Like many pastors, I have members ask me questions about God and Jesus, heaven and hell. I don’t always have an answer, but I try to help the person reflect on God’s grace and love as reflected in scripture.
The question whether our pets will be in heaven is one such question. The Bible and Christian tradition gives no explicit answer. Revelation 21 describes a new heaven and new earth, but no reference to pets. My basic answer is that God loves you and if God determines that you need your pet in heaven then God will provide. But the promise of heaven revolves around God and not our pets.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer had an intriguing pastoral conversation when he was a newly ordained pastor serving a small German congregation in Barcelona, Spain. He writes about it in a letter to his brother-in-law.
At 11:00am there was a knock at my door and a ten-year-old boy came into my room. I noticed that something was amiss with the boy, who is usually cheerfulness personified. And soon it came out: He broke down into tear, completely beside himself, and I could hear only the words, “Herr Wolf ist tot” [Mr. Wolf is dead], and then he cried and cried. As it turns out, Herr Wolf is a young German shepherd dog that was sick for eight days and had just died a half-hour ago. So the boy, inconsolable, sat down on my knee and could hardly regain his composure; he told me how the dog died and how everything is lost now. What could I say? So he talked to me about it for quite a while. Then suddenly his wrenching crying became very quiet and he said, “But I know he’s not dead at all.” “What do you mean?” “His spirit is now in heaven, where it is happy. Once in class a boy asked the religion teacher what heaven was like, and she said she had not been there yet; but tell me now, will I see Herr Wolf again?”
So there I stood and was supposed to answer him yes or no. If I said, “no, we don’t know” that would have meant “no” . . . . . So I quickly made up my mind and said to him. “Look, God created human beings and also animals, and I’m sure he loves animals. And I believe that with God it is such that all who loved each other on earth—genuinely loved each other—will remain together with God, for to love is part of God. Just how that happens, though, we admittedly don’t know.”
You should have seen the happy face on this boy; he completely stopped crying. . . he was ecstatic. I repeated to him a couple of times that we don’t really know how this happens. He, however, knew, and knew it quite definitely in thought. . . . And there I stood— I who was supposed to “know the answer”— feeling quite small next to him; and I cannot forget the confident expression he had on his face when he left. (Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. p.87)
I take comfort that even Bonhoeffer struggled to answer this pastoral question. I also am thankful he landed on God’s love as the best answer for a boy in pain.
What do you think about the question, “Do Pets Go To Heaven?”
Lord Jesus, thank you for the love you lavish upon us in so many ways.