Home > Theology > Infant Salvation: Final

Infant Salvation: Final

We have, at long last, reached the end of our year-long journey. When this series originally began in January, I sought to answer the question, “Do babies who die in infancy go to heaven?” Searching Scripture and some of the resources that have been written, I think we have arrived at some conclusions.

First, it is clear from Scripture that all infants are born sinners and thus under the just condemnation of God. This means that, as sinners, the only hope for the sinner is the finished work of Christ. Yet, to our knowledge, infants are unable to place their hope in Christ.

Second, it is clear that there is no such thing as an “age of accountability” before which all infants and children are automatically saved. What Scripture does make clear is that there is a period in our lives, beginning at birth and lasting until some indefinite point in our childhood, where we cannot consciously distinguish between right and wrong. Scripture says nothing about salvation for those who die during this period.

Third, it is also clear that infants are not regenerated. If infants were regenerated, why do they not retain characteristics of a saved individual as they become conscious persons? I did allow that we must be willing to say that it is entirely possible for God to regenerate an infant or small child unto salvation. An omnipotent God can most certainly save an infant or small child if He so chooses. Indeed, we must fervently hope and pray that such is the case. But since Scripture is glaringly silent, we must not make inferences into this issue, nor can we state as fact that God does what this doctrine teaches.

Fourth, it is clear that Christ does not issue a special call to children. Such a doctrine has twisted Scripture to make it say something it does not. Instead, Christ calls upon us not to prevent children from coming to him, and that we ourselves must come to him in a similar manner as a child would.

What, then, can we believe?

So, up to this point, we have no clear teaching from Scripture on the issue of infant salvation. Indeed, Scripture is silent! But, tucked away in a corner of the Old Testament, we are given this astounding passage:

22He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23But 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 Samuel 12:22-23)

It is my contention, especially given the concession I make in point 3 above, that this is the only Scriptural position a believer may take as to the question of whether or not babies go to heaven when they die.

You see, David has made a very clear statement about the child between him and Bathsheba that the Lord took from them in punishment for their sin. The child is in a place where David can, at some point in the future, be reunited with him. This is an astounding declaration! But where, exactly, does David expect to meet his son?

I believe the case can be made, from even a cursory examination of the Psalms, that David believed those who were righteous and whom strived for righteousness would live in the presence of God forever. The Psalms are awash with this belief stated in the first person, which indicates David believed he would spend eternity in the presence of Jehovah. Not only that, the Psalms make clear that David relied totally on God to make him a righteous person! By all accounts, David expected to spend eternity with his Lord. That was his great hope.

If this is true, then it can only be the case that David believed his dead infant son was with the Lord. Where else would David meet him? In hell? No, David seems to have bet the farm that those who are righteous will be with the Lord forever, and had an expectation of doing so himself; which means that his son could be nowhere other than in the presence of God.

How does this happen? Scripture is glaringly silent about the hows and the whys. David simply says that is how it will be. He will march into the presence of the Lord and be reunited with his son. There are no explanations as to how the child is counted righteous. But I do think there are hints at how God brings dead infants into his presence.

Let us look at 1 Timothy 1:13-16:

13though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

And in a related verse, Acts 17:30:

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

Paul makes it pretty clear that God willingly overlooked the sins he committed ignorantly in his unbelief because it was God’s intention to save Paul. This passage also suggests that God does this only for those whom he intends to save. What does this tell us? It tells us that if infants who die are saved, it is only because God has chosen to overlook the taint of original sin in them. Furthermore, it tells us that if this is true, God therefore intends to save infants who die.

But we have a problem, brought up earlier in this series: infants, as far as we can determine, are unable to repent and believe. Both the 1 Timothy and Acts 17 passages are contingent on repentance and faith in Christ. How can we resolve this problem? The only way we can do so is to rest the salvation of infants solely on the mercy of God.

And it is this mercy that David seems to presume in the case of his dead son. Though God took his son as punishment for David’s sin, David is confident that God was merciful by not allowing his son to suffer eternally. It was a fervent hope that David held confidently, as confidently as he held the greatness of God. Therefore, if we are to believe that infants who die are in heaven, it must be only because we hold a similar confidence in the mercy of God towards these children.

No, I have no idea how. Scripture does not explain it. There is no clear-cut theology expressed in Scripture on which we can hang our hat. But there we have it. “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”

What a God-glorifying position to take, to throw oneself totally on the mercy of God alone. No hermeneutical gymnastics, no logical tricks, just a simple faith and trust in the mercy of the Almighty. What should this belief do for us?

