Do animals go to heaven?
The quick answer is yes, at least some animals go to heaven.
When the prophet Isaiah described heaven, he mentioned that there would be animals there. This is recorded in Isaiah 11:6-9, 65:25.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.
An interesting thing to note is these glorified animals are different. A straw-eating lion is no longer a carnivore, which makes the issue of lions living in a peace-loving habitat a lot easier to manage! The whole predator/prey paradigm will be revamped as the animal kingdom’s counterpart to nations beating their swords into plowshares, described in Isaiah 2:4.
Regarding animals in heaven, as well as their food choices, I address both these issues in my book, The Gathering: A Metaphorical Odyssey Through the Scriptures. This animated classic chronicles the animal’s epic journey to Noah’s Ark.
For those who wish to delve into this topic of animals in heaven with intense fervor, there is much more to be said. The above book includes a Bible commentary with each of its 52 chapters, and it outlines some of the information listed below, for parents to introduce their children to the Scriptures in a family fun way.
Now for the theologically inclined…
To determine whether animals go to heaven or not, it should be explored whether they are alive with spirits, just as humans are, and if their spirits continue to exist after physical death. In Scripture, there are several clues that hint to the possibility that animals have spirits as humans do, and they may continue to exist after physical death.
While some might equate the idea of having a spirit as part of what it means to be made in God’s image, that is not necessarily the case. Being made in God’s image is directly linked with having dominion over the Earth, serving as God’s representative. As for the essence of what a spirit is, that has to do with the essence of life.
First of all, animals are living beings of flesh and blood, which may automatically indicate that they have spirits (Numbers 16:22). The Bible also mentions that animals should be treated with care and love (Proverbs 12:10; Exodus 23:5, 19, 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21, 22:4, 6-7, 25:4; 1 Corinthians 9:9; and 1 Timothy 5:18).
Furthermore, animals have a basic sense of moral accountability (Genesis 9:2, 9:3-6; Exodus 21:28-36; and concerning demon possession – Genesis 3:1-5 and Matthew 8:30-33). Animals receive punishment for certain sins (Genesis 3:14-15, 9:3-6; and Exodus 21:28-36), and they may experience a type of salvation (Genesis 6:19-22, and Acts 10:9-16; Deuteronomy 14:7-21 – with some explaining). Moreover, animals are a centerpiece in the narrative of Noah’s flood, which is a foreshadowing of the cross. And lastly, animals are found within the realm of heaven, as mentioned above.
Following is a discussion of each of the above statements.
Do all creatures of flesh and blood have spirits?
Numbers 16:22 might be an indication that animals have spirits, but this could easily be argued against as a conclusion taken out of context.
Numbers 16:22 [bold emphasis added]
And they fell upon their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?
Take note of the phrase, “the God of the spirits of all flesh”. This phrase might mean that all entities composed of flesh have spirits, but this conclusion by itself is weak. Other Scriptures are needed to establish this conclusion.
Should animals be treated with care? If so, then why?
Scripture makes it clear that mankind is to dominate over the animal kingdom. This hierarchy is established in Genesis 1:24-26, 9:2; and Psalms 8:6-8.
And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.
Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
While mankind is clearly established as having dominion over the animal kingdom, the relationship that exists between man and beast should be respectable. The Bible gives several Scriptures that explain different situations where people should have compassion on animals. All of the previously mentioned Scriptures directing people to care about and have compassion on animals are proof of this. These direct quotes from Scripture are all dedicated to the relationship that should exist between humans and animals.
A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.
If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.
Exodus 23:19, 34:26, Deuteronomy 14:21
The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.
Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ass or his ox fall down by the way, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again.
If a bird’s nest chance to be before thee in the way in any tree, or on the ground, whether they be young ones, or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young: But thou shalt in any wise let the dam go, and take the young to thee; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days.
Deuteronomy 25:4, 1 Corinthians 9:9, 1 Timothy 5:18
Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.
When reading all these Scriptures, it becomes apparent that God cares for the lives of animals. The above Scriptures give examples of people helping animals that are struggling in work, having mercy on a bird whose nest falls to the ground, and refusing to boil a goat in its mother’s milk because of a respect for the animal. My question to all these Scriptures is, if animals don’t have spirits, then why care this much?
And why did God go out of His way to save animals in the flood of Noah? Obviously God cared about animals enough to go through great lengths to save them!
