I was recently asked if I thought our pets would be in heaven with us. I said I didn’t know because the Bible doesn’t specifically say they would be, but I hoped so because they’ve given us so much love, comfort, and fun in our lives. I said God created the animals for man to take care of and use, and because of this, animals are good. I like the scripture in Isaiah 11:6—9. “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

What is your answer to this question? I’m sure it will come up again.

Shalom sibling, 

     One of the best friends I will ever have was my dog, Zoey. Zoey was a lab mix that I adopted at around five years old from the local humane society. I went looking for a dog that wouldn’t jump up on my kids (they were young at the time). As I walked down this corridor, lined with kennels on each side, I was met with loud barking and frantic jumping from every single dog, until I found myself standing in front of Zoey’s kennel. She made eye contact and ambled to the door, never breaking that eye contact. I can’t explain it, but I had to take a step back from her because I was so shaken by the immediate recognition that passed between us.

     I told the worker that I’d like to see that dog, and she tried to talk me out of it, telling me that Zoey had been there a while and that she was very hyper. This did not sound like the dog I had connected with, so I pressed her to allow me to spend time with Zoey. She relented, and I went to wait in the “meeting” room. Rather than sit in the chair, I sat down on the floor and criss crossed my legs in front of me. As soon as the door opened, Zoey’s head peered around, looking for me. She walked over, climbed into my lap, and curled up as if we’d done this all our lives. I looked down with a smile and said, “Well, I guess you’re going home with me.” 

     We were inseparable, so much so that my family nicknamed her “Mama’s Shadow.” But as the years went by, there was one thing I could never convince Zoey to do: sleep beside me at night. She insisted on sleeping at the very foot of the bed, no matter how I tried. After several years, I gave up trying. 

     Then, one night, around 2 in the morning, I received a frantic call from my mother. Grandmama had been admitted to the hospital the day before for testing, and they needed a family member to get down there ASAP. As my mother lived 45 minutes farther from the hospital, she had me leave to get there first. I arrived on Grandmama’s floor to a frantic scurry of staff, and after I announced who I was, they led me to a suspiciously quiet room. A doctor came in to tell me that Grandmama’s heart had stopped, and they needed a family member to tell them it was okay to stop trying to bring her back. It had already been over half an hour at this point. So, I told them to let her go. 

     Now, let me explain how close Grandmama and I were. For years, Grandmama and I had a ritual of talking on the phone at 4:00 a.m. each morning. I’d call her, and she’d answer in a cheerful voice, “Hello! I’m just here having me a little coffee. What are you up to?” I lived with her and Grandaddy when I was going to college, and when Grandaddy passed away after my first semester, it was just me and Grandmama. We became roommates and best friends, and we lived like that until Ricky and I got married. Our bond never weakened; it transitioned to those 4:00 a.m. daily phone calls and check-ins throughout the day.

      And now I was the one who had to make the decision to stop trying to keep her here. 

     Right after I gave them the okay, to make matters heavier, I had to call my Mama and tell her that her Grandmama was gone. The loss was deep, and its echoes felt hollow and jagged in my heart. 

     Later on, in the wee hours of the morning, I returned home while it was still dark outside. I crept in, my entire soul aching at the loss. I wanted a few hours to process it before I had to tell my kids. I slipped back into bed and rolled over onto my side. There was a slight rustling as Zoey stood up from her spot at the foot of the bed and came up beside me, lying down alongside me and placing her arm over mine as she nestled her forehead against mine. Her fur absorbed so many quiet tears that night, and she remained there, caring for me with all her heart. 

     After that night, she went back to the foot of the bed again, despite any efforts I made to the contrary, until a few years later, when an accident left both of my legs broken. After a harrowing 12-hour car ride home with no cast, splint, or even a wheelchair (I think sometimes health insurance and hospitals want to see if they can kill you off before they go to the expense of healing you), we arrived home. I had been in excruciating pain for two days at that point, and I was exhausted. Getting into the house was another ordeal, and once I finally made it to my bed, I told everyone that I needed one day to rest before I started visiting doctors again. Ricky went to pick up Zoey from the kennel. She came into the house looking for me, jumped up on the bed, and resumed lying by my side, where she would stand guard for the coming months as I healed. 

