Equipping + energising parents and carers
Will my dog be in heaven? image

Will my dog be in heaven?

Cameron Cole explores what the Bible says.

For the last eighteen years, I’ve witnessed an annual rite of passage come and go for the sixth graders at my church. They sit in the musty basement room with bars on the tiny window, turn in their notecards, and march up the steep stairs of the 150-year building to the largest Sunday school room. It’s the day the sixth graders do Q&A with the head pastor in front of a room of 200 adults. Given the honesty of the kids, who ask the questions most adults would like to ask if they had the opportunity, the class is must-see TV.

Every year, without fail, multiple notecards contain the same question, and I bet the same would be true if there were an adult Q&A in any church: Will my dog be in heaven? I get it. I had a Welsh Springer Spaniel named Towy as a teenager and young adult. He slept by my bed every night. He would sit on my toes under our “sticky surfaced” breakfast room table while I did my homework until the wee hours. I was devastated when he died. Will Towy be in heaven?

In reality, there are bigger questions beneath this question, making this such an important issue to many. As we move toward an answer, here are what I consider to be three pivotal concerns behind the question that can help us understand why this gnaws at many people’s hearts.

1. What do we mean when we talk about heaven?

Generally, when people think about heaven, they are referring to what theologians more properly call “the intermediate state.” When a believer in Christ dies, their soul leaves the earth and they go into the presence of Jesus until the second coming of Christ. Here, we are liberated from physical pain, sin, the presence of evil, and all effects of the fall. We shall see the face of Jesus and experience unfettered communion with him. We will be perfectly, euphorically, and eternally happy.

The intermediate state, though, is temporary. At the second coming of Christ, we will descend with Jesus to the earth, where heaven will literally become a place on earth. At that point, the resurrection of the dead will occur and we will gain our glorified bodies in the new heavens and new earth. In the intermediate state, however, we really do not know what our bodily state will be like.

I hate to be blunt, but there is zero evidence either explicitly or implicitly to suggest that our pets will be in the intermediate state. Therefore, it is highly unlikely. In the new heavens and new earth, however, there may be a place for our beloved pets. We will tackle this possibility in the second question.

2. Will my dog be in the new heavens and new earth?

I would answer that question with a strong maybe. We have no clear biblical evidence to suggest that the intermediate state possesses physical reality. Dogs do not have souls. These two variables suggest that we will not see pets when we initially arrive in heaven.

However, there are differences to consider in the new heavens and new earth. Our pets die as a product of human sin in the garden (Gen. 3:14,19). The fatal effects of the fall not only impact human beings but also all of physical creation, including animals. Since Jesus will fully remediate the damage from the original sin, God’s ultimate redemptive work may include animals who died as a product of the fall.

In Isaiah 11, when the prophet describes the new age brought about by the coming of the Messiah, he uses the image of animals dwelling in peace. In Isaiah 11:6 he writes,

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.

Isaiah could be using these images metaphorically to depict the peace and absence of hostility in the world order after the coming of Christ. This text does not necessarily specify whether it’s talking about the messianic reign of Christ after his first coming or his rule on earth in the new heavens and new earth. It appears that the broader category of this text refers to the general rule of Christ on earth, which would encompass both eras. I do not think it is unreasonable to surmise from this passage that animals will dwell in the new heaven and new earth.

The presence of animals in the original creation affirms this notion. If animals were present in the garden and present in the current creation, then discontinuity in the new world order does not seem to make sense. It only makes sense that animals will dwell in the new heaven and new earth.

Christ’s death and resurrection and the Lord’s faithfulness in all of redemptive history assures us that the Lord will not let us down.

In addition, the Isaiah 11 passage demonstrates that Christ will bring the broken relationship between mankind and creation back into harmony. Since our animals die as a product of the fall, perhaps an aspect of God’s restoring this relationship to harmony may involve our pets being restored to life. This, of course, is speculative and uncertain, but it is possible.

In conclusion, I think we can feel certain that animals will exist in the new heaven and new earth. To that end, you likely can expect to have a pet, generically speaking. Can you anticipate reunion with your pet from this life? Will I get to walk Towy again? We really cannot be sure. Perhaps Christ’s remediation of the fall will include restoring your pet to life in the new heaven and new earth with you, but Scripture does not provide enough evidence for us to make a firm claim to expect it.

3. Will I be disappointed with what I find in his presence?

I once talked to a man whose son was an avowed atheist, who fully rejected the Christian faith or any notion of God. This man, who is a committed Christian, said, “I think my son will be in heaven even though he’s rejected Christ. Heaven can’t be heaven for me if my son’s not there.” One can feel the sadness and sorrow in the father’s statement and imagine the trepidation he feels inside as he worries about his son’s salvation. Simultaneously, we must acknowledge the flagrant departure from biblical truth in his statement.

A similar line of thinking follows our pondering of our dog's presence in heaven. I think this question is really asking, Will I be disappointed with heaven? We’ve been told that heaven is the apex of experience. Endure this hard life, and God will reward you with perfect bliss for eternity. But what if we get there and it’s a letdown? If I am walking down the golden streets and my dog is not there, will I be sad and feel like I was sold a bill of goods on the greatness of heaven? Can you imagine anything more disappointing than getting to heaven and feeling let down?

These concerns originate from the fundamental issue that Adam and Eve faced in the garden, and that we wrestle with every day. The devil and our flesh whisper in our ear, God is not actually good. He doesn’t love you. He’s holding out on you. For many people, the possibility that their pet may not join them in eternity reinforces all of these doubts that challenge our ability to fully trust God day in and day out.

When wrestling with your pet’s presence in eternity, the real concern relates to the goodness and faithfulness of God. Our flesh worries that, even in heaven, God may disappoint us. However, Christ’s death and resurrection and the Lord’s faithfulness in all of redemptive history assures us that the Lord will not let us down.

Here’s what we can be certain of: you will not be disappointed by heaven. The perfect happiness of heaven will make your greatest joys from this life feel like misery compared to the complete euphoria of heaven with Christ. When you see Jesus face to face, dwell in his presence, and experience perfect union with him, you will find a fulfillment so deep that you will experience no want, no disappointment, no loss, ever again.


Cameron Cole is the director of children, youth, and family at Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama, and the founder of Rooted, a ministry dedicated to fostering gospel-centered student ministry. He is the author of Heavenward: How Eternity Can Change Your Life on Earth, Therefore I Have Hope: 12 Truths That Comfort, Sustain, and Redeem in Tragedy, and the coeditor of Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry and The Jesus I Wish I Knew in High School.


A New Freedom

This book is like a training manual on how to approach life—a beginner’s guide to Christian ethics.

Read more

For more articles from Growing Faith, subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter.
To hear about the latest books and resources from Youthworks Media, subscribe here.

Share this Post:

Related Posts: