Do Dogs Go to Heaven? A Christian Perspective
Is My Pet in Heaven?
I petted the white, silky fur of my American Eskimo for the last time. She lay peacefully - her body still warm although her heart had quit beating minutes earlier. The vet had listened for a heartbeat with his stethoscope but had found silence. The medicine he had injected had done its job, and my Laika was no longer in pain.
Her 15-year-old body was here with me, but where was she? Where was the essence of Laika?
Was she in heaven? Do dogs and other pets go to heaven? Is there really a "Rainbow Bridge?" Or do animals just cease to exist?
Dogs in Heaven? The Experts Speak
These questions have been asked by animal lovers for centuries, and even some heavy hitting theologians have weighed in on the issue. According to many of them, yes, animals probably DO go to heaven.
C.S. Lewis, a well known apologist for the Christian faith in the 1900s and author of the famous books "The Chronicles of Narnia," is known for his assertion that animals would get to heaven through the relationship of their owners with God. Therefore, a Christian's pets would be found in the new heaven because of their owner's faith.
Lewis wrote, "The theory I am suggesting...makes God the centre of the universe and man the subordinate centre of terrestrial nature: the beasts are not co-ordinate with man, but subordinate to him, and their destiny is through and through related to his. And the derivative immortality suggested for them is not a mere amende or compensation: It is part and parcel of the new heaven and new earth, organically related to the whole suffering process of the world's fall and redemption." ("The Problem of Pain" Chapter 9, 1940, p 145).
The Rev. Billy Graham, often called "America's Pastor," once said, "I think God will have prepared everything for our perfect happiness. If it takes my dog being there (in Heaven), I believe he'll be there."
Martin Luther, the well known reformationist of the 16th century and the unwitting founder of the Lutheran denomination within Christendom, felt dogs go to heaven. Referring to his beloved dog Tolpel, he once said about dogs and other animals being in Heaven, "Certainly there will be, for Peter calls that day the time of the restitution of all things. Then, as clearly said elsewhere, he will create new Tolpels with skin of gold and hair of pearls. There and then God will be all in all. No animal will eat any other. Snakes and toads and other beasts which are poisonous on account of original sin will then be not only innocuous but even pleasing and nice to play with. Why is it that we cannot believe all things will happen as the Bible says, even in this article of resurrection? Original sin is at fault." (From Preserved Smith, "The Life and Letters of Martin Luther" London: John Murray, 1911, p. 362.)
But it's understood that even brilliant minds such as Lewis, Graham and Luther can be wrong, so what is the reasoning behind their belief that animals go to heaven?
If you look at the quotes above, you see a common theme. The Bible is specific that God will create a new heaven and a new earth at the end of our current earth. This newness will be a "restitution of all things," says Luther. With the understanding that God plans on restoring creation, these Biblical scholars agree that within that restoration will be the restoration of our beloved pets.
Restoration Is the Thing: Bible Verses Discussing Restoration of Creation
The Bible mentions this restoration of Creation all throughout.
Acts 3:19-21 "Repent then, and turn, to have your sins wiped out that a time may come when the Lord refreshes you and sends Jesus, Whom He appointed to be your Savior and Whom heaven had to receive until the time when everything will be restored, as God said long ago by His holy prophets." (ATT translation)
Revelation 21:1 "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth has passed away, and there was no longer any sea." (NIV)
2 Peter 3:10-13 "But the day of the Lord will come like a theif, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are going to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt in intense heat! But according to His promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells."
These are only a very few of the scriptures that describe the restoration of creation at the end of this world. Let's take a close look at Romans 8:18-22 which describes creation groaning for redemption.
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children 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 freedom and glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." (NIV)
We can see here in Romans 8 that even creation has been in bondage and decay because of human sin and is groaning for liberation that the final restoration will give. This passage shows that God is planning on restoring His creation, and animals are a part of that creation.
Hence, Lewis, Graham and Luther all believed that God would bring back to Himself in the restoration His creation, and our pets are part of that restoration.
Dr. Peter M. Kurowski said in his "Animals in Heaven, Pet's in Paradise" Bible study, "The rest of the world, however, stands on tiptoes stretching its collective being eagerly looking forward to the new Eden. Pets in paradise? Sure sounds like it, if we pay careful attention to God's subtle, but clear word. All creation, the creation, this created world, except for demons and unbelivers, is lining up for His love, and His Lordship, plus His promise through St. Paul should give us highest of hope."
So do dogs, cats, horses and other pets go to Heaven? While the Bible doesn't come straight out and say "yes," it does imply through its discussion of the redemption of God's creation that our pets will greet us in the new Heaven and new Earth.
As I watched the vet wrap Laika's now still body in her blanket and carry her out the door, I was heart broken. The pain of the loss was so strong, it was physical. Yet as I closed the door behind him,, tears streaming down my face, I knew that Laika was free - that she was young again, running in Heaven.
Will our reunion with our pets be exactly like the famous poem, "The Rainbow Bridge?" While the poem does mention restoration, it is doubtful a place exactly like "The Rainbow Bridge" exists, but knowing the loyalty and love of dogs, it is not hard to imagine a greeting similar to the poem.
Laika: That Dog Still Rocks
"The Rainbow Bridge"
"Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance.
His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together...."