Satan hates every institution of God. He hates the Bible, the church, Israel, Jesus, the gospel, the distinction between the sexes, marriage, the family, and a hundred related things. He goes to incredible, hate-filled lengths to overthrow or defile them. One of these hated institutions that often escapes the attention of Bible teachers is the gift of eating meat. Why does the adversary hate this practice? Not because he dislikes the taste of meat. And not because he honestly believes that eating animal flesh is wrong. He hates this practice because it is one of the chief blessings that God has given to man.
Thankfully, Satan has made almost zero ground among evangelicals when it comes to dissuading them from eating meat during the present age. The vast majority are more than happy to indulge their steak and bacon. But he has managed to skew their thinking when it comes to their eating options in the kingdom and eternity. Many theologians, prophecy teachers, and creation apologists teach that men will be vegetarians after this age closes. In their opinion, animal death is traced directly and only to the fall and the curse. Therefore, when the curse and the effects of the fall are removed in the kingdom, there will be no more animal death. And there will be no more meat eating because that practice requires the death of animals. Man will forsake the temporary concession of eating animal flesh ratified at the time of Noah and return to the vegetable diet that he enjoyed in the pre-fall purity of Eden. But this view of the matter, though it sounds plausible at first glance, falls apart if we subject it to a robust theological examination.
First of all, when God opened the door to eating animal flesh in Genesis 9:3, he was not granting temporary permission but a permanent gift. There we read, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.” Notice the little phrase “even as.” God gave man meat in the same way that he gave him plants. Was the gift of plants holy and permanent? Yes. Then so was the gift of animals. And the gift once given cannot be taken back, for God is unchangeable (Mal. 3:6) and His gifts are irrevocable (Rom. 11:29). This gift was revisited in Acts 10:9-13, where we read “rise, Peter, kill and eat.” This passage is not merely a powerful object lesson that the Gentiles were to be received. It is a two-fold statement on eating animal flesh. It reassures believing Jews that they are freed in Christ from the dietary constraints of the law. And it reiterates the gift of animal flesh in the days of Noah. Now the permanence of this gift has tremendous theological ramifications. There are not one but two God-mandated causes for animal death: the fall/curse and the eternal gift of eating animal flesh. When the former is removed in the kingdom, the latter will remain.
Secondly, animals were made for man to consume. In 1 Timothy 4:3-4 we read, “commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving … for every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving.” Moreover, in 2 Peter 2:12 we read that animals were made for “capture and death.” In other words, they were made to be hunted and butchered. Those that man doesn’t use will simply die and cease to exist. Now theologians can fuss all they want, but these verses mean exactly what they state and imply. Animals were given to man for food — and for leather, sinew, wool, bone, ivory, and whatever other uses he might find. This is their created purpose. And it is beside the point if man wasn’t introduced to the use of animals until the time of Noah. The introduction of meat was a matter of maturity, not a damage-control concession to weakness as was the case with divorce. As infants grow from milk to meat in the physical realm and Christians grow from milk to meat in the spiritual realm, so mankind grew from plants to animals in his maturing process. This maturing process is still continuing, and at the Lord’s coming, saved mankind, having attained the full stature of maturity, will be brought into their inheritance and adult privileges.
Thirdly, Jesus ate meat in his pre-incarnate body and in his resurrection body. This seems out of place if eating animal flesh was only a temporary concession on account of man’s weakness. Why would the angel of Jehovah eat veal with Abraham (Genesis 18:1-8) and the resurrected Jesus eat fish with the disciples (John 21:12-13, Luke 24:42-43) if meat eating is unfit for heaven, for the kingdom, and for eternity? Note that in neither of these instances was Jesus in a fallen human body touched by human weakness, so there is no room to appeal to mere earthly condescension as an explanation. These accounts, in my estimation, give us a sneak peek into our relationship with the Creator and the creation in the eternal state. Man will still be man. And man will still enjoy a fire and grilled meat — sometimes accompanied by our Creator and Redeemer himself.
Fourthly, God doesn’t go backwards in his dealings with man. He only goes forward. This is a corollary of progressive revelation. We are not going back to pre-Flood dietary restrictions or pre-fall Eden any more than we are going back to the law or back to the rule of informal judges. Meat and clothes are here to stay. We are going forward to the kingdom. And every kingdom promise, every gift to the human race, and every advance in God’s relationship with mankind will be on full display in that wonderful time of blessing.
