Can bunny rabbits be saved?
Will there be animals in the new Creation?
Published: 16 October 2010 (GMT+10)
This weeks feedback comes because CMI supporter, Catherine O. responded to the article by Gary Bates, Is it unjust that the whole creation should suffer because of Adam’s sin? In that article, Gary says, he was responding to a previous comment on CMI’s position that human beings are the only creatures (as in created by God) that can be saved. Moreover, angels aside, human beings are also the only sentient, intelligent, moral, decision-capable beings that God created. This was from his article Did God create life on other planets?
Catherine O. wrote:
If you read Calvin’s commentary on Romans 8:19-23 and Isaiah 65:25, you’ll find he takes the plain sense: when Christ returns, he will restore creation to the way it was before the Fall, which means that bunny rabbits can and will be saved. Calvin is on the net [withheld per CMI’s feedback rules] and the editor’s notes tell us that Luther and “the greater part of the Lutheran and Reformed Divines” were in agreement here. But if CMI “takes no stand on eschatology” this should include animal immortality.
Gary Bates responds:
Catherine, CMI indeed avoids taking a particular view on eschatology as it falls outside our ministry mandate of dealing with origins. That is not to say that we don’t think it is an important subject. It’s just that we believe there are many good ministries out there that deal specifically with this subject. We often get asked for opinions on a range of subjects outside of our core area. But we try not to be all things to all people, as we risk becoming ‘nothing’, as in losing our focus. This is why we prefer instead to concentrate on areas that we specialize in, such as the origins debate. This is a long-winded way of also saying that there are many different views on eschatology and this includes interpretations on many passages that talk about the Restoration as we shall see.
If Calvin spoke about God restoring His Creation to the way it was before the Fall it does not necessarily follow that animals will be saved and resurrected. We have always understood that it referred to restoring it back to an Edenic-like paradise the way it was before the Fall. In the new heavens and the new earth it is clear that this will be the case because of the following passage in Revelation 21:1,4 and 22: 2 3.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away …He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. … In the middle of its [the new Jerusalem] street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life … And there shall be no more curse (emphases mine).
The passages you mention in Romans 8 cite ‘the creation’ as being cursed. This clearly refers to the whole creation (the universe) otherwise why would be God be making a new one (because the old one is cursed)? “New heaven and new earth” and “first heaven and first earth” are merisms, opposite extremes which encompass everything in between. So it is saying that there will be an entirely new physical universe, because the first physical universe passed away. It clearly says that in the Restoration, there will be no more Curse; given that the Curse entered due to the events in the Garden of Eden it is clearly pointing back to that Pre-Fall Eden-like scenario (though the new heavens and earth will be different from Eden in some important ways; for instance, we will be unable to sin and we will not reproduce). The Bible teaches that there will be no death, disease, or sin in the Restoration.
Adam incurred the Curse because of his disobedience (and he was warned that would happen). However, the fate of animals is an entirely different question. To suggest that animals will be saved is like asking “do animals go to heaven?”. As much as I hate to destroy any wishful thinking that our favourite pooches will be resurrected along with us, I believe the answer is no. Although the animals are nephesh creatures in that they have a soul, they are not made in the image of God and do not have human souls. Jesus was called the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45) because His atoning work came to undo the work of the first Adam (man) whose sin was passed to all human beings as his descendents. Hebrews 2:16–17 is clear that only humans qualify for salvation and not even the angels can be saved:
For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
Also, the Bible indicates that Jesus had to be related to us so that He could act as our kinsman-redeemer (Isaiah 59:20). So, it is clear that one has to be a human to be saved. This would eliminate animals as candidates for salvation. The redeemed Church is also known collectively as Christ’s bride (Ephesians 5:22-33); one would hardly think that animals are married to Christ. Christ died for humans because humans sinned—not the animals. Romans 8:21-23 explains that:
We wait eagerly for … the redemption of our bodies.
This is mentioned in the context of the Creation being liberated from the bondage of decay. So, although the whole Creation will be redeemed and restored, it only mentions the resurrection (and transformation) of the original bodies of humans. If God re-creates animals for the new heavens and earth, then they will have no continuity with animals that we have here now.
