After a baby dies, where do they go? What about the unborn, the still-born, aborted fetuses, young children and even special needs children? Where do these, so young and tender, go after death? Is there any hope for someone who has lost one so precious? Are there any promises in the Bible about their fate? What does the Word of God say about them? What can we tell them or know ourselves what the Bible says is their final destination? This is the second article in this series, an excerpt from a published book that contains more detail regarding the question and the book by the same name, Do Babies Go To Heaven?
Children are an extension of us and they are our future; so when someone loses an infant, or a young child or baby, this can literally break the parents’ heart. It is like part of their own self has died. And made even more tragic when it is a young one that had their whole life ahead of them. They missed out on so much love to both give and to receive. All the dashed hopes of future weddings, graduations, Christmas mornings, grandma and grandpa...all gone, forever. Or is it? I believe that the fate of these precious departed ones, so tender, and so young who die, is relevant to any parent, grandparent, custodial or foster parent, and so on. That’s the reason that I looked in the Bible for answers for God knows a thing or two about losing a Son, in fact His only One.
So, what does the Bible say about babies that die? Especially since the only way to be saved is through Christ (Acts 16:30-31). It is a fact that with no Savior, no one can have eternal life. So what happens to infants, fetuses, or even young children the moment they die? What about those whom are aborted, where do they go after death? God has said that all humans are born into sin, but they certainly don’t go to hell do they?
Since there is only One way to salvation, and that is through knowing Jesus Christ, how can an infant or fetus know Christ? For anyone who has ever lost a baby or know of someone who has lost one, what can we really say to them? Is there anything in the Bible that might provide us with some words of hope and comfort about their great loss of an infant? There really is nothing you can say, except “I’m so sorry” because no one but them can really understand what this is like. I will not make the mistake again of saying, “I under-stand”, because I don’t. Grieving family members don’t take well to “Hang in there” or “Keep your chin up”. The only real thing that helps is the only real thing you can do. Grieve with them, cry with them, express your sorrow for their loss. And that’s all that anyone can really say.
Today, many Christians and non-Christians alike can carry a heavy burden of guilt and shame after an abortion, lingering throughout their entire life. Even despite the fact that God forgave someone who committed murder, conspiracy to commit murder, adultery, etc...(King David), they can not forgive themselves. But God is more than willing. The good news is that there is nothing that God can not forgive (the only real unpardonable sin is not accepting Christ as Savior). Does the Bible say anything about where babies go after death? Is it heaven? Surely it isn’t hell, is it? If we depend upon the Word of God, and it is in the Bible, then we can definitively know for certain. Not on what people think or what I personally think. And the answer is in the Bible, so we can know for certain.
It is hard to believe, but some Christians think aborted fetuses or any babies or young children who die do not go to heaven. They reason that anyone who does not accept Christ is headed straight for hell. But that is not Biblical. There is nothing anywhere in the entire Bible that indicates that. God is God and only The Almighty can say (and has many times), “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy”. The good news is that most Christians don’t believe that babies go to hell. In fact, most theological traditions believe that those children who die in infancy are numbered among the redeemed. That is to say, we have confidence that God will be particularly gracious toward those who have never had the opportunity to be exposed to the gospel, such as children, infants or fetuses.
Adult men and women have no excuse, for they know better (Rom. 1:19-20), but babies can not accept what they do not know, and therefore can not be held responsible. Jesus always accepts children and He indicates that in the New Testament several times. The people were bringing their children to Jesus to be touched by him. His disciples rebuked the people but Jesus saw this and was very displeased. He said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:14)” Just look at Kind David’s example. King David, after had losing his infant child, declared that “He can not come to me, but I can go to him” (II Sam 12:23).
God declares in the Psalms that “He knew us in the womb”. Matthew 22:32 says “He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” In fact, He loved us and knew us before we were even born saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." (Jer. 1:5) My wife, after conceiving, stroked, patted, sang and softly spoke to our unborn child. She (in fact we) already loved this baby, even though she was as of yet, unborn. So too had God known us and loved us, even before we were conceived. In Psalm 139 He says, 13) “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14) I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15) My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16) your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Now, what about the severely mentally retarded or the severely disabled? Those who remain in a vegetative state in youth? Those who can not perhaps be reached for whatever reason: like for example autism? Again, there is nothing in the Bible that indicates that God’s dispensation of grace for those who are so encumbered that they are not able to receive Jesus will be held against them. Jesus went right up to the “mentally violent” and caste out their demons, so He must realize that salvation is not possible without a mental capacity to understand it. So those of special needs we may have no chance in this present life, will surely have a chance in the “new heavens and new earth” that Peter mentions. Nothing can prevent God‘s dispensation of grace (death, handicaps, etc). The only thing preventing it in those who are old enough to understand the Gospel is the person’s refusal to accept it.
As soon as God entered into a relationship with Abraham, he brought Isaac into it—when Isaac was still an infant and didn’t have an understanding of what was going on. God in fact knew before Isaac was even born. In fact, before he was even a fetus. We also see David’s situation in the Old Testament when his infant child dies. Yet David is fully confident that he will see his child again in heaven. The story of David and his dying child gives tremendous consolation to parents who have lost infants to death, or to abortions, or lost young children. We are not the ones to determine who God will have mercy on.
The point is that infants who die are believed to be given a special dispensation of the grace of God; it is not by their innocence but by God’s grace that they are received into heaven. There are great controversies that hover over the doctrine of original sin. Lutherans disagree with Roman Catholics, who disagree in turn with Presbyterians, etc., on the scope and extent of what we call original sin. Understand that the Original Sin does not refer to the first sin that was committed, but rather to the result of that fall, the entrance of sin into the world, so that all of us as human beings are born in a fallen state.
We come into this world with a sin nature, and so the baby that dies, dies as a sinful child. And when that child is received into heaven, he or she is received by grace. You may rest assured because God would not exclude from us something that He has done for David. When David and Bathsheba lost their precious child, David realized that he could not expect to see him again in this life, but he clearly said the day will come when “I shall go to him...” (II Sam 12:23).
Interestingly, in the very next verse, “...David comforted Bathsheba his wife...”(V. 24), with this same assurance that they would both see the child again. This belief was common then, as it is today. And what a joyous reunion that will be! However that reunion will not happen if you have not accepted Jesus Christ as Savior. So I pray, please pass this on to anyone who has ever dealt with such a heartbreaking issue as losing a baby, infant, fetus, or young child. I hope this provides healing for whomever has ever carried around this heavy yoke of guilt and shame of having an abortion and comforts those who have lost those so precious and young. Put all of this on His broad shoulders. Take His yoke and lay all your burdens upon Him. Your sin is forgiven. The child will yet live again.
An excerpt from Chapter One of the book, Do Babies Go To Heaven?