Pets Walking Streets Of Gold

Stewart family dog - Samson
Stewart family dog – Samson

Some of you may have read last week that Pope Francis declared animals go to heaven. It has been reported by some that he said we will see our animals again in paradise. A few days following the report that the Pope granted eternal life for our animals the Catholic Church began to defend the Pope by saying he did not say what is being attributed to him. Read more about what Pope Francis said here.  I have never been to the Vatican so I have no idea what the Pope actually said. However, these reports about him declaring all dogs go to heaven has sparked some interest on this subject. In this blog I share a few thoughts about the eternal security of our pets.

1. I believe the Catholic Church is a departure from Biblical teaching and I reject Papal authority.

I know this opening statement will offend many who like to believe all belief systems are the same. This simply is not the case. Catholicism is a perversion of the Gospel where salvation rests with the church and justification is a process. I will not discuss these issues here because this blog deals with animals in eternity. I simply want to state that when a person is born again they are justified immediately and forever in the eyes of God through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. Catholics teach justification is a process that takes a lifetime and may not even be completed in this life thus the redeemed may end up in purgatory until they are justified before God. Simply stated, we Protestants stand today on the graves of martyrs whose deaths were sanctioned by the Catholic Church because they taught truths that we now hold sacred.

Now let me write about animals in heaven.

2. God created everything.

The Bible is clear that God created everything and He created everything for His glory. Colossians 1:16 speaking of Jesus says, “all things have been created through Him and for Him.” Animals were created for the glory of God. Animals cannot worship God as humans can, however, when animals do the things God created them to do they glorify their Creator. A bald eagle can maintain constant flight speeds between  35 -55 mph and can dive at a speed of 100 mph. They are capable of soaring 15,000 feet above the earth. These majestic animals bring glory to God by doing what they are designed to do.

3. The Bible says humans are living souls.

According to Genesis 2:7 God formed man out of the dust of the ground. We read the same thing of the animals in Genesis 2:19, “And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air…” The difference is at the end of Genesis 2:7 the Bible says something different about humans, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and  breathed into his nostrils the breath of life: and man became a living soul.” We see in these two verses a clear distinction between humans and animals. Reading these two verses one can argue that humans have souls and animals do not. Humans are souls that possess a physical body. It can be argued that animals are physical bodies that have no souls.

4. Humans are made in the image of God.

In Genesis 1:26 we read that great verse, “And God said, let us make man in our image and after our likeness and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air and over the cattle and over all the earth…”

Humans were created in the image of God. This simple statement contains hundreds of theological implications. What does it mean we are created in the image of God? Thousands of books have been written on this subject. I offer a summary of my theology on man being created in the image of God. Humans have certain characteristics within our makeup that are in the image of God. This is called the substantive view. One characteristic we have in our makeup that is believed to be the image of God is reason. Humans are thinking beings. Another aspect of our being made in the image of God is this is what allows us to have a relationship with God. This is called the relational view. Another aspect of being created in the image of God is that God gave man a unique function that no animal could fulfill. Humans are told in Genesis 1:28 to subdue the earth. God created man in His image for the purpose of having dominion over all the earth. This is called the functional view. In theology this view does not get as much attention as the other views but it is a major portion of my belief system. When I think of man being made in the image of God I think we have characteristics of God such as reasoning ability, we are made in His image and this enables us to have a relationship with Him and we alone have the ability to subdue all the earth.

Part of our being made in the image of God is humans are moral beings. There are no morals in the animal kingdom. I have read female dolphins who have just given birth are not interested in mating because they are caring for their young. Male dolphins will often kill the young dolphins in order to get the female dolphin interested in mating again. Rape is common in the animal kingdom. We all know what happens to the male “Praying Mantis” following mating. Actually the female Praying Mantis will bite the head off of the male only occasionally and not always. These behaviors would not be acceptable in human society.  So animals are not created in the image of God and are  not moral/spiritual beings. Humans are created in the image of God and are moral/spiritual beings.

