Now we come to the final step in our search for an answer to the question, "Do animals go to heaven?".
We have looked at the meaning of the Hebrew words in the Old Testament, regarding the word "nephesh" which is most often translated as "soul", and have discovered that the same word is used for both animals and humans, with no distinction. My personal conclusion is that animals do have a soul, and that this is supported Biblically.
We have also examined the meaning of the Hebrew words in the Old Testament, regarding the word "ruach" which is most frequently translated as "spirit". Here, we find the connection is very weak, with the word "ruach" used only once in application to a non-human animal. This leaves us with three possible interpretations. We may conclude that animals do not have a spirit, and the use of the word "ruach" in that one instance, has some other meaning or implication. We may also conclude that animals do not have the same kind of spirit as a human, and the word "ruach" would not properly describe an animal spirit. Finally, we may believe that even one use of the word "ruach" in connection with animals, must be seen as evidence that animals do have a spirit. The choice between these opinions will remain a personal one.
Biblical references to "salvation", as the means by which beings may enter heaven, also do not refer to the spirit. The phrase that is repeated over and over in the Bible is that of "save (ing) my soul". The Bible also mentions "commending ones spirit" into God's hands.
We also have Romans 8:19ff, which may be interpreted in three ways. In one interpretation, Romans 8:19ff speaks of the redemption of the "creature" as referring to man's physical body, and only the body. This narrower interpretation of the verse does, in my opinion, rob it of much of its richness and meaning. There is evidence elsewhere in Biblical text, to indicate that animals were subjected to the same curse as man, because they were inseperably tied to man's fate. It would seem logical to carry this thought on into the Romans 8 text.
This leaves us with two other interpretations of Romans 8:19ff. In the first, we would assume that the entire ecosystem will be replaced with a new one, containing plants and animals as part of the ecological balance. In this interpretation, resurrection of animals does not take place - the plants and animals in the new earth are also new.
In our final choice, animals were cursed because of man, and are redeemed because of man's acceptance of the gift of salvation provided by Christ's death and ressurrection. Where one died for all, one was resurrected for all, and all who accept are resurrected as a result. This interpretation would include the individual resurrections of animals, and would be consistant with the "salvation of souls".
Now, which interpretation you choose is, of course, a matter of personal choice and faith. Faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the substance of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
I have chosen to place my faith in the individual resurrection of the souls of animals. I expect to see again, the pets I once loved. In our current covenant and eco-system, animals are killed, and eat one another. I cannot change that, and do not feel obligated to become a vegetarian because of my faith. I have, however, shaped my use of animals and my relationship with them, knowing that whatever I do in regard to my animals will follow me to the judgement seat of God... and it is my wish to be able to leave my life someday with no regrets.