The idea for the “Rainbow Bridge” came from an anonymous poem (sic) from the 1980’s. It reads:
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
“When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….”
Other than vets printing this out and handing it out to their customers after putting their pets to “sleep”, I’m not sure how, in the pre-internet age, this concept gathered steam, but now, there is a website, Facebook page(s), etc. devoted to the concept of seeing our beloved pets after we die.
Which is the point of heaven – a concept to lessen the fear of death. Christianity took off for 2 reasons: one, it is reiterated time and time again in the New Testament, that if you follow Jesus, you don’t have to abide by the arduous Jewish laws. And two, if you follow Jesus, (John 3:15) “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life”. (also “everlasting” life in 3:16). (Debunking the concept of heaven completely!)
Religion is all about death. And the hugely popular concept of our pets getting their own special “heaven” where they await our demise adds another dimension to “heaven” and belief in such. Especially the parts about being hurt or maimed and made whole again. That is also the assumption behind going to heaven as well (see Heaven is For Real where the young boy talks about his grandfather who got younger).
This is all very interesting considering the Bible never mentions people going to heaven. It is, not unlike the “poem” above, a man made concept.
The NT references to heaven as it relates to a human “going there” (as opposed to an angel coming down from it, or a light coming from it) include Matthew 5:12, Mattt 19:21, Mark 10:21, Luke 6:23, Luke 12:33, Luke 18:22 which all refer to rewards and riches waiting for you. 2 Corinthians 5:1 says home is heaven after the earth is destroyed. 1 Thess 4:16 states the Lord will come down from heaven and those who have died and were in Christ will rise first. 2 Timothy 4:18 states “The Lord will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.” And finally 1 Peter 1:4 states “These blessings are kept for you in heaven.” Col 1:5 states “You know what is waiting for you in heaven”.
So heaven is a giant carrot. And in case that doesn’t work, the rainbow bridge is another one.