Aunty, will we eat meat in heaven?
5 July 2021 |
Dear Aunt Sevvy,
Isaiah 25:6 makes it sound like meat will be served in heaven. But Isaiah 65:25 says the lion will eat straw like the ox. Why would a lion be vegetarian if people won’t be? There’s supposed to be no more death, so where would the meat come from? I’m honestly horrified by the thought that animals could still be killed in a perfect world!
Signed, Eternal Vegan
As one who would rather love animals than eat them, Aunty agrees with you. But take heart! An isolated text from the Old Testament probably shouldn’t be taken as the final word in this matter.
First, there were several competing visions in the Old Testament period of what happens in the future. We read into it our picture of a sinless heaven and new earth, as described in Revelation. But among God’s people back then, there were some more immediate and accessible aspirations, such as a really good kingdom where people would be happier and more secure under God’s leadership. To illustrate: we speak of eternal life in our future, but the world Isaiah describes is one where a person could easily live beyond 100 years.
Another illustration of a Jewish future that’s not heaven: Zechariah describes a time where all the Gentile nations still exist, and “ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you’” (8:23).
We Adventists indulge in a similar confusion with Matthew 24, where the immediate description is of the fall of Jerusalem, but we overlay it with our own eschatology, 2000 years out.
Second, the prophets described a “perfect” world with symbols that his listeners understood. Take for example the idea that in heaven we’ll all wear golden crowns, and streets will be paved with gold. Gold is neither comfortable for everyday headgear, nor good paving material. The point of all that gold is that everyone will be prosperous, for gold can no longer be hoarded by one person at the expense of another, and there will be no monarchs other than God.
As for Isaiah 25:6: for agricultural people living off the land, an ideal world would be one where often-hungry people at last get all the protein they need in their diets. As for the vegetarian lion, paradise would mean that carnivores won’t eat us or our livestock anymore, either.
Aunty suspects we really have no idea what heaven and the new earth will be like. While we should be careful about getting our picture of heaven from Bronze Age and Iron Age peoples of several millennia ago, Aunty loves this description in Isaiah 11:8-9:
The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
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