What We Can Learn From the Bible Concerning

1.  The question before us is this:   If an infant should die in infancy, will this person be in heaven?

Note:  A similar question relates to those who are severely mentally handicapped even though they might be older. They do not have the mental capacities to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and trust in Him. What we learn about infants can also be applied to situations where people are severely mentally handicapped.

2.  In discussing infant salvation, we need to make it very clear that we are not saying that (living) babies are saved.  A little baby, as cute and as innocent as it looks, is not saved, is not regenerated, is not justified and is not a child of God.  Babies are born in sin and are dead in sin (Psalm 51:5; Eph. 2:1). As they get older their depraved sinful nature will manifest itself in many ugly ways.   The question we are seeking to answer involves what happens to an infant who dies.   

3.  The issue we are discussing is not whether babies are taken to be with Christ at the rapture.  That is an entirely different issue which we have discussed in the following document:  Some Questions on the Rapture  Some are convinced that babies go to heaven when they die, and based on this they assume that all babies are taken in the rapture.  This is a wrong assumption, as the above article demonstrates.

4.  There are certain false teachings regarding the spiritual state of infants.  We totally reject the idea that infant baptism confers grace upon the infant.  It does absolutely nothing for the child.  Moreover, infant baptism is totally unscriptural. In the New Testament only believers were  baptized because a baby is not capable of exercising saving faith.  See the study entitled Does Water Baptism Save?   Also, contrary to what some Reformed theologians teach, babies are not regenerated or born again (see Reformed View of  Regeneration Answered).  Some go so far as to say that a baby can be regenerated as an infant and yet not come to faith in Christ until years later.  This is a Biblical absurdity.  Faith and regeneration take place at the same point in time.  It is also wrong to make a connection between male circumcision of the Old Testament and infant baptism. Male circumcision was a sign of the Abrahamic covenant.  Christian baptism (for those old enough to understand salvation) is an ordinance of the church of Jesus Christ.  Those who are baptized in water need to be believers in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 8:36-38).  Infant baptism is a religious rite practiced by many churches today, although there is not one example in the Scriptures of a baby being baptized.  

5.   Do babies go to heaven when they die?  The ultimate answer to this question is found in the answer to another question:  "Will not the God of all the earth do right?" (compare Genesis 18:25).  Concerning the infant who dies---God will do the right thing.   The all-wise, loving God will do what is right, in light of God's holy and righteous character.  May we learn to rest on this wonderful fact!

6.  Although the Bible does not specifically declare that infants who die will go to heaven, there is a weight of Biblical evidence which points in this direction.  We can safely say that   infants who die will be safe in the arms of Jesus and will spend eternity with Him in heaven.

Some reasons for reaching such a conclusion are as follows:

1.  The Lord Jesus Christ died for all of Adam's race (for all mankind), including every infant that has ever been born.   Consider the following study:  For Whom Did Christ Die?   

2.  A person is condemned for rejecting Jesus Christ and for refusing to believe in Him:  "He that believeth on Him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18).   An infant is not capable of rejecting Jesus Christ.   An infant is incapable of committing the sin mentioned in John 16:9.

3.  Those who go to hell in 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 are those who have deliberately disobeyed the gospel by refusing to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Infants have not willfully disobeyed the gospel.   Note:  The heathen, who are not under the hearing of the gospel, are condemned for rejecting the lesser revelation that God has given to them (Rom. 1:20-21, etc.). For a detailed study of this see Romans chapter 1.  But an infant would also be incapable of rejecting this lesser revelation.

4.  Revelation 20:11-15 indicates that all of the unsaved are resurrected to appear before the Great White Throne, and twice it is stressed that each will be judged according to their works. It is doubtful that young infants are included in this evaluation.  What evil works has a 6 month old baby committed?

5.  Consider the compassionate heart of God for those who are lost:  "Who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4--this is God's desire).   "Not willing that any should perish" (2 Pet. 3:9).  "Even so it is not the will of your Father, who is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish" (Matt. 18:14).  "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezekiel 33:11).  While these verses do not refer specifically to infants, they do teach us that the loving and merciful heart of our God desires the salvation of all men.