Fifthly, there will be sacrifices, animal death, and meat eating in the kingdom. The sacrifices are mentioned several times in Ezekiel 40-48 in the portions describing the millennial temple and the temple service. Ezekiel 44:29 obliges the priests to eat the sin and trespass offerings. Ezekiel 42:13 restricts the eating of the sacrifices to the north and south chambers. And Ezekiel 44:31 bans the priests from eating birds or beasts that died naturally or were torn (by other animals). These are plain statements of Scripture. And it is completely unreasonable for men who usually interpret prophecy literally to resort to figurative interpretation here. Moreover, Ezekiel 47:9-10 informs us that fisherman will line the bank of the Jordan River because it will be swarming with a wide variety of fish. This is not catch-and-release fishing for a hobby. This is fishing because fish taste good.
Sixthly, the church will enjoy animal flesh at the wedding supper. In Matthew 22:2-4, we read, “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who arranged a marriage for his son … See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fattened cattle are killed.” And in Isaiah 25:6 we read, “The LORD of hosts will prepare a banquet for all nations on this mountain; A banquet of aged wine and choice cuts with marrow.” These verses ought to warm the heart of every meat lover. After the rapture, we will still enjoy choice cuts well-marbled with fat—T-bone steaks, prime rib, racks of ribs.
But, some might complain, what about Isaiah 11:6-9 where we read that the lion shall lie down with the lamb? I’m glad you brought this up. Examine this passage once again carefully and closely. Notice that it neither states nor implies that man shall not eat meat in the kingdom. What it does teach is that wild animals will not harm man or his domesticated animals. We will suffer no farm-animal losses to wild animals like wolves, bears, and coyotes. We will suffer no animal attacks, no snake bites, and no insect bites. And I think it is perfectly legitimate to extend this principle of protection to farming. No diseases or bugs or wild animals will damage our crops. What a blessing! Neither our bodies, nor our livelihood, nor our labors will be bothered by nature.
Now some attempt to salvage eternal vegetarianism by forging a qualitative distinction between the kingdom and eternity. They insist that meat eating is allowed in the millennium but forbidden in eternity. This stratagem, however, is overthrown by the fact that Scripture plainly states that the kingdom established at Jesus’ second coming will endure forever —Micah 4:6-7, Isaiah 9:7, Daniel 2:44, Daniel 7:14, Daniel 7:27, and Revelation 11:5. This kingdom is established in righteousness. It brings a permanent, unchanging platform of morality (right and wrong, permissible and impermissible) designed to promote man’s best interest. We conclude, therefore, that if meat eating is permissible for the first thousand years of the kingdom, then it is permissible for all eternity. In what way, then, does the thousand years differ from eternity? It differs in the matter of testing and salvation. The thousand years is man’s final period of testing — the human race’s final opportunity for individuals to be saved or lost.
Perhaps some will contend that man’s diet in the kingdom and eternity is a small point and wonder why I have made a big deal over it. I would respond that this is a bigger point than they think. For one thing, many teachers have mistakenly made no animal death in the kingdom a point of orthodoxy. I am only responding to this common error. For a second thing, as the evangelical camp has expanded her understanding of the Bible, the battle for the literal interpretation of Scripture has pressed deeper into the frontiers of prophecy. One of the leading-edge, dare I say critical, issues on this front is whether or not there will be animal death (and meat eating) in the kingdom. For a third thing, need I remind you that forbidding meat is a last days deception inculcated by deceiving spirits (1 Tim. 4:1-5). Based on this principle of discernment, I would suggest that banning meat in the kingdom is cut from the same piece of cloth as banning it in this age. If banning meat in this age is a doctrine of devils, then so is banning meat in the kingdom.
So what will our response be? Will we uphold the authority of Scripture by submitting to the whole counsel of God on this subject? Or will we continue with the comfortable road of the status quo — assenting to the unsound presupposition that animal death is traced only to the fall/curse and acceding to the tenuous claim that Isaiah 11:6-9 teaches vegetarianism in the kingdom? I am convinced that if a man will cling to the plain testimony of Scripture and turn his back on philosophical presuppositions, he will soon come to the conclusion that animal death has two God-ordained causes: the fall/curse and God’s gifting of animals to man for his consumption. When the former is eternally removed, the latter will eternally remain. And for that I am glad. Here’s to billions of years of bacon!
“Eyes wide open, brain engaged, heart on fire.”
Lee W. Brainard