This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/jim-stump-faith-and-science-seeking-understanding/do-dinosaurs-go-to-heaven
Fascinating subject. Interestingly, John Wesley taught that non-human animals will be a part of the restored creation (“heaven,” if you will). He addressed this in his 1772 sermon “The General Deliverance.” Not having the benefit of Darwin’s biological evolution, Wesley attributed animal suffering to the Fall. In God’s original creation, he argued, there was no violence, predation or suffering. All creatures lived together peacefully and harmoniously. He accepted the Scriptural promise that someday that state of affairs will once again exist. But he was troubled by the notion that animals should suffer the consequences of sin they didn’t commit, so he speculated that in the age to come animals will not only be restored to their original condition, but will be elevated further, perhaps to have the faculties we humans enjoy. Of course these teachings and beliefs aren’t widely shared (or even known) today, even among Wesley’s ecclesiological descendants. His belief that God loves all animals and intends to have them share in the redemption of creation motivated Wesley’s lifelong insistence on compassionate and humane treatment of animals, an ethical/theological foundation that I believe could help us navigate issues of animal welfare (particularly with respect to farm animals) that don’t get enough attention from Christians today, imho.
I think it was also C. S. Lewis who said that a heaven for mosquitos and a hell for humans could easily be incorporated in the same space.
The Bible in Isaiah 65 about the new earth (eternal heaven) does mention animals; however, are they there to show that there will be peace in God’s eternal kingdom or will animals be in heaven is not clear. This passes the area of science into the study of theology. Bill Guerrant is correct in his statement made by John Wesley. We will have to wait and see. This subject could make a whole dissertation. At the Second Coming in Revelation 19, Jesus is riding a horse. Is this symbolism or a real horse? That is up to debate. In reference to my eschatology (study of Last Things) I am an Anti-chiliast, i,e., either a postmillennialist or an amillennialist. There are some things we will not know until Jesus comes. Then we will know for certain. I must say this: The Bible mentions nothing about resurrection of animals, therefore, the animals on the new earth may perhaps be a new creation unrelated to our current creation.
@Bill_Guerrant, I’m glad you brought Wesley up! I love that sermon, not just for what it says about his concern about non-human suffering, but also because it shows what a “baptised imagination” can come up with. He had, in a sense, the idea of talking animals in heaven long before CS Lewis!
@Bethany.Sollereder I personally think this is stretching the definition of Heaven a bit too far…
In my opinion, including animals just shifts the problem. Because where do you stop? You already named bacteria, but you have to make a boundary somewhere, or else plants will end up in Heaven too… Or I’ll even end up seeing the virus that caused my flu on “the other side”. And technically speaking a virus isn’t even a lifeform.
Instead of making an arbitrary boundary to define when something is “lower” than an animal, it seems to be much simpler to me to assume that only the ones who were made in God’s image have been offered eternal life in Heaven. Only humans were made in God’s image. This seems to be a theologically plausible solution: no animals in Heaven at all. Eschatic images of wolves, lambs, and lions can be interpreted as symbolic imagery.
Besides, I don’t think God needs to “make up” for anything towards any lifeform, because all creatures owe their very existence to him. The life all creatures have had on Earth already has value in and of itself. We can project our conceptions of suffering on them to judge the net value of their lives here, but somehow I do not think that is completely fair to their Creator.
Casper Hesp, I don’t know where to stop. I don’t really think I need to know! We have lots of boundaries, and many of our boundaries are artificial (you pointed out, rightly so, that viruses can only just be considered lifeforms at all!). The case of the flu is actually quite interesting: how will we all be related to each other? If the lion can lie down with the lamb, perhaps the virus will live in peaceful symbiosis with bodies? Or (as I sometimes think) they possibly will not need hosts at all…and could go inhabit Jupiter!!
