‘Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. ……… And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses (Revelation 19:11, 14).’
I subscribe to Twitter, and within the Christian circle there are differing views as to whether animals will exist in the new earth that God will create (Revelation 21:1). For animal lovers this would seem to be a big deal. Animals are a big part of their lives. They love their dogs, cats and all manner of pets; they love the animals God has created to live on this planet (Genesis 1:24, 25). They see the beauty of animals; their wonderful characteristics: their form, structure, fitness for purpose, and their relationship with other animals, and especially their relationship with us humans. You’ve heard the saying, ‘A dog is a man’s best friend.’
In view of the above they ask the question, “How can there be a heaven without animals?” Then they ask another reasonable question, “After all, didn’t God create animals for us to care for them and to manage them (Genesis 1:26, 28)?” And, “If animals are such a big part of our life now, why shouldn’t they be an equally big part of our new life?”
I have a feeling a lot of people will be disappointed to learn that there is no firm biblical evidence for the inclusion of animals in God’s new heaven. They are not present in the heaven where Jesus presently sits at the right hand of the Father (Matthew 22:44) – angels, yes (Revelation 12:7), but animals no. And it is my contention that animals will not be present in His New Heaven (Revelation 21:1).
Before God creates His New Heaven, Jesus will come with His angels for the elect (Matthew 16:27). He will not be coming for any animals, none of which have souls. They have the spirit of ‘life’ (Genesis 1:20), but not the Holy Spirit. Demons can inhabit or enter animals, as was the case with the demons that were cast into the swine by Jesus (Mark 5:11, 12), but never the Holy Spirit. Being made in the image of God, humans are very special (Genesis 1:26).
The White Horse
‘Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war (Revelation 19:11).’
Some ask the question, “Since Jesus is coming on a ‘white horse’ (Revelation 19:11) to overthrow His enemies at Armageddon (16:15, 16), why are there no animals in His New Heaven?” They fail to understand that the ‘white horse’ spoken of is a figurative or symbolic image that portrays Jesus’ righteousness, holiness and purity. He comes as a warrior to overthrow His enemies. He comes to bring justice (Psalm 82:3; Isaiah 9:7) and to prepare the way for the final judgment at the great white throne (Revelation 20:11). Note that He comes with a sharp two-edged sword that emerges from His mouth (19:15). This indicates He will slay the nations and judge them according to the word that proceeds from His mouth (John 12:48). They will be judged according to His holy word, i.e., His Scriptures.
Revelation 19:11-20 is not a detailed description of an historic event yet to come. It portrays in terms of images and symbols the overthrow of ‘the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army (v 19).’ There will be an historic event – Jesus will come again, and no doubt ‘birds will eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great (v 18).’
The New Heaven
The new heaven (Revelation 21:1) will not be a repeat of the original Paradise of the Garden of Eden which God ‘planted’ on the earth (Genesis 2:8-15); nor will it be a repeat of the Paradise that the *soul of the robber on the cross went to (Luke 23:43). It will be more like an experiential world [land (Acts 7:5; Hebrews 12:26)] where there are unimaginable riches found in the Son and the Father who will be the Temple (Revelation 21:22) in the New Jerusalem (vv 2, 10) which itself will be the eternal elect. [These are the redeemed, i.e., the Lamb’s bride (vv 9, 10). Figuratively they are the New Jerusalem (vv 9 -21) – ‘the twelve tribes of the children of Israel (v 12).]
The New Heaven will be integral with the New Earth where there will be no more sea (v 1), but there will be ‘a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb (22:1).’ This is the water of ‘everlasting life (John 4:14),’ Either side of this river is ‘the tree of life ( Revelation 22:2)’. [Note: There is no mention of fish being in the river, and since there is no sea, there can be no animal life in it.]
Some might still say there are birds in heaven because of the parable of the mustard seed: ‘“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of the seeds: but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that birds of the air come and nest in its branches (Matthew 13:31, 32).”’ This is an illustration indicating the growth and expansion of the kingdom of the new heaven which will be composed of not only believing Jews, but believers from all nations (Revelation 7:9; 21:24), i.e., ‘the birds of the air.’
Others might say, “How about Isaiah 11:6, which tells of the wolf dwelling with the lamb and the leopard lying down with the goat?” The whole of Chapter 11 can be taken as a representation of the peace and unity Jesus will bring to His people. The words should not be taken in a literal sense; they are Spirit inspired (2 Timothy 3:16), poetic prose that speak of the eternal rule of the Branch [Jesus] in the new heavenly kingdom. [Dispensationalists equate this peace with the reign of Christ during the millennium. A-Millennialists claim they have this peace now under Christ’s rule, and they rest in it (Hebrews 4:10. 11).] Chapter 12 of Isaiah tells of the rejoicing of His people (v 3) for their salvation (v 2).
For as long as we are on this earth we [Christians] will endeavour to care for animals and to treat them humanely (Genesis 1:28); that’s not to say we will not eat meat, drink milk and savour the taste of honey. Jesus Himself ate fish, as did His disciples (John 21:9-13), four of whom were fishermen (Luke 5:1-11). Paul taught that it was permissible to eat meat of all kinds (1 Corinthians 10:25).
It looks as though the inhabitants of the New Heaven will not be meat eaters; for there will be no animals there to kill and eat.
*Mind, Body and Soul