were created on day six, the same day that humans were created. Maybe this was symbolic of the special relationship people would have with the animals that walk the same ground they do? We can’t be sure, but it’s possible.
Ultimately, God created animals to be ruled over by humans. Animals are a gift and responsibility for men to steward, they aren’t equals to men in the eyes of God.
God Created Man in His Image
The earth, sky, sun, stars, moon and animals were all created by the words of God. He spoke them into existence. But when God says that he is going to make man in his image in Genesis 1:26, he takes an approach to creation that he doesn’t take with any other thing on the earth.
He scoops dust and forms a man and later forms the woman from the man. And he breathes his breath of life directly into them. God made them to reflect him, he made them with spiritual qualities that no other being has. You and I have the breath of God in us and we are image bearers of the Lord in the way that no animal ever could be.
Only Humans Have a Soul
Because we are uniquely created in the image of God, we are the only residents of earth that have a soul. Our soul is the inner part of us that is indwelled by the Holy Spirit. It is the part of us that is more than just flesh and bone. The part of us that we can’t completely understand or describe, but that we know exists.
When a soul that has been saved by belief and confession of Christ dies, it goes to heaven where God gives it a new, perfected body to house it (2 Corinthians 5:2). Ecclesiastes 12:7 says, “and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” We have the Spirit of God in us, and it is our spirit that returns to God in heaven. Animals don’t have this spirit and therefore, we are making a stronger case that they are not in heaven.
At this point, our conclusion seems to be very heavily leaning towards animals, including our beloved pets, not finding a residence in heaven after they die. But we can’t end here, there’s one more of Scripture that can’t be ignored.
Will I See My Dog in Heaven? Animals are Listed Among the Residents of the New Heaven
In two separate descriptions of the New Heaven and New Earth, the Bible mentions that animals will be present. Isaiah 11:11 says, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.”
This description of peaceful relations between species of animal continues for three more verses and a similar passage is found in Isaiah 65:25. There are no household pets mentioned in either place, but the fact that animals at all are mentioned means it is completely possible that we could see dogs and cats as well.
This is where all of our digging into what the Bible literally says about heaven meets the very first point we made head on. Heaven is better than we know. Therefore, it is entirely possible, that because of the joy and happiness animals bring, God will bring them into eternity with us.
We won’t know until we get there whether or not our animals will be with us in heaven, but we can be assured that whether they are or not, we aren’t going to feel any lack or longing! God’s presence will be enough!
Photo credit: Unsplash/Eric Ward
Shelby Turner is a speaker and writer who lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband and three sons. When she isn’t sharing Jesus from the stage or writing words on a page, you can find her building Legos with her kids. You can connect with her on her blog at www.shelbyraeturner.com or she also loves to hang out on Instagram at @shelbyraeturner.