I was about 28 and I was with a small team going door to door in my neighborhood in Level Green, Pennsylvania. A woman, perhaps 40, answered the door in tears. She said that her pet rabbit had just died and she asked me if God took him to heaven.
I'm not really sure what my answer exactly was but it wasn't "I'm sure of that". It was a difficult spot for me to be in and I'm sure that I wasn't as tactful as I could have been.
[If this woman has any recollection of this brief exchange, I'm sure that she doesn't remember it fondly like "that nice young man from the church comforted me"]
As an aside, this would be a good question at an ordination: "Do pets go to heaven?"
Before I give my view, I start with these comments:
- Call me crazy, but I tear up when I hit a squirrel with my car. I avoid them, but they seem sometimes to be suicidal. And sadly every couple of years I crush one - and it pains me!
- In my early 20's, I hit a raccoon with my VW and I cried
- We've had 7 cats - 1 is now living. I've put 6 cats down - Gatsby, Smokey, Tabby, Blue [Blue when he was very sick], Emily, and Daisy. All the events were very painful. Gatsby was our newlywed cat that sat on my lap as I read and studied for seminary. Daisy was a bit different because we put her down (she was very sick and probably had just weeks to live) the day before my mother died. And pet grief is not at all like mother grief!
- On Emily: she was the sweetest kitten, and her death was very painful! (but really the others too - I just didn't do blog posts on them!) (Please click these links!) - yet another Emily
- As I am writing this, Flaco is on my lap. We are sitting for my daughter-in-law's & son's 14 year old cat while Roger is away at Fort Benning. We've had Flaco for about 6 weeks.
- There's a lot on the Internet about this - try Googling "Do pets go to heaven?". Obviously the Internet is not the authority which brings us to the next point ...
- The Scriptures must be our authority
- I did find this article - Do Pets Go To Heaven? - helpful. I only quote one very small passage: "it is most important to state that if pets do go to heaven, their owners will also have to go to heaven to see them. The Bible makes it clear that the majority of people will not go to heaven—see Matthew chapter 7, verses 13 and 14 (Matthew 7:13,14) for one example. Therefore, it is critical that we remind everyone that they need to get right with God themselves or their chances of seeing a departed pet again are zero."
- So do pets go to heaven?
- One thing is clear is that there is coming a new heaven and new earth and animals will be there: Isaiah 11:6, "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them."; Isaiah 65:25, "The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord."; Isaiah 11:8, "And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den." The curse (from mans' fall) will be ended / there will be no more death! The current natural order of violence and carnivorous activity will have ceased! As an aside, on more than one occasion, the aforementioned Smokey killed and ate mice!
- Much has been made about Pope Francis' comments about pets in heaven. Before I link to this, even the Pope is not our authority! Google if you want more, but here is a link that says Pope Francis indeed did so state, and another that refutes it!
- Back to Flaco. His real name is "Skinny". After Roger and Kate married, Roger renamed him Senior Flaco. His telling is that Flaco is Spanish for Skinny. We think he's been underfed and we are, in spoiling him as much as we can, attempting to make him "Gordo"
- Flaco and I share some traits or characteristics: We both breathe air. We each have a heart, lungs, kidneys, et cetera.
- I have cancer just as Smokey had cancer. I hope my cancer won't kill me but time will tell
- What Flaco and I don't share is that I am an image-bearer of God. God has stamped his image on my soul!
- And as an image-bearer I have a soul that will exist forever - either in heaven or in hell!
- Back to animals: they are not image-bearers and they do not have eternal souls.
- By the way, one man's pet can be another's monster: think: pet chimpanzee, pit bull, or a snake
- I think that I have answered the question!
- But: it is normal and healthy to grieve over the loss of an animal!
- For the Christian, it is very important to discipline one's mind to think Biblically!
- Finally: heaven will not disappoint!