This is not the same as saying there will be no animals in Heaven as part of the Restoration. The Bible indicates that the new Creation will not only be a ‘spiritual’ home but a physical one. The Holy City will be made from gold and fine jewels (Revelation 21:18-19) and Jesus indicated that the Father’s house had many rooms that were being prepared for believers. If we are not merely ethereal spirit-like beings in Heaven, like some mistakenly think, then I can’t see why there would be a problem. God’s redemptive plan was both for mankind and the earth, so it might suggest room for animals in the new Creation. In the original Creation, when God made the animals that move along the ground according to their kinds, He saw that it was good (Genesis 1:25). So, if animals were originally ‘good’ and part of God’s good Creation, it would be reasonable to assume there would not be a problem having them in the restored new earth either.
One may well be able to draw analogies from the Great Flood of Noah’s time. Man’s sin was once again the problem as it was corrupting the whole Earth. The plan of repopulating a new Earth did not just extend to human beings; it was extended to the animal kingdom also. Man was given dominion over the animals in Genesis 1:28 so it is clear they were given for man’s benefit as well. And remember that man derived benefit from animals in the pre-Fall world was long before we were given the command to eat them after the Fall (clearly for man’s benefit once again). I am trying to imply that animals may well have also been created for man’s wellbeing and to magnify their Creator. It has been well-established that animals bring comfort for human beings. Romans 1:20 exhorts that all Creation magnifies its Creator. This may also be part of animals’ roles in a no-death restored Creation.
Isaiah 65 —The Millennium or new Earth?
You mentioned Isaiah 65:25, which says:
The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox …
This is one of those mysterious passages that is often interpreted according to one’s eschatology (end times view). Many think that it refers to Christ’s 1,000 year reign on Earth—commonly known as the Millennium. Others with a different end times view see it as being the result of an extended process of progressive restoration, prior to the final time when death is overcome, too. While others still subscribe to the view that it refers to the new Earth because it indicates that animals won’t be eating each other anymore, which is taken to mean there is no more death. However, Isaiah 65 also talks about people living to vast ages again, but then dying. Isaiah 65:20 says:
For the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed
So, it is difficult seeing this passage referring to an eternal Kingdom of some type, yet verse 17 says:
For behold I create new heavens and a new earth
So, although we are unsure specifically of which restored Kingdom the Isaiah passages refer to, or both, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t believe there is any biblical basis for believing that animals will be resurrected as humans will be. Rabbits are not made in the image of God and there is no spirit in, or of, them that lives beyond death. I hope these thoughts help.
The Bible states that all creation awaits redemption. The Psalmist says that a righteous man takes care of his animals. While many will refute this issue, I believe that the answer to this question is clear. There are many people out there who cherish their pets as a member if the family. I can't be completely dogmatic, but I believe that our loving God who wants to give us the desires of our hearts will indeed answer the prayers of the countless pet lovers out there.
Dear Rev. Greg,
With regards to the extract from the Psalmist. We should be expected to take care of the animals. God placed mankind in charge of His Creation and we have stewardship over it. However, we also farm and eat these very same animals. Will these be in heaven too? Will I be looking at my former hamburger in the New Heavens and Earth etc.? You may think this a trite comment, but I use it to show the difficulty of the idea of resurrected animals.
I have pets too that I cherish, but that is not a biblical argument for their resurrection, it is an emotional one. Most Christians have unsaved family members that they cherish too. So, will God allow them in Heaven just to give us the desires of our hearts, as you put it. After all, he said that humans are more important than 'the sparrows'. It would seem incongruous that he would assign humans to eternal torment, but maybe 'save' the tiger that ate the unbeliever.
Jesus is described as our Kinsman-Redeemer. One has to be related to him by blood to even qualify for salvation.
I know this is a difficult, emotional issue to consider for many. I'm not sure what your stand is on the veracity of the Word, and whether it is the final authority on all things. But, there are serious implications in this article in considering the alleged salvation of animals. Either Scripture is clear about this or it isn't. And if it isn't, one is free to insert any desire of our heart based upon the fact that God is good, because we creat a God that we are comfortable with.
