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This is a very important question.  Some of us have faced the terrible ordeal of having a young one in our family pass away.  Most of us at least know of a family where a baby or infant passed away.  It is so heart breaking to lose such a young one to death.  I hope that the answer to this question will bring a degree of comfort to any who have lost a very young child to death.

Let’s see what the scriptures have to say about this.  While the scriptures do not address this question directly, but we do have principles and incidences that are given that will lead us to the proper answer.

What constitutes guilt and responsibility before God?  James 4:17 says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”  This tells us that there must be an understanding of right and wrong, and the rejection of that which is right.  Babies and infants can’t really understand that they have sinned, neither are they able to understand and reject God’s salvation.  Children may give evidence very early (maybe even before their second birthday) that they realize that they are sinning (like trying to hide while doing something they have been told not to do).  The age at which they are able to understand and reject God’s salvation might be somewhat later.

Concerning his ministry towards sinful men, the Lord Jesus tells us in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  However, notice the difference in his ministry towards children in Matthew 18:10-11, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.”  Notice that the word ‘seek’ is missing in regards to his ministry towards children.  The Lord seeks out the lost, sinful men in order to save them, but those young ones do not need to be sought out.  This gives us the realization that young ones are saved by the virtue of Christ dying for all, without their ability to believe on Him as their savior.

The Lord Jesus says in John 12:48, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”  We see here that it is the rejection of the Lord Jesus that brings us into judgment.

Some have pointed out that we are all born in sin, and all have a sinful nature.  That is true, but we are not judged because we have a sinful nature.  We had no control over that, as David points out in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”  We are, indeed, born in sin, without the first single act of sin in our lives.  It is the act of rejection of Christ as our savior that will cause the Lord to judge men “according to their works”, as we read in Revelation 20:12.  Young children are innocent and do not have the ability to believe or reject the Lord Jesus and so would be considered as one that did not know “to do good”, as we read in James 4:17Deuteronomy 1:39 makes this clear.  It says, “Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.”

We also have a wonderful example given to us in the death of David’s young son in 2 Samuel 12:15-23, “And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick. David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth.  And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead?  But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”

David understood that his son would not regain his life and come back to him, but he also realized that, upon his own death, that he would go to be where his son was; with the Lord.

So, looking at all the scriptural evidence, we can rest assured that the baby, infant, or young child that dies will go to be with the Lord in Heaven.  However, given that we don’t know at what age a given child may be “able to understand and reject God’s salvation,” and it no doubt differs from one child to another, as parents we need to present Christ and the concepts of sin and the cross and salvation to our children from very early on.  (18.1)