All Dogs Go to Heaven?

September 11, 2023

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 NIV

Much of our slang and cultural phrases are coined from popular movies that become ingrained in our language without the users even knowing their origin. Catch-22 is a phrase that means a paradoxical situation created by conflicting rules. It originated in the 1961 book made into the Catch-22 movie. The movie Gaslight in 1944 began usage of the term “gaslighting” because of the psychological mind manipulation in the movie. The 1989 Disney movie All Dogs Go to Heaven was a box office hit and popularized the phrase “all dogs go to heaven.”

This term refers to the fact that heaven can’t be earned by being good. Mark Twain said, “Heaven goes by unmerited favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.” James Thurber agreed. He said, “If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons.” Both statements were obviously made tongue in cheek, but also from a valid point. Dogs don’t make moral choices. They are notoriously loyal, sacrificial, and man’s best friend. We probably all could name a few dogs we could imagine being our neighbor on the streets of gold than a few people we know. An abundance of goodness and an absence of wrong seems to be the reasonable answer for how to get to heaven.

But that’s not what Jesus said. Jesus didn’t say that entrance to heaven is gained by goodness, loyalty, capacity for friendship, sacrifice or any other virtue. He said there is one way, and He is it. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” It is through His unmerited mercy, grace, and favor that we are saved. The New Testament writers, first-hand hearers of Jesus Christ and eyewitnesses to His ministry, affirm again and again: “He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:5 NIV).

Whatever you think about dogs and heaven is not eternally important, but what you think about people and heaven is of the utmost importance. Many of us think that all “good old boys” and every “honest-hearted woman,” pillars of the community, go to heaven. That’s not true, and it’s important we realize the fallacy. We can never be good enough, pure enough, or consistent enough to cover the debt of our sins. Jesus has done it for us, and we go to heaven as a gift of Hiis unmerited, undeserved grace.

  • An old childhood song said it this way: “Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul. Thank You, Lord, for making me whole. Thank You, Lord, for giving to me Your great salvation so full and free.” If you know it, sing it. Pray your own prayer of thanksgiving that He has done for you what you could never do for yourself.