6.  We know that the Lord Jesus had a tender and compassionate heart for the little children and was much displeased when His disciples were hindering them from coming to Him (Mark 10:13-14).  We are sure that our Saviour has this same kind of compassion, not only for children, but for young infants also.

7.  King David had a child by Bathsheba which died in infancy. David's words are significant:  "While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?  But now he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again?  I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me" (2 Samuel 12:22-23).   The clear sense of this passage is that David believed that he would be reunited with his child in the next life.   He knew the baby, having died, could not come back to this life, but he believed that he would go to him. While we can't be dogmatic that such a passage teaches infant salvation, yet it does seem to point in that direction.

The following is an epitaph inscribed on a stone which covers the grave of four infants:

Bold Infidelity!  turn pale and die;
Beneath this stone, four infants' ashes lie;
Say, are they lost or saved?
If death's by sin, they sinned; because they're here;
Reason, ah! how depraved!
Revere the sacred page, the knot's untied;
They died, for Adam sinned---they live, for Jesus died!

The Age of Accountability

There is one key question that every single individual must answer: "What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?" (Matt. 27:22). Will I believe on Him and receive Him as my Saviour or will I reject Him and refuse to believe? God divides all humanity into two distinct groups: 1) believers, and 2) those who believe not. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36). A personís decision will determine his eternal destiny. What we decide to do with Jesus will make the difference between heaven and hell.

We all recognize that a young infant is incapable of believing. A baby is not able to understand the gospel, nor does he have any idea of who Jesus Christ is or what Jesus Christ has done. Not only are infants incapable of believing the gospel, but they are also incapable of rejecting Jesus Christ. And remember, people are condemned for their rejection of Jesus Christ: "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18).

The age of accountability is an expression that is nowhere found in the Bible. But the idea of a personís accountability before God is certainly Biblical. God does not hold a person responsible for something that he cannot do. Those who are incapable of belief are not condemned for what they are unable to do. However, somewhere along the line, as a child grows and develops, he reaches the point where heís able to understand, make decisions and respond to whatever revelation that God has given to him.

Iím thankful that the gospel of Christ is so simple that even a young child can understand it. You donít have to have a college degree or be a seminary professor in order to understand the love of Christ, His death for sinners and the gospel of grace. Some of you, including my wife, can testify that you came to know Christ at a very early age.

So when is the age of accountability? When does a person become capable of believing? When does a person reach the age when he is able to understand Godís revelation and is accountable before God for what he does with the truth?

God alone knows the answer. It is wrong for us to set an arbitrary age for every person: "The age of accountability is reached for every person when they have their 5th birthday."  This is not correct. Every person is an individual and has unique mental capacities, and God alone knows when a person is old enough to either receive Christ or reject Him. There are some individuals who may be severely mentally handicapped or others who may live in a vegetative state who may never reach the age of accountability. All of that is Godís business not ours. You can be sure that God will do His part, and with every individual in the world we know that the "Judge of all the earth will do right" (Gen. 18:25). What is our job? As parents we need to teach our children about the Saviour from their earliest days, and give them Godís truth as soon as they are able to understand it, trusting God to do the work in their hearts, in His time and way, which only He can do.

What is the age of accountability? I donít know, but I teach a class on Sunday night of 4th, 5th and 6th graders, and I can tell you this: every boy and girl in that class has a sharp mind, is capable believing, has heard the gospel, and they need to make sure they really have received Christ as their Saviour. How tragic if any of them should die without Christ. Child evangelism is crucially important, because even young people who refuse to believe in Christ will perish and will not have eternal life (compare John 3:16) if death should strike them in the days of their youth. I have no problem saying that infants who die prematurely are safe in the arms of Jesus. But young children need to be taught the truth as early as possible, and they need to see the necessity of trusting in Christ and in Him alone for salvation.

For the importance of communicating Godís truth from one generation to the other, see Psalm 78:1-8.

George Zeller, 10/08


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