It seems to me that regarding issues upon which Scripture is silent, the Christian is free to choose what they want to believe on the matter.
My family’s dog of 14.5 years was put down this evening. Will I see him again? These questions are no more pertinent to a small child than to a grown man, and yet Scripture seems ambiguous on this point.
Nowhere in Scripture does God explicitly guarantee the resurrection of animals, nor are we given any indication that animals experience an afterlife. But perhaps St. Francis of Assisi was on to something in his activity of preaching the Gospel to every living creature. After all, the book of Isaiah and the book of Revelation both seem to indicate that animals will be present in the New Heavens and the New Earth.
We have two options then.
Either these animals are entirely new beings which no human has ever had a relationship with, or the New Heavens and New Earth will be populated by the resurrected animals who lived and died on earth.
Since Scripture does not clearly give us an answer either way, I choose to believe the second option. It seems more Christian to me to choose the hopeful answer, because a Christian is someone who is fundamentally grounded in hope.
Jesus’ redemptive work accomplished the salvation of all of creation, and we know that his defeat of death was not just for humans alone. If I never get to see my dog Pepper again, doesn’t it kind of seem like death won that round? To believe that death had the final word on Pepper seems to me to be a profoundly un-Christian instinct. And so, I will choose hope and place it in God’s hands. His will be done.
A prayer I wrote for Pepper’s life:
Lord Jesus, we thank you for Pepper and his life with us. You made Pepper with care, writing out his story before the world began. You have not been clear what his fate will be in the next life, but we are filled with hope at the mystery of your redemption of your creation.
We thank you that in Pepper’s unconditional love for us, we see a faint glimmer of the love you have for us, and the love we are called to have for each other. We thank you that in his trust and dependence, we see an image of how we are called to lean on you all our days. Lord, may we take heed of the Gospel lessons that Pepper’s life offer us. Please comfort us as we mourn his passing, and give us strength to abide in your will.
Pepper, we deliver you into the gentle hands of the Creator whom you have known all your life.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
May 2005 – January 21, 2020