From time to time, I am posed with an interesting theological question: Do animals go to heaven? We’ve heard people with great sincerity say, “If my dear pet can’t be with me, then I can’t be there.” That sounds extreme, but we shouldn’t criticize such strong emotions. Any of my readers who have owned pets will know this feeling well. It is a topic worth discussing, not that we know the answer for certain. But there are suggestions in Scripture that could point to such a conclusion. In several places, there is the image used that, at the end of time, God will create “new heavens and a new earth” (Rv 21:1; 2 Pt 3:13).
We shouldn’t throw away God’s creation of the universe. In Genesis 1:31, it reads: “God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.” Indeed, all that God does is truly good. And among those good works are humans, animals, and plants. God is life itself, and we could argue that once God gives life, he would not destroy it.
Out of Love
Sometimes we think that God made us to love him. Yes, but that was not his first reason. We were made so that God could love us. Loving is what God does. Isn’t that why moms and dads have babies? It is not so the baby can love his or her parents.
Rather, it is because the parents have a new little person whom they can love. Out of love, God made us and gave us all of creation. God did that for our sake, so that we could consider how loving our God is.
The theology would hint that heaven and earth are not for God, but for God’s creatures. And, thus, animals that have been so loving and helpful to their owners would be there, too. Some Christians imagine an afterlife where we spend eternity loving and praising God. They say we don’t even need each other—just God. But that is so contrary to all that we know about God and his love and need for us. Aren’t parents most happy when their children are happy and loving one another?
What heaven is like is far beyond our wildest imaginations. Our call on our earthly journey is simply to know, love, and serve God as best we can. But what God has planned for us we cannot conceive.
A Prayer for Our Pets
St. Francis of Assisi showed us
that your family of creation extends
to the birds in the sky,
the fish in the sea,
the dog at my feet,
and the cat on my lap.
For their companionship,
I am grateful.
Because their love is unconditional,
I am humbled.
Thank you for animals, wild or tame
who bring color and warmth
to an often grey and cold world.