So there is a strong indication that animals have spirits, because they are certainly valuable in God’s sight.
Going beyond this point and on to the second point, do animals have moral accountability?
Since not all people go to heaven, then logic dictates, not all animals go to heaven either, right? If that is the case, then animals must have a basic sense of moral accountability, right? Can animals sin, and if so, what is their punishment?
In Scripture, there are two basic laws regarding animals and their sense of moral accountability. One of these laws is clear to see, while the other requires a little deductive reasoning to extract.
One clear way to spot laws is the fact that breaking them results in negative consequences. There are two punishments listed in Scripture regarding animals, and two fundamental laws that apply to them.
The first of these laws is murder. No animal should ever murder a human being. The second of these laws is somewhat odd, and speculative. Animals should not invite demonic possession, but rather fully resist it, even if that means self-termination.
Regarding the first law, when God first created animals, He ingrained in them a sense of fear concerning humanity. This respect animals were designed with is mentioned in Genesis 9:2.
And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.
In a sense, this natural fear of humanity can be considered a law of moral accountability for animals. The extreme violation of this ingrained respect for humanity is expressed when an animal murders a human being. The penalty for murdering a human being is death. This penalty applies to men, and beasts, and is mentioned in Genesis 9:3-6.
Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
Exodus 21:28-36 is a recapitulation of Genesis 9:3-6, with greater specificity.
If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit. But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death. If there be laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid upon him. Whether he have gored a son, or have gored a daughter, according to this judgment shall it be done unto him. If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned. And if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein; The owner of the pit shall make it good, and give money unto the owner of them; and the dead beast shall be his. And if one man’s ox hurt another’s, that he die; then they shall sell the live ox, and divide the money of it; and the dead ox also they shall divide.
The law, “Thou shalt not kill,” applies to not killing humans, and it is a law that according to Scripture, animals have written upon their hearts. The penalty for violating this law is death. This law and its penalty are strait forward in the Scriptures.
Now for the second law, which is more obscure, this will require further explanation.
For starters, the first animal to sin in Scripture is a serpent.
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
Soon after the serpent deceived Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, it was confronted by God. God pronounced its sentence.
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
The serpent in the garden is very puzzling indeed and it raises several questions. First of all, how was Eve able to have a conversation with a snake? Well, okay, we can just try to breeze past that by stating that she was a perfect, glorified human being. Perhaps Eve may have been able to communicate with all animals in such a fashion, which is very interesting I might add.
But my second question to this passage is what exactly is the serpent? Is it the devil taking on the form of a snake, is it just a snake, or is it a snake possessed by the devil? I can only think of these three possibilities, and only one of them reconciles discrepancies that the others do not.
If the devil took on the form of a snake, then why were snakes cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field, and condemned to crawl upon their bellies and eat dust all the days of their lives? Why curse an animal for what the devil did?
And if the tempter in this Scripture is simply a snake, then why did God prophesy that “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” This prophesy is a clear reference to Christ overcoming Satan, not the reptilian animals we call snakes.
It therefore appears that the serpent in the Garden of Eden was an animal that was either influenced by Satan, or possessed by Satan. That is why there is punishment declared upon the actual creature that allowed itself to be influenced or possessed by the devil, as well as a prophesy declaring the destruction of Satan.
The main element I wish to extract out of this passage is that an animal was involved in original sin, and it was held accountable for its actions. Because of what it did, God cursed it, showing that it sinned, and it was punished for that sin.
I know it seems odd that an animal might have any choice in that matter of allowing itself to be possessed by Satan, but what else can explain the pronouncement of God’s judgement against snakes? God is just, but there would be no justice in punishing the serpent unless it had a choice in whether or not it was going to allow itself to be possessed.
Scripture also gives another account of an instance where animals were possessed by demons. A heard of pigs were possessed in Matthew 8:30-33.
Matthew 8:30-33 [bold emphasis added]
And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told everything, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils.
Apparently the swine in this Scripture would not tolerate being possessed. They had enough control over their bodies that they chose to commit suicide rather than being possessed by devils. These were godly pigs, sacrificing themselves for the greater good; imagine that.
I do not think it was an accident that Jesus allowed this possession to occur. The Jews of the village where Jesus was at, had no business raising swine. Recall that their meat was forbidden among Jews at this time.