First, it should make us who remain here alive on earth utterly aware that we are sinners. Romans 3 makes it very clear that none of you are righteous and you are all under condemnation. Your only hope is that same mercy you trust God has lavished on a dead infant.

Second, it should cause us to realize that if we do not possess that mercy, we will never be reunited with our dead children. This is a shocking and sad fact. Many are those who believed they would see their dead children again, only to find they’d failed to obtain the mercy of God.

Third, it should point us to the source of that mercy, Jesus. God gives mercy for one reason only: to bring a sinner to repentance and faith in Christ. Christ came to earth to be born, lived a sinless life, and died on the cross to secure this mercy for all who believe. God fully intends to save anyone who experiences this mercy.

Fourth, it should make us aware that the right response to God’s mercy is to repent. You don’t deserve this mercy. Your sins are what put Christ on the cross. For this horrible offense, you should be cast into the deepest reaches of hell. But God decided otherwise. He decided that it would be the narrow gate to heaven for all who believe. And the only right response is to throw yourselves at his feet renouncing your sins.

Fifth, it should cause us to place our faith and trust in Christ alone. Since you have thrown yourself on the mercy of God, the right consequence is obedience to his command, and God has commanded you to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. It is the only action you could take if you have truly submitted totally to the mercy of God. Any other action would result in the despair of hell continuing to be your only destination.

Won’t you take a cue from David? Won’t you believe today that only the righteous will live in the presence of God forever? Won’t you repent of your sins and believe in Christ as the only righteousness that could bring you into God’s presence? God is calling all of you who read this to repent and place your trust totally in his son, Jesus. Believe in him today!

Categories: Theology
  1. December 18, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    How do you see this fitting into this argument (if at all)? It is taken from a response Piper gave to Packer.

    Edwards describes this situation with the terms moral necessity and moral inability on the one hand and natural necessity and natural inability on the other. Moral necessity is the necessity that exists between the strongest motive and the act of volition which it elicits (p. 24). Thus all choices are morally necessary since they are all determined by the strongest motive. They are necessary in that, given the existence of the motive, the existence of the choice is certain and unavoidable. Moral inability, accordingly, is the inability we all have to choose contrary to what we perceive to be the strongest motive (p. 28). We are morally unable to act contrary to what in any given moment we want most to do. If we lack the inclination to study we are morally unable to study.

    Natural necessity is “such necessity as men are under through the force of natural causes” (p. 24). Events are naturally necessary when they are constrained not by moral causes but physical ones. My sitting in this chair would be necessary with a “natural necessity” if I were chained here. Natural inability is my inability to do a thing even though I will it. If I am chained to this chair my strongest motive might be to stand up (say, if the room is on fire) but I would be unable.

    You can find the whole argument here (it is concerning the topic of man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty).

    j razz

  2. December 18, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    Hey j razz! Thanks for stopping by!

    At first glance, I don’t think Piper’s argument really fits with the whole infant salvation discussion, though I will have to read the whole thing before I can make any conclusive statements on my part.

    But suffice it to say that the excerpt you’ve quoted, I don’t think it can be applied in this situation because he defines natural inability as “the inability to do a thing even though I will it.” The problem is that, as I stated in the post, to our knowledge babies cannot make the choice to repent and have faith in Christ. In other words, as far as we know they cannot will it, to use Piper’s word.

    Of course, I say that not yet having read the entire piece you’re quoting, but I must say you have me intrigued with your selection. I need to go read it and mull over it in this context. Thanks for the brain food and for commenting!

  3. December 18, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    Stephen,

    I always enjoy reading over your writings. I think you handle the topics well and you think through them before just throwing something out there. I applaud that and am encouraged by your faithfulness to delve into the hard things of scripture.

    I will look foward to your thoughts on what I posted above and on the question I pose below.

    What do you do with Romans 1.18ff in regards to the topic at hand?

    j razz

  4. December 28, 2007 at 12:04 am

    I know I am a late-comer to this discussion, but I question the validity of building a doctrine off of one passage in the entire Bible. Whereas you say the “only Scriptural position a believer may take” is found in 2 Samuel 12:22-23, I would argue that the Bible is mostly silent on this issue.

    I think J Razz makes some good points and all I would add is that I believe the “only Scriptural position” we can take is that we should trust that the God of all the earth will do what is just (Gen. 18:25.

