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).