There is a ridiculous song “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” [Elmo and Pasty, 1979], that some people think is hysterical and others don’t like it at all [I don’t like it at all]. What happened to me this Christmas is something like that song, but with a nicer outcome:
[Woof, when she was a puppy, and Pupper]
It looked like a reindeer, smelled like a reindeer, had a long wet tongue like a reindeer, demonstrated love for everyone and spread Christmas cheer like a reindeer, but was it really a reindeer? Surprisingly, the answer turned out to be “No.” Despite all the evidence pointing to this jolly little roly-poly animal being a Christmas reindeer; it really was my sister’s two-year-old Border terrier puppy, named Pupper. At first I thought it was my sister’s one-year Border terrier, named Woof, who was disguised as a reindeer, but it was really Pupper that wanted to get to her Christmas gifts faster. Both Pupper and Woof [same mommy], are bouncy-bouncy, full-of-energy puppies that show their unbridled enthusiasm by bouncing up and down in order to give “tongue-lashing” face washes to family, friends and strangers alike. All the while, they are wagging their tails faster than a plane‘s propeller. [They also take “power-naps.”] Both puppies call me “Auntie”.
[My Cat Tannin was with me for 17 years]
Animals are a blessing. They make us laugh when we are in a crummy mood. They excitedly make a mad dash to the door to say, “Welcome home! I missed you so! You are the best human being in the world!” Their fanatical greeting stays the same, whether you are coming home from a week’s vacation in Florida or from the mailbox at the end of your driveway. This also happens with cats [my cats anyway] and other pets. How wonderful it is to come home, after a horrible day with people who really don’t seem to care about you, to an affectionate pet that cherishes your every move and wants to snuggle with you in your favorite chair? Animals love unconditionally. They don’t care about the mistakes you have made. They just love you to pieces.
Some animal lovers may wonder whether or not animals go to Heaven. I happen to believe the answer is an emphatic “YES!”, although I wouldn’t debate the issue with those who believe otherwise. I believe animals are important to God because they are part of His creation and hold an important role in His eternal purposes. In the Book of Romans, Paul tells us that “all of creation is groaning” and waiting for Jesus’ Second Coming [see Romans 8:19-24]. I believe “all of creation” includes all the animals God created. In Genesis 7:1-16, God commands Noah to save both his family and animals from the flood. God’s plan for redemption included people and animals. When Jesus died on the cross, He saved us from sin and death. Jesus also abolished the need for animal sacrifices.
All we have to do is think about where Jesus was born to realize that animals are important in carrying out God‘s eternal plan. Yes, it was to demonstrate true humility and sacrificial love when Jesus willingly gave up His rightful place in Heaven to enter our world of suffering and want [see Philippians 2:5-8 and Galatians 4:4]. God the Son was obedient to God the Father who chose to give “His One and Only Son” to enter the world in true humility and grace [See Micah 6:6 and John 3:16]. God chose animals to play a part in His Son’s birth. Just think about all the animals that might have been in that tiny little barn in Bethlehem [See Luke 2:8-20]. Even though it is not recorded in the Bible, it is widely believed Mary and God’s unborn Son rode into Bethlehem on a donkey. More likely Joseph, Mary and God’s unborn Son rode on some sort of wagon pulled by the humble beast of burden. The beast of burden transported the Baby who grew up to be the Man of sorrows and acquainted with our grief [see Isaiah 53:3-5]. I believe Jesus loved animals, during His time on earth. I believe Jesus also had a special place in His heart for donkeys.
For example, Jesus used a donkey in one of His parables to teach an important lesson about the Sabbath: “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” [See Luke 14:5]. Jesus also rode into Jerusalem, a week before His crucifixion, on a donkey [see John 12:14]. These are only a few examples of animals playing a role in God’s eternal plan. In His teachings, Jesus also talks with affection to us, telling us that we are like sheep and that He is our Good Shepherd [see John 10]. He talks about many kinds of animals, more than I am able to include in this blog post [that was to be a SHORT one]. I’ll stop with this: In the Book of Revelation [19:11-16], at Jesus’ Second Coming, Jesus will be riding victoriously on a magnificent white horse as our Savior, Lord and King.