In the end, the physics of “how it works” is less important to me than to ask carefully what we think God is like. God could have (theoretically at least) made this world in two dimensions, and us with little stick bodies and eternal souls. But what we find instead is a rich world of colour, beauty, diversity, depth, and constant surprise. If God thought the platypus or the giant squid (let alone cordyceps) worthwhile now, why shouldn’t they be part of the new creation? God is always more generous than we give God credit for. It seems like the nature of love to give beyond the logic of boundaries or lines, though I do agree with you that we should be careful about putting too much weight on any one bit of eschatological imagery.
I like to think that any Heaven existing in the future will have all individuals from all species of the animal kingdom, finally able to live their lives in peace. As animals have never tried to be anything other than what God wanted them to be. They are pure.
Though one must ask the question, will there be predator/prey in heaven? What are the rules for the new Heaven and Earth?
@Henry This encapsulates my feelings exactly. Relying to heavily on Isaiah 65 commits essentially the same error as literalists do when reading Genesis.
“It says 6 days of creation, so their must have been 6 days…”
While its nice to think that our bird Calvin will be redeemed with us, and far less destructive as a result, I’m not sure you can definitively use that particular passage to support the notion.
If the resurrection life has some resemblance to our former lives, won’t we need plants to make oxygen for us to breathe? And our microbiome might be handy also…
While I agree that one shouldn’t use the prophet’s language to prove that humans will be the only animals in the new creation, it is helpful to wonder why Isaiah would have expected them to be there. Imagine creation purged of sin and violence. Why should it only have human inhabitants? And wouldn’t it be less perfect, less lovely, without the rest of God’s beautiful creation? And of course if the new creation is understood to be a restoration of Eden, then it would necessarily include non-human animals.
Admittedly it’s all speculation, but I prefer to believe that when God redeems creation, God will redeem ALL of creation.
As a misanthropist, I find the idea of a Heaven inhabited only by Humans unpleasant. Especially if half the ‘Christians’ I have known and read about end up there lol.
That isn’t true. I’m sure if I end up there I’ll be the lowest. But Heaven without an incredibly massive and completely inhabited World to explore would get dull wouldn’t it?
I can see what you are saying and it could be possible; however, no one can convince me that dinosaurs will be in the new heaven and new earth. They were monsters and most were extremely huge. The animals you see in Isaiah are modern animals if we are to take this literally. Also, we must consider the eschatology (Last things) used here. If it is dispensational premillennialism or historic premillennialism, then this would refer to an earthly kingdom before the eternal state. If this is to be taken as postmillennialism, then this would be during the messianic kingdom before the Second Advent of Christ. If it is amillennialism, then this would be the new heaven and new earth,i.e., when heaven and earth will become one. My point is this: one must consider many things in understanding scripture before making a decision on what it means. I know I have used a great deal of theological terms here. I feel you probably understand them. If there are any questions, contact me on the personal forum of BioLogos and we can talk further. I must agree that it can be taken literally or may be symbolically. God bless and have a nice night. It has been nice talking with everyone.
Not necessarily. Remember that we will be in immortal resurrection bodies. We will be no longer subject to death. I will say this: C.S. Lewis believed that the new earth will be a pure and glorified earth. Heaven and earth will become one (Revelation 21). The things of beauty of this world will exist in the next. Will animals be in the eternal heaven? The Holy Scriptures are not clear; however, if your little dog makes you happy and you want it with you, I have no doubt that God will allow that. God bless. Also, I have some animals friends I miss too. St. Francis of Assisi had prayer day for animals. Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and liberal Baptist Christians have that day still. Also, Bill mentions about John Wesley, a good Anglican Priest.
Yes, there are many arteficial boundaries. But I would say that one essential boundary that is certainly not arteficial is that of mankind as a species, currently being the only image-bearer of God on Earth.
I wouldn’t propose a description of this world in “two dimensions” because I believe there is no strict separation between natural and spiritual realities. However, I also wouldn’t swing in the other direction by saying that all natural lifeforms/phenomena will have some equivalent in Heaven.
In bearing God’s image, mankind received something eternal which is fully integrated with or even represented by our natural qualities. This makes mankind ontologically different from any other lifeform. In some sense, animals already have fulfillment in this life because they were never separated from their Creator like us…
Jesus said that we will be like angels in Heaven, not even connected in marriage anymore. Apparently, even the most beautiful marriages will be dissolved in Heaven. Then, there seems to be no reason to think that other elements of this world will remain.
