The Apostle Peter spoke of the final restoration of all things as having been prophesied since the world began (Acts 3:21). As Universal Restorationists, we believe that the restoration of all speaks of the restoration of all of mankind to a condition, not only equal to, but superior to the original state of Adam and Eve before the fall. But what about the rest of thinking, feeling rational beings who have suffered the consequences of man’s fall? Would not the restoration of all include all animal life as well? In this blog I hope to demonstrate from the Scriptures that all of creation, including animals, will be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.
The following is an excerpt from chapter 5 of my book: “The Ways of God.” I am posting this at the insistence of a friend who strongly feels that many need to know that God’s glorious plan for the ages culminates in the final restoration of all, including our beloved pets.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” (Rom 8:18-23)
We see in this passage that God Himself subjected the whole creation to futility, and presently every rational created being capable of groaning in pain is in travail, eagerly awaiting the time of the manifestation of the sons of God when all creation will be set free. As with mankind, this jubilee will be experienced universally throughout all of God’s creation, to the exclusion of none. Every living soul (Heb. nephesh) that has ever lived - which includes all animal life that has ever suffered evil or shall suffer evil, will be delivered at the consummation when there will no longer be any more pain nor sorrow, for the former things will have passed away. All, absolutely all, will be made new:
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. 5 Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make ALL things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’” (Rev 21:4-5)
We would all agree (with the exception of the Traditionalists who must interpret “all” as including only the few that are saved before Christ’s coming) that as far as mankind is concerned, when it says that there shall be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain, it means all mankind of all time since creation. But wouldn’t Christ’s words: “Behold I make all things new” also include all animal life that has ever been born into a world subjected to futility and infected with evil, who suffered a lifetime of pain and died? We must remember that our English word “things,” which to us means inanimate objects like trees and rocks, did not even exist in Greek and therefore His words should read: “I make all new,” which certainly would include the animals, as well as mankind, and not simply the trees and rocks. John, in a heavenly vision, saw every creature singing praises to God at the final consummation:
“And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!’” (Rev 5:13)
John saw a time when every creature, including those who are presently in heaven, those who are on earth and even those who are now under the earth in the invisible world of Hades, before the throne of God magnifying His name. There is coming a time when all God’s creation will have been restored and God will then be all in all. “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom 11:36). Paul here is saying that all that which proceeded from God at creation is sustained by Him and will return to Him in the times of the restoration of all things, at the time of the manifestation of the sons of God when all creation will be set free into the glorious liberty of the sons of God (Acts 3:21; Rom 8:19-22). Again, Paul speaks of a time when all will be reunited in Christ:
“having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one (anakephalaiomai “reunite”) all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth — in Him.” (Eph 1:9-10)
The mystery revealed in this passage is that it has always been God’s predetermined purpose to reunite all things in heaven and on earth (i.e. all that which Christ created in the beginning) back under Christ’s headship in the final dispensation of the fullness of the times. The phrase: “gather together in one” is a composite word made up of ana which normally means “again” and kephalaioo and is best translated as “to reunite or unite again under one head,” since only this rendering retains the meaning of the prefix ana.  So, what is being revealed here is the final restoration of all things when all creation will be reunited, and God will them become all in all (1Cor 15:28).
Traditionalists deny what these passages are saying in more than one way. When we insist that it is referring to all people, they reply that it only refers to all who become believers before they die or Christ returns, plus all of creation. Yet when this passage is presented as evidence that the entire creation will be restored, including the animal kingdom, they often insist that it doesn’t include animals either. However, although there will be a new heaven and earth, it is improbable that the reuniting of all in Christ is here referring to inanimate creation. To “reunite” speaks of reconciling or restoring unity which is only applicable to intelligent life. In like manner, the reference in Romans 8 to creation being delivered from bondage into the liberty of the Sons of God would be irrelevant to inanimate objects like mountains and trees.
So, what they end up saying is that “all things being reunited in Christ” is restricted to possibly ten percent of all mankind who have ever lived since the beginning, plus the angels of God, who in reality don’t even need to be restored since they never fell. If the animals who have lived, suffered and died throughout history are not included in the “all” that will be reunited, heaven will be quite an empty place. Some speculate that God will create new animals for heaven. However, that would not constitute a “reunion.” Should we take these Scriptures seriously or are they nothing more than exaggerated speech? I personally believe that the Lord would have us understand them just as written.
I read numerous articles discussing the issue of whether or not we will be reunited with our pets in heaven and was troubled at the callousness with which most theologians treat the subject of an afterlife for animals. In the 17th Century the father of Rationalism, Descartes, considered animals as nothing more than automatons who felt neither emotion nor pain. I was taught as a child in school that they lived entirely by instinct. However, Scriptures, modern science and even personal observation, has amply demonstrated that they are very much thinking, feeling, willful and rational beings with all the characteristics of a living soul. In spite of this, theologians continue regarding them pretty much as Descartes did centuries ago.
While only man was created in the image and likeness of God, in the Scriptures we discover that animals are called living souls. Although most translations obscure this truth, animals are called living souls (Heb. nephesh) numerous times in Scripture. The only translation I could find which consistently translates nephesh as “soul” throughout the entire Old Testament is the Concordant Literal Translation. Other translations, viewing animals as mere brute beasts without feelings or intelligence, translated nephesh as “creature” or “beast,” instead of “soul” in every reference to animals, according to the translator’s beliefs, rather than translating according to the real meaning of the word. The nephesh or soul is what distinguishes the animal from plant life or organic life without a soul. That animals have value in the eyes of God is demonstrated by the fact that the life of innocent animals was accepted in man’s place for a sin sacrifice and not plants, as Cain found out the hard way.
