We already miss her. After more than a month of illness, our Doberman Lexie wasn’t getting any better. Although her blood work came back okay, further examination showed that she had a large tumor in her lung. We scheduled a biopsy but things didn’t add up. The vet let us know that Lexie should have displayed other symptoms than the problems we were dealing with. Obviously, there was something much more serious going on in her intestinal tract and it was apparent that the lung issue wasn’t her primary problem. But to be sure, it was something that couldn’t go unaddressed.
We consulted doctors and others who are experienced in the care of Dobermans, as we are, but all roads pointed to the inevitable – Lexie was fading fast and there was no turning back. The decision that we have been dreading was staring us in the face. We took Lexie home from the exam and decided to spent some time with her as long as she wasn’t in pain. For several weeks, Janet and I were with her every moment – specially prepared foods and unswerving attention didn’t change Lexie’s prognosis.
The only time that she even seemed a little normal was when she walked to the laundry room and tapped her leash with her nose. She loved going on walks. Last Monday, her final morning, we took her around the block and headed to the vet. No need to go into any details here – we made the difficult decision to say goodbye to our wonderful dog – after more than 11 years of her being a part of our family. We stayed through the end – just as we had determined earlier. There wasn’t much need for Janet and me to discuss it – we both knew what we had to do – it was the humane, but insanely difficult, thing to do… her ashes came back to us yesterday.
In my pastoral role, one of the things I get asked is whether our beloved pets go to heaven. Believe it or not, depending on who you speak with, the Scripture appears to be silent on a direct answer to this question. One side believes that animals do not have a “soul” and have no moral compass like people do. They live by instinct and although we love them dearly, they aren’t created in the image of God. Only people are created in the image of God – and that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. Therefore, by accepting the gift of salvation, we alone have the ability to have eternal life in heaven with God. Proponents of this position believe that our pets will not join us with God in heaven.
On the other hand, God gave “Man” dominion over the animals in Genesis. Adam named the animals and that was a sign that mankind was responsible for them – in other words, God charged us with the responsibility to take care of the animals. Now that in itself doesn’t necessarily mean that animals will be in heaven, but there are verses that indicate there are animals in the presence of God. Those who believe that our pets will be with us in heaven point to the book of Revelation and the presence of horses and riders preparing for battle.
That beings us to our verse for tonight. Our verse comes from the vision of the apostle John, as he recorded his observations. John tells us, in Revelation 19:11-16, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Based on this passage, it seems that Jesus is riding a horse – followed by legions of others also on horses. The thinking goes that if horses are apparently in heaven, why not our beloved pets? Especially if God has given us dominion over the animals… Also, some people believe that heaven wouldn’t be complete without our pets. Now I don’t put much credence in this last argument but in the spirit of fairness, I didn’t want to exclude it. So, this side of heaven we won’t know the answer to this perplexing question about our pets joining us eternally.
My encouragement this evening is that God has given us a job to take care of His creation – including the animals that He has placed under our dominion, as well as the environment, the land and the oceans. My prayer is that we will be good stewards of all that has been entrusted to our care, including our pets and, God willing, our pets will be with us when we enter eternity with God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…