Do infants go to heaven?

Dear Pastor Tedd:

I do know that we don’t really know if all babies go to heaven automatically. I also know that our Sovereign God can do whatever He pleases. The reason for the question is that recently in the ladies Bible study it was said that stillborn and miscarried babies go to heaven. I have known Christian’s who believe that since babies and small children are “sinless” and “innocent” they go to heaven upon death. They also bring up the term “age of accountability.”

I know that it tells us in the Bible that we are all born into sin. I know that God can do what He wants, but I have had women tell me that all babies go to heaven.  When I ask does that mean Muslin babies, etc.  They say NO only Christian babies. I’m not trying to start an argument or want you to do a sermon on the subject. I don’t plan to get into any disagreements. I plan to keep my mouth shut if someone makes the “all babies go to heaven” statement. I just want your opinion.

Thank you, Pastor,

In Christ, Cxxxxx

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My response:

Hi, Cxxxxxx:

I’ve struggled with this topic for a number of years and below I provide what I have come to believe.

I realize it’s a painful subject for many, so I want to recognize and respect the moms and dads who have had to go through miscarriages and stillborn births (my wife and I experienced a miscarriage ourselves).

I must wonder if the multiple legal abortions have heightened our attempts to be definitive about the souls of babies and their eternal state. In the godly opposition to the evil practice of abortion I suspect in our desire to speak compassionately some end up stating things that are not Scripturally solid. This subject is not unique to our day; when we consider the countless plagues, etc. and high infant mortality throughout history, people of past eras have had to think through this subject, too.

So here are my thoughts. I believe infants who die go to heaven – not because they are innocent or because they did not reach an age of accountability – but because of God’s great mercy.

1. Thinking through innocence, one must deal with original sin and sin nature. See Psalm 51:4; 58:3; Romans 3; Eph. 2:1-3. I do not believe Scripture allows us to think babies go to heaven because they are intrinsically innocent. In Mark 7 Jesus makes abundantly clear sins start in the heart of humans — in our desires. According to Psalm 51 and 139 we are body and spirt/soul from conception on. We do not become sinners upon our first act of sin. We are sinners who from our nature do sins. We are, as Paul writes in Ephesians 2, by nature, ‘children of wrath.’

2. Regarding the idea only infants of Christians going to heaven: it does not fit with John 1:12,13 or Romans 9:6-18.

3. Let me address the idea that there is an age of accountability and those under that age go to heaven and those over it must make a choice to go to heaven. The only thing I see in the Bible that comes close to that idea is the age 20. See Numbers 14; Deut. 1:39; John 9:22-24. Some argue for 12 years of age and use Jesus staying behind at the temple and the Jewish bar mitzvah tradition. But the bar mitzvah ceremony isn’t seen in the Bible; it appears to have been put into formal practice by the Jews after the time of Christ. Once again, I don’t see anything in Scripture to build a major defense that concludes should anyone under a certain age die, they are not accountable and therefore enter heaven based on their age.

Where does this leave me?

II Samuel 12:22-23 is a clear statement that David anticipated being with his infant who had died. When King David hears of his baby’s death he states: ‘he cannot come to me, but I can go to him.’ The context shows David being comforted with that truth. He wasn’t simply stating he would die just as his son had. Rather, the king anticipated being with his son in heaven upon his own death.

I believe all those who are in heaven are there because they were elect of God and the righteousness required to be in God’s eternal presence is Christ’s righteousness having been credited to them. See Romans 3:21-27; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:1-10; Titus 1:1; 3:4-7; I Peter 1:1-9.

I cannot find any other basis for anyone to be welcomed into God’s presence upon their death. In other words, I believe there is only one way of salvation, no matter what earthly state that descendant of Adam was in here on earth.

This choice on God’s part to save any child of Adam is ‘according to His great mercy’ (I Peter 1:1-3). It is His rich mercy and great love from which He saves sinners. The impetus and work on God’s part to save anyone is not found in, or dependent on, anything within the sinner, but is wholly a work rooted in His sovereign mercy and grace (Ephesians 2:5-10; Romans 9:6-18).

In conclusion: If King David’s infant son was in heaven, it was not because of his innocence or because he had not reached a certain age of accountability. It was because of God’s great mercy. If saving faith is ‘not of ourselves’ but is a gift of God (Eph. 2:4-8) for those with mental faculties, it seems to me the sovereign God in His love gifts salvation to those without them.

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