The Bible passage that speaks to me the most about animals in Heaven also talks about how it will be after the Second Coming of Christ Jesus, Who will establish a New Heaven and Earth:
“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 put his hand 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.”
The above passage talks about both domestic and wild animals, and children who will play with both without fear. In his book, The Problem with Pain [Chapter 9], the well-known theologian, C.S. Lewis, discusses the theological issues involved in animal immortality. Lewis writes about the relationship between human and beast:
[My nephew’s dog, Diesel, a pit bull, was often mistaken for a white horse. Diesel lived 13 years before he passed away a year ago.]
“Man was appointed by God to have dominion over the beast, and everything a man does to an animal is either a lawful exercise, or a sacrificial abuse, of an authority by divine right. The tame animal is therefore, in the deepest sense, the only ‘natural’ animal — the only one we see occupying the place they were made to occupy.”
In an article, Do Animals Go to Heaven? C.S. Lewis on Animal Immortality, by Carol Apple [/carol-apple], she explains, “Lewis believes that animals receive a sense of self or personality from association with their human masters. We give our animals names and they answer to those names [hopefully], and perhaps recognize themselves by them. ‘If a good sheepdog seems “almost human” that is because a good shepherd made him so,’ says Lewis. Lewis suggests, acknowledging that he is going out on a theological limb, that animals ‘attain a real self in their masters’ in a sense similar to the way humans attain real life in Christ.’ ‘And in this sense,’ suggests Lewis, ‘it seems to me that certain animals may have immortality, not in themselves, but in the immortality of their masters.’”Also in Carol’s article, she states, “Lewis conjectures that as man is understood by his relation to God, perhaps beasts can be understood by their relationship to man, and through man, to God.”
It’s very encouraging to realize that learned theologians think about things I think about and, like me, don’t have all the answers. However, I will point to Isaiah 11:6-9 as a Biblical passage which speaks of both tamed animals and wild animals inhabiting the New Heaven and the New Earth, as they did in the Garden of Eden. This was how all animals were meant to be.
[My cat, Tulip, who also lived for 17 years, just as her sister Tannin did]
There are also many legends about Jesus and animals. My favorite Legend is about Baby Jesus and the Tabby Cat. The legend goes something like this: Soon after Jesus’ birth, the Baby Jesus was cold lying in a manger, in a cold and drafty barn. Mary tried everything to make her Baby warm, but nothing worked. Finely, she tried laying a barn cat next to Jesus. The body-warmth of the cat made Jesus warm and He was able to fall asleep. Mary was very grateful and touched the cat’s forehead. An M appeared on the cat’s forehead, standing for “Messiah”. From then on, the tabby cat would remind people of Messiah’s birth. [I know this is a legend and not the “Gospel Truth”, but the story makes me smile and think about my “little” Tulip.
[My nephew’s new dog, Misty, when she was a puppy. She is now huge]
Some people will think of all my musings about animals in Heaven as “sentimental hogwash” [Mr. Potter in It‘s a Wonderful Life]. Others may be encouraged and thankful to think that there is a possibility that their beloved pets and other animals may be in Heaven. We may not find out for sure if this is true until we get to Heaven ourselves. In Heaven, we will be with Jesus our Good Shepherd, Messiah and King. Jesus will not disappoint us. The Bible gives us a glimpse of what Heaven will be like, but doesn’t give all the answers. Heaven will be beyond our wildest dreams. I Corinthians 2:9 tells us, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” Until that great day, let us enjoy and care for our animals as God cares for us in Christ Jesus.
[Another good “animal book” is All Creatures Great and Small, by James Herriot.]
In the New Year, let us have eyes to see God’s love for us through the animals He has blessed us with. [Especially keep a lookout for small lovy-dovy “reindeers” with long wet tongues and waggily tails.]
Happy New Year!
[Tannin liked to hang out with me when I was blogging.]
[One of my goals for the New Year is to make my blog posts shorter. I’m not making any promises.]