     Zoey helped me write all three of my books. She posed in the big, featured image of my family when they did a seven-page spread on me for Southern Living. She was in my Guideposts photo shoot and was also featured in Taste of the South and Southern Lady. If she could have gone on my book tours with me, both she and I would have been up for it in a heartbeat!

     She was my buddy, my therapist, my working partner, my sister, my child, and my great, great blessing.

     All this to say, I am clearly someone who understands, values, and has experienced the connection we have with animals on a very deep level; it is woven into the very fiber of who I am. I, too, long for the gift of getting to see my Zoey again. I can feel her fur between my fingers as I write this, imagine her eyes looking up at me, and hear her paw pats as she faithfully follows me from room to room throughout the day. Just writing this opens the wound of missing her as if she were here yesterday and now suddenly gone. 

     We are not the first to ask this question, and we will not be the last. We are left to wonder, piecing together what we know of the character of our loving Father. We scour His Word for bits and pieces that may apply because, when the Bible isn’t explicit, conjecture is our only recourse. 

     Now, while it is important to keep a loose grasp on our speculations (i.e., don’t dig in your heels and declare your musings or possibilities gospel), we are free to postulate and talk to the Father. 

     Having said that, I am drawn to one word in particular when it pertains to this: Nephesh. Strong’s concordance lists the first four use cases of Nephesh as: a soul, living being, life, self, and person. 

      Click here to see the Hebrew word Nephesh (Strongs 5315) and all of its uses throughout the Bible. You’ll notice that a great many of them refer to animals. 

     The verse that we are most familiar with that uses this word is Genesis 2:7. I have placed the translated word for it in bold. 

Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Genesis 2:7

     We tend to think of this word as what we become once we receive the breath of life from YHWH, so to see it used with regards to animals as well brings understandable hope to those of us who have had dear animals as companions throughout our lives. I came across another article while looking up these verses, which I am going to quote below because the author makes an excellent case for the possibility.  

*I know nothing of this author, his theology, or his faith walk. 

Is it true that humans “have souls” and animals do not? I do not know of anything in the Bible that substantiates this claim. In the creation story, the Hebrew word נֶפֶשׁ (nephesh) — the term often translated as “soul” but which really means something closer to “life” — is used equally for all sea, air, and land creatures, and for mankind (Genesis 1:20, 24; 2:7). Genesis 2 describes God breathing into man the “breath of life,” but that language is not unique to man, as it is also used of animal life a bit later in the flood story (Genesis 7:22). So there is no “soul vs. non-soul” distinction at creation, nor am I aware of any other biblical texts that make such a distinction. Ecclesiastes 3:19 actually speaks of men and beasts all having “one spirit” (ר֥וּחַ אֶחָ֖ד, translated in the ESV as “the same breath;” cf. Psalm 104:29—30). The blood of animals in Genesis 9:4 even appears to be equated with animal souls: “But you shall not eat flesh with its life [nephesh], that is, its blood.” Compare Leviticus 17:11, “For the life [nephesh] of the flesh is in the blood.” The language is no different for humans. For example, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is spoken of as “pouring out his soul [nephesh] to death” (Isaiah 53:12). – Daniel Hoffman 

     So will we be with our beloved pets again in the ever after? I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that we will feel a comfort above and beyond any we have ever known, a peace, love, and wholeness greater than our greatest imaginings, and a joy so deep only the Father’s heart could hold it. I do imagine my Zoey there with me, but even if she is not, I know that I will still lack nothing. The fullness of my faith resides in the fullness of His presence. 

         Shalom, 

 

 

 

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About the Seeking Scripture Team: We are a group of believers from all walks of the faith, saved by grace alone through faith in our Messiah. While we are of one accord in many things, we are all works in progress and lifelong learners. Therefore the opinions of one may not always represent the opinions of all.

Christy Jordan
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