May 7, 2012 – All Dogs Go To Heaven?

Today has been a tough day.  We had to put our beloved Baxter to sleep.  He was our first “baby”, we got him as a tiny puppy just a couple of months after we got married.  Baxter would be 15 this coming August.  He lived a very long happy life, but his precious heart was giving out.

Hannah had a special bond with Baxter.  When Hannah was born Baxter would watch over her, he slept by her bassinet (always facing it), and kept watch over her at all times.  Wherever Hannah was, you could always find Baxter close by, ever protecting.  My thoughts are, and my hope is, that Baxter went to sleep here today and woke up in Hannah’s loving arms.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “All dogs go to Heaven”, or maybe you have even seen the movie. Hannah loves dogs, and she watched that movie several times as well as many other movies about dogs. During each movie Hannah would cry and cry through the sad parts, she has such a heart for dogs…we affectionately referred to those as her “dog tears”.

I don’t know for sure that all dogs go to Heaven, but I do know that there will be animals in Heaven (and on the New Earth)….because it is in the bible.  Isaiah 11:6-9 And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them.  Also the cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.  The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. 

Animals are an important part of God’s plan.  There were animals in Eden, God saved animals on the ark, and there will be animals on the New Earth.  Will our beloved pets be part of those animals?  I can’t say that with absolute certainty, but I sure hope that they are.  In Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven he talks about the importance of animals.  On page 388 of the book Randy writes

Like humans, animals were formed from the ground.  “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air” (Genesis 2:19).  When God breathed a spirit into Adam’s body, made from the earth, Adam became nephesh, a “living being” or “soul” (Genesis 2:7).  Remarkably, the same Hebrew word, nephesh, is used for animals and for people.  We are specifically told that not only people, but animals have “the breath of life” in them (Genesis 1:30, 2:7, 6:17, 7:15, 22).  God hand-made animals, linking them both to the earth and humanity.

Am I suggesting animals have souls?  Certanly they do not have human souls.  Animals aren’t created in God’s image, and they aren’t equal to humans in any sense.  Nonetheless, there’s a strong biblical case for animals having non-human souls.  I didn’t take this seriously until I studied the usage of the Hebrew and Greek words nephesh and psyche, often translated “soul” when referring to humans.  (Nephesh is translated psyche in the Septuagint.)  The fact that these words are often used of animals is compelling evidence that they have non-human souls.  In their book Beyond Death, Gary Habermans and J.P. Moreland point out, “It wasn’t until the advent of the seventeenth-century Enlightenment….that the existence of animal souls was even questioned in Western civilization.  Throughout the history of the church, the classic understanding of living things has included the doctrine that animals, as well as humans, have souls.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough that humans and animals are different.  Humans continue to exist after death, but that may not be the case for animals.  However, to do justice to Scripture, we need to recognize that people and animals share something unique: They are living beings.  Because God has a future plan for both mankind and Earth, it strongly suggests that he has a future plan for animals as well.

To any of you who have pets, I’m sure you also have the sense that our pets have souls.  I don’t know that animals can understand salvation through Jesus Christ (but God can do anything), but it makes sense to me that the pets of a believing family could be part of God’s plan for eternity.  Baxter (and our newest family member Chummy) are so loving and loyal and have such unique personalities…they were all created by God to be a part of our lives (hopefully for eternity). 

God is in control, and in Him all things work together for good for those who love Him…He alone knows whether it is best for there to be new animals or “our” animals in Heaven.  One day we will know this and the answers to many other of life’s questions, but for now we have to wait. 

 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  And He said “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”  Revelation 21:5

We know there will be animals in Heaven…so why not our pets?  Rest in peace sweet Baxter.



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