I received the following question:
I am wondering what your conclusions are about animals and whether or not we will ever see our beloved pets again. Today, we were listening to some of your lessons in the car, and we heard you say that we don’t know if animals will have “eternal life.”
I think that was the short answer to my question (!!), but I don’t know what Ecclesiastes 3:21 means. Also, in comparing Genesis 9:5 in the KJV and the NIV, the latter makes it sound as though God “will” (in the future, regarding animals) demand an accounting of them if they have taken a human life.
I can see that you also love animals, and it would be such a happy outcome if we do see them in the kingdom. We can’t help but regret that they suffer death because of man’s sin.
Oddly enough 🙂 , I do agree with myself that we simply do not know if any animals will be raised back to life to live again in the Kingdom of God. Many preachers give the foolish answer of quoting Revelation 22:15, “But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.” As if God is condemning people, and He speaks of sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters and liars, and oh, yes, those blasted canine puppy dogs. He really can’t stand the things! It just doesn’t make any sense. I think some preachers need to learn how to use their minds before they ever decide to stand in front of people and pretend to set forth the Word of God. If they would actually have studied their Bibles before they attempted to teach them, they might have read Deuteronomy 23:18, “You shall not bring the wages of a harlot or the price of a dog to the house of the Lord your God for any vowed offering, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God.” Then they would have learned that a “dog” is a male prostitute, not a puppy dog.
As for Ecclesiastes 3:21, this was one of the emendations of the Sopherim, which some versions have erroneously followed. The original reading was “Who knows whether the spirit of the sons of men goes upward, and whether the spirit of the animal goes downward to the earth?” This does not really make any positive statement about the animals. The positive statement about men is given at the end of the book: that the spirit of men returns to God Who gave it. The question about animals is never answered, not being the focus of the book. Generally God does not say too much about animals in the Bible other than how they relate to man, considering that the Bible is written to man, not animals. Same thing I would say about angels, since the Bible was not written to them either.
The point of Genesis 9:5 is made clear in Genesis 9:6. “5. Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.
6. Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed;
For in the image of God
He made man.”
The point of this passage is that it introduces capital punishment, and demands it of man. No righteous or just society can exist without applying capital punishment to those who shed man’s blood. I have read some “murder mysteries” from the early part of the last century, and it is just assumed that if one is convicted of murder, that will mean hanging. That is what both others and the murderer himself just assume. This is another sign of how wicked, godless, and uncivilized our society is.
The mention of beasts makes it clear that capital punishment is to apply to animals as well. For example, Exodus 21:28, “If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, then the ox shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be acquitted.” An ox was to be executed for killing a human being, just like a man was to be executed for murder. It was the same penalty. I do not believe that any idea of the next life is contained in Genesis 9:5. It is simply extending the demand for capital punishment from men to animals.
By the way, any society that does not execute its murderers spreads the blood-guilt out to the entire community, as Deuteronomy 21:1-9 makes clear.
“If anyone is found slain, lying in the field in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess, and it is not known who killed him, 2. then your elders and your judges shall go out and measure the distance from the slain man to the surrounding cities. 3. And it shall be that the elders of the city nearest to the slain man will take a heifer which has not been worked and which has not pulled with a yoke. 4. The elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with flowing water, which is neither plowed nor sown, and they shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley. 5. Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come near, for the LORD your God has chosen them to minister to Him and to bless in the name of the LORD; by their word every controversy and every assault shall be settled. 6. And all the elders of that city nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley. 7. Then they shall answer and say, ‘Our hands have not shed this blood, nor have our eyes seen it. 8. Provide atonement, O LORD, for Your people Israel, whom You have redeemed, and do not lay innocent blood to the charge of Your people Israel.’ And atonement shall be provided on their behalf for the blood. 9. So you shall put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you when you do what is right in the sight of the LORD.”
This implies that if they knew who committed the murder and did not bring him to justice and execute him, then the whole community would be guilty of the murder along with the murderer. Since in our society most murderers are not executed, it would be right to say that the entire United States is currently a culture of murderers guilty of bloodshed. We would all fall under this guilt. Well, praise God, when we are under the blood of Christ we are freed from the guilt of all sin, including this one, but it is a sad commentary on our society. If we ever were a “righteous nation,” we are that no longer.
At any rate, that is a sidetrack. The point you were asking about is animals, and I do not think either of these passages makes it clear that there will be another life for animals.
An interesting passage in this regard is Psalm 104:25-30.
25. This great and wide sea,
In which are innumerable teeming things,
Living things both small and great.
26. There the ships sail about;
There is that Leviathan
Which You have made to play there.
27. These all wait for You,
That You may give them their food in due season.
28. What You give them they gather in;
You open Your hand, they are filled with good.
29. You hide Your face, they are troubled;
You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
30. You send forth Your Spirit, they are created;
And You renew the face of the earth.
Here various seagoing animals are said to die and return to dust, including the Leviathan. Then, however, God sends forth His Spirit and creates them again when He renews the face of the earth. This is definitely a case of animal resurrection, taking place, I believe, at the Kingdom of God. However, I believe this is referring to the resurrection of extinct species, and not necessarily the resurrection of certain, specific instances of any species. God will renew animal kinds that have disappeared, but not necessarily all animals of that kind. My turkey dinner is never necessarily coming back.
I do have sympathy with people who have lost beloved pets, and would like to think they will see those pets again. However, without a word from God, and I have no such word, I cannot really say anything. I have to stay silent, as He has stayed silent. We will see when the time comes. I do not think we will find ourselves disappointed, whatever the case might be.
Thanks for the great question. Keep studying the Word!