I had a pastor who used to say, "All dogs don't go to Heaven." What he really meant was that no dogs go to Heaven, nor do any other animals, as they don't have souls. I used that believe that, too, because I misunderstood a verse in Ecclesiastes 3:21, "Who knows the spirit of man that goes upward, and the spirit of the beast that goes downward to the earth?" I assumed that meant that animals don't exist beyond this life, that when they die, their body just rots and that's the end of them. I figured, "Well, they don't go to Hell because they aren't accountable to God like people are. At least, that's something."
When I got more revelation on God's mercy and grace and and justice and generosity, that interpretation of Ecclesiastes 3:21 did not make sense any more. Also, God was prodding me to get a cat and I had to change my views, in order to do that. It took several years for me to finally give in and get one. I had been hurt so deeply over the loss of a cat when I was a little girl that I never wanted to expose myself to that pain again.
I buried my feelings after that cat died. Since then, I didn't feel any particular affection for animals, except that I thought that some of them are cute and amusing to watch. I had a chihuahua that someone gave me and it turned out to have distemper. I think that's why the person gave it to me. They knew something was wrong with it and they didn't want to pay vet bills. I had to get her put down, and I cried over that, but I didn't love that dog like I had loved Whiskers.
I was in my thirties when I found myself thinking a lot about Whiskers. He was my little brother's cat that someone had given him. We all loved Whiskers and each one of us six kids in my family thought we loved Whiskers more than anyone else loved him. He was more than cute; he was smart. He knew how to get around my Mom, so that she would let him stay in the house. And he would let us do just anything to him. We could dress him in doll clothes and he didn't care.
One time we got him dressed up, even rolling up his tail in a little pair of doll panties beneath a dress, wrapped him in a baby blanket, and tucked him into a woven sun bonnet. We took him around to show our neighbourhood "aunties", and when we returned home, we carelessly slung him under the kitchen table, and ran off to play. Whiskers stayed put and napped in a sunbeam for hours, wearing that get–up. He was probably groggy from being too warm, but he could have struggled out of the clothes right away, if he hated them.
Our Uncle Donnie visited us and admired Whiskers. Jokingly, he offered Johnny a dollar for the cat. Johnny thought this was a really good deal; he had got the cat for nothing and could sell him for a dollar. Johnny was only about five years old and didn't realize what it would be like to not have his cat around. I knew what it would be like, though. I went to my room and prayed my heart out, sobbing while I begged God to not let Johnny sell the cat. But the cat got sold.
We got him back a month later. Uncle Donnie wasn't home much and realized that the cat was lonely, so he gave him back to Johnny. Johnny crowed with delight that he now had both a dollar and his cat. I was very happy that the cat was back and kissed him a lot, right on the mouth, giving myself cold sores to start a new school year with. That wasn't fun, but I never blamed the cat. He couldn't help it that he was so cute that I wanted to kiss him so much. But when he got hit by a car a few months later, oddly, I didn't feel anything. I didn't cry; I just went on with life. I think that I knew I had better not let my feelings out because they would be too painful.
Now it was years later and I kept thinking about that cat so much that it embarrassed me. I said to the Lord, "Lord, it was just a cat!" The Lord spoke to my heart and said, "Lanny, you prayed to me about that cat, but you didn't think that I cared and would do anything about it. But I did care, and I did do something about it." I thought, "Oh yeah! We got the cat back!" It took me twenty years to realize that God answered my prayer, just not according to my timing. I hadn't wanted us to lose Whiskers at all.
Still, it seemed silly for a person my age to be upset about a childhood pet that had died years ago, but God coaxed me to let go of my pain and to trust Him that it would be all right to love a pet again. But if I was going to love a pet, then I had to know that I was going to see that pet again. It just hurts too much to love an animal and then be parted from them forever.
Good news! God showed me that we don't have to be parted from them forever. If we have repented of our sins and received Yehoshua as our Saviour, we get to go to Heaven, and Heaven is all the happiness we can imagine and more. It's not hard to imagine being reunited with our pets. After all, the Bible says that Yehoshua and the saints will be riding on horses when He returns to judge the Earth, so we know for sure that there are horses in Heaven. But are there only horses there, just because they are the only animals that the Bible specifically mentions are in Heaven? God demonstrates through Creation that He loves diversity. Of course, there is every variety of animal in Heaven that has ever lived upon the Earth. In the beginning, God made Earth to be a reflection of Heaven.
My next thought was, "Why would God create totally new animals to populate Heaven, instead of taking the animals that have lived on Earth and give them new bodies?" That doesn't make sense. If God redeems the pain of His children, then why would He not also do it for innocent animals and let them live in Heaven, too?
Animals on Earth are not accountable to God in the same way that people are, because they don't have souls. They can't make decisions to change. They can only respond to how they are treated. They have a spirit, or more correctly, they are a spirit and have a body. With their spirit, they respond to how they are treated, and if they are mistreated, they tend to become nasty, unless God has made them with an exceptionally gentle and loyal spirit. All on their own, they don't decide to have more character. They have no notion what character is, but they can be tamed sometimes.
With their spirit, an animal loves, they became sad, they feel playful, they get scared, they are grateful, they get ticked off, they envy, they get sneaky, they feel guilty when they know they have displeased their master. Animals were never meant to get sad or angry or afraid. They were not meant to feel pain, or be sick, to be tired, or thirsty, or hungry, or too cold, or too hot. These things happened to them because Adam sinned and brought the whole world under a curse.
God is just and He is pure love. The better we know Him, the more we realize this. Would it be just of God to let innocent animals suffer and NEVER make it up to them for what they have suffered? It says right there in the Bible that God cares about the suffering of animals, in Matthew 10:29, "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father." God is not the kind of Person who cares and does nothing. If a child dies of starvation, He more than makes it up to them in Heaven for their suffering, and though He says in Matthew 10:31 that He values us more than many sparrows, that doesn't mean that He won't more than make it up to an animal for what they suffered.
When I realized this, then I realized that the verse in Ecclesiastes is not referring to animals' eternal abode where there is complete cessation of consciousness, but is rather referring to their accountability. The previous verse acknowledges that all die, man and animals alike, and their bodies rot, but this verse affirms that their consciousness remains. It says that the spirit of man goes upward. Can we assume from this that all people go to Heaven? No, the Bible says otherwise, so this is speaking to the fact that all people have to go and stand before God to give an account to Him for what they did when they were in their flesh. Some will remain in Heaven, and those who rejected Jesus as their Saviour will go down into Hell.
This verse indicates that animals don't have to account to God, so therefore, their spirit takes a different route to their eternal abode. Maybe most of them end up on some planet where they live forever in bliss, and only those animals that meant something particular to humans go to Heaven to be with them there. I don't know, but I do know that, somehow, God makes it up to them for what they suffered in their Earth life. That makes me feel so happy, just for their sake alone, never mind that I will be reunited with my pets someday.
I went ahead and got a cat, knowing that it would probably die long before I did, but I would see it again. Knowing this set my heart free to love animals again. I look forward to not only seeing my own pets, but other people's, too, that they have told me about, such as a cat named Rusty who used to wear a little cowboy hat, loved people, and loved going for walks on a leash. His owner said that he would climb the telephone poles when she took him for a walk, so that he could get a better view of what was ahead. What a character! I sure am glad that I am not going to miss out on meeting on him and hanging around with him in Heaven sometimes.
Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
Copyright © 2012, Lanny Townsend
Page modified by Lanny Townsend on February 7, 2012
Scripture references on this website are closely paraphrased from e–Sword's King James Bible.