“All Dogs Go To Heaven” is the franchise brand for a couple of animated movies and a short-lived television series, none of them having much to do with heaven, and more to do with dead dogs that come back to life. In the case of the first movie, the main character returns to earth to exact revenge on his killer. The second movie and television series were weak sequels although they had big name actors “playing” the voices of the characters. But the title raises an interesting question for me. Do all dogs go to heaven?
Sure, it is comforting to think that our beloved, well mannered, obedient pets go to heaven. But ALL dogs? How about the berserk dog that, with little or no provocation, attacks and mauls a child. How about domesticated dogs that run in packs that look like the animal kingdom’s equivalent of Westsiders, Bloods and Crips, killing livestock for what appears to be the sport of it. Do these dogs go to heaven? Can anyone describe the regenerative process of these “bad boy” dogs? Is there any scriptural basis for the belief that all dogs go to heaven? Is there a scriptural basis to believe that ANY dog goes to heaven? I’ve looked around, but scripture generally deals unfavorably with dogs since they were not regarded as lovable house mates 2,000 + + years ago, like they are today. And since pets don’t seem to be too common in Bible accounts, what are we to make of our sensitivities to our four-legged or feathered, or gilled friends. What do we make of the silence of scripture with regard to the fate of our departed pets?
The theology surrounding the eternal state of deceased dogs is an area that I have not given a lot of thought to. Sure, we have had family pets that have died, but the impending loss of the family pet that everyone generally regards, and even calls “my” dog, has made this a much more relevant issue.
Two weeks ago we discovered a fairly large growth on the gum of my little black Labrador, Halle. The next day the vet shared her suspicion that it was melanoma. The day following, a biopsy was taken and by early last week, it was confirmed that it was not only melanoma, but a malignant form. Bummer!
Monday this week, we took Halle to a veterinary specialist who advised that he could remove part of her jaw bone and do chemotherapy to try to prolong quantity and quality of life. The price tag was breath taking. Before making a decision to consent to any such radical and expensive surgery, I asked that an X-ray be done to see if there were any metastases in her lymph system or lungs. Unfortunately, there were several mets in her lungs, meaning that this growth on her gum, found only two weeks ago, is a fast-spreading fatal menace. Short of a miraculous intervention by God Himself, Halle will be gone way too soon. Much sooner that I could have ever imagined for an otherwise healthy dog. I don’t like it. I can confirm that I am treading water in the midst of the first two of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ “Stages of Grief”…denial, shock, isolation and anger. I am pissed!
So, do all dogs go to heaven? I readily concede the attractiveness of what might be a false comfort in pop-theology, which might suggest that if our beloved pets gave us joy in this life, why would a loving God withhold that joy from us in heaven? But, is there any real Biblical evidence to believe this is true? I am not being snarky, or cynical here. I REALLY hope it IS true. The reality that Halle is going to be gone soon, is painful. Really painful. And I would love to be able to attach some confident hope for the future to ease the present pain of her passing. I would love to know that my little Lab will be hanging out in paradise with her creator until I get there. I would love to know that I will get to see her again when I get to heaven myself.
Isaiah 11: 6-9 uses prophetic imagery to describe a state that is most unlike the one we live in today. Isaiah tells of fierce predatory animals living peaceably with what would normally be their prey. Some scholars view this as symbolic of the reconciliation of national and ethnic enemies who will no longer war under the reign of Jesus in HIS kingdom. Others use this view as support for the idea that the transformation of the earth will extend to the animals and the natural order we know now, will be suspended. In either case, it appears that animals are a part of either the earth under the millennial reign of Christ, or perhaps the new heaven and new earth, or maybe both. But this passage stops well short of suggesting that a pet who dies in 2009, will be present in eternity.
Perhaps a more relevant question would be, “will I even care about a former pet when I am in the actual presence of the one true God, the creator of the universe and His son, my savior?” When I am finally liberated from the distractions and affections of this world, will it even remotely cross my mind that I once had a dog named Halle? If the immensely significant one-flesh union I have with Leigh, and the love I have for her, ordained by God for this present life, is no longer in-force in heaven, is there any reason to think that the love I have for a dog on earth will matter after the consummation?
This is a challenge to several of my readers who are now, or who are in training to be pastors. Help me sort this out! I’m serious. It would be a huge help to me.