If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll probably remember that last week I blogged about Rufas, pictured above, as he was awaiting his 12 1/2 year-old physical exam. From the time that I disclosed his diagnosis until after his death, several friends – some devout Christians, some marginal Christians – assured me that I’d see Rufas in Heaven. My thoughts are that dogs (nor any animal) don’t have souls; salvation is thru Christ; therefore pets don’t go to Heaven. With that said, however, I know that Heaven is a remarkable place, filled with all kinds of things we are unable to even imagine. I believe there will be animals in Heaven, but I don’t think that they will first have been our pets.
With that said, I asked my minister, Ethan Magness, the senior minister of First Christian Church in Johnson City, what his thoughts were and how I should respond to well-meaning friends, especially those who were not devout in their beliefs.
I’ve edited his remarks a bit, but I hope and pray Ethan’s words will bring comfort to you if you’ve ever lost a pet you love. I know they certainly have to me.
“I am so sorry to hear about Rufas. I shared with Betsy (his wife) and we are both praying for you. The love and companionship of pets is one of God’s great gifts to us and the pain of their loss is so real. We have a dog who is 12 and I already think about his loss to us.
“As to your theological question, I have never considered it before and I wanted to take some time to reflect before I responded. Here are a few scattered thoughts that may help. I still think that I have more questions than answers about this thoughtful question you have raised.
“First I reflect on God’s great goodness to us and all creatures. The Bible describes God as caring for even the lilies of the field and this means that God loves Rufas as much as you do. So whatever God plans, it is a good plan. I am convinced that God delights in your love for Rufus and Rufus loves for you. This is a blessed and wonderful part of how God has made the world and specifically how God seeks to care for you. So we can trust God’s love both in the present and in the future.
“Second, I think that you are right that God’s word does not specifically talk about the eternal fate of living creatures other than people. It is only people that are described as eternal beings who can be saved by a right relationship with Jesus and so I think that your caution is very appropriate.
“Third, when the Bible describes our finally restored state with God, it always talks about the new Heavens and the new earth and it describes us living in a newly restored earth with God. We see this picture in Isaiah and Revelation and several other places. Some of that language is metaphorical but certainly the picture is of a perfected world. And in some of those descriptions animals are present. (A common image for Heaven is the image of the lion lying down with the lamb.) While it is not clear, it also is not impossible that this restored world might include companion animals as well. Obviously the text never clearly says this, but it does not specifically dispute it either as far as I can tell.
“I think that I will probably end where I started. While I clearly don’t know everything about this question and I am just beginning to consider it and reflect on what scripture might say about the issue, I do know this. God loves you and God loves all of God’s creation and that includes Rufas. God rejoices over the love that you have shared and how you are loving Rufas even now by caring for his needs in this time and protecting him from great suffering. Our God is a God of good plans. God has good plans for you and for Rufas. Even though I don’t know exactly what they are, I know that God is good so I can trust God. And I hope and pray that in this moment, you can have the same experience, you can know that God is good and will care for you and for all of God’s beloved creation including Rufas.
I sure hope these words were comforting to you. They certainly have been to me! Ethan Magness, thank you again for letting me use your words in my blog.