The whole Creation is cursed as a result of sin (Romans 8). That includes the animals. The fact that there is awful death and suffering in this world, that our loved ones will dies and reject Christ, and that innocent animals have also suffered the opprobrium of the curse; should be a reminder to us that something is awfully wrong with this Creation. Christ's redeeming act will restore the Creation to it's original pre-Fall condition, but the Bible is very clear that only humans qualify for salvation, and thus, resurrection, for the new Creation.
Thank-you for this article, as I, too, have to give a similar response to those who think that their beloved pets (and we have one, too!) are going to have a heavenly inheritance.
Regarding the Isaiah passage on the new heavens and new earth–which for me clearly refers to the ‘very good’ Millennial Kingdom for the reasons you state–I liken it to a born-again person now: we are a new creation, but there is still sin in us, and we wait for the full adoption of our bodily resurrection for eternity in the ‘perfect’ New Heavens and New Earth.
Wonderful research. I appreciate that you use scripture to interpret scripture. I now feel better prepared to answer the question I know one day I will be asked from my 4 year old granddaughter when her beloved yellow lab dies. I wish I had read this when her daddy, my son, asked such questions when he was a child.
In the eternal kingdom, I think it would seem as if something were missing if that great variety of animals would not be included.
I agree, and the article made that point.
It all gives glory to God. As to whether animals that die here are ‘revived’ to the kingdom is certainly a difficult question to ascertain an answer for.
Gary replies I don’t think it’s that difficult really. Let’s consider. The Bible’s speaks about the Gospel’s big picture, the Creation, The Fall of man, the Redemption of man and the Restoration/Creation of a new heavens and Earth. The purpose of Creation was to bring forward a bride for Christ. The article pointed out that one had to be a descendent of Adam to be saved. Animals do not qualify. As humans we have a conscience, a sense of morality, and as sinners we become aware of our fallen state before God. God helps us (While we were yet sinners Christ died for us). Animals have no way of understanding or accepting these concepts. While there may be new animals in the restored Creation, will I be meeting my resurrected lamb roast dinner? I mention this to highlight the problem and make the point that such a view is unbiblical.
However, if you think about it, a lot of degradation has happened to the information of genes in animals. A short stubby pug with a smashed muzzle is perhaps less than perfect. It would be sad for it to be in that form eternally. So I think God will create a new, and perfect group of animals for the kingdom.
Gary replies An interesting point that I had not considered. However, humans have probably suffered some degradation too from our original perfected state, so what will we be resurrected to? We obviously won’t be carrying our physical infirmities with us to Heaven. So, I am not sure that the mutated pug idea is a strong argument. However, I do encourage the critical thinking that you are showing. A lot of respondents have actually been quite angry due to implications that I said, effectively, that their beloved Fifi won’t be with them in Heaven.
I would agree with most of the above, however, I would be more adamant that animals most definitely WILL be in heaven as we read in the Revelation about how Jesus returns to earth riding a white horse, plus there are the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse-I see no reason with such statements to allegorise them, as they seem pretty specific to me. And as the article points out, certainly God is taking us back to the beginning and recreating everything as it was then before the Fall, and if Adam walked with the animals then, and we know that eventually the Lion will lie down with the Lamb, I feel we can be confident in sharing heaven (or perhaps rather, the new earth) with animals-and why not our pets whom we’ve known-I find it hard to accept that God would grant us the capacity to have such a unique relationship with these animals, if He were not going to grant that to continue for His children-but ultimately I’m not going to build a doctrine on it or fall out with anyone over a differing view :)
We do believe that there will most probably be animals in Heaven. These will be new creations, however, not resurrected animals which lived and died on this earth. So I believe that the special relationship that we have with animals on this earth will continue in some sense, because there will be animals in the new heavens and earth will serve a similar purpose, but we won’t meet our beloved pets who have died.
You said: “I find it hard to accept that God would grant us the capacity to have such a unique relationship with these animals, if He were not going to grant that to continue for His children.” Then what about our unsaved family? We have a unique relationship with them also, but we can be sure from Scripture that they won’t be resurrected to eternal life in Heaven, unfortunately.
This is because the resurrection is only possible for humans because of our blood relationship through Adam to Jesus—He is our relative so can act as our kinsman-redeemer. But animals cannot have this hope.