5. Jesus died to redeem humans.

John 3:16 teaches that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoso ever should believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” I know Romans 8:20-22 teaches that the fall of man has impacted all creation and all creation is waiting for redemption. However, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was to redeem human souls. Redeeming humans is what the Gospel is all about.

6. Look at a couple of passages that confuse some.

Read Ecclesiastes 3:18-22 here.  In this passage Solomon says there is no advantage to humans over animals in that we die and go to the same place. Solomon is teaching both humans and animals are going to die and their bodies will return to the dust of the ground. However, the Bible teaches for saved humans to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Our living souls will be present with the Lord.

Read Isaiah 11:6-9 here. In this passage Isaiah is describing the millennial reign of Christ on the earth. In this passage he describes animals living in harmony that normally would attack one another. I point out this takes place in the millennial reign of Christ on the earth and is not taking place in heaven.

In conclusion, the Bible is silent about what happens to animals when they die. If pressed to give an answer I would have to say based on the passages I have dealt with animals do not have souls and are not eternal creatures. I have always wanted to ask a person who wants to know if all living creatures go to heaven, “Do you really want bacteria, yellow jackets and fire ants in heaven?” For any who are bothered of the thought of certain animals not being in heaven, let me assure you that the thought of eternity without chickens is breaking my heart.

YOUR CHILDREN ARE BEING TARGETED

Early last week I began to see the news story come across my computer screen that a group called American Atheists are targeting children with a billboard campaign that has been started this Christmas season. Take a look at the billboard that was placed in Memphis, TN.

atheists target children

Here is a comment by American Atheists President David Silverman,  “Even children know churches spew absurdity, which is why they don’t want to attend services. Enjoy the time with your family and friends instead. Today’s adults have no obligation to pretend to believe the lies their parents believed.  It’s OK to admit that your parents were wrong about God, and it’s definitely OK to tell your children the truth.”

Allow me to share a few thoughts on this subject.

1. There is a war on Christmas.

For some time we have seen a war on Christmas in America. For years evangelism, mission work and worship of Jesus have all spiked during the Christmas season. The enemy of the church has recognized this and has relentlessly tried to remove Christmas from the public square. Franklin Graham recently wrote on this subject and shared a few examples of this war on Christmas, “The city of Pittsburgh now refers to the Christmas holiday as “sparkle day.” A local Minnesota courthouse has banned red poinsettias because someone claimed that the flowers were a “Christian symbol.” He also added that a Veterans Administration hospital in Georgia has banned the singing and playing of Christmas songs in public areas.”

The largest school district in Maryland voted in November to strip religious holidays from its school calendars after Muslims complained that Eid al-Adha, a Muslim holiday celebrating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac,  was not on the school calendar as a day off for students. This means that Christian holidays such as “Christmas break” and “Easter” are no longer officially recognized by the Montgomery County School District.

If Christmas is such an important target of our enemy then it should be more important to believers and  we should do all possible to highlight and celebrate the birth of Jesus.

2. Our children are targets in the cultural war.

Children have to be at the heart of the cultural war. Consider for a moment that as parents we instill our culture, values and faith into our children. Some do not like this concept. That is why some see my children, your children as belonging to society as a whole. To some, it is up to society to shape our children. Now consider for a moment that homosexuals, who are at the forefront of the cultural war, can’t reproduce. They seek to instill their culture, values and faith into the children of others. Ask yourself why has the girl scouts and boy scouts been such hot button issues for the homosexual community? Why are homosexual characters now being found in our children’s books? Why do gay pride events often target family friendly venues?  Just this year the Disney Channel introduced America’s children to a lesbian couple raising a daughter on Good Luck Charlie.


