For as long as I can remember, this question on where babies go when they die has always been asked within the Church. There seems to be a lot of controversy over this sensitive topic and for good reason. No one wants to hear that dead infants go to burn in the eternal hell-fire, let alone their own child if it so happens they’ve passed on. To add to the controversy is that the Bible does not give a clear answer to this question that so many are concerned over. From one point of view, it would look like God is cruel and angry, just waiting to cast people into hell, while on the flip-side it would seem that God would not be the just God He says He is if He did not cast those born in sin without repenting into eternal punishment. There almost seems to be no winning side here.
Since there is no clear answer to this, all we can do is look in the Scriptures to see what evidence there is to each argument. For the record, before we start, it is my personal belief that babies go to heaven when they die (until the ever-so-fuzzy line of the age of accountability anyway), but I have many friends who disagree with me and think they go to hell. Either way, we don’t know for sure and it’s not something I will break fellowship with them over since it is a secondary doctrine at best. In the end, it is God who decides, and whatever He does is obviously the right and just way. Who are we, mere humans, to argue and disagree with the Creator of everything? We are held accountable to Him and that will never change whether we believe in Him or not.
I know that some of you may already be thinking that I’m biased and therefore you already know what answer I’ll be promoting. First I will say that I promote God’s decision whatever that is, and I will by no means die for my belief of what I think His decision is. Secondly, I will try to show both sides to the argument in the best way I can in this setting, and you can choose which seems to make more sense to you. If you came here to find a definite answer to the question of whether or not babies are sent to heaven, you will not find it here. Or anywhere for that matter. Even if people claim to know the answer to this topic 100%, they are either lying or are deceiving themselves (or have received some divine revelation from God that no one else in the history of this earth has ever gotten, but I find this to be rather unlikely to say the least)! I will NOT be covering all the arguments for each side in this blog!
I’ll try and make this as short as possible while at the same time cover as much as I can. That being said, let’s get started!
So what do we find in Scripture to support the theory that babies go to heaven? Well one of the most popular go-to stories in the Bible is the story of David when he committed adultery with Bathsheba, (who was married to Uriah the Hittite, one of David’s mighty men) and had a son with her. As a punishment for his actions, the baby was struck with illness and died on the seventh day (2 Samuel 12:15-18). After the death of the child, David seemed to think that he would one day be reunited with his son when he said “I will go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Sam. 12:23). This suggests that David thought he would meet his son in heaven which would lead some to conclude that the unborn, as well as children who die very young, are destined for heaven.
Another argument to take into consideration is that it appears that there needs to be a clear and willful rejection of God (Luke 10:16; John 12:48). This doesn’t necessarily need to be someone saying “God I don’t need you in my life so leave me alone” type deals, though it certainly can be, but it could rather be a general rejection by simply not acknowledging that they sin and need Jesus to save them. Babies and the unborn do not know they need Jesus to save them for they are not aware of what they do. Good or bad. They are simply ignorant of this. On top of that, the Bible indicates that Jesus cares and loves children a lot, and so He always welcomed them to Him (Matt. 18:2-5; Mark 10:13-16). Jesus also says that it would be better for a person to hang a millstone around their neck and be tossed into the sea than to lead any little ones astray (Mark 9:42). I don’t know about you, but if the option of drowning in the sea with a ton of rock around my neck is better than what God would do to me if I cause a child to sin, then I think I will try to avoid that as much as possible! This is actually no joking matter, and I am using extreme sarcasm to show how obvious the choice is. No one wants to be before an almighty and just God when they have that in their history! A punishment such as this shows how much God loves and cares for children. Though this passage is really talking about all believers, not just children, it can still be argued that Jesus often showed His care for children, even in the correct context of this passage. This does not prove that they go to heaven, but at the very least it shows God’s loving, compassionate heart towards them.
There are also some theologians who take the stand that some infants are elected by God, just as John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). It is certainly possible, judging from this example, that God is able to bring regeneration to babies even before they are born (no we will not be discussing election in detail in this article. We don’t have THAT much time)! They don’t even need to hear and understand the gospel in order to save them and God can, therefore, do this to children who He knows will die very early. This argument would suggest, however, that only some babies go to heaven, while others are sent to hell. Some say that the babies of believers are saved, using passages like Psalm 103:17 where it talks about the righteousness of the parents affecting the future of their children in a positive way. There are many other examples of this as well, such as John 4:53; Acts 2:39; 16:31; Hebrews 11:7, and so on. But is it possible for God to elect all babies? Perhaps, but we just don’t know. I really don’t think that God is limited by our mental capacity. I could use myself as an example for this one. I am definitely not the smartest person in the world. In fact, in comparison to God, I am infinitely less intelligent than He is (as is every other human). That being said, if God has given a dumb human like me faith, I believe He can do that for a baby no problem!
There are many other reasons that could be brought up of course, but for the sake of time and length of this blog, I’m going to move on to the arguments for young ones going to hell.
The first and most common reason that you’ll hear is that we are born sinful from our mother’s womb. Is this true? Absolutely. King David even says as much when he wrote: “the wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3). Also, there are other verses that affirm this such as Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:23, and Ephesians 2:3. The prophet Jeremiah puts it plainly when he said: “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). By the way, when he said this he was talking about the human heart, which is our very nature that we are born with. I don’t think I would be lying if I say this is the most persuasive argument for this view. After all, Jesus says that those who sin and do not repent will perish (Luke 13:3)! So if babies are born with imputed sin, they must, therefore, be justly punished for their sin and be sent to hell. To do otherwise would mean God is not a just God and that Jesus need not have died for the sins of mankind right? This “seems” pretty straight forward.
The second reason is that sin affects others, and that’s just a fact of life. For example, if I go outside one day and decide to steal someone’s bicycle without being caught, that would immediately impact the innocent person who owned that bike. It was nothing they did that caused this to happen, but they will still have to deal with the consequences of my sinful actions; either by going through life without a bike, or having to go pay possibly hundreds of dollars for a new one. The same is true for a woman who has an abortion. It was nothing the baby did to deserve being killed before birth, but as a result of the sinful choice of the mother, they don’t get to live their full life and even possibly, (according to this view) be experiencing eternal torment in hell! Not a pleasant thought, but what we do really does affect others. The apostle Paul said as much when comparing sin to yeast in Galatians 5:9: “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” Even if it’s not the mother’s fault that the baby died, and it was by natural causes, who was it that brought sin into this once perfect world in the first place? It was us.
So like I said earlier, there really is no concrete answer to this controversial question. That’s probably why it’s controversial in the first place! It’s really up to you choose what you think makes more sense, but at the same time you don’t actually have to choose. I know of women who have lost their baby and can hardly wait to see them again in heaven. That’s fine. I know of women who don’t know and then ask someone else what they think. So if there is a woman who lost their child asking you what you think, what are you going to say? Are you going to say “no ma’am, I’m afraid your baby is in hell because of their imputed sin”? I’m no pastor, but I’m just gonna say that probably isn’t the best course of action. Something to ponder anyway…
Even though I happen to believe babies go to heaven, that doesn’t make it true. I could be totally wrong, and I’m okay with that. Like I mentioned before, I am first and foremost on God’s side and whatever He knows is right and just is obviously the right and just way! We can have an opinion, but we just don’t know. Therefore, let us not risk dwelling on this so much that we become hostile towards one another.
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