First of all God bless you richly and thank you for your article. My cat flurry would agree (if he could) with your sentiment.
I continue as a minister to bemoan the fact that most of our theology is too limiting. We need a wider base that
encompasses something of the joy and wonder of God as he relates not only to ourselves but our creation. Creation
is often simply seen as the backdrop and not the backbone that reveals who we are (and who we are not) to God.
The passage that I find most interesting is the naming of the animals. This is not for the purpose of a menu!
It is because there is something here worthy of a relationship. To be sure, there is certainly a hierarchy and subordination
in this act, but not one of simple intrinsic worth so much as distinctive gifts. Adam is a gift to the creation-not a terror.
As such he complements the animal kingdom. If we recognize as we do that Jesus is the creator behind Genesis
as the gospels clearly imply, then Jesus as also the “second Adam” who will dwell in the new Eden yet to be revealed
and as such enjoys and participates in all that the first Adam lost.
The tree of life has many roots. It draws on the living water and as we know water is the basis of all life. John tells us in John 1 that “NOTHING” was made without him that was made." This includes puppies and plants, dogs and dinosaurs,
kittens and crabs. The value we set on life is not measured in merely its function for God could have chosen to create edible rocks had he so desired. Rather He chose to bring life into being so that all life, from the lowest to highest forms might share in both its temporal vulnerability and value as well as its eternal gift and glory to God. I might need to mediate on that as I consider what an alien might possibly think of my “cute cat” hissing at him while he strokes what appears to be a furry purring raptor!
That’s exactly the point. There will be a new Heaven and a new Earth. Both fundamentally different than what we see now. For example, we won’t need light from the heavenly bodies because God Himself will shine upon us. Jesus said we will be like the angels. After His resurrection, the body of Jesus was described in Greek with the word “psyche”, describing His glorified and resurrected body. Even though He ate fish with His disciples, it is unlikely that He actually “needed” food to survive. Similarly, in Heaven we won’t “need” anything to live except for the wonderful presence of God.
Thank you for your reply my brother.Dependency will always be a fact of life-in this world and the next. That of course is God’s role and rule-not our own. Whether we will continue to operate in a new world with instrumentality or not is not clear.
I believe Jesus, in his resurrection, reveals to us the sense of continuation with the physical world as well as transcending it in some ways.
His eating fish has always intrigued me. Will there be pizza in heaven? I hope so-and let’s pray it’s not just vege- pizza,
(although how that could possibly work in the sense of animals not enduring death would be a problem no doubt) .
But seriously, the main point is I agree with Paul, “All things” are to be reconciled- which must include the animal
kingdom.God, said Jesus, is the giver of good gifts to his children.I cried when my friend, who happened to be a
fluff ball named Trissy, died after 18 years of wonderful friendship with a human called Ralph. Was he just an accident? An incident? Or do these wonderful creations have a journey made possible not only by God but in our relationship with them as beings created in His image? Do we share in their destiny as God does in ours? I cannot but think so.
I find the idea of a completely sterile earth (except for human bodies) unappealing and even repugnant. Just imagine a world with no birdsong, no flowers, no forests. A lot of older people have to give up their animals and gardens when they are put into nursing homes. Is this a foretaste of heaven? Whatever happened to making all things new (not all new things)? Oh well, maybe we can hold onto a teddy bear and a few plastic flowers.
There will be pizza in heaven. Did not the angels in Luke cry out “Good will to men. Pizza on earth!” Bad joke.
God does not waste anything. He even had the disciples pick up the last crumbs when he fed the 5000.Animals are not a waste of time or simply a commodity on the grocer’s shelf.
The sacrament is given for men and not animals. Granted. But as God’s representatives we are called to be a blessing
to creation and that blessing includes animals. If time and space are but portals which Jesus passed through (and we shall one day as well) then the portal is not measured by the space needed to contain “all creatures great and small”. That space is measured by the love of “The Lord God who made them all”.