Make no mistake about this, what we have here is a deliberate and calculated war on our children.  American Atheist have targeted our children with their adds. As Christians, we must pray over our children. We must teach our children the truths of God’s Word. We must model for them how special a relationship with Christ is. We must introduce them daily to Jesus. We cannot be naive about our children being targeted. However, all that we do must be done in love. I Corinthians 13:1 teaches, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not love I am become as sounding brass or tinkling cymbal.” I am opposed to all that wage this culture war on the spiritual state of America. I am doubly opposed to all who target our children in this war. However, I pray I can teach my sons we can reject a person’s beliefs without rejecting that person.

3. Atheists are practicing evangelism.

Atheism seems to be some sort of religion in itself that seeks to convert believers in God to their way of thinking. I am fully aware that atheists do not see atheism as a religion. However, as a pastor of almost a quarter century I can testify that often atheist are more aggressive in attempting to convert Christians to their way of thinking than vice versa. Certainly the ones who hold the truth will make an equal or greater effort than those who share deceit.

4. I support the American Atheists’ right to freedom of speech.

As much as I despise what American Atheists are doing as an American I am grateful they have the freedom to do it. I also support local municipalities’ rights to decide what can and can’t be viewed on their city’s right of ways. As I researched these billboards I was grateful that Jackson, MS my state’s capital refused to allow American Atheist to erect a bill board in Jackson. The Jackson statement of refusal was simple, “Area lessors rejected the design due to content.”

Danielle Muscato, public relations director for American Atheists reply to Jackson’s decision again is a reminder they are taking the cultural war serious, “The fact that billboard companies would turn away business because they are so concerned about the reaction by the community to a simple message that not everyone goes to church and not everyone believes in gods shows just how much education and activism on behalf of atheists is needed in the South.”

They are serious; I pray we are too.

Is That What Heaven Is Really Like?

heavenDeath is a real part of life. The Bible assures us in Hebrews 9:27 that it is appointed unto man once to die. The truth is even though we all know death is coming few of us are prepared for the death of a loved one. It hurts to think about someone we love no longer being physically part of our lives. Most of us have experienced the difficulty in trying to counsel someone who is heartbroken over the death of a loved one. Often times under the pressure of feeling the need to say something comforting to a person who is falling apart in front of us we use clichés about heaven and death. Unfortunately these clichés are often not founded on the Holy Bible. In this blog, I will share some thoughts on these myths and what the Bible actually says about these matters.

Let me be crystal clear, I am not condemning anyone who uses a cliché to encourage and help an individual who is having a difficult time. I find nothing sinister if a person uses some of these thoughts about a deceased loved one to help them cope with the pain they are experiencing. However, as a Christian we should desire to see things the way God says they really are. We should want the promises we stand on to be based on the Word of God rather than the thoughts of man. Let me share with you some untruths that I believe have crept into the theology of some.

1. Your loved one got their wings. We have all heard people say, “Grandma got her wings last night as she passed into eternity” or “heaven gained another angel last night.” The Bible teaches there is a clear distinction between angels and humans. For example Genesis 1:16 says humans were created in the image of God. Nowhere in Scripture am I aware of where it is said of angels they are created in the image of God. For the moment, they physically can go into the presence of God and serve Him. That gives them somewhat of an advantage over humans, however, that advantage is only temporary. Consider that according to I Peter 1:12 angels desire to look into the matters of redemption. Angels do not know what it means to have Jesus give His life to redeem them. Angels are not adopted as the children of God. I Corinthians 6:3 teaches believers will even judge the angels.

Angels and humans are both created beings. However, Genesis 2:7 says humans are “living souls” or “living beings.” We are not merely a body; humans are a body and a soul. Angels on the other hand are completely spiritual beings that sometimes may take on the form of a man to minister God’s will and do His work. Angels were created as spirit beings and humans are created as physical beings with a soul. Humans do not become angels and angels were never at one time human.

