In my house, we are in the habit of naming our dogs after Greek gods. It seems very intimidating and powerful. First there was Hercules (not a god, I know, but close). Then came Zeus and Poseidon. Oh, and none of our dogs have been over 20 pounds because we love irony in our house. Our next furry friend is going to be a husky named Apollo… eventually.
We love our dogs. We enter Zeus in weiner dog races. We put them in sweaters and coats and track suits. They are part of our family. One of the saddest days of the last decade was when Hercules died in my lap in the waiting room of the veterinarian. Most pet owners love our pets. We mourn them when they are gone.
So it’s fair to ask, will we see our pets again in heaven?
I don’t know. Sorry, probably not the answer you want to hear. But there are some things we DO know.
What Will Heaven Be Like?
First, let’s reset expectations and reorient ourselves a little bit. Heaven is awesome. I’m looking forward to going to heaven when I die. But that’s not the true prize. When the Bible says we will have eternal life, that eternity will not be spent in heaven, but in the new (or renewed) earth. For us heaven will only be temporary until Christ returns and makes all things new.
That’s important because all things means, well, all things. Including animals. More than that, the Bible gives us a little glimpse of what that will look like. Twice Isaiah prophesied about animals in the new earth.
“In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all. The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow. The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm. Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord.” – Isaiah 11:6-9
“The wolf and the lamb will feed together. The lion will eat hay like a cow. But the snakes will eat dust. In those days no one will be hurt or destroyed on my holy mountain. I, the Lord, have spoken!” – Isaiah 65:25
Neither of these passages are explicitly talking about literal animals, as much as they show what it means that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD.” In other words, in the new, perfect, sinless earth, we will see God’s glory in how animals treat each other.
Also, the picture of the new earth is very much reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. Not only were animals created and roaming the garden, but Adam was given dominion over them (even asked to name them all. Not sure what he was thinking with the aardvark.) While the Bible is not explicit in its description of the new earth, I think it’s safe to assume, based on what it does say, that we will see animals once again roaming the earth in harmony after Christ’s return.
Does that mean I’ll see Hercules? I don’t know. If I was God, I would have all our pets waiting for us. Maybe not the goldfish or guinea pigs, but definitely the dogs. I suppose the cats too. But I’m not God, and without a clear answer in the Bible, we just won’t know until we get there.