Every year on October 4, a growing number of churches involve themselves in a “blessing of the animals” service. This “blessing of the animals” is rooted in the Roman Catholic Church as a part of observing “Saint Francis of Assisi Day.” However, in more recent times, more and more protestant churches have picked up the practice of “blessing their pets.”
Just today, an announcement of one such “animal blessing” crossed by desk and it stated that “Pastor Tim” would bless your pets if you bring them to church with you on Sunday. And, if you pet has died, if you will bring a picture of the deceased pet, he will also bless your dead pets as well.
Again, while listening to a religious broadcast while driving the other day, I heard a religious leader assure a distraught caller that her deceased pet was being cared for by God and that she would be reunited with it in heaven.
Of course, there is much that could be said about all this, but I want to restrict my comments to this question, “Do animals go to Heaven when they die?” Here are a few considerations.
- It was man who was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), and the rest of God’s creation was contrasted with the creation of man. Man differs from the rest of God’s creation in that he has been given an undying spirit that returns to God upon death (Acts 7:59). When an animal dies, there is no immortal part that survives the death of its body.
- Think of the implications. When asking this question, we typically have in mind our lovable pets. But does God only give “pets” immortality, or does he give all animals immortality? If the former, what scripture teaches this, and if the latter, then all the mosquitoes, flies, leeches, and maggots that have ever lived, from the time of Adam till now, will be joining us in Heaven as well. That’s just not what people are usually thinking about when they affirm animals will join us in heaven, but that’s the logical end.
- More implications. If both men and animals are immortal, then why is man not allowed to kill his fellow-man (Exodus 20:13; Matthew 5:21-22), but he is commanded to rise, kill, and eat animals (Acts 10:13)? Surely it is because man and animals are different. Man was created in the image of God, and animals were not.
Friends, Heaven is a place of reward for faithful living (Matthew 5:12). It is a place of redemption for “just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23-24). Consequently, animals don’t qualify.
Personally, I’m an animal lover, and I’m thankful to God for creating animals to be our companions while we live on the earth. I’ve also suffered at the loss of several of my pets and know the hurt that can be associated with that. But as for any hope of seeing them again in Heaven, the Bible, which is the only source of information we have about Heaven, provides no evidence that animals will live forever, let alone, live in Heaven with us forever.