Do animals go to heaven? It’s a question most of us have pondered, especially after losing a beloved animal companion. The Bible actually has a lot to say on this topic. And for those of us who hope to spend eternity with our animal family members, it’s good news.
Several Bible verses depict animals in heaven:
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. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”—Isaiah 11:6–9
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!’”—Revelation 5:13
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse!”—Revelation 19:11
Many passages tell us that animals have souls:
“I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?”—Ecclesiastes 3:18–21
“… and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”—Luke 3:6
“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”—Romans 8:19–21
“Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O Lord.”—Psalm 36:6
The Bible tells us that God’s covenant is with all of His creation:
“And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.’ So God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.’”—Genesis 9:12–17
“For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.”—Psalm 50:10–11
“And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety.”—Hosea 2:18
The Bible tells us many times that every animal on Earth praises the Lord:
“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”—Psalm 150:6
“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.”—Job 12:7–10
“Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them.”—Psalm 69:34
“Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants.”—Isaiah 42:10
So if all animals praise the Lord—and thus believe in Him—and if “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life,” it stands to reason that one beloved verse, John 3:16, tells us that animals will also be with their Creator in heaven.
Many Christian leaders have also addressed the question of what happens to animals after they die.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, taught that humans are stewards of—and responsible for the care of—God’s creation. When they failed to protect His perfect creation, humans sinned against God, and when pain and suffering then entered the world, animals had to endure it, too. The bond God had created was broken, and humans’ exploitation of and cruelty to animals began. Wesley spoke with anticipation of a new creation in which God would restore animals to their intended glory.
Martin Luther, who founded the Lutheran church, held a view similar to Wesley’s, saying, “In Paradise there was complete harmony between man and animals; one day again that harmony will be restored and all creation will be made anew as Christ will be in all and all.”
Pope John Paul II confirmed that “[n]o human being can be justified in claiming absolute ownership of animals for the simple reason that God alone owns creation. Animals do not simply exist for us nor belong to us. They exist primarily for God and belong to God. The whole work of creation belongs to the plan of salvation, ‘the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.’”
In his book Heaven, Randy Alcorn writes, “Horses, cats, dogs, deer, dolphins, and squirrels—as well as the inanimate creation—will be beneficiaries of Christ’s death and resurrection. … If we believe God is their Creator, that He loves us and them, that He intends to restore His creatures from the bondage they experienced because of our sin, then we have biblical grounds for not only wanting but expecting that we may be with them again on the New Earth.”
Scripture and many of those whom God called to share His message have explained that He created animals, blessed them, and called them good and that one day they will be part of His restored perfect kingdom. It’s important to note that God doesn’t differentiate among species, even though it might be more convenient for some humans to believe that the dogs and cats they share their homes with—but not the chicken they just ate for dinner—will be with them in heaven. Some people might picture a heaven with doves and majestic elephants—but not the tiny mouse they killed in a glue trap. Humans don’t get to make those determinations, though. God does, and His choice is clear.
We don’t have to wait for a new kingdom in order to live in harmony with the rest of God’s creation. Right now, we can refuse to exploit or abuse animals for experimentation, food, clothing, entertainment, or any other reason, thus honoring Jesus’ commandment to “love one another.”