This is a question that comes up often for animal loving believers. Having read the Bible from front to back more than a dozen times I can say with certainty… it doesn’t say one way or the other. But of course, the absence of a definitive answer from scripture that doesn’t mean that it isn’t so. The Bible was written for people to read, and of course with the God given ability for higher thinking comes the responsibility about making a decision about God. The Bible is the reference book for humans to make that decision. Animals have no decision to make. Not having the knowledge of good and evil they are exempt from any decisions and are in no need of divine instruction, ergo there are no instructions in the Bible regarding the salvation of animals.
So as with anything, in the absence of hard evidence circumstantial evidence can be examined. First of all, what do we imagine Heaven is like? Revelation Chapter 21 describes a walled city with streets of “pure gold as it were transparent glass”. In the city there are pearls and jewels of every kind and there shall be no need for light because the Lamb of God is the Light. The twelve gates to the city are never closed because there is no night and no darkness. And in Chapter 22 there is mention of a pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and the Lamb. A river lined with the tree of life and all manner of fruits and leaves for the “healing of the nations”.
We don’t know what is outside the gates, only that no unclean thing may enter the gates. My guess (and my theory on the matter) is that outside the gates lies a beautiful expanse of mountains, wilderness and gardens. Perhaps like the Garden of Eden, a magnificent place filled with abundant fruits and trees and plants. And of course there were animals in the garden, animals that Adam was supposed to name and care for.
Before sin entered the world there was no death and no need of death. The animals could not provide meat without dying so they must have been placed in the garden for some other reason besides consumption. Perhaps God just likes animals? How could He not enjoy the chirping of birds, the beautiful colors and patterns on their fur and the joyful play of the furry youngsters. A garden without birds or mountains, without the chatter of pika, deer grazing and bear cubs romping would be a sterile and boring place indeed. Heaven wouldn’t be Heaven at all without such joyful abundance of life. We are also assured that God is concerned with the return of animals to their Garden of Eden state in Isaiah 11:6 where it is said that during the millennial reign of the Messiah, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.”. I don’t believe God would have created animals and put so much thought into them if He didn’t want them in His final Kingdom.
My wife Tricia, God rest her soul, was one of the most spiritually attuned people I have ever met and also a person who believed that there would be animals in Heaven and that our pets would be there too. This belief was cemented by the life and death of our first dog that we raised together. I have a long story about how we came about bringing him home, but that is a tale for another blog post. Anyway, this amazing story began in our back yard when I brought the dog home. At the time we only had a little two seat S10 Chevy pickup truck with an open bed. There was no way we were going to drive our new pet 20 miles through the nightmare that is Denver traffic in the back of an open pickup and he was too big to ride in a lap, so I went to get him alone. When I brought him home Tricia was inside so I just led Bear around back to his new backyard. After I had closed the gate and unhooked the leash Bear ran out into the middle of the yard and whirled around several times before racing back to greet me. It was a moment I will never forget as long as I live. As I mentioned, Tricia wasn’t there, she was busy and I was busy and I forgot to tell her about his joy at being rescued.
Years later after being as much a part of our family as any child would be, Bear crossed Rainbow Bridge and we were of course devastated. As we prepared to bury him Tricia was petting him and praying for God to give him back to us. All of a sudden she stopped and jumped up saying, I just had a vision of Bear playing in green grass, twirling in circles and jumping for joy! I said, “that is exactly what he did when I first brought him home”. She said, “He is happy in Heaven and will be waiting for us!”. I believe that he is and that she and him are both running through green grass even as we speak, joyfully and patiently awaiting my arrival 🙂