These are always difficult and disturbing questions – especially when facing the death of an infant or young child. As a pastor, there is nothing harder than to look into the hurting faces of parents when facing these heart-breaking situations. When someone you love and care for has just lost a young child inevitably one key question will arise, “is my child in heaven?” Our immediate instinct is to give a heartfelt answer of yes to comfort the grieving parents hearts. But the hard truth is beloved, Scripture does not give us dogmatically the answer to that important question and we must not try to fill in the blanks with our own sentimental response. Where Scripture is silent on these things we must point people to find their comfort and resolve in the God of the Bible and not in the uncertainty of the destination of their child.
Age does not determine ones salvation… God alone does. The Apostle Paul gives us the assuring and stirring example in Romans 9 when he says,
“though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” -Romans 9:11-16.
God had chosen in eternity past to love Jacob and to place His displeasure on Esau. This was His Sovereign plan upon their lives.
Here are some principles in God’s Word that I hope will encourage and strengthen your faith and hearts on this important issue.
No One is Innocent; All Are Conceived in Sin
All of man’s estate from birth hopelessly marred in the fathomless effects of sin. By nature we are all children of wrath, sons of disobedience, slaves to sin; with the only merits of our righteousness compared to the riches of dirty, filthy rags. From the moment of our conception in the womb– we are completely sinful. The wages of sin is death; all who sin die.
That is why even infants die; they are sinful by nature, conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5) and guilty of God’s judgment (Roms. 5:12-19). Sinners… not because of acts of sin committed, but we are all sinners by nature (Eph 2:1-3).
This applies to all people – the born and unborn; the young and aged; infants and adults; those who cannot mentally grasp basic ideas and the most profound of thinkers; and finally all who have heard the gospel and those who have never heard.
Here are some difficult, but necessary questions we need to ask then: Are infants who die; the mentally handicapped; or those who are ignorant of and have never heard the gospel given a special exemption from the effects of sin, eternal judgment and punishment, and the righteous justice of a holy God? Are they somehow insulated from eternal wrath because of their age, mental capacity, and ignorance? Is salvation to be granted to them due to their “state of being” and not solely due to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?
The Three Stages of Grace
We’ve died once to the penalty of sin:
Titus 2:11 ¶ For the grace of God has appeared, with salvation for all people,
Saved by grace.
Those that assert that all babies who die receive instant heaven, do so out of good motives to sooth the aching hearts of grieving parents (which we all understand). But our hope beloved in the tragic death of an infant is not in the destiny of the child, but in the character of God. A baby’s perceived innocence or guiltlessness affording them “instant heaven” is only an accommodation by the sentimental whims of man. “In sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5) David said. We are all sinners (including children) not because we commit acts of sin; but because we are sinful by nature (Rom 3:10-18; Eph 2:1-4). There is not beloved a God-sized hole in our hearts that needs filling by divine intervention. Our entire being is corrupt–and it is the same for our children.
Someone’s age is not that which insulate one against God’s holy divine judgment anymore than someone’s mental cognation or ignorance from not hearing the good news of the gospel. Somethings are still a mystery to us and we must leave them in the just hands of a righteous God. It would be wrong for any of us to be inflexibly dogmatic on the guaranteed eternal salvation of all infants, all who are mentally handicapped, and all those who die in the ignorance of never hearing the gospel. Those that are given to such unbiblical dogmatic emotions, IMHO, out of probable good motives are really promising false hope.
And the promise of eternal life is not up to us, but only up to God Himself.
We need to be born again. Paul leaves no doubt in the bankrupt abilities of man and the greatness of the grace of our God in salvation: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). “The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation…” (Titus 2:11) and without grace, there is no hope of eternal life.
Grace is “hard” to live by; for grace robs man of his glory, of all boasting in his own abilities to be made acceptable to God, and dashes his religious pride to the ground. Grace strips us self-confidence, perfectionism, and our own goodness. Grace crushes our arrogance and exalts Christ; lifts holiness and dashes human morality
We die daily to the power of sin:
Titus 2:12 instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age,
Sanctified by grace.
No man through human effort can perfect himself. “Having begun in the Spirit are you trying to perfect yourself in the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3). It is a temptation for any of us once we have tasted of the fount of God’s grace in salvation, to then revert back to a life of works in our sanctification. Paul says here in Titus that grace is our teaching; “instructing us to deny…” We are new creations in Christ, but yet we are incarcerated in unredeemed flesh (Romans 7). The things we want to do, we don’t do; and the things we don’t want to do, we do. “O wretched man am I” Paul says in the midst of this struggle.
Sanctification does and must flow from genuine regeneration; but we must remember beloved, it is all of grace.
One day we will be free from the presence of sin:
Titus 2:13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Titus 2:14 He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a special people, eager to do good works.
Glorified by grace.
Grace will see us through til the end. “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1: 24-25)