That’s what my daughter named her. Missy called her Stormy. Or maybe it was our granddaughter, Moriah, who did the naming. We had given her the 20-year-old grayish-white quarter horse-Arabian-cross as a gift. She and her mom then rode together, each on her own horse.
That was 16 years ago. Stormy’s back eventually couldn’t bear riders. She ended up in our “back pasture” where she spent her last two years. She grazed and nosed around, but mostly waited for her next meal: feed for breakfast, apple at lunch, feed for supper and “horse peppermint” mashed up and mixed with water as “bedtime snack”. After pushing her mouth in the peppermint bucket, Stormy had pinkish lipstick. She loved it.
Stormy was a gentle, contented old girl—except when her stomach-clock told her supper was a little late. Then she’d start whinnying. Not the excited whinnying when she knew somebody was coming with food. Impatient whinnying like, “Hey! Don’t forget me!” Then if no one came, she’d run, just to be sure we knew she was still there. Around and around the pasture. Back and forth along the front fence. A 36-year-old horse running so fast we were afraid she’d fall and break a leg. She never did.
Then, last Sunday night, she was in distress. The vet could do nothing. Tearfully, with grieving hearts, we put her down, surrounded by people who loved her.
Now our back pasture stands empty. Lois and I look out still expecting to see her. We were greatly blessed to have her and to help give her those good two years. But we miss her. Our hearts are sad. Especially since death is so final.
So comes the question: will there be animals in heaven?
To some, it’s a sentimental question on the lips of children. But Scripture suggests there’s more to it.
First, remember heaven isn’t our final destination. When believers die we go to be with the Lord in heaven. But after Jesus comes, he will bring into being the new heavens and new earth.
“But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). “His promise” comes from Isaiah 65:17–“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”
Forget about floating forever on white clouds. The new earth will be as solid (but not sinful) as this one. Seeing our destiny that way, it’s reasonable to expect animals to be there, since God created animals on this earth . . .
“God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:25).
Not only did he create them, he preserved them through the flood. “Bring two of every kind of animal into the ark.” They would replenish the after-flood renewed earth. Why should we not expect animals to fill the new earth?
That raises the “soul” question. That is, does an animal have one? Certainly not a human soul. But at least the higher animals (dogs not tadpoles) have a sense of self-consciousness. Furthermore, when God created Adam he breathed the breath of life into him.
“The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).
The same Hebrew word for “breathed” (nephesh) is used for both animals and people. Animals and people have “the breath of life” in them (Genesis 1:30; 2:7; 6:17; etc.).
J.P. Moreland (philosopher, theologian, Christian apologist) observes, “It wasn’t until the advent of seventeenth-century Enlightenment, that the existence of animal souls was even questioned in Western civilization. Throughout the history of the church, the classic understanding of living things has included the doctrine that animals, as well as humans, have souls.”
Animals and humans are different. But, since God created animals and breathed into them the breath of life, is it too much to think that his new earth will include life-breathed-into animals?
See what Paul wrote . . .
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:20-23).
Does “creation” mean just vegetation? Or, as animals were included in Eden where “creation was subjected to frustration”, might animals be included in “the creation [that] will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God”? I think we have good ground for saying YES.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “Very few animals indeed, in their wild state, attain to a “self” or ego. But if any do, and if it is agreeable to the goodness of God that they should live again, their immortality would also be related to man . . . “
In a poem about the world to come, John Piper wrote . . .
And as I knelt beside the brook
To drink eternal life. I took
A glance across the golden grass,
And saw my dog old Blackie, fast
As she could come. She leaped the stream–
Almost—and what a happy gleam
Was in her eye. I knelt to drink
And knew that I was on the brink
Of endless joy. And everywhere
I turned I saw a wonder there.
And John Wesley commented on the animal kingdom’s restoration: “And with their beauty, their happiness will return . . . In the new earth, as well as in the new heavens, there will be nothing to give pain, but everything that the wisdom and goodness of God can give to give happiness. As a recompense for what [animals] once suffered . . . they shall enjoy happiness suited to their state, without alloy, without interruption, and without end.”
Oh, by the way, in his prophecy of the new creation, Isaiah saw a wolf, a lamb and a lion. It’s in the Bible.
“The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox . . . They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 65:25).
Maybe they’ll even talk! Strawberry had pulled a London carriage on Earth. In C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew, he watches as Aslan declares the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve to be his kings and queens in Narnia. Strawberry had labored under his master’s whip. Now in the new Narnia, Strawberry says, “My old master’s been changed nearly as much as I have! Why he’s a real master now.”
All the people celebrate.
All the animals rejoice.
Aslan, Lord of all, is pleased.
So, Stormy, we’ll see you again one day. You’ll be young. But not only young; you’ll be new! If you’d like, we’ll ride you again. Maybe we’ll talk along the trail. And, don’t worry: we’ll bring the peppermint.
*All quotes from Heaven, by Randy Alcorn.