5 Myths about Heaven

The title pretty well says it all. I just want to address a couple popular misconceptions about heaven. At least a couple of these are going to be half-truths, so keep an eye out for those. But that aside, here’s some myths about heaven, and the truth about them.

  • We’ll spend eternity there. Depending on what you mean precisely by “heaven,” that may or may not be true. If we mean by “heaven” the place we go after we die to be with Jesus, then we will only be there until the Resurrection. Right now we are clothed with mortal bodies, then we will be unclothed for a time, until we are clothed again with new bodies1. We shall sleep for a time and then rise2. Our eternal destiny will be the new earth, not what we presently call “heaven”3.
  • Jesus promised we would have mansions in heaven. Usually John 14:2 is cited as proof, which says in the KJV, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” Yet this is an example of the English language changing. In 1661, when the KJV was published, the word “mansion” did not imply the big, luxurious house that it does for us. It simply meant a place to stay, perhaps during a journey. That accurately captured the meaning of the Greek monai, which meant “dwellings” or “abodes.” Modern translations have appropriately updated the language, using “rooms” (ESV, NIV) or “dwelling places” (NRSV, HCSB, NASB). This isn’t to say for sure we won’t end up with mansions, though such a prospect seems suspiciously like materialistic wish fulfillment. But if we do, it won’t technically be in what we presently call “heaven,” which is not physical, but the new earth.
  • Time will be no more. This one is actually true if we restrict the meaning of “heaven” to the place we currently go when we die, but most people say this about where we will spend eternity, which is the new earth. Yet the new earth is a “resurrection,” for lack of a better word, of the current world. Space and time will not be scrapped, but redeemed. Don’t take my reason for it, though. Scripture itself clearly indicates the passage of time in Revelation 22:2, which refers to the tree of life bearing fruit every month.
  • When Jesus says “the kingdom of heaven,” He’s talking about where we go when we die, or maybe the new earth. Neither of these would ever be true. The term “kingdom of heaven” is only used in Matthew. Matthew, following a peculiar Jewish tradition, frequently substituted “heaven” for “God” as a way of being reverent. The other Gospels, wherever Matthew says “kingdom of heaven,” say “kingdom of God”4. The kingdom of God referred not to a place people go when they die, but the reign of God being established on earth5, particularly in Israel. Think, for example, of how the kingdom was always referred to as something coming6, not a place you go. But that would be a book (and N. T. Wright has written many on this topic).
  • Heaven is the end. No, my friends. Heaven is just the beginning. 🙂

For more about the misconceptions people have about heaven, see these posts.

5 Myths about Heaven

Can Animals Go to Heaven? Fido’s Destiny

Off the top of my head I know my family has killed at least half a dozen dogs. Well, I say “killed,” but it’s really just that our land is cursed with the ability to drastically shorten any animal’s lifespan. Time would be too short to tell of the demise of Jax, Johnny Reb, Sadie, Rascal, and the others, not to mention our cats and their babies. This carries with it a small burden of sadness.

Given that pets are so beloved, and that as Christians we strongly believe that we will be reunited with our loved ones in eternity, it is only natural that people ask if our pets will accompany us. After all, who doesn’t want to console their child (or himself) with the thought that they will see Sparky again? So sometimes people ask, “Can animals go to heaven?”

Now, to our credit not many believers fool around with the idea that our animals will be in heaven like we will. But usually the argument goes something along the lines of “animals don’t have souls.” Even if true (that depends a lot on how you view soul, spirit, and consciousness), this probably isn’t the most relevant line of reasoning. There are two major factors being ignored here which I would like to highlight.

First, we should clarify what we mean by “heaven.” Remember, all, that we often conflate two different concepts when we use that word. Sometimes we mean the intermediate state, our being with God in Christ after our death but before the final resurrection. In this case, we can see clearly that, if an animal doesn’t have a soul, it could not be in “heaven,” because this heaven is (presumably) simply spiritual and the animal is strictly physical. But since that concept of animals is questionable anyway, I want to move on from that point.

We also use “heaven” to refer to the new creation after the Second Coming, when the heavens and the earth are restored, renewed, and perfected. This will be a truly physical place with some continuity between it and our present world. Naturally, there are almost certainly going to be animals there. Indeed, the Biblical descriptions of the Messiah’s kingdom (of which the new earth will be the final fulfillment) often include animals. But will these animals be resurrections of our own? Probably not, though it cannot be ruled out altogether. God is always a gracious and surprising God.

Secondly, we should remember why humans go to heaven and what distinguishes us from animals. The answer to this, most certainly, is Jesus Christ. In Jesus humanity is connected to God. Since He is both God and man, we humans have communion with God through Him. This is the basis for our salvation and for heaven. If we are to be part of heaven, it is because we have been united with the man Jesus, who is essentially united to God, and through whom we can be united to God.

For this reason, animals cannot play the same part in redemption. While it may or may not be that God will physically resurrect our pets as a gift to us in the new earth (this matter is nothing but speculation), we can be sure that animals have no essential communion with God. God did not become an animal. He did not incarnate as a dog, or a cat, or a platypus, or a yeti. There is nothing for the animals like the union between God and humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore they have no inherent share in eternal life, heaven, or necessarily in the new creation. So when people ask, “Can animals go to heaven?” the answer is, for all intents and purposes, “no.” But that provides quite the in for explaining why and how we can through Jesus Christ.

Let us, therefore, be all the more joyful that out of all creatures, God has made us the objects of His love and brought us into fellowship with Him through His beloved Son. Amen.

Can Animals Go to Heaven? Fido’s Destiny