I have read Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 about animals having the same fate as man (dust to dust etc.), but then it says who knows if their spirit goes to the earth. Does this mean the animals don't go to heaven? If so, then why does it talk about being able to lay down with the lion etc?
Any believer who has loved a pet has probably wondered if animals go to heaven. The Holy Spirit caused King Solomon to write the book of Ecclesiastes. In the book, King Solomon helps us to understand how the religiously ethical man of the world sees life and God. This man believes that there is a God, but he has no relationship with God. He is like an ethically moral man of the world under the sun.
You have asked a question that I struggled with years ago. It is a great question. So let’s start with the passage, Ecclesiastes 3:19-20,
For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust. (NASB) Ecclesiastes 3:19-20
The first part of the passage says that the fate of men and beasts is the same. That is, we all die eventually. There is no escape – ‘as one dies so dies the other.” Humans do not have an advantage over animals. Then it adds that both breathe the same air – “same breath.” Then it concludes by saying that we all go to the same place – to the grave. We all become dust eventually when our bodies decay.
Spirit of Animals
Your question about the spirits of men and animals appears to come from the King James Version Bible which reads as follows:
Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? (KJV) Ecclesiastes 3:21
The New International Version Bible also says “spirit.” The same Hebrew word used for spirit is also used for breath. Therefore, we must understand how the word is used in the context of the passage. The key comes when we remember that Ecclesiastes is from the perspective of an ethically moral man who does not know God. That means this man is simply saying that he does not know if the spirit of man goes one way or another. He does not know what happens to the spirit of animals, assuming that animals have one. The man under the sun has no clue about life! He is clueless.
God has not told us if animals have spirits. One passage in the Bible is not enough for us to determine if this is a fact. We would need more than this one passage to say the same thing before we could confidently say that animals have a spirit. But there are many passages that tell us that men and women have spirits and need their sins forgiven. That is possible only by faith in Jesus Christ. May the Lord bless you. You may want to read to previous questions which answer your other question. These questions are “Where in the Bible does it say that the lion will lie down with the lamb?” and “Do animals have spirits or souls?“