What happens to babies when they die?

Abdu,
Thank you for your graciousness in considering and responding to the varied questions of many different people searching for truth. When you give a lecture, I come away with much clarity on subjects that were murky to me previous to your biblical explanations.

I have been hoping you would be available again on RZIM connect, so I could share this question that is so emotionally poignant.

One of my girlfriend’s husband is a pastor of a different denomination than myself and a few yrs. ago I was in one of his services, when he made statements I strongly disagreed with. His use of the scriptures appeared theologically correct, but in my heart, I could not reconcile them as such. The question he wove into his sermon about how we create a god to satisfy our imagination was this…

What happens to babies when they die?

As I sat there in the pew, I’m thinking of every potentially shattered woman in the congregation that would have experienced a miscarriage, abortion or the death of a child outside of the womb.

The pastor asserts that b/c we define God a certain way and in a certain light, of His goodness, and love, that we tend to make things up and we put statements out there about this subject that are not true. He gave an example of this statement… “You know there is an age of accountability and until they have the moral conscience to choose between right and wrong, they are innocent. Problem,” he shouts.

"Based on Romans 3:10, “there are none righteous, no not one”, and David’s statement in Psalm 51:5 “Behold I was shaped in iniquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me.” He stated, “if babies are innocent when they are born and if they die innocent, which is another theological problem, that means there is another way to heaven outside of Jesus Christ.” The pastor ended up saying, “he did not know what happens to babies, but his trust was in God to do what was best and what is right.”

I work for a faith-based women’s pregnancy center, and have counseled hundreds of women. I have not once eluded to the fragmented pieces of these women’s hearts, that their children were anywhere but in God’s arms.
I believe God receives these babies back to Himself and have always believed they would be in heaven. But what do I biblically stand on for this assertion?

I am not asking for you to validate my belief, however, I am asking for you to speak biblically to this weighty subject with clarity, honesty and the integrity I have come to value in your responses.

Incredibly Grateful,

Ro Spaulding

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Hi Ro,

I definitely appreciate the force of your question just as I appreciate the integrity with which the pastor was trying to address it. It’s human nature to try to fit God into our preferences even if doing so conflicts with the Bible. There are things we want to be true about God, things we wish were true about God, and things that are true about God. And sometimes, all three line up! Sometimes they don’t. I think that was his general point and he was using the deaths of babies as an example.

Now, when I address this question and questions like it, I like to proceed from a general principle of biblical interpretation - where the Bible doesn’t speak, I will not shout. What I mean by this is that I don’t want to draw a theological line in the sand on an issue the Bible either isn’t clear about or doesn’t specifically speak on. What we should all be concerned about is what I call "It-seems-to-me theology. In other words, we determine what God should be like based on what “It seems to me” God should be or act like. I think the destinies of babies who pass away is an area about which the Bible doesn’t speak very much. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t speak on it at all, though.

We can make some inferences (but not dogmatic assertions) about the destiny of infants who pass early from several Bible passages. Yes, it’s true that we are “born in sin” as the pastor points out from Romans 3 and Psalm 51. It is also true that God will do exactly what is just, and perfect, and right. Now, one can speculate that while we are born with a nature prone to sin, babies are as yet “innocent” until they actually think or act sinfully. Again, however, that’s mere speculation. I don’t think that it flies in the face of the Bible but it isn’t explicitly stated in the Bible either.

There is another passage of Scripture that gives us a clue as to what happens to infants who pass away so young. Recall that David’s son who was conceived of his adultery with Bathsheba fell gravely ill. David fasted while the child fought against the illness. Eventually the baby died. David then washes, anoints himself, and begins to eat again. His servants are surprised by this and ask him why he is behaving in such an un-mournful way. David says that he fasted while the child was still alive but now eats because fasting won’t bring him back. He makes this interesting statement: “But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Sam. 12:23). This suggests that David knew where his dead baby son was going, and it was heaven.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we can know for sure that he did in fact go to heaven or that other babies will go to heaven. What it means is that the answer is ambiguous. I would choose to follow the Spirit as he guides and sustains as you wrestle with this issue. But we hope in the one who is just and perfect nonetheless.

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