Tough Questions: Do babies who die go to heaven?

 

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This is one of the most difficult questions that a person will ever face. One of the hardest things I have ever had to do was to minister to a set of parents who have lost their infant child. Many will say that it is wrong to comfort parents by saying that their child is with the Lord since because they were not able to express faith we just can’t know, and I sympathize with that claim. However, though it is not explicit in the text regarding the final state of infants who have passed away, I believe that Scripture provides many implicit suggestions that those who die in infancy will be with the Lord. Here is a brief argument as to why I believe that all who die in infancy will be saved.

There seem apparent examples in Scripture of infants who were saved. We are told that John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). In Luke’s theology, being filled with the Spirit is consistently seen as an aspect of the Spirit’s work among those who are regenerate (Luke 1:41, 67; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 6:3, 5; 9:17; 11:24).

Hundreds of years before John the Baptist, David wrote: “Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” (Psalm 22:9-10). Because of David’s apparent mention of having faith in God while still an infant, some have concluded that God saves infants by giving them a “primitive” form of faith. That conclusion, however, is not necessary to the point; the main thing to see in this passage is that David evidently saw himself in a saving relationship with God from his mother’s womb.
We also know that David was comforted by the truth that though his infant son had died and he could not return to David, David would one day go to him (2 Sam. 12:23).

These verses make it very unlikely that all infants who die are lost. If God saved John the Baptist and David in infancy, surely we are warranted in concluding that he has saved others in infancy that were not given the opportunity to grow up. Yet, it would also be unwarranted to conclude from these texts that all who die in infancy are saved. The regeneration of infants does not seem to be God’s usual way of working; we must keep in mind that “the wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3).

In light of these things, some have held that God saves some infants who die and not others. They point that this seems most consistent with the doctrines of election and original sin.

John Piper and many others, however, believe that there is one more biblical strand of evidence which must be considered. This evidence leads me to conclude that God saves all infants who die.

John Piper summarized the basis for his conclusion on the subject here:

“Jesus says in John 9:41 to those who were offended at his teaching and asked if he thought they were blind-he said, “If you were blind, you would not have had sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

In other words, if a person lacks the natural capacity to see the revelation of God’s will or God’s glory then that person’s sin would not remain-God would not bring the person into final judgment for not believing what he had no natural capacity to see.

The other text is Romans 1:20 where Paul is dealing with persons who have not heard the gospel and have no access to it, but who do have access to the revelation of God’s glory in nature:

Romans 1:20 “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

In other words: if a person did not have access to the revelation of God’s glory – did not have the natural capacity to see it and understand it, then Paul implies they would have an excuse at the judgment.

The point here is that even though we human beings are under the penalty of everlasting judgment and death because of the fall of our race into sin and the sinful nature that we all have, nevertheless God only executes this judgment on those who have the natural capacity to see his glory and understand his will, and refuse to embrace it as their treasure.

Infants, I believe, do not yet have that capacity; and therefore, in God’s inscrutable way, he brings them under the forgiving blood of his Son.”

It is important to emphasize that, in my view, God is not saving infants because they are innocent. They are not innocent, but guilty. He is saving them because, although they are sinful, in his mercy he desires that compassion be exercised upon those who are sinful and yet lack the capacity to grasp the truth revealed about Him in nature and to the human heart.

It should also be emphasized that the salvation of all who die in infancy is not inconsistent with the doctrine of election.

As Spurgeon pointed out, it is not that God chooses someone to salvation because they are going to die in infancy. Rather, He has ordained that only those who have been chosen for salvation will be allowed to die in infancy.

So I believe that infants are saved. Nevertheless, we can trust this ultimate truth about our God: Psalm 119:68—”You are good and do what is good.”

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