It’s a question often asked especially by those who have lost a child. The Holy Bible doesn’t have any express answers but there are clues. Using the lens of the reformed view of the Scriptures (namely the Calvinistic belief of Unconditional Election) we find what I believe is the best explanation of what happens to infants and children after they die. All others only give partial or faulty answers.
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You probably know the story of King David and the illicit affair he had with the married Bathsheba. The prophet Nathan confronted David and told him that God knew everything about the affair and that his newborn child from Bathsheba would die.
After its death in 2 Samuel 12:23, King David talks about how he doesn’t feel the need to fast in mourning for the child saying: “…Can I bring him back again? I shall [one day] go to him, but he shall not return to me.” Here is not only a reference to life after death but David’s belief that he will one day be reunited with the child in Heaven.
It’s important to note that the child died on the seventh day. Jewish tradition calls for a male child to be circumcised as a token of the covenant with God on the eighth day of its life. But of course the child didn’t make it. God could have preserved it’s life till AFTER the eight day but he didn’t. Was King David angry at God for not letting the child live that long? No. Instead, he was at peace knowing he would be reunited with him in paradise obviously knowing that all infants and children are admitted there by the Lord.
By contrast in 2 Samuel 19:1-10, David wept for his wicked son Absalom who he knew would end up in the realm of eternal punishment. He died as a rebellious, ambitious, condemned young man attempting to remove his father, God’s chosen and anointed from the throne of Israel.
In Matthew 18:1-14, Christ called “a little child” to him and the child came to him. From the Greek translation of the word “child” which was used in that verse (which is paidiŎn and pronounced pahee-deé-on) it reveals that He was speaking of a half grown youngster (4-10 yrs.) who could at least walk, talk and understand Christ.
In verse 6 Christ warns that “but whoso offends one of these little ones which believes in me, it were better for him if a milestone were hanged around his neck and that he was drowned in the depth of the sea.” The Greek word used for offend in this passage is skandalŏn (pronounced as skań-dal-on). It’s where we got the word scandal from. It’s meaning in this passage is to scandalize, or lead a child astray from a righteous path.
The Greek translation of “little ones” means least, or small in stature, or little. So in this passage he is saying no matter how small the child may be (starting above infancy and up to attaining the age of reason, as in knowing right from wrong) to lead it astray or introduce it to a sin was an evil thing to do. Specifically these little ones were above the age of infants (capable of being taught) and perhaps into late puberty (14yrs for boys & 12 for girls)! Infants are excluded because they’re incapable of having an understanding of the concept of faith.
In a final word about salvation and children: Starting at the grade school age and approaching puberty it’s so important that they are brought up knowing the Lord as early as possible. That’s because in this age range God can judge whether a child has reached the age of reason making him accountable for his salvation or damnation.
If Infants Have No Time To Sin & No Knowledge of Faith How Are They Saved?
The unborn, infants and toddlers obviously have no time to sin. They still have the stain of sin from Adam and Eve passed to them though. It’s part of their DNA like the rest of us. But thank the Lord they’re not forgotten by God; that is if one believes the doctrine of Unconditional Election referenced all through the Holy Bible! It provides the best answer to this dilemma.
As they grow into the grade-school age and on up just like their parents they sin by nature. For instance no one has to teach them to steal a toy from a playmate or to reach into the cookie jar when they think no one is looking. Continuing towards the age of puberty they begin to sin by choice. For instance they lie to their parents. These reasons are why its so important for parents to train their children up in the Lord because as they age their accountability for their own salvation increases!
Before we proceed to find how babies and infants are saved let’s review some key definitions:
“Unconditional Election or Election” is the process where long before time began and the universe and the earth existed God decided who would become His children in paradise and those who wouldn’t. His decision wasn’t based upon any amount of good anyone could ever do because all of mankind contains the sin nature.
“Atonement” is the sacrifice Christ made on the cross for all mankind.
“Regeneration” is the work of the Holy Spirit to shake the conscience of a sinner leading him to a take up a faith in Christ that sets him upon a daily walk of sanctification justifying him to enter into God’s presence upon death.
“Justified” or “Justification” is the status a person attains when he becomes a child of God by repenting of his sins and accepting Jesus as his personal savior.
“Sanctification” is the daily walk that a Christian engages in to give up the habitual sins he had before he became a member of the faith. We Christians will always struggle with sin, some more than others, but we don’t use that as an excuse or license to sin. Rather when we wrestle with sin we should look to the cross and God’s word to help us overcome it.
“Glorification” is the final stage of the Christian. After dying he is given a new body in paradise. It is free from the corruption of sin just as his just punishment for the sins he left behind in his earthly life were canceled by the shed blood of Christ on the cross. Now, we can proceed.
Faith in the doctrine of election is how King David knew he would see his first child in Heaven. In Ezekiel 16:21, God rebuked the Israelites for sacrificing their babies to Moloch, saying “..you have slain My children and offered them up to them by causing them to pass through the fire!” The implication being the parents may have forsaken these children but not God. This is another indication that God has them, all of them, safely with him in paradise. He doesn’t forget any of them!
(Of course I can just hear an abortionist, or a sympathizer of that unholy profession claiming that they’re only sending the unborn to paradise! Woe to them that don’t repent in time for neglecting God’s holy law of “Thou Shalt Not Murder!”)
You might ask: “I get it that God takes babies and infants and small children to Heaven but don’t the Scriptures say that faith is required to enter into Heaven?” The answer is yes but think about how the Holy Spirit moved about freely in both the Old and New Testaments. It brings a person to finally see himself as a sinner in need of a savior. He repents, and accepts Christ as his savior and he is regenerated into a new person justified for entrance into paradise. From then on he sins less and less (especially his favorite sins) per the process of sanctification. So if we use this Scripture template the Holy Spirit is involved in the case of salvation for the little ones. It regenerates and justifies them to be brought into His presence. Personally I call it an expedited, automatic unconditional election for them!
Of course stepping back and observing the big picture we would see that salvation for everyone happens only because they were first unconditionally elected then regenerated in the time and circumstance chosen by God.
There are no scripture instances that speak directly to the unborn, and pre-accountable children and their salvation but its not a far fetched thing to accept that it would be in God’s loving, merciful character to embrace them in his paradise. In one year hundreds of thousands of little babies are aborted in our country, millions worldwide. Of the babies born in the United States over forty thousand of them die within the first year of birth. Toddlers and grade schoolers die to. The eventual, natural cry of all loving mothers and fathers is “Is my child in Heaven?” Under the doctrine of unconditional election they are. That’s why its important that parents should be Christians! That way as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow they will be reunited with their child in Heaven just like King David was!
The Holy Bible KJV
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