A dog says, “You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, you must be God” – Anonymous
Dogs are referred to as man’s best friend for a reason. They are loyal, playful, and always eager to please their owners. Every dog parent can testify that there is never a dull moment as long as they are around. But unfortunately, dogs do not live as long as we do. On average, dogs live for 10-13 years after which they will die of old age or some other complications. This often leaves their family in grief as they wonder whether their furry friend will go to heaven where they can hopefully reconnect in the afterlife.
Do Dogs Go to Heaven?
The Bible does not explicitly state whether or not dogs go to heaven. However, heaven is a spirit world and God himself is a spirit. Man can go to heaven because he was made in God’s image and after his likeness. Dogs, however, do not have a spirit and they can therefore not go to heaven.
Do Dogs Have a Soul?
In 1990, Pope John Paul II said, “Animals do have souls and are as near to God as men are.” This led many to the conclusion that dogs will go to heaven. And this reveals the lack of understanding that most Christians have about the difference between the soul and the spirit. The pope was right in stating that animals have souls. However, we should never confuse the soul with the spirit.
The Bible teaches that man is a tripartite being consisting of spirit, soul, and body. A good reference scripture on this is:
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess. 5:23
The body refers to the physical side of the man. It is the tangible part of man. The soul and the spirit are both intangible and that is where the confusion comes from. However, the two are distinct. The soul refers to the mind and heart (also known as intellect and emotions). On the other hand, the spirit refers to the nature of God that was breathed into man upon creation. It is the spirit of man that connects with the spirit of God and the soul and the body just tag along.
If you understand these differences, it will be easy to realize that dogs indeed have a soul and a body but they do not have a spirit. There are many scriptures that illustrate this but the most important is in Genesis at the point of creation.
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 being. Genesis 2:7
The main difference between man and other animals is how they were created. For dogs and other animals, God spoke them into existence. However, for man, God formed them from the ground and then finished by breathing his spirit into them. As such, only man has a spiritual part, unlike animals which only have bodies and souls.
Your dog can learn new tricks and some of them have incredible memory. Dogs are very intelligent and they know when you are mad, happy, or sad. Some dog parents have experienced their dogs sensing their sorrow and coming to comfort them. Experts have even identified breeds that are trained to be emotional support dogs for those leaving with some form of challenge. These are just demonstrations that dogs indeed have a soul.
However, the notion that the soul of the dog makes them close to God is not true. For them to be close to God, they would need a spirit. Jesus was clear about this in John 4:24 when he clarified that the only way to get close to God (in worship) is by doing it in spirit because God is spirit.
To put it bluntly, yes dogs have a soul, but no, that doesn’t mean they will go to heaven.
The Prerequisite of Going to Heaven
Jesus gave a clear pathway to heaven in the following scripture:
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).
By stating this, he made it clear that unless one goes through him, there is no getting into heaven. 4 chapters earlier, he had referred to himself as the door by which sheep enter.
So how exactly does one believe in Jesus and thereby get to heaven? Well, Apostle Paul gives us the sequence of events in the book of Romans:
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.Romans 10:9-11
There are two important truths in the verse above. First, salvation comes through faith and second, this faith is developed in one’s spirit (the heart).
If you think about it objectively, you will realize that dogs cannot go to heaven because there is simply no way for them to meet this important prerequisite. One cannot believe unless they hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. But dogs have no way of comprehending what the gospel is. Suffice it to say that dogs cannot go to heaven.
There is no denying that the question of whether dogs go to heaven has stirred deep emotions and ponderings among dog lovers. While Pope John Paul II’s assertion that animals possess souls added to the debate, it’s essential to distinguish between the soul and the spirit in the context of theology. Dogs indeed have souls, as evidenced by their emotions, intelligence, and capacity to provide comfort and companionship. However, they lack the spirit that connects humans to God, making it improbable for them to meet the prerequisite for entering heaven, as outlined in John 14:6.