2. Your loved one is guiding you daily. We have all heard that a loved one is watching over us or guiding us in our daily lives. II Cor.5:8 teaches to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Our loved ones are with the Lord. We have someone far better to guide us daily, the Holy Spirit. Listen to Jesus’ teachings in John 14:16 “And I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever.” In verse 18 Jesus says I will not leave you comfortless. The very presence of the Living God is with us directing our lives. Nothing is better than this.

3. God needed your loved one in heaven. I have heard this phrase often. Some seem to believe that God has something going on in heaven He can’t handle and takes the life of a human to complete that task. First of all, Jesus told us to pray in Matthew 5:10 “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Jesus teaches that God’s will is done in heaven. There is nothing happening there beyond His control. Secondly, humans do not die in order to do good in heaven, humans die because evil was done on the earth. In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve broke the commands of God and God said in verse 3 the consequence of eating this fruit was death. All humans are fallen beings and for this reason we are going to die. Only two men have been born that have not died, Enoch and Elijah. The rest of humanity has died because of this curse. Finally, God is sovereign and is not dependent on or in need of humans. If our theology ever has God dependent on us it is flawed. He chooses to work through humans but He is not dependent on us.

4. The healing you prayed for took place in heaven. This is one that I have heard as a pastor many times. We pray for days, weeks, months for a person’s body to be healed. If that loved one passes some say God answered that prayer for they are healed in heaven. Let’s dissect that thought for a moment. The soul is with the Lord at a person’s death. According to I Thessalonians 4:16 the dead in Christ shall rise. When these dead in Christ rise they will at that time receive their glorified bodies. The soul of a deceased Christian is with the Lord until the end times when those souls will be united with glorified bodies. Therefore at a believer’s death the soul goes to heaven. We were not praying for the soul to be healed for the soul of a believer is well because of the work of Christ. Our bodies die, are placed in a grave and deteriorate. God did not heal that body but praise God one day we will have a new body that does not grow old or suffer from cancer or any disease.

5. Husbands and Wives are reunited as spouses in heaven. Some have said, “Mom and Dad are walking hand in hand in heaven now.” Jesus was asked about marriages in heaven by the Sadducees. Jesus replied in Matthew 22:30, “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven” It is not necessary to interpret this verse to mean all earthly relationships will cease to exist in heaven. This verse simply means there will be no marriages in heaven and Christians in heaven will not be sexual beings just as angels are not. Think of heaven for a moment. Everything about heaven is superior to life here on the earth. Whatever our relationships to each other, in heaven it will be far superior to any relationship we have in this life.

6. He is playing golf on that beautiful course in the sky. It could be fishing, riding 4 wheelers, hunting or even playing pool but we all have heard our loved ones are enjoying their favorite habits from earth in heaven. I see no evidence of such in the Bible. The Bible teaches the redeemed will do several things in heaven. We will worship in heaven. I believe our primary function in heaven will be worship, see Revelation 5:13. We will eat in heaven. Several passages teach of feasts in heaven.  Revelation 19:6 and following teach of the marriage supper of the Lamb. We will work and serve the Lord in heaven . At His temptation in Matthew 4:10 Jesus said, “We are to worship the Lord  thy God and Him only shalt thou serve.” Service to God has always been part of the life of the redeemed. Adam worked the ground in the garden before his fall. We will serve in heaven. These are a few things we will do in heaven but I find no evidence we will take our hobbies and habits from earth to heaven. Remember the curse on mankind will have been lifted and all we do in heaven will be joyous and worshipful and not laborious.

 

I hope I have not offended any with my thoughts today. I have no one in particular as I write these thoughts. I have been pondering this subject for some time now. I know many people I love and care for are hurting right now because they miss a loved one. I simply believe the truth of God’s Word is more comforting than man-made thoughts. The sweetest thought anyone can have at the death of a believer is they are with Jesus. That should be comforting enough.  As you read this blog will you pause to pray for someone you know is hurting because they feel the sting of missing someone they love.