Questions From Readers
● Revelation 21:4 says that in the new world there will be no more death. Does this mean that even animals will not die then?—M. I., New York.
This text does not mean that all death will be eliminated. Rebellious human creatures will die during Christ’s millennial reign, and those siding with Satan at the end of the thousand years will perish. (Isa. 65:17, 20; Rev. 20:7-10) True, Revelation 20:14 shows death destroyed and thereafter Revelation 21:4 says there will be no more death, but the death referred to is death due to inheritance from Adam. Men will not then degenerate and die because of Adam’s transgression, but at any future time Jehovah God could execute any willful rebel that would disrupt the peace of the new world. Hence Revelation 21:4 speaks only of the Adamic death of humans, and has no application to the animal realm.
As to whether animals will die in the new world we cannot be dogmatic. It appears that men will not kill them for food, nor will animals prey upon one another. In the new world Jehovah’s original purpose relative to food supplies will be realized, as stated to Adam and Eve: “See, I give you all the seed-bearing plants that are found all over the earth, and all the trees which have seed-bearing fruit; it shall be yours to eat. To all the wild beasts of the earth, to all the birds of the air, and to all the land reptiles, in which there is a living spirit, I give all the green plants for food.” (Gen. 1:29, 30, AT) If that outstanding carnivorous animal, the lion, is to “eat straw like the ox”, surely no others will be meat-eaters. (Isa. 11:6-9) Incidentally, this shows that Revelation 21:4 does not eliminate all death of organic life, for plants will die to become food for men and animals.
But merely that animals will not be used for food does not prove they will live forever. There is reason to believe they will die. Man’s disobedience in Eden did not bring death to animals—they had been living and dying and many forms becoming extinct for thousands of years before man’s creation. The new world will eliminate the effects of Adam’s disobedience, but that does not concern animal death. The status of the beast has remained unchanged since its creation—it lives out its life span and dies. At no time has it had set before it the prospect of eternal life.
Man’s position is different. Adam had hope of eternal life set before him, but that hope vanished when he failed to pass the test of obedience. Had he passed that test he doubtless would have eventually eaten of the “tree of life”. Through Adam all men lost the opportunity of eternal life, but through the ransoming work of Christ Jesus the opportunity is restored and men of good will may hope for eternal life in the new world. None of this concerns animals.
If a man is willfully wicked and scorns the ransom, he will never gain eternal life, though he lives for a few years now. He loses the better position of opportunity that is open for mankind, and drops into the same position as that of animals, a position that offers no opportunities of eternal life. Of such ones the inspired apostle Peter wrote: “But these men, like unreasoning animals born naturally to be caught and destroyed, will, in the things of which they are ignorant and speak abusively, even suffer destruction in their own course of destruction.”—2 Peter 2:12, NW.
If animals had opportunity for eternal life, why would these men who lose such opportunity be compared to them? There seems to be no Scriptural basis for arguing that animals will live forever in the new world, but rather that they will continue being born, maturing, bringing forth offspring, and dying. Argument to the contrary seems to be based largely on sentimental grounds.