From All Things New
I was in my office this morning, knees bent and body doubled over, so that my forehead almost touched the ground. I like that position as I pray. I find it very centering, comforting; it is almost fetal, primal. Suddenly a little furry muzzle and wet nose were pushing their way through my arm; our young golden had decided it was time to play. The intrusion was so startling and winsome, familiar and disruptive, I thought to myself, What will it be like when a wolf pup does this? Or a polar bear cub?
For we will once again be lords of the Earth with all creation coming to hand joyfully, eagerly, without fear.
The child-heart wants to know, “Will there be animals in Heaven?” and the calloused grown-up heart dismissed the question as theologically unworthy. May I point out that the whole debate ends when you realize that Heaven comes to Earth; our home is right here on a renewed planet. How could our creative God renew his precious Earth and not fill it with a renewed animal kingdom? That would be like a school without children, a village without people. The sheer barrenness and bleakness of the thought is utterly abhorrent to the child-heart of God and his love for the animals, his precious creations.
We know there are horses, for Jesus and his company return on horseback:
Then I saw Heaven open wide – and oh! a white horse and its Rider. The Rider, named Faithful and True, judges and makes war in pure righteousness. The armies of Heaven, mounted on white horses and dressed in dazzling white linen, follow him. (Revelation 19:11-14)
I wonder what Jesus named his horse. Does he come to his whistle? Does he need a saddle? I bet he rides bareback like the American Indians did. I’ve seen those horses, the cavalry of Heaven, several times now. It happened as we brought the gospel on mission into foreign territory. We would be in a time of worship and suddenly I would “see” the front line of mounted horsemen spreading out before me like the Rohirrim before Gondor in The Lord of the Rings, pennants waving, row upon row of horse and rider behind, lifted spears like a forest. Oh yes – there are horses in the kingdom.
The wolf will romp with the lamb,
the leopard sleep with the kid.
Calf and lion will eat from the same trough,
and a little child will tend them.
Cow and bear will graze the same pasture,
their calves and cubs grow up together,
and the lion eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will crawl over rattlesnake dens,
the toddler stick his hand down the hold of a serpent.
Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill
on my holy mountain.
The whole Earth will be brimming with knowing God-Alive,
a living knowledge of God ocean-deep, ocean-wide.
Now, unless you want to dismiss this as completely allegorical, we have wolves, lambs, leopards, goats, cows, lions, and bears in the kingdom as well. The passage is clearly describing the Kingdom of God operating in its fullness on Earth – the renewal of all things. And animals are clearly a part of it, praise our loving Father.
But this time around – I can barely write this without trembling – the animal kingdom will be our joyful partners. They will not be afraid of us anymore; they will long to love and serve us. For we were once lords of the animal kingdom, and in the re-created Earth we shall take up that beautiful mantle again. What animals would you love to come to your call, to have a deep and holy friendship with? Even in this ailing world we see glimpses of what Adam and Eve must have enjoyed, in the lives of those men and women who seem to have a special gift with animals. Horse “whisperers” who with gentle wisdom are able to take a frightened and completely wild colt and within hours win its trust enough to ride it. The Mongolian shepherds who have trained golden eagles to hunt with them. The Indian men who work the timber forests with the help of elephants, riding them bareback and using only their knees to communicate.
Lawrence Anthony had a special relationship with African elephants; he authored a book called, The Elephant Whisperer: My Life With the Herd in the African Wild. In 1999, he was asked to take charge of a dangerous group of elephants brought to his preserve, and over time they formed a sacred bond. Elephants have long been known to mourn the death of a member of their herd, but on the night of Anthony’s death something very special took place. After traveling for more than twelve hours, two herds of elephants arrived shortly after his death, “where they appeared to stand vigil for two days.” This is how the animals must have behaved back in Eden, honoring our First Parents, intuitively knowing their needs and we theirs.
Imagine the animals coming to our call, coming to honor us as their renewed masters. What will it be like to be partners again with nature?
And what does a restored rabbit look like? Is he bigger? Faster? Does he bound with greater leaps? What about a restored bear? The bears of this world grow larger the farther north you go; what is the size of a bear in its Eden-glory? Are restored bears more beautiful? Of course they are, and certainly gentle, for “neither animal nor human will hurt or kill on my holy mountain.” Imagine – we will be like Noah, as the animals run to us to be reacquainted.
Will your childhood dog run to meet you? (God makes all things new.) Will he be taller, stronger, though every bit his true self? Will his bright eyes have so much to say? Think about the intelligence of restored creation. We are only now beginning to learn the true comprehension of animals. Your dog might not be cooperating, but canines understand more than 165 words (!); brain scans reveal that their minds process what we say and how we say it just like human brains do. We know dolphins are extremely bright and playful; they employ a diverse language researchers call “extensive and complex.” Fully restored humans will have all the intuitive faculties and animal sense to communicate with a bright, intelligent, and restored animal kingdom. And the Holy Spirit will fill every relationship, enabling us to grow in perfect understanding of them and they of us. How could we be their shepherd lords again if we do not “speak” to one another?
My heart just skipped a beat. We are getting close to Narnia indeed. Or perhaps Narnia was simply peeking into the Renewal; I think it will be far more wondrous to “speak” to animals each in their language, rather than have them all speak ours.