Do dogs go to heaven?
I had the greatest dog that God ever created. I’m serious. If there were a way to objectify the “greatness” of dogs, Rocky, my German Shepherd, who a got when I was 11, would be number one on any top ten list. At times, I felt like he was my only friend growing up. He was always there for me. He died when I was 25. It broke my heart. I have not tried with a dog since.
Just before he died, I told him that I would see him again. But is that the truth? Do dogs go to heaven?
Some would say definitely not, referencing this passage of Scripture:
“Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the beast, which goes down to the earth?” (Eccl 3:21).
However, I would be careful using passages out of Ecclesiastes as theological proof-texts without a great deal of consideration. Ecclesiastes is written from the perspective of one who is full of doubt and turmoil about how he perceives life to be “under the sun” (without God). Its purpose is not to help us build a theology, but to show the utter despair of life outside the pursuit of God. In this particular passage the writer is simply saying “Who knows if man is any better off than animals? Who really know. From my perspective under the sun, it does not seem so.” That is all I would take from it.
There is no direct support in the Scripture for or against the idea that dogs go to heaven.
In favor of the idea is a theology of redemption. When things fell apart in Eden, God did not trash plan A only to move to plan B. He immediately enacted his plan of redemption. This plan includes the redemption of man and the resurrection of his physical body. Paul tells us in Roman 8:19-20 that God is even going to redeem the present earth. If God is not moving to plan B with man and the earth, it is very possible that God will also redeem the animals.
However, it is hard to say whether or not God had a built in allowance for death before the fall. Obviously plant life would have to be considered. Adam and Eve were free to eat of anything in Eden (except the tree of knowledge). Therefore, plant life would have suffered “death.” It is also possible that animals would have died without the fall of man seeing as how they would not have access to the tree of life (Gen. 3:22-23) which seems to have been created exclusively for people (Rev. 22:2). Therefore, I am very comfortable with the idea of death before the fall, just not the death of man.
As well, while it might be easy for us to speak with great hope for pet dogs and (maybe) cats, we have to think about all the other life that might want a say in their future existence. Think of all the ants, bees, rats, squirrels, and snakes. If we say that it is a theological necessity that God restore all things, are these to be included? It seems unlikely.
I think that we can safely assume that there will be animals of every kind on the new earth, but I don’t think we can say with any assurance that these will be the exact same animals that roamed the fallen earth.
Does this mean that Rocky will not be in heaven? Does this mean that your favorite pet will never be seen again? Not necessarily. There is great mystery to the coming kingdom, and we must always hold such convictions with tentative expectation. However, I don’t see why God would not allow special plans for those animals that were so close to us. My suggestion is simply to ask him.
The best I can say is that I hope to see Rocky there. I would be surprised if he is not.
NOTE: “Fringe Q&A” is a new series that will deal with speculative questions about the Bible and theology that have very little, if any, impact on our faith, but are interesting nonetheless. Submit your question here. I may get to it!
Next Fringe Q/A: How long were Adam and Eve in Eden before the fall?