Do Animals Go
by Jim Venable
"But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. (Job 12:7-10)
On several occasions I've heard various preachers say that animals can't go to heaven because they don't have souls. They say that Jesus died only to save the sinful souls of human beings. But this reveals both a lack of familiarity with the Scriptures and a failure to understand God's plan. It's an easy matter to show that the ultimate destiny of created things, including the animals, is included in God's eternal purpose and is linked to the redemption of sinful mankind.
All of Creation Was Made for God's Glory
When God created the heavens and the earth and all the plants and animals, He said "That's Good!" (Genesis 1). God doesn't easily give up on or abandon things that have received His stamp of approval. But all of creation has a problem. In Genesis 3 we read that, because of Adam's sin, everything God made came under a curse. The human race became mortal; separated from fellowship with God. He cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden and, deprived of the tree of life, mankind died both physically and spiritually. During each person's short existence on earth, we are now consigned to labor and pain in a world where everything is difficult; where there's thorns and thistles, rust and decay, traffic jams and wars, sickness and death. This curse is the consequence of man's sin and it has affected the entire universe. That's why the physical creation is now called, "temporal." Nothing is permanent or eternal.
In spite of the curse, the creation was still glorious and beautiful. In Psalm 148 all of creation is commanded to praise the Lord! Not just you and I, but everything that God made in heaven and earth. God glories in His creation and His creation glorifies Him!
How can this be, seeing that rocks, hills, plants and animals have no mind and no voice to praise Him? Someday we'll understand this, but for now, we'll have to wait for the unfolding of God's plan. Even before the creation of the universe, God knew that redemption of sinful mankind would be necessary, so He formulated a way to restore us to fellowship with Him. But that's not all. His plan includes the restoration of the entire created universe! Since sin brought the curse upon creation, it's only reasonable to expect that liberation, redemption and forgiveness would result in the curse being lifted. And God's plan is well under way. Christ, God's only begotten Son, came into the world to pay the penalty for the sins of all mankind. That penalty is death. He was qualified to pay it because He Himself was without sin. He died, not for His own guilt, but for the guilt of all humanity. On the third day following His death, God raised Him up to life again, where He was seen by over 500 witnesses. He had conquered death. Shortly thereafter, He ascended into heaven, where He now reigns on His Father's throne.
As the result of Christ's sacrifice and victorious resurrection from the grave, all who believe in Him have been set free from guilt, sin and death. We've been redeemed! So it's only a matter of time before the curse will be lifted from the entire universe. The Bible tells us when this will happen.
All of Creation Will Be Redeemed
The Bible teaches that the restoration of all things will take place when Christ returns. This is often called the "second advent." The Greek term is the parousia. At that time Christ will suddenly appear worldwide with a great shout and the sound of a trumpet. He'll be accompanied by the angels and those righteous saints (believers) who have already died. The bodies of the dead saints will be raised and transformed to an immortal, heavenly form, and thus clothe the returning saints. Believers who are still alive will be instantly changed -- they will receive immortal bodies -- and rise to meet Christ in the air. When the saints are rescued, the rebellious, the wicked, and the unbelievers will be killed and then resurrected to eternal punishment. The physical elements of the universe will be razed by fire and reconstructed in a new, pristine, eternal and wonderful way.
The coming of Christ will be the most momentous occasion in the history of the universe. He'll appear in spectacular glory, staggering our wildest imaginations. Throughout these long, dark ages, the entire creation is aching, waiting, with desperation . . . for that great and wonderful Day.
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Rom 8:19-21)
From when the curse was laid down past Eden's gates, the rocks and the hills yearn for their glorious redemption, made sure through the cross of Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus owned this as He rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, mindful of the costly victory He'd soon win. Satan would be trampled under and the kingdom would stand, purchased by His blood forevermore.
