The Animal Soul at Death
Animals are considered souls according to the Bible: “… and every living soul died in the sea” (Revelation 16:3). The Bible tells us that like humans, animals receive the breath of God or “spirit” to come alive and become living souls. Solomon the wisest man states that both man and animals receive the same breath. He equates the word “breath” of God with the word “spirit”:
“Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” (Ecclesiastes 3:19, 20, 21). The phrase “Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward?” simply means that human wisdom cannot affirm what happens to the “spirit” or “breath” of God except that it “shall return unto God” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
The word “spirit” (Hebrew ruach), or “breath,” means the life principle which does not belong to the physical realm of flesh, for it is of breath of God and returns to Him. Man and animal both have a ruach, and the “ruach” of man is the same as that of the beast. If, as some claim that the “ruach”, or “spirit,” of man becomes a disembodied conscious entity at death, the “ruach” of beasts must also do that. But since the Bible nowhere teaches that at death a disembodied, conscious “spirit” continues to live on, then we can’t claim this for animals. For more on the state of the dead, check the The Intermediate State.
For this reason, Solomon disbelievingly (Ecclesiastes 3:21) asks who knows or who can prove that the “ruach” of man ascends, while that of the beast descends. Solomon knows nothing of such an experience and doubts that anyone else does.
Death, is the lot of people and animals. David says that “People, despite their wealth, do not endure; they are like the beasts that perish” (Psalms 49:12). When the breath of life departs from the body of any living creature, it dies (Ecclesiastes 3: 21).
However, humans are different than animals in their intellectual capacity, their choices and consequently in the rewards they receive. For through faith in God, man who is made in God’s image, will be redeemed from the power of the grave (1 Corinthians 15:51–58) and will have eternal life (John 1:16). Animals will also be in heaven in their original natures before the fall. They will be a blessing to the redeemed (Isaiah 65:17, 25).
Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.
In His service,