Suppose you went on a two week vacation with your two best friends. After four days, one of your friends had to go home. After seeing her off, you turn to your remaining friend and say, “Well, now it’s just the two of us.” You mean this as a good thing, because you’re excited about getting in some one-on-one time with her. But she sighs tiredly and says, “Yeah. Just the two of us.” You can hear in her tone that she is not nearly as excited about being with you as you are about being with her. In fact, for the rest of the vacation, all she does is mope around and talk about how much she misses the friend that left. “I can’t wait to go home so I can see her again,” she keeps saying until you are very tired of hearing it. How would you feel?
When we go moping through earth pining over the loss of friends, family, and pets, we’re saying to God, “It sure is a bummer to be stuck down here with just You. Can’t wait to get to Heaven so I can reconnect with the ones I really care about.” Too often we view Heaven as a grand reunion with people and animals that we met on earth when this is really not what Heaven is about. What makes Heaven heavenly is being in the full Presence of God, being able to talk to Him face to face, and finally getting to enjoy sweet soul communion without the distraction of carnal flesh. God is the One we’re supposed to be excited about seeing. Yet instead, we are often far more excited about being reunited with Rover the dog.
Let’s have a moment of truth about our pets. When they die, they rot away into nothing. Animals don’t have an afterlife, nor do they have an eternal soul which floats away when they die. This theology we’ve made up about animals being in Heaven comes straight from Satan, who is always trying to reverse God’s system of priorities. God says humans and animals are incomparable in value, so Satan says they are equal. God defines Heaven as a perfect place that only perfect beings can get into. Animals aren’t perfect: they are fallen just like the rest of this world. We’re not perfect, either, but as Christians our souls have been covered with the righteousness of Christ. It is only because of God’s great sacrifice for us that we are getting into Heaven. Where does this leave our dogs? How can they slip past those pearly gates unless we argue that Christ is no longer necessary or that Heaven can now become a dumping ground for the corrupted fragments of earth? Animals are not perfect, they are under the curse which God placed upon the whole world. They are totally self-serving. They operate on base carnal instincts. They do not abide by any moral code. Their flesh is temporary and their lives are very brief. God never intended animals to be eternal, nor did He intend for us to view them as satisfying companions.
In a perfect Garden where all animals were sweet and friendly, God brought every kind of living creature He had created to Adam and gave His human ample time to interact with them and name them. “But for Adam no suitable helper was found” (Gen. 2:20). If animals weren’t good enough in a perfect paradise, they certainly shouldn’t be satisfying us now that they’ve been marred by the curse. If they do, then we have degraded ourselves and it is not something to be proud of.
Invariably, people who are trying to use animals has a substitute for human relationships have some unprocessed pain issues that they need to work out with God. People hurt us, and trying to relate with them is far more complicated than sitting around fantasizing about how our dogs love us. But people are the only suitable companions God has provided for us down here. What would you think if you saw a grown man walking around carrying a teddy bear and sucking his thumb? Wouldn’t you think he’s rather stunted in his emotional development? This is how we look to God when we sit around sharing our hearts with a dog who doesn’t understand a word we’re saying. And when we refer to our pets as our sons and daughters, suggesting that they are just as important as God’s precious human beings, He is thoroughly disgusted. How dare we scoff at God’s value system and say we’ve come up with a better one? How dare we downgrade the significance of what Jesus did on the cross by saying some slobbering canine is going to be in Heaven? When did God ever say HIS Heaven was controlled by us? Did He ask for our input about where He should hang the stars? Does He make sure we’re ready to wake up before He raises the sun into the sky each morning? We are NOT the center of this universe: God is. Likewise, we will NOT be the center of Heaven. What we want it to be is totally beside the point. God doesn’t change Who He is to suit us, nor does He alter the things He makes in order to accommodate our selfish preferences.
Heaven is God’s territory, and we need to stop talking as if we can control what’s in it. When we say “Of course my dog will be in Heaven”, we are being arrogant fools, for what we really mean is, “Of course if I want something to be in Heaven, it will be there.” No, it won’t, actually. God and God alone decides what His Heaven will consist of and He is intentionally not telling us a bunch of specifics. We find some metaphorical language in the Book of Revelation, but it’s impossible to tell from those images exactly what to expect. As far as God is concerned, we don’t need to get distracted with petty details when He’s already told us the most important part: HE will be there, in the fullness of His glory. That should be more than good enough for us. If it’s not, we’re the ones with the problem.
As Christians, we certainly can’t promote the delusion that just because we like someone they must be in Heaven. Without reverential submission to Jesus, souls go directly to Hell when they die. Suppose some of our loved ones couldn’t be bothered to revere God when they were alive on this earth. Is it acceptable for us to pray for God to let them into Heaven anyway? Certainly not. As Christians, God should be our first priority, not people. We have no business asking Him to violate His own standards of perfection to suit us. It insults God when we decide Heaven just can’t be happy unless Aunt Martha is there. We mislead our children when we teach them to believe that anything they care about on earth will certainly reappear for them in Heaven. No, it won’t. Heaven is not earth, and if anything we should expect it to be entirely different than here. But in Heaven we will be with God, and the knowledge of that should excite us far more than trivial details about golden mansions and seeing our loved ones.
Heaven is about getting to be with God in the fullness of His Presence. It isn’t about hanging out with humans we were particularly fond of, nor is it about entertaining ourselves with the same toys we played with on earth. Going to Heaven is a very serious, thrilling concept which is only possible because God has shown us incredible mercy and love. We should be humbled by the thought of being accepted into Heaven. We should be ecstatic about getting to be with our Lord. What we do there and who we’ll know are questions we can’t help wondering, but to dwell on such trivial things is to completely miss the point. God is our prize. He is our great reward, and the way we speak about Heaven needs to reflect this. “I can’t wait to go and be with my Lord” is correct. “I can’t wait to go see Bob again” leaves much to be desired. If some famous movie star were to walk into a coffee shop where you were standing, wouldn’t you instantly stop whatever you were doing and turn your full attention onto the celebrity? God is the greatest Star of all, and when we speak about being in His Heaven, He wants us to give Him a lot more attention than we’d give a movie star. Who watches a famous symphony give a stunning performance and then afterwards only talks about the color of the carpet in the theater or the comfort of the chairs? So also, when we speak of Heaven and go on about anything other than God, we’re being ridiculous. He is the only aspect of Heaven that is worth talking about: He is the whole reason we are there. Who can get excited about streets of gold or lush scenery when we are face to face with Jesus Christ, His Father, and the magnificent Holy Spirit?
If you’re currently in a place where the thought of being with God simply isn’t very thrilling to you, then ask the Holy Spirit to align you with His priorities. Our God has a massive ego and He is jealous for our admiration and praise. We need to get in the place where He truly is the only One who makes Heaven heavenly in our minds. If we are willing, He will gladly take us there, all we need to do is ask. It is unacceptable for Christians to go through life being more eager about seeing dead people than their Lord. We can’t help the fact that we naturally start out in the wrong place about Heaven with our backwards priorities and idiotic delusions about animals. But it is our responsibility to recognize when we are out of alignment with God and ask Him to help us. Ask God to help you do a better job of honoring Him by the way you think and talk about Heaven.