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Question: Will there be dogs and cats in heaven?

Underlying issues:

  1. Do animals have an immortal soul?

  2. Will animals exist for eternity?

  3. What about plants?


  1. I know that for many, the pet is a “part of the family”

  2. There is grief at the loss of a pet as there is at the loss of a person

  3. While we recognize the emotional attachment, here we must remove the emotion and study the Scriptures

  4. Man is a “triune” being – Spirit, Soul, Body – 1 Thessalonians 5:23

  5. It is difficult to define and separate soul and spirit – Hebrews 4:12

Word Study

  1. Soul in OT and NT

  2. Spirit in OT and NT

Soul and Spirit—What’s the Difference?

Adapted from article by Wayne Jackson

There is much interest in this question—and, indeed, considerable confusion in the minds of many. This study is a brief survey of the biblical data relative to this theme.

What is the difference between the spirit and soul of a human being?” There is no simple answer to this question because the words, “soul” and “spirit,” are employed in varying senses within the different biblical contexts in which they may be found. The following represents a very brief summary of some of these major uses.

The Soul

  1. Hebrew word for “soul” - nephesh – in OT 780 times.
  2. It is translated by a wide variety of English words because the context dictates it.
  3. The KJV uses 28 different words to translate nephesh.
  4. The Greek word for “soul – psuche – in NT 103 times.
  5. We get psychology from this Greek word.
  6. Here are some uses of “soul” in the Scriptures.

A Person

Soul” may signify merely an individual person. The prophet Ezekiel declared that the “soul” (i.e., the person) who sins will surely die (Ezek. 18:20), or, as Peter would write centuries later, “eight souls” were saved by water in the days of Noah (1 Pet. 3:20). See also Exodus 1:5.


The wicked king, Herod the Great, sought to take the “life” of baby Jesus (Mt. 2:20; cf. Rev. 12:11).

The Mind

Soul” can have to do with that aspect of man that is characterized by the intellectual and emotional (Gen. 27:25; Job 30:16). It is the eternal component of man that is fashioned in the very image of God (Gen. 1:26), and that can exist apart from the physical body (Mt. 10:28; Rev. 6:9).


Animals are said to have a “soul” in the sense of breath, and life. Genesis 7:21-23 – 21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth: birds and cattle and beast and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. 22 All in whose nostrils was the breath (Hebrew – nephesh) of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died. 23 So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive. (I added this paragraph to the article. MRL)

In some contexts, “soul” simply has reference to biological life, the animating principle that is common to both humans and animals. All creatures have “life” (see Genesis 1:30; cf. ASV footnote).In one of the visions of the Apocalypse, certain creatures of the sea were said to possess psuche, or life (Revelation 8:9

The Spirit

  1. In Hebrew “spirit” - rauch – in OT 378 times.
  2. It literally means “breath, wind”
  3. In Greek – pneuma – in NT 379 times.
  4. Our English word pneumonia comes from this word.
  5. The word “spirit” can mean different things in different contexts.

The Air We Breathe

Ruach can literally denote a person’s “breath.” The queen of Sheba was “breathless” when she viewed the splendor of Solomon’s kingdom (see 1 Kgs. 10:4-5). The word can also signify the “wind.” For instance, some people, pursuing empty goals, are but striving after the “wind” (Eccl. 1:14,17, etc.).

A Non-physical Being

The term “spirit” can be employed, however, in a higher sense. It also is used to depict the nature of a non-material being, e.g. God. God (the Father), as to his essence, is spirit (Jn. 4:24), i.e., he is not a physical or material being (Lk. 24:39; Mt. 16:17; cf. also the expression, “Holy Spirit”). Similarly, angels are “spirit” in nature—though they are not deity in kind (Heb. 1:14).

A Person

Spirit” can be used, by way of the figure of speech known as the synecdoche (part for the whole, or vice versa) for a person himself. John wrote: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world (1 Jn. 4:1; emp. added). Note that the term “spirits” is the equivalent of “false prophets” in this text.

The Soul

Spirit” may refer to the “inward man” (2 Cor. 4:16) that is fashioned in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27), and thus be a synonym of “soul.” A sacred writer noted that the “spirit of man is the lamp of Jehovah” (Prov. 20:27); this is an allusion to that element of man that distinguishes him from the beasts of the earth.

Daniel affirmed that his “spirit” was “grieved” within his body (Dan. 7:15), and Paul noted that it is man’s spirit that is capable of “knowing” things (1 Cor. 2:11). Paul also affirmed that church discipline is designed to save a man’s “spirit” in the day of the Lord (1 Cor. 5:5; see also, 1 Cor. 16:18; 2 Cor. 7:1; Jas. 2:26).


Spirit” sometimes stands for a person’s disposition or attitude—either for bad or good, e.g., the spirit of fear, etc. (2 Tim. 1:7), a meek and submissive spirit (cf. 1 Pet. 3:4), or a spirit of gentleness (Gal. 6:1).


From this brief discussion, then, it is readily apparent that the careful student must examine biblical words in their context. The context can override all other linguistic considerations, e.g., etymology and grammatical format. A Bible term, extracted from its original context, loses its divine authority.

  1. Humans have life and breath. We also have a immortal soul.
  2. Pets have breath, life, “spirit” - “soul” in the sense of being a created being and possessing life.
  3. But, they do not possess a “soul” or “spirit” in the sense of eternal or immortal.

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