Growing up the son of a motorcycle rider, I was very familiar with the platitude, “If God made anything better than a Harley, He kept it for Himself.”
Harley owners love their bikes. As I shared in a previous message, my dad didn’t carry a rag in his back pocket to keep his hands clean; he used it to polish his chrome.
Bikers also seem to have a sober understanding of another familiar saying, “You can’t take it with you.”
Their curiously optimistic spin on the disappointing “can’t take it with you” news is: You don’t have to take it — obviously something better is waiting!
But, the point of today’s writing is not “Will my Harley be in Heaven?” I am trying to get to the most common question children and adults have about the afterlife, the teary eyed question asked at the funeral of many a cat, dog, fish, hamster, parakeet, or whatever other animal a person has affectionately loved, “Will my pet be in Heaven?”
My Biblical response to every parent out there needing some reassuring words for their children is, “I don’t know.”
Rats. Is that all you’ve got to offer, pastor?
Let me elaborate on my display of uncertainty by adding. “But, I hope so.”
All through the pages of Scripture we see animals coexisting with mankind and providing a wonderful opportunity for companionship.
In Eden, we see Adam surrounded by the marvelous animal kingdom.
And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 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 1:24-25 (NIV)
In the ark, Noah was instructed to preserve animal life for the new earth he and his family would pioneer.
Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it.” Genesis 8:15-17 (NIV)
And the prophets give us glimpses of creatures existing now in Heaven beyond anything we have ever experienced.
I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north—an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was that of a man, but each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had the hands of a man. All four of them had faces and wings, and their wings touched one another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved. Ezekiel 1:4-9 (NIV)
So, we know with certainty that animals (or creatures) will be part of Heaven, though I’m not sure about playing fetch with one of those living creatures. But, the question that burns in our heart is, “Will my animal, my beloved pet, be in Heaven.”
For me, it’s, “Will I see Jake in Heaven?” Jake was a buddy who left my life as abruptly as he entered it. He was an 80 lb Rottweiler that got hit by a car in front of our home. We let him into the back yard to recover, and he just stuck around for a while. We got the ticks and fleas off of him. Fed him well and got some meat back on his bones. And we all fell in love. I even prayed for that boy’s healing as I would place my hands on his back hips and speak restoration from the combined pain of dysplasia and the car accident.
But, just as Jake was acclimating into our home and becoming part of the family, he snapped at my daughter during a family movie one night. He was gone the next day and is now happily paired with a man who loves big dogs and has no children.
How does your heart get so attached to a simple animal? I loved Jake. As the country song says, “He was a good dog.” Will I see him again in Heaven? Will his hips be free of pain? Will we snuggle in a heavenly field?
I don’t know. But, I hope so.
In Revelation 21, we get a glorious glimpse of Heaven.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1-5 (NIV)
“All things new.” That sounds promising.
In the book, Heaven, author Randy Alcorn pioneers modern thought regarding the promise of eternity. Concerning my reunion with Jake he writes, “If we believe God is their Creator, that He loves us and them, that He intends to restore His creatures from the bondage they experienced because of our sin, then we have biblical grounds for not only wanting but expecting that we may be with them again on the New Earth.”
Even the beloved evangelist, Billy Graham, has weighed in on this wonderful question. He says, “Heaven is the place of final and complete happiness God has prepared for us—and if animals are necessary to make us happy in heaven, then you can be sure God will have them there.”
What about a Harley, Reverend Graham? That would make me happy. 😉