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord." "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest." Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples." "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (Luke 19:37-40)
Yes, the stones cry. They share in the redemption of mankind. All of creation has a stake in the events of the last day. When Adam sinned, the curse of death diffused to the ground, the trees, and the sky; to the animals, plants and everything that God had made . . . even to the stones. When Christ returns, He'll announce their restoration, their liberation, as He reveals the company of the redeemed. Myriads of angels will be there to testify to the greatness of our God, shouting and singing,
"The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever." (Rev 11:15)
The Nature of the Resurrection Body
As for the bodies of all created things, Paul gave us the best description available of how they'll be when they're redeemed in their glorious, eternal state. He was writing mostly about the resurrection bodies of the saints, but carefully notice that his discussion isn't limited to that:
But someone may ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" How foolish. What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. (1 Cor 15:35-42a)
Paul likens our existence here on earth to that of a seed planted in the ground. We've got to die here before we can come to life there. But the seed doesn't look anything like the plant that grows up from it. Clearly, the plant is much greater than the seed. So also our bodily existence in the eternal kingdom will be much different from what it is here and the power and glory of it will be much greater. Here, the body is a marvelous machine, but it gets wounded and diseased; it ages and dies. There the body will be far more magnificent. It will be impossible to damage it, nor will it ever get sick. It will last forever without showing the slightest signs of aging or wear and tear.
Paul points out that there are many different kinds of bodies, belonging to all the different kinds of created things (verses 38 to 41). So his discussion doesn't just focus on our resurrected bodies. Verse 39 is about all the different kinds of animals, while verses 40 and 41 are about the celestial bodies and the various objects on earth. Each created thing, whether living or not, has its own body according to its kind, and each is characterized by its own splendor. The use of the term splendor seems to indicate that even in their "cursed" state, God still sees them as glorious and magnificent. Each has its own unique beauty, and not all are equal. Then, in verse 42, he says, "so will it be with the resurrection of the dead." That is, when we all gather in the eternal kingdom, we'll discover that everything which had a body here has a corresponding body there, each one differing in splendor, just as their bodies did here. But the glory of the resurrected body can hardly be compared with the "seed" from which it sprang in this present existence. The difference between them is almost inexpressible. Paul does the best he can in the next verses. Note that in verses 42 to 44, he's still not talking only about our human resurrection bodies, but those of all kinds:
The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. (1 Cor 15:42b-49)
The bodies of all created things are perishable now, but in the new heaven and new earth, they'll never perish. They're dishonorable now, being under the curse of sin, but all of creation will be glorious when it's raised into that bright new land. We know that the things in heaven have power, but not the things of earth. That's all going to change as the kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ. God can raise up even the stones and give life to them. How much more will God's own dear children receive power and honor and glory when they're raised to appear before the throne of grace. Everything we see and touch in this world is natural. We're not sure how things will appear when they're raised to receive their spiritual bodies. Verse 44 says, "If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body." This means that any kind of body which has ever existed here on earth will be raised up to heaven and glorified when we receive our inheritance in the kingdom of God. Everything is included except God's enemies. Plants, animals and inanimate things will all be there in untold magnificence; even your beloved pet dog, for God loves them all. Where once the creation was cursed, then the curse upon the creation will be lifted, as in this picture of the eternal City:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Rev 22:1-5)
Adam is our natural ancestor, but Christ, the last Adam, is our spiritual ancestor. From the former we received our physical nature; from the latter we will obtain our glorified nature. But this is only if we've been "born again," and have received His Spirit. Now we look something like Adam, because we came from his body. Then we'll look like Jesus does in heaven, because He gave us life from His spiritual body (see also Phil 3:21; 1 John 3:2).
The redeemed of the Lord and Jesus have the same Father and share the same inheritance. God the Father calls both Jesus and us His children, while Jesus calls us His brothers. Those are pretty good credentials for receiving grace upon grace in our Father's house. O what glory that will be!
"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9)
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (Eph 1:18-21)
The Salvation of the Animals
All created things will be redeemed along with the saints for life in the new heaven and the new earth. Those who say that animals can't be saved because they don't have a soul are mistaken. Whether or not they have a soul has no bearing on their destiny in the kingdom of God. Were they created? If the answer is "Yes," and they aren't people or angels who rebelled against the knowledge of Christ, they'll be there!
