Q & A Series: What Happens to Babies When They Die?

Question:
What happens to babies when they die? Do they go to heaven or hell?

Answer:
This is a question that has perplexed many people. I think everyone would like to believe babies go straight to heaven, but is that what the Bible teaches?

There are a few possible answers to this question. Some Christians would say that it depends on whether they were elect or not. From this position, the elect babies go to heaven, the non-elect would go to hell. Those who hold this view often hold to some form of Reformed theology. Some have even suggested that it depends on whether or not the baby’s parents were believers. Another possibility is that they all go right to heaven. A fourth position, is that they go where they would have gone had they lived a long enough life to make a decision. So which is the correct answer?

Although there is not one particular verse that specifically addresses this question, I believe that all babies who die, either in infancy or while still in the womb, go straight to heaven. There are a few passages that seem to indicate this. I’m not sure that any of these provide a watertight argument, but taken together, I believe they build a stronger case than what can be built for any of the alternative views.

First, when David’s infant son died, David said that he could go to his son, but his son could not come to him (2 Samuel 12:23). Although David may have simply been indicating that he would someday die, it seems likely that he believed his young son was with the Lord. After all, David certainly believed he would eventually be in heaven with God (see Psalm 23:6). It should be pointed out that even if David did believe infants go to heaven, it doesn’t prove this view is correct since he could have been mistaken.

Second, Jesus made an interesting statement about young children. He said that a person better not despise a little one because “in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father” (Matt. 18:10). There really isn’t a consensus among scholars what He meant by that, but it seems that these little ones were under God’s loving care.

Third, Isaiah 7:16 may hint at what many people have called an “age of accountability.” That is, a person is not held responsible for their sin until they reach an age at which they can understand the consequences of their actions. The verse states, “For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted” (ESV).

Perhaps the best argument for this position has to do with the final judgment. In Revelation 20:11–15, all the wicked people throughout history who are destined for the lake of fire are judged. The Bible tells us that all of these people are judged “according to their works” (none of them are going to heaven, but this seems to indicate there may be degrees of punishment). An infant, especially the unborn, does not have any works by which he or she could be judged. This leads me to believe that there won’t be any babies at this judgment, so they must be elsewhere—heaven.

This brings up another issue. Are they not condemned for Adam’s sin like the rest of us? Based on the passage in Revelation mentioned above, I do not believe that a person is sentenced to an eternity in the lake of fire based on Adam’s sin, but for the sins they commit. We die and are born with the propensity to sin because of what Adam did, but I don’t believe we are judged eternally for it.

The other views would seem to make God unjust. Of course, I cannot fully comprehend the mind of the infinite God (only some of what He has revealed in His Word and world), but I cannot understand how a perfectly just God could condemn someone for something that they did not or could not ever do. The idea that babies go to heaven also seems to fit the character of God, who is love (1 John 4:8, 16).

Whatever the answer is to this question, we can be sure that the Judge of all the earth will do right (Genesis 18:25).

About Tim Chaffey

I am the founder of Midwest Apologetics and work as the Content Manager with the Attractions Division of Answers in Genesis. I have written (or co-authored) several books, including In Defense of Easter, God and Cancer, The Sons of God and the Nephilim, and The Truth Chronicles Series (see the publications page for more details). Please note: the opinions expressed on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of Answers in Genesis.

Comments

Q & A Series: What Happens to Babies When They Die? — 2 Comments

  1. Abortions worldwide since 1980, 1.2 billion. At this rate if baby universalism is correct, heaven will be full of babies or those same souls as they would be had they not been aborted. It’s all very strange as what happens with the new heaven and earth and our glorified bodies? Do these babies exist as babies or people in bodies given them had they lived?
    I also struggle to see abortion as wrong if we can take a child, who had he grown to adulthood was destined to hell, but now, because of abortion, he has eternal life. Who would not want to ensure their child’s place in eternity? The killer is condemned, but the aborted, under this scenario, is saved. It makes no sense to me.
    Maybe it’s a combination of God being merciful to whom he wills, plus election. Perhaps there is no hard and fast rule.
    I suspect we’ll only know what happens to them, when we see Jesus face to face.

    • Hi David,
      Thanks for your comments. As I mentioned in the post, I don’t think one can make a watertight argument for any of the positions, but I have no doubt that God will do what is right.
      As for what our glorified bodies will be like, my guess is that we will be mature. For example, I don’t think that someone who dies at an advanced age and whose body was hunched over and wracked with problems will look like they did just before their death. Nor do I think a quadriplegic will remain as a quadriplegic. For the same reasons, I believe that an infant who dies will be in heaven as a mature person. I can’t prove those things beyond a shadow of a doubt, but that’s what seems to make sense. When Revelation speaks of people in heaven, they are able to sing praises and move about.
      Would it be wrong to kill someone that you are confident is a Christian and will be going to heaven? Of course it would be; it’s murder. So why wouldn’t it be wrong to abort an infant that you are confident will be in heaven? I understand the dilemma you are proposing, but no matter what the circumstance, it isn’t our role to shed innocent blood.
      What makes no sense to me would be for God to condemn someone who has never sinned by their own volition. I don’t think Scripture teaches that we are condemned to hell because of Adam’s sin, but his sin certainly brought physical death on humanity. Those who are sentenced to the lake of fire are judged according to their own works—not Adam’s.
      But I do agree with you that we’ll find out when we see Jesus face to face. What a glorious day that will be for those of us who are saved.
      Thanks for reading!

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