I think you need to know that I have done a lot of funerals, of humans. I have buried people who had been sick, most have been old but some have been young. Some have died after long battles with illness and some have suddenly died. I like doing funerals (I will save that for some future post). Due to all this experience I figured that I had reached, please forgive me for this, a certain level of professional pastoral expertise. I could say, “even though it is difficult I can handle it.” And because of all my experience I was completely caught off guard to find myself weeping when our beloved 2-year-old Australian Shepherd died this past January. One day he was fine and the next day he was dead of some rare blood disorder. When Rocket died I lost a friend. It was tough.
So when I was asked recently if our pets go to heaven, I knew the pain and the curiosity that leads one to ask the question.
Disclaimer: There does not appear to be an official Orthodoxy teaching regarding pets going to heaven. But while Christianity, in general, seems to be split on the topic, I am hopeful to present what I believe to be the Orthodox teaching. It is important to say this it is my theologumena (my theological opinion) and not the official teaching of the Church.
At the final resurrection, our world will pass away. A new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1) will be created, in which man and all animals will again live in harmony and peace.
The Spirit of the Lord will prevail in Paradise. Wild animals will become peaceful and will eat herbs and fruits again.
For there shall be a new heaven and a new earth; and they shall not at all remember the former, neither shall they at all come to their mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. Isaiah 65:17-18
The enmity of man and the enmity of animals shall cease:
And the wolf shall feed with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the young calf and bull and lion shall feed together; and a little child shall lead them. And the ox and the bear shall feed together; and the lion shall eat straw like an ox. Isaiah 11:6-7.
The new earth will be in harmony by the Grace of God, as it was before sin entered the world. As creation fell into corruption because of man, so together with man it will be restored to incorruption at the end of the ages:
For the eager longing of creation awaits the revelation of the sons of God. For creation was made subject to vanity, not by it’s own will but by reason of him who made it subject, in hope. Because creation itself also will be delivered from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God. Romans 8:19-21
St. Symeon the New Theologian comments on this:
…when man again will be renewed and become spiritual, incorrupt and immortal, then also the whole creation, which had been subjected by God to man to serve him, will be delivered from this servitude, will be renewed together with him, and become incorrupt and as it were spiritual. All this the All-Merciful God foreordained before the creation of the world.
This would indicate that animals as a group will inhabit the transfigured new earth after the General Resurrection. However, we have no indication from Scripture or Patristic writings that individual souls of animals will survive death. For we know that, among the creatures of earth, only man has been given individual, immortal souls meant to dwell with God unto the ages. “Animals and Man: A State of Blessedness” by Joanne Stefantos D.V.M. is simply the best Orthodox resource on the topic and had a major influence on the above post.