Also, we see the value God places upon each individual animal in that He is said to sustain them and that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father taking note of it (Matt 10:29; Ps 104:27-30). David the psalmist even says that the Lord saves both man and the animals:
“Your righteousness is like the mountain ranges of El, Your judgment like the vast abyss: Both human and beast (animal) You save, O Yahweh.” (Ps 36:6 CLV)
David here says that God saves both humans and animals. No matter what he meant by “save” here, God’s loving care for his animal kingdom is very evident throughout Scripture. It is common to hear detractors say that Jesus didn’t die to save animals. But, while clearly His primary mission was to save man, would that salvation not encompass the animals as well? They were created for man, then subjected to vanity when man lost his dominion over the earth to Satan. When Christ died and rose again, destroying Satan’s dominion, wouldn’t the restoration include the animals as well? Even if one could argue that the restoration of all does not include animals (which we cannot reasonably do) what do we do with Colossians 1, where it is very emphatic that absolutely everything in the entire creation was reconciled to God through the blood of His cross?
“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him… 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” (Col 1:16,20)
When Christ shed His blood upon the cross, He not only reconciled all mankind unto God but all the rest of His creation as well, whether in heaven or on earth, visible or invisible. Not that the animals were moral beings that sinned so as to need salvation as is the case with man, but they are saved from man’s curse that brought upon them suffering and death. I personally don’t know of any way that one can take the Scriptures seriously and exclude the animal kingdom from His redemptive work.
Do we find animals in the age to come? Yes, we do. Isaiah describes numerous animals in the millennial kingdom:
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play by the cobra's hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper's den. 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isa 11:6-9)
Also, the Lord speaks through the prophet Hosea concerning that time, not only indicating that they will be in the Millennium but that He will make a covenant with them to assure their safety:
“In that day I will make a covenant for them, with the beasts of the field, with the birds of the air, and with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth, to make them lie down safely.” (Hos 2:18)
Although the millennial kingdom is on earth and the animals appear to be alive in their natural bodies, we nevertheless see God’s loving care and His restoration of the same animal kingdom, even making a covenant promising their safety. Are there presently animals in heaven? Again, although not much is said about them, the answer is yes. Elijah was taken into heaven on a chariot led by horses (2Kings 2:11). When the Syrians came against Israel, Elisha’s servant’s eyes were opened, and he saw a heavenly army with chariots and horses to defend them. When Christ returns, He will come upon a white horse and His army will follow Him on white horses (Rev 19:11; 20:11,14). While there is no mention of other classes of animals in heaven, it is doubtful that heaven has, or will have, less diversity than we presently see on earth.
There is no reason for not believing that the animals who lived, suffered and died on earth are waiting for us in heaven. The last words of many believers upon departing to be with the Lord are descriptions of their departed family members and their beloved pets that had died at their bedside to welcome them. Isn’t it to be expected from a benevolent God who has declared that He will restore all of His creatures?
Some refer to this expectation as sentimentalism. They also categorize us as sentimentalists when we speak of the final restoration of all mankind or Universalism. But should God’s people be past feeling? Is it sentimentalism to rejoice in the plain declarations of Scripture concerning a universal restoration of all creation? I would suggest that the real problem is not that we are sentimental, but rather that some have become callous and their hearts so hardened by the dark doctrines of men that they have become like the Pharisees who neither enter the kingdom themselves nor permit those who would enter to go in.
On the other hand, many of the Early Church Fathers took these Scriptures literally, believing in the final restoration of all, including the souls of animals. Saint Jerome himself said as late as in the early 5th Century that the majority still believed that all would be restored, both those in heaven and on earth:
“Most persons regard the story of Jonah as teaching the ultimate forgiveness of all rational creatures, even the devil.” 
“The apostate angels, and the prince of this world, and Lucifer, the morning star, though now ungovernable, licentiously wandering about, and plunging themselves into the depths of sin, shall in the end, embrace the happy dominion of Christ and his saints… No rational creature before God will perish forever.”  (emphasis mine)
Traditionalists may call our hope sentimentalism, but since I came to understand that God will finally restore all things – including the animal kingdom, I have not grieved over the loss of my beloved pets as I once did before I had that assurance. I love my dogs and I used to grieve for weeks when one of them died. Now I know they are in a much better place where there is no more suffering or pain, and that knowledge helps alleviate the sting of their death.
Likewise, it used to trouble me seeing nature programs where the animals suffer so much under the effects of the fall, especially knowing that God Himself subjected creation to futility when man fell and lost dominion over the earth (Rom 8:20). I once shot a deer because she was eating my garden. At first I felt bad for killing her, but after seeing how many fleas, ticks and open sores she had all over her body I realized I had done her a favor putting her out of her misery. Since that time, I have felt compassion for the wildlife who do not have owners to care for them. But now, knowing that when their brief lives of suffering come to an end, all creation will be reunited in their Creator and man will once again be restored to the place of dominion over the earth, co-reigning with Christ, I can rejoice concerning their future, no matter what they may have to go through during their short lifetimes. After a life of suffering, these animals will enjoy an eternal bliss which will be even more glorious for them than if they had never been born into a fallen world and been restored, since, being living souls, they will always remember the contrast of their new life of bliss with their former one on the earth.
 Other examples of composite words with ana prefixed where ana clearly means “again or re…” are as follows: anagennao, “to be born again”; anaginosko, lit. “to know again,” or “to read”; anagnosis, “(the act of) reading”;
anazao, “to live again”; anazopureo, to re-enkindle; anathallo, “to revive”; anakainoo, “to renew”; anamnesis, “to remember”; ananeoo, “to reform”; anastauroo, to recrucify, crucify again”; anapsuxis, “a recovery of breath, (figuratively) revival” anapsucho, “to relieve.”
 Jerome. In Ps. xcii. 9.22
 Jerome. In Ps. xcii. 9.22