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Monday, September 21, 2009

Do Babies go to Heaven? Or, Safe in the Arms of God.

Skip this post if you are feeling as though your Monday is heavy enough already...

I have been struggling in spirit for a few weeks after discussing spiritual issues with my dear friend. She is a godly mentor and mighty woman of God. I enjoy every moment we get to have together. I love to learn from her. But I told her that there is one issue that I differ with her on.

What happens to babies who die? Do they go to heaven?

As a 5-point Calvinist, I hold fast to the doctrine of election. Scripture is clear that we are chosen in Christ before the foundations of the world. That has always given me peace. But after our discussions, I began to think of what would happen to an infant who dies who is not elect.

Would God send a baby to hell?

God could. God is perfect and holy and just. Every person is conceived in sin, born into sin, and bears the scar of original sin. We have offended our holy God and He is righteous to judge us.

But a baby? My baby?

I had to search the Scriptures immediately to gain insight on what truth is regarding this matter. The issue is personal to me. I know that there were lives inside me that were, at a point, ended. Did those tiny, innocent beings go to hell or heaven? While I know that they bore the stain of sin, they were never able to choose to sin or deny their Christ. However, I didn't want to have my doctrine shaped by my feelings or emotions of anxiety and sadness. I didn't want to believe my babies were in heaven simply because that is what I wanted to believe. I desired truth.

I began reading Safe in the Arms of God, by John MacArthur. It is the only book I have in my library that discusses such matters. I felt as though my soul were in despair as I began to pore through the chapters. Here is a synopsis of what I found:

"There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.." (Rom 3:10)

We are all sinful. Our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. We are sinners from birth- it is our nature.

However, salvation is a free gift. It is a loving act of mercy by a patient God who loves His creation. I can do nothing to earn my salvation. An infant, by comparison, can surely do nothing to earn his salvation. How great is the picture of grace and mercy when viewed this way!

Charles Spurgeon, in response to the accusation that Calvinism essentially damns infants to hell, said this:

"...We say with regard to infants, Scripture saith but very little, and therefore where Scripture is confessedly scant, it is for no man to determine dogmatically...We [Calvinists] hold that all infants who die are elect of God and are therefore saved...I believe that the Lord Jesus, who said 'of such is the kingdom of heaven' doth daily and constantly receive into His loving arms those tender ones who are only show and then snatched away to heaven."

But how does God accept sinful beings into His presence? The few Scripture passages discussed on this issue basically say that God looks at tiny children as innocents. Again, this is not to say that babies are not sinful. They are. They are sinners from birth. But there is a difference between an older person who chooses to sin or chooses to reject Christ, and a mind that is not capable of making that decision. As beings who cannot walk or talk, babies are truly incapable of choosing wrong. They are naturally bent toward it, but they do not choose it. Does that make sense? Here is what God says about babies:

"...Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they will possess it [the Promised Land to the Israelites]." Deut 1:39

Without being able to choose sin or reject Christ, Scripture seems to say that God regards tiny children as "innocents".

In contrast, our works, our evil, is the basis for unrepentant sinners to spend eternity in hell. We are saved by grace but cursed by works. When Scripture talks about sinners in hell, it refers to the deeds that sent said sinners there.

"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." -1 Cor 6:9-10

"Of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." - Eph 5:5

"And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." Rev. 20:12-15

You see the point. We, at some point, choose to sin because that is what we do. Babies cannot choose to sin. This supports the thought that babies are innocent. A holy God can bring babies to heaven because He is merciful, just, and loving. "Innocents", says MacArthur, "are graciously and sovereignly saved by God as part of the atoning work of Christ Jesus." (81)

If the Lord decides to use me to comfort a grieving mother at some point in the future, I will not have to offer empty platitudes, wishful thinkings, or half-truths. I can see the solid Scriptural case that babies who die are welcomed into eternity with the Father.


Brandy said...

Some of the verses that have comforted me (and I do believe that my babies are playing with your babies at the feet of Our Lord) are:

When Isaiah is prophesying of the New Covenant under Christ in Isaiah 65:22-24:

They shall not build and another inhabit;
They shall not plant and another eat;
For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people,
And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain,
Nor bring forth children for trouble;
For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD,
And their offspring with them.

“ It shall come to pass
That before they call, I will answer;
And while they are still speaking, I will hear."

And also:

In I Corinthians 7:14, when the standing of the children of at least one believing parent are discussed:

"For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy." That word unclean when speaking of the children of the world is the same word used to describe demons. It is a very strong word, contrasting with a more literal translation of "holy," which would be to say that Scripture says that our children are saints.

I always think of it in terms of maturity. They were lacking in the maturity required to develop fruit, but the seed was in them because they were in you and you were in Him.

Jennifer said...

Thank you so much, Brandy. Covenantal theology is still something I am trying to wrap my head around. Your last sentence is something I will be thinking about for awhile. I appreciate your thoughtful and godly insight, my friend!

Brandy said...

I will continue praying for your heart to heal. I know too well that a new pregnancy isn't always a sufficient comfort for the loss of the old one.

One thing is for certain: we cling to a God who is infinitely wise, infinitely good. He is not just loving, but we are told (I Jn. 4:8) that He is love.

Love is a Person.

To some extent, we can let our questions rest in that fact.

Mrs. Katie Picciottoli said...

I remember reading this book - very heavy topic, but powerful! It's a great resource to have around for speaking with friends who ask the question "where do babies go when they die". I don't think I have completely absorbed and processed it though, so I think I'll have to read it again and maybe ask my pastors about it. Thanks for your blog and for your honest, transparent post. :)

Kels said...

I'm not quite sure how I stumbled upon your blog, but I'm oh-so-happy that I did. I deeply admire your courage to explore this topic, not knowing if this exploration would lead to comfort or an unimaginable heartache. We have lost a little one and I wholeheartedly believe that she is in heaven with her Father. Thanks for sharing your journey.


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