    I believe we can only say with any definitiveness that the Bible is uncomfortably silent on this issue and that we must trust God to do what is right. I am not trying to be controversial. I am merely throwing another log in the fire to get this puppy burning brightly. To God be the glory!

  5. December 28, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    Thanks boys! I promise to address your thoughts after the New Year, as I’m on hiatus from “serious” blogging til then. You’ve given me great food for thought!

  6. December 29, 2007 at 11:52 pm

    Hey brother,

    Something else I have come across in my reading: Psalm 58:3–“Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies” and Psalm 51:5–“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

    I am not coming out swinging, I, like you, am wanting to understand the Bible clearly. I have not read the rest of your discussion on this topic, but would love to hear/read your understanding of these two verses. God bless, brother and enjoy the new year.

  7. December 30, 2007 at 1:57 am

    Terry, I think I can answer that one right away. I made sure to write a post about original sin that addresses Psalm 51:5. Thanks for Ps. 58, I didn’t even see that one.

    That post, which you can access here, tackles the problem in relation to this question. Basically, the end result of the post is that I conclude that babies are conceived and born damned to hell for all eternity.

    That’s one of the big reasons why it seems to me that David is presuming something about God’s mercy that Scripture is totally silent about. But I’ll hush now before I write another post! 😉

  8. Thomas Bonnema
    December 21, 2009 at 1:32 am

    It is clear from Scripture that all infants are born sinners and thus under the just condemnation of God. As sinners their only hope is in the finished work of Christ. The salvation of infants rests solely on the mercy of God. There is no such thing as an “age of accountability” before which all infants and children are automatically saved. It is clear that Christ does not issue a special call to children. These are the points you bring out that I agree with.

    What I disagree with is that infants are not regenerated. Salvation is impossible without regeneration, even for infants. Regeneration is completely the work of God. That is why you can say that it is entirely possible for God to regenerate an infant or small child unto salvation.

    I also agree that an omnipotent God can most certainly save an infant or small child if He so chooses. Indeed, we must fervently hope and pray that such is the case. But what is not true is that Scripture is glaringly silent on this issue. I think scripture makes it abundantly clear that children and infants are not excluded from the kingdom of God. Psalm 22 9-10 & Matt 19:14 to name a few.

    What scripture does not say is the God saves all infants. It is at this point that I part company. 1Sam 12 does absolutely nothing to support this. For this passage never says David’s son is in heaven, only that David had an expectation that his son was there. It is quite evident that David expected to spend eternity with the Lord. Ps 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. It is also reasonable to think that is where David expected his son to be. In all probability that is where he is. But I have never been able to understand how David’s infant son being in heaven means all infants are in heaven. I think that is a colossal stretch.

    I also think that scripture makes it clear that infants are not beyond hid judgements. One such place is 1 Sam 15:2-3 This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'”

    The question I would pose here is why would you expect these infants to be saved when God commanded their deaths. It is clear from verse 2 that this was done in judgement. I think it is clear from this that infants are not beyond the judgement of God. Sodom and Gomorrah, Jericho and the great flood are other examples.

    David, on the other hand, had a reasonable expectation that his son was in heaven, but no guarantee. For David was in a covenant relationship with God. When did God ever make a covenant with anyone outside of Israel.

    The cause of everyone’s salvation, infants and adults alike, is stated in Eph 1:4-5; For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—

    The foundation and first cause, both of our calling and of all the benefits which we receive from God, is here declared to be his eternal election. If we are chosen in Christ, it is not of ourselves. It is not because we accepted Christ; it is not because of incapability to accept Christ; it is because Christ chose us. It is not from a perception of anything that we deserve or do not deserve, but because our heavenly Father has introduced us, through the privilege of adoption, into the body of Christ. In short, the name of Christ excludes all merit, and everything which men have of their own; for when he says that we are chosen in Christ, it follows that in ourselves we are unworthy.

    In the final analysis, I believe God graciously saves certain infants and justly sends other infants to hell. If one were to look for a reason, it is not because an infant does not have a natural capacity for faith, it is because it is in accordance with God’s pleasure and will. For it is written in Romans 9: 15 …”I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

  9. December 10, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Stephen, you never got back with me on this, but I ran across this article today from Al Mohler jr. You may want to take a look at it: http://www.albertmohler.com/2009/07/16/the-salvation-of-the-little-ones-do-infants-who-die-go-to-heaven/

  10. December 10, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    bloggeddownworld= j razz

  1. August 21, 2015 at 12:41 pm

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