By Hermes C. Fernandes
Will we be the only species that will enjoy the new heavens and new earth prophesied by the Scriptures? What will become of the countless animal and plant species, fruits of divine genius? Did God create them all just as extras in the plot whose protagonist is the human being? I refuse to believe this hypothesis.
If God didn’t care about animals, why would he have spared them in the flood?
We are no better than animals!
And it is not I who say this, but the wise Solomon:
“I said in my heart: This is because of the children of men, so that God can test them, and they can see that they are in themselves like animals. Because what happens to the children of men, this also happens to animals; the same thing happens to them. As one dies, so does the other. They all have the same breath, and men have no advantage over animals … ” (Ec.3: 18-19).
Someone may object: Human beings have spirit, animals do not. It will be? So Solomon was wrong to say that we have no advantage over them. And see what he says more:
“Everyone goes to the same place; all are dust, and all to dust will return. Who knows if the spirit of the sons of men goes up, and if the spirit of animals goes down to earth? ” (vv.20-21).
So, animals also have spirit, right? Very correct! At least that’s what we just read. God’s love is not limited to human beings. God loves all of His creatures, rational and irrational. He is the one who “provides food for every creature, because his love lasts forever” (Ps.136: 25).
David understood this perfectly and states in a poetic way in his psalm number 104. As if in ecstasy, the psalmist king declares: “O Lord, how varied are your works! You have done all things wisely; the land of your riches is full. There are the sea, vast and spacious, where innumerable beings move, small and large animals (…) Everyone expects you to give him his sustenance in a timely manner ” (v.24-25,27). Even the lions “of God seek their sustenance” (v.21). It was as if David plunged to the bottom of the ocean and marveled at what he saw there.
I had a similar sense of wonder when visiting the largest aquarium in the world at SeaWorld in Orlando. It’s jaw-dropping! It was really exciting to be able to touch the dolphins, watch the shows with the whales, enter the artificial environment reproducing the arctic and see where the polar bear rests, watch the penguin ballet as in the movie Happy Feet. My wife and I were literally in tears. I told my children that that rapport between man and animals was a free sample of what will be on the restored Earth.
It would be a huge waste of space if only we humans could inhabit the New Creation. Those who think that our final destination will be to live in an ethereal sky are mistaken, like little angelic ghosts playing their harps. Not! We will be complete human beings, endowed with all of our original faculties.
The hostility that the animal kingdom has against man is due to sin. We are no longer the guardians of the garden of God to be his greatest threat. All nature groans in the expectation of being released from the bondage imposed by human vanity. When God’s children are manifested, nature will finally be free (Rom.8). Earth is not heading for a final catastrophe, but for liberation. When that happens, the hostility will end, and man will be integrated into creation again.
Until the big day arrives, we must watch over the lives of all beings with whom we share the Earth. God has entrusted them to us. Both wild and domestic.
Today, after my daily walk, I stopped by the lake to photograph some animals (turtles, birds, and ducks). I recently discovered this new hobby: photographing nature. An American boy named John approached me. He was accompanied by a white dog whom he affectionately called a pig. The talk goes, talk comes … he told me about an automobile accident he suffered two years ago, he told me that he had lost his friends and that he was losing his home (by the way, a beautiful house by the lake). The only thing left for him was his dog. But to complete his suffering, his dog, now twelve, was about to die. He would have to spend $ 8,000 to try to save his life in surgery. Because he was financially broke, he had no choice but to let him go.
Although he was not a Christian, and his confidence in religion was confided to me, John showed great love for his animal. Which brings me to what Solomon says: “They just look after the life of their animals” (Prov. 12: 10a). I wished from the bottom of the soul that God would restore the health of that animal. I remembered Francisco de Assis who was in the habit of praying for animals.
Recently SeaWorld was the scene of a tragedy involving an Orca and its trainer. Despite the rapport between them, the trainer died drowned, after being thrown by the hair in an act of apparent fury of the animal.
The AFA (American Family Association), created by Rev. Donald Wildmon, advocated stoning until the orca died. The influential Christian entity cites passages from the Bible to justify the death of the animal, whose meat, he says, should not be eaten by anyone. Animal protection organizations around the world responded to the stoning proposal. If it depends on the AFA, even the owner of the water park should be stoned to death, also according to what the Bible says, the entity argues.
This is a type of fundamentalism that must be rejected by conscientious Christians, who understand that we live under grace and not the law.
One of the most impressive images painted in the book of Revelation is recorded in chapter 5, from verse 11 to 14:
“Then I looked, and heard the voice of many angels around the throne, and of living beings, and of elders; and their number was millions of millions and thousands of thousands, proclaiming with a loud voice: Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power, and wealth, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and praise. Then I heard EVERY CREATURE THAT IS IN HEAVEN, AND ON EARTH, AND UNDER EARTH, AND IN THE SEA, and to all the things that are in them, say, To the one who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be praise, and honor, and glory, and power forever and ever. And the four living beings said, Amen. And the elders fell down and worshiped. ”
Notice the way heaven and earth are presented coming together to form a huge coral in adoration of the Lamb. Gradually, all things are subject to Christ. Not only the invisible, but also the visible, not only those belonging to the spiritual world (angels, cherubs, and co) but also those of the animal world.
Gradually, chaos becomes harmonious; the noise becomes a phenomenal orchestra! Each event finds its place in the majestic symphony composed by the Lamb. Nothing is outside the scope of this restoration! The animal kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, and the mineral kingdom come together to greet the King of Kings.
In the previous chapter, John says that he saw a throne, and Someone sat on it, and “around the throne was a rainbow” (4: 3). This rainbow reminds us of the episode in which God made a covenant with Noah, and established the rainbow as a symbol of that covenant. What few observe is that that preservation alliance is not limited to human beings, but covers the whole of creation. Thus said the Lord: “Now I establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with ALL LIVING BEINGS who are with you; so the birds, the domestic animals and the wild animals that came out of the ark, like all the animals of the earth (…) This is the sign of the covenant that I am putting between you and me and among all the living beings that are with you, BY PERPETUAL GENERATIONS; I have put my bow in the clouds, and it will be a sign of an alliance between me and the earth (…) The bow will be in the clouds, and I will see it, to remember the ETERNAL ALLIANCE between God and all beings living beings of all kinds, who are on the earth ” (Gen. 9: 9-10,12-13,16).
This alliance will never expire. It has no expiration date to be expired. Because it is eternal, it did not expire with the launch of the New Alliance but was confirmed. Hosea, prophesying of the New Covenant, said: “In that day I will make a covenant for them with the animals of the field, with the birds of the sky and with the reptiles of the earth” (2:18). The New Covenant concerns the salvation of man, and therefore the restoration of the created order. The choir will only be complete when the angelic voices and the human voices join the voices of every creature, including birds, reptiles, mammals, and fish. “All that has breath, praise the Lord!” (Ps 150: 6).