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In the Resurrection, Do the Souls and Spirits of Animals Also Rise?
Submitted 20 January 1998 by Tom Finger fingert@emu.edu  

Almost all evangelicals would agree that more than humans will be involved in whatever world follows our Lord's return, since the most influential evangelical eschatologies look forward either to a millennium (historic and dispensational premillennialism) or a new earth (postmillennialism and almost all current forms of evangelical amillenialism). Will the non-human creatures involved be new ones, or resurrected ones? While a definitive answer may not be possible, Romans 8 seems to suggest the latter possibility, since it stresses some degree of CONTINUITY between the present world-order and the future one.

The revelation of the children of God which the current creation longs for will be a resurrection of people living now. It would seem a bit strange to speak of the present creation having this longing if none of its members will share, like the humans, in the future creation. Romans 8 also speaks of the creation being subject to bondage and then being released. Again, it would seem strange for none of those who suffer under bondage to participate in the release.

Romans 8 seems to paint strong parallels between the final fate of redeemed humans and that of the rest of creation.

I am also intrigued by the notion, which I first got from Juergen Moltmann, that on the cross Jesus bore the apocalyptic sufferings of all creation, and not only those of humans. Apocalyptic involves the notion of all of nature participating in a cataclysm before final salvation comes. The cross can be understood as that cataclysm and the Jesus' resurrection as the final salvation that have occurred "already" in history although the final consummation has "not yet" come. The darkening of the sun and the great earthquake that occur when Jesus dies may well be expressions of this cataclysm. If the sufferings of natural creatures were also borne in some way on the cross, then it seems likely that at least some natural creatures will share in our resurrection. (It would be the sufferings, not the sins, of non-human creatures that Christ bore, whereas he bears both our sufferings and our sins.)

I also wonder if the notion of other creatures being resurrected seems strange to us simply because we so often think of humans as existing apart from the web of nature and come to imagine them as independent of it. But if we think, as ecology emphasizes, of humans as always having existence only as part of the web of nature, it would seem very strange to think of us rising without other members of this web also rising.

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