Also note that if anyone present thought Jesus was putting on an act, pretending to cast the demons out, seeing an entire heard of pigs do what they did immediately afterward, would be pretty hard to explain.
Regarding these pigs, I like to be an optimist here and suggest that they went straight to heaven for sacrificing their lives! No greater love…
The pigs in Matthew 8:30-33 took a major stand against demonic forces, but maybe not all animals are willing to go to this extreme. Some, such as the serpent in Genesis 3:1-5, might willingly invite demonic possession.
And there may be others of like mind.
The movie, The Ghost And The Darkness, is a case in point. This movie was based on a true story about two lions in Africa that hunted together. They acquired a taste for human flesh. Even those not taken in by the African legends of these beasts regarded them as highly unusual. As for the African tribes, they firmly believed these lions were possessed by demons, and the massive pile of human skeletons in their den was all the evidence they needed.
I would not be surprised at all if the African legends regarding these lions were absolutely true.
If animals can sin, is there any hope of salvation for them?
As previously discussed, animals may have spirits, and they are dealing with sin and death just as humans are, though in a more primitive form. Another link that testifies to animals dealing with sin and death is that they have been cursed with death, just as humans are, as outlined in Romans 5:12-14 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22.
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
1 Corinthians 15:21-22
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
The above Scriptures refer to the curse of death that applies to the entire world, including the animal kingdom.
Seeing that animals are faced with the terrible dilemma of sin and death, is there any hope for their salvation? This is actually a common question asked by children whose pets die, though the wording is slightly different. After reading this post, parents having this question posed to them by their children should be able to provide a better answer than “Um… I think so…”
Going further, I return again to the flood of Noah, which was a foreshadowing of the cross.
In the days of Noah, God condemned all the animals of the Earth to die along with humanity, except for select pairs of every species. The reasoning for this is clear in Scripture, because it literally states that all flesh was corrupt, hence, all flesh was condemned to die as a result.
And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.
Just as Noah and his family were saved, so were the animals that God chose to go into the ark. With that in mind, could it be that the animals selected to enter the ark were the righteous animal counterparts to Noah?
This is the concept I used in my book, The Gathering, where I introduce the animals God chose for the ark. The end of the age was at hand. The ancient world that was then would soon be no more. But not all hope was lost, for there was a remnant that resisted this creeping shadow of violence. A remnant of creatures throughout the Earth found favor in the eyes of the Lord, for they were pure of heart. These were the chosen…
As a child, I used to wonder just exactly how difficult it was for Noah to collect two of every species existing in the entire Earth. I used to imagine Noah as being someone like Tom on the Mutual of Omaha, Wild Kingdom series, for those dated enough to recall that show. Tom was a rhino wrestling freak!
Catching two of every species on Earth would have required Noah to travel the entire Earth hunting down every single species, capturing them alive without any modern technology, then returning them safely to the ark. How would he transport them? How would he feed them? Where would he find time to do all this, in addition to building the ark?
And by the way, this was the most violent time in Earth’s history – see Genesis 6. Noah would have required an army to accomplish such a task, but Scripture tells us that only Noah, his wife, three sons, and their wives, were the only humans left on Earth worth saving.
However, consider the interesting wording of Genesis 7:14-15.
Genesis 7:14-16 [bold emphasis added]
They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort. And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the Lord shut him in.
Scripture states that the animals went to Noah and into the ark, not the other way around!
Reading this, imagine the most unusual multi-species mass migration in the world, both predator and prey, peacefully and mysteriously drawn to the ark from thousands of miles away in all directions.
Does it not seem possible, if not probable, that God personally selected the pairs of each species that were pure of heart, and put the desire within their spirits to travel to the ark?
The alternative is Noah hunting them down. Is that somehow easier to believe?
For this post, the most important element regarding Noah’s ark is that God saved at least one pair of each species of the Earth. Since the ark is a shadowy reflection of salvation given by Christ, the fact that it included saving animals is noteworthy.
And that’s still not all!
What about all the poor unclean animals we read about in the Old Testament, what became of them? Their entire existence carried a stigma in the Old Testament. Unclean animals were the lepers of the animal kingdom! Is there any hope for them? Is spiritual cleansing now within their reach?
In the Old Testament, many animals were considered unclean. Exactly what this means is debated, whether it referred to a literal filth, as in the case of pigs, but the spiritual overtones and symbolism are undeniable. To briefly examine which animals were considered unclean, take a look at Deuteronomy 14:7-21.
