With four legs and a tail they exude unconditional love. Their paws wrap around your heart the minute you lay eyes on them. They are your constant companions through thick and thin. When the world walks out, they remain Velcroed to your heart and side. On your worst days, they finagle a smile. On your best, they double your joy.
Then that dreaded day you'd prayed would somehow never come, came. They're gone - rushing in like a tsunami, ripping a hole in your heart and wreaking havoc and destruction on your very being. The grief is incredible. They're gone. That's it. No more. It's over. Or is it?
According to Randy Alcorn in his book, "Heaven," the same word "nephesh" (in Hebrew) translated "living being or soul" is used for both Adam and for animals. While animals do not have human souls and were not created in God's image, there is a compelling case for animals having non-human souls.
In church history, it wasn't until the advent of the 17th Century Enlightenment that the existence of animal souls was even in question.
Genesis is only one of many locations in Scripture rich with reference to animals. Romans 8 also contains a wealth of information on the subject. It says that "ALL of creation" has been frustrated, suffering and groaning up to this present time, pleading for deliverance, for freedom-for redemption.
While you may know a pet that has an impish nature, the bottom line is that animals didn't sin in the Garden and are not born, like humans, with a sin nature. Thus, they don't need a redeemer in the same way as we do, therefore not excluding them from Heaven.
When man became so wicked that a world flood was necessary to wipe out "ALL flesh," humans and animals both perished. Repeatedly in Genesis 9 God reiterates that his covenant (that he will never again destroy the earth with a flood) is made not only to man and his descendants, but to "ALL living creatures of every kind."
If you're a C.S. Lewis fan, you already know that he loved and believed in the significance of animals. In his "Narnia," it's obvious what he has portrayed as fiction, is based on his belief of recreated animals in Heaven.
John Wesley preached about his passion for animals and their presence in Heaven. Joni Erickson Tada writes about her belief of pets in Heaven. Even theologian, John Piper, envisions meeting his dog in Heaven.
"Would God take away from us in Heaven what he gave, for delight and companionship and help, to Adam and Eve in Eden? Would he revoke his decision to put animals with people, under their care? Since he'll fashion the New Earth (Heaven) with renewed people, wouldn't we expect him also to include renewed animals?" (Randy Alcorn in "Heaven.")
God has touched countless lives through the precious pets he has entrusted to our care. He created them and gave them endearing qualities. He gave us the capacity to love them deeply. (Yes, some people make their pets into "idols" but many individuals also idolize and spoil people, too. To idolize is wrong, to love is not, whether it's people or animals.)
So, does it make sense to you that a creative God, who set aside a day of creation to make animals; who preserved them through the Flood; made Scriptural promises including them; gave them to us for joy and heart-felt companionship; made us with the capacity to love them and grieve when they're gone; and who often used them for his very specific purposes, would up and exclude them from a place he says exceeds beyond what our imagination can ever conceive? (I Corinthians 9.)
Can you envision your pet joining you in Heaven? Me too. Will they be able to talk and recall things that happened on earth? Hum, call me crazy, but I wonder if that's one of those "exceeding our imagination" things ...
Cathie Canary has worked 25 years in vocational ministry with college students and currently has her own financial and retirement planning business in Reno. She attends Evergreen Bible Church. Thoughts of Faith is a weekly column written by various ministers and lay people. Those interested in scheduling a date for writing a Thoughts of Faith column should contact Janet Gossett at 376-5446 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if a Thoughts of Faith column is written at the writer's convenience and sent to The Times, it will run the first available date.