This question comes to mind for lots of people, but most painfully for those parents who have just lost a child. Pastors get asked this question fairly often: “Will my daughter be in Heaven? How do I know?” As a pastor, even while my first instinct is to provide comforting words for grieving people, my commitment is to accurately teach the truths of the Bible. Because comforting words that are not true are not a great comfort in the end.
I have for a long time held the position that God graciously saves every baby, every young child who dies, and that, yes, they will in Heaven for eternity. I have usually based this understanding on two biblical passages, one which implies this truth, the other which seems to confirm it.
- Deuteronomy 1:39, Moses recounts that because the people of Israel refused to trust in God to enter the Promised Land, God therefore decreed that the whole generation would die off in the wilderness—but not the children: “And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.”
- 2 Samuel 12:23, David says about his infant son, “…Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
The first passage seems to imply that God does not hold young children or infants accountable for sin. In this case even young people under 20 years old! (Num 14:26-35, especially verse 29) The second passage shows that David fasted when he thought perhaps God would reunite him with his son. Then when the baby died, his hope of reunion remains, but not until he himself dies. This passage seems to confirm the principle implied in Numbers and Deuteronomy.
Having said that, I have often thought it would be better to have a stronger, more sure encouragement for believer troubled by infant death. I was so pleased to read a recent article by Dr. Al Mohler and Daniel L. Akin, entitled “The Salvation of ‘Little Ones’: Do Infants who Die Go to Heaven?” I’m thankful for able theologians like Mohler and Akin. In this article they confirm the teaching of the principle expressed in God’s grace to the children of Israel, but they go much further and provide a solid, biblical framework for the confident hope that children who die are chosen by God to inherit eternal life. Click the link above to read their article. And I hope that next time someone asks me,“Do children who die go to Heaven?”, I will now be able to give a more solid, more comforting, more biblical answer.