. . . the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Rom 8:21)
This message is part of the gospel, or Good News. But very few preach it. The gospel liberates you and me, and ultimately, because of Christ, everything that was made will be set free! We need to get a vision of the full scope of God's plan for His creation and His kingdom. Seeing the plan of redemption through Christ only in terms of the human race is a much too narrow view, and is thoroughly unbiblical. Now we've built the foundation to interpret one of the most well known prophetic passages in Isaiah. Here it is:
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isa 11:6-9)
Jesus taught that, as long as we're in this world, we will endure tribulation, and our experience has borne that out. But the new birth has provided a foretaste of the peace that's in our Father's house. In the new heaven and new earth, which is to come, even the animal kingdom will know peace and security under the sheltering wings of the heavenly Father. The "holy mountain" is the eternal City of God, the new Jerusalem. The animals and the children will also know the Lord and live in perfect peace and harmony. The best New Testament description of the new heaven and new earth is given in Revelation, chapter 21:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new." Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Rev 21:1-7)
The Holy City, the new Jerusalem, which is the Church, is pictured as the beautiful Bride of Christ. If we believe in Christ, then we, as God's children, are the overcomers who will inherit all of this and live with Him forever. But what else will be there? Look at verse 5. Everything will be there. It will be a new order, and everything will be made new. Everything will remain new forever. It's the land of perpetual youth, upwelling joy and happiness, love without measure, beauty beyond description, and full access to the waters from the spring that grants everlasting life.
The idea that animals, plants and even inanimate objects will be redeemed and present in heaven with us isn't accepted by everyone. But the Old Testament lends powerful testimony to the truth of this. The creation account in Genesis 1 says repeatedly, "God saw that it was good." God has never changed His mind about that. If the creation is good, then it's intended to be eternal. Through no fault of its own the creation was subjected to a curse because of the sin of mankind, resulting in the temporal nature of all created things. But God through Christ will banish the curse forever on the last day when those whom He has redeemed are revealed. If there's no more curse (Rev 22:3), then the corrupt and temporal nature of all created things must also be removed.
Jesus often used Old Testament events to teach spiritual truths about Himself, such as the story of Jonah in Matthew 12:39-41, or of Moses and the bronze serpent in John 3:14. Of particular importance to this discussion, He taught that at His coming, the transition to the glorious kingdom was foretold and pictured by the flood and Noah's Ark (see Matthew 24:37-39). Jesus said, "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." (Mat 24:37) The theme of the flood story is God's judgment upon sin and the salvation of the righteous. But Jesus wants us to consider the whole story so we can understand what will happen when He returns. Just as the righteous were saved and the wicked were destroyed through the flood, so also will it be when Jesus returns. But one thing that's so appealing, and about which we tell our children because it's so delightful, is that God saved the animals through the flood. Noah, the righteous one, wasn't saved apart from the rest of creation. The means of his salvation was the very instrument God used to redeem the animals. The animals were innocent of the sin of mankind, yet they suffered because of that sin. But God rescued them from His wrath when He destroyed the wicked in the flood waters. God's creatures enjoyed the redemptive moment with the righteous, borne free from destruction in the safety of the Ark. By this, God purposed to show for perpetuity that His plan for human redemption from sin includes the removal of the curse from the animal kingdom.
God's Eternal Covenant with Every Living Creature
Lest there be any doubt about this, consider the everlasting covenant of salvation and life that God made with Noah after the flood. It specifically included him, his family, his descendants, and all living creatures:
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: "I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you--the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you--every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth." And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." (Gen 9:8-16)
God is still sending us rainbows to remind us of His promise. And Jesus said that, at His coming, it will be just like it was in Noah's day. He thereby reaffirmed His Father's everlasting covenant with us and all the living creatures. Through Noah's story we discover that Jesus is the Ark of salvation for all the innocent creatures God loves. When He comes, He'll take all of them home.
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(C) Jim Venable. All rights reserved. Biblical quotes are from the New International Version.