In 2007 my wife and I experienced the unspeakable heartbreak of losing a child to
Trisomy 13, which is the worst of the chromosome related defects. It generally results in stillbirth. Those who do go to term usually only survive, at best, for a few days. Still, we held onto hope that ours would be one of the few who beat the odds. Nonetheless, when we went for a routine ultrasound, neither of us were prepared to hear “There is no heartbeat.”
The following week was the most hellish few days of my life, as we had to go through the agonizing process of delivering Bella’s little body, and arranging the funeral and burial. As a believer, the one source of comfort was knowing that my daughter and I will one day be reunited.
Infant salvation is obviously an emotional yet needlessly controversial topic. Sadly, many Christians who have experienced this incompatible loss continue to struggle with it even though the Bible is very clear. Do babies who die go to Heaven? Absolutely! But for a different reason than you may think.
When asked why babies go to Heaven, the instinctive response is generally “Because they are innocent.” However, that is an oversimplification. To understand this, we must touch on a difficult and sometimes troubling theme in the Bible and that is the doctrine of original sin. In other words, how the sin of Adam and its results are passed along to every person:
- Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Psalm 51:5 ESV
- The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies. Psalm 58:3 ESV.
- Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned Romans 5:12 ESV
- … by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Ephesians 2:2-3 ESV
It has often been observed how children do not need to be taught how to misbehave. That comes naturally to them. Proper behavior is something they have to learn. That is a consequence of original sin. So how are babies saved? The same way as anyone else, by the grace and mercy of God. He offers this grace in a special way to children.
For example, when King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, she became pregnant. Sadly, the child died soon after. The grieving father takes refuge in knowing he will see his child again. “… can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23, emphasis added).
The best known passage on this subject is Matthew 19:14, in which Jesus says to “Permit the little children, and forbid them not, to come to me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” or “The Kingdom of Heaven belongs (present tense) to such as these.” In other words, little children are representative of those who inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.
While the sin nature is present in babies, it has not yet transitioned into actions. This is important to remember because in a number of passages, the Bible describes people going to Hell and gives details of the sins that took them there:
- Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV
- Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 ESV
- But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8 ESV
As horrible as these sins are, none of them could possibly be committed by an infant. So while babies are born with a sin nature, we see that there is still a relative state of innocence until they reach an age where they can understand right and wrong (Romans 3:20). I believe this would also apply to people with serious mental health issues. We see this taught in a number of Scripture references:
- Deuteronomy 1:39 children are permitted to enter the Promised Land because they “… had no knowledge between good and evil.”
- Jeremiah 2:34 and 19:4 refer to babies as “innocent ones.”
- In Ezekiel 16:21 God describes babies who were sacrificed to idols as “His children” their n spite of their parents being Pagans.
- In Jonah 4:11 God offers mercy to Nineveh because of more than 60,000 people who “cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand” which seems to refer primarily to children.
That being said, the Bible does not give a specific “age of accountability” nor should we assume one. Many children are extremely perceptive to spiritual issues at a very young age and, should absolutely be encouraged when they start to show an understanding of their need for salvation. Up until that time, however, we can trust in God’s grace to cover them. Every baby who has ever died (including through abortion) is now enjoying the glories of Heaven.
.. and Bella, I’ll see you soon!
Keep It Real,
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