ENan and I are bi-coastal grandparents, with two grandchildren on the west coast and two on the east coast. In addition to our grandchildren – who provide a lot of material for these homilies – we also have two grand-dogs, several grand-chickens, a grand-rabbit and (until recently) a grand-guinea pig.
Many of our friends are called upon by their offspring to do grand-dog or other animal sitting. One friend told me last week that he had six dogs at his house that afternoon – one was his, two were his daughter’s and three belonged to his son. Another friend was goat-sitting for his son’s family! We have not had the privilege of animal sitting yet. It seems our children trust us with their kids but not with their animals!
All this animal encounter got me thinking about a question I have often been asked: “Are there dogs and cats in heaven?” I used to answer this with a very confident “No!” My argument was that animals do not have souls. Only people, who are made in the image of God, have that eternal dimension that we call a soul. Our soul enables us to communicate with God, connect with God and, when we die, to have an eternal relationship with God.
But I was reading from Isaiah not long ago and I came across this verse, “I will create new heavens and a new earth… The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.” (Isaiah 65:17, 25) I figure, if there will be lions, lambs and wolves in heaven, then my grand-dogs, Jade and Charlie, will certainly have a place as well.
In heaven, all of creation will be redeemed and set right, as it was in the Garden before Adam and Eve messed things up. I fully believe that heaven will be more incredible than anything we experience on earth. “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived – the things God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9) But, imagining a heaven without animals and the other things that make life here so amazing seems like selling heaven short.
One of my friends has a pet snake. If I get a vote, the snake won’t make it through the pearly gates.
Dr. Jim Baldwin