Can bunny rabbits be saved?
Will there be animals in the new Creation?
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.