Nevertheless these ye shall not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the cloven hoof; as the camel, and the hare, and the coney: for they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof; therefore they are unclean unto you. And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcase. These ye shall eat of all that are in the waters: all that have fins and scales shall ye eat: And whatsoever hath not fins and scales ye may not eat; it is unclean unto you. Of all clean birds ye shall eat. But these are they of which ye shall not eat: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray, And the glede, and the kite, and the vulture after his kind, And every raven after his kind, And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind, The little owl, and the great owl, and the swan, And the pelican, and the gier eagle, and the cormorant, And the stork, and the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat. And every creeping thing that flieth is unclean unto you: they shall not be eaten. But of all clean fowls ye may eat. Ye shall not eat of anything that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien: for thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.
Deuteronomy 14:7-21 documents a very specific list of creatures that should not be eaten because they were considered unclean by God. Some of these animals were defiled to such a degree that it was forbidden to even touch their dead carcasses.
Adding to the list of creatures that shouldn’t be eaten are oxen that have killed people. Recall from Exodus 21:28-36 that along with the penalty of stoning for oxen that have killed people, their flesh shouldn’t be eaten.
Normally, oxen were acceptable to eat. Could it be that an ox that murdered someone defiled itself spiritually, and this also defiled its flesh insomuch that eating it would spiritually defile a person?
How is that?
Jumping to the New Testament, we see a dramatic departure from the above Scripture, chronicled in Acts 10:9-16; a passage ignored by 7th Day Adventists, Mormons, etc., who still hold to the prohibition against pork.
On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of four footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.
Wow! Now what was this all about?
Taken at a very literal face value, what happened on the cross had its effects throughout all creation. God had cleansed all those animals that were considered unclean! Does this refer to a spiritual element involved in the aspect of cleanness as mentioned in Scripture? Perhaps Acts 10:9-16 provides an argument that the cross may provide a means of salvation for animals too!
Note: few theologians read this passage and come away from it thinking unclean animals now have salvation. They might use it to justify eating pork, but animal salvation – not so much.
Saint Francis is the exception I know of; he preached to birds, and they joyfully accepted his message. We are like-minded animal evangelists, Saint Francis of Assisi and I…
But most commentaries on this Scripture interpret it as an analogy of God bringing salvation to the Gentiles, i.e. non-Jewish population of the world, and rightfully so. It does mean that, and the Apostle Peter took it to mean that as well, but Scripture is often multi-faceted, as a prism of light with many colors.
Because of the multiple layers of Scripture, Acts 10:9-16 also translates to food we can now eat, and it may literally mean spiritually unclean animals are now spiritually clean, whatever that means. The full meaning probably transcends our current comprehension.
So animal salvation, if there really is such a thing, exactly how does it work?
God knows the depths of all hearts. Animals have laws, a degree of choice, and accountability, just as humans do. Maybe it isn’t much different for animals than it is for humanity. Animals that choose Christ as He reveals Himself to them in whatever enigmatic way does, go to heaven, and those who reject Him do not; simple as that.
So the prophet Isaiah summed it up best, as I mentioned at the very beginning of this post. Heaven is indeed populated by unusual, glorified animals!
In heaven, at least the New Jerusalem during the millennial reign, which is determined from the fact that there are natural generations of people there, Isaiah mentions that there are wolves, lambs, leopards, goats, calves, lions, cattle, oxen, asps, cockatrices, and even serpents. This is a large enough collection of animals to assume that some of every species will likely be there.
The mention of serpents in heaven seems to be echoed in the New Testament, with the cleansing of unclean animals. The point is, salvation is available to all, even lowly serpents, and even those that were formerly unclean!
These heavenly animals aren’t ordinary. They are exceptionally peaceful, and non-carnivorous. Seeing that these animals are dwelling in heaven, and are glorified because of their non-violent nature, it is obvious that they are saved. Another scripture pointing out glorified creatures in heaven is Revelation 5:13-14.
And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. Revelation 5:13-14 states that every creature will give glory to God. This Scripture further illustrates the idea that animals have spirits, because they are created for the explicit purpose of glorifying God throughout eternity. I find this particularly appealing, because I am looking forward to reuniting with many pets I’ve lost throughout my lifetime!