Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

Will There Be Dogs in Heaven?

Question Box This is a matter on which we cannot speak with perfect confidence, but taking all the Scriptures together, my reply is: “Yes, there will be dogs in heaven, but not your dog.”

Here is an example of a situation where simple proof texting is not that helpful.  Revelation 22:15 says of the heavenly city, “Outside are the dogs,” along with sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers or idolaters.  However, Isaiah’s picture of heaven includes this: “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat” (Isaiah 11:6).  I would point out that wolf is a kind of dog.

Both of these verses should probably be taken figuratively.  Overall, dogs are a biblical metaphor for a contemptible person.  People didn’t have house pets then as we do now, and they were seen as mangy, scavenging curs that were a menace to society.  So to call someone a dog was to describe them as unworthy and sub-human.  Isaiah’s picture of the wolf dwelling with the lamb is figurative: a picture of a new creation where hatred and bloodshed is put away.
Another way to look at this, admittedly from the perspective of a dog-lover, is to note that the Bible describes heaven as paradise (Rev. 2:7), and it is hard to imagine a paradise that did not include the family dog.  People who dislike dogs might dispute this.

My argument in favor of dogs in heaven is based on broader considerations, namely the material nature of the life to come.  This is the point I really want to get across, that heaven is not an ephemeral, vaporous realm where we will float around like ghosts.  Heaven will be material.  The picture of heaven in Revelation 21 and 22 supports this: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God… also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month” (Rev. 22:1-2).  Furthermore, in the consummation of all things, we will be raised in glorified bodies, just as Jesus was raised in a glorified, material form.  After his resurrection, Jesus ate and drank with the disciples (see Luke 24:43 and 1 Cor. 15:35ff).  Therefore, when the Bible speaks about the wedding feast of heaven it may mean more but it does not mean less.  Jesus ascended in a physical body and, while Christians who die are separated from their bodies until the resurrection, whatever realm Jesus is in now must have some physical dimension because he is there in a three-dimensional body.

We should understand, therefore, that there is continuity between the consummation of God’s redemption and his original work of creation.  Sin warped the creation in death and futility, so that God will ultimately cleanse the world in fire as he once did in water (see 2 Pet. 3:11-12).  But what will be in the glory of God’s completed work is called “the new heavens and the new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13).  God’s original creation, which he called very good, included the animals.  I do not see why the renewed and restored creation should be absent of them. 

Of this we can be sure, that when the consummate and final state of heaven arrives after the return of Christ, heaven will not be a far off realm.  Heaven will be here.  That is what the galaxies are for, the display of God’s glory as his people labor before him in the infinite and eternal Garden that is the universe.  In Revelation 11:15, the voices in heaven rejoice, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”  Romans 8:21 tells us that then “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”  I suppose that means dogs, too – not our dogs today (they are finite creatures who pass into dust) – but heavenly dogs perfected in absolute canine glory – that will be something to see.  They will serve with us to the glory of God.

That leaves only one question: “Will there be cats in hell.”  Again, I can’t be sure.  But I would point out that hell is described by the Bible as a place of eternal torment.

Rev. Richard Phillips is the chair of the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology and senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church Coral Springs, Margate, Florida.

"I was searching online and found Rev. Phillips writing of "Will there be dogs in Heaven" as our daughter just lost her beloved dog. His account helped me so much and just wanted to say Thank You to him for giving me some insight on this matter. I wish he pastored in Roanoke, Va."

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