A couple of weeks ago we looked at the question “How can a God of love send people to hell?” but we didn’t cover the aspect of what happens to the unborn, babies or small children if they die before ever having the ability to make a choice to follow Jesus or not. It’s a fair question because the bible says that it is only through Jesus that we are saved (Acts 4:12) It also says that we are born in sin (Psalm 51:5) so the assumption is that babies, small children are unsaved and heading for hell.
But that doesn’t sit right does it?
That answer is a bit black and white though, isn’t it? As in many areas of life there are no definitive answers in the bible and so we need to look at some general principles from the bible and form an opinion based on these.
I would always focus the attention firstly on the character of God. The bible reveals a lot about that.
First of all God is good
Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8)
He is also trustworthy “All your commands are trustworthy” (Psalm 119:86)
He is also a righteous judge “He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice.” (Psalm 9:8)
There are so many attributes I could fill a book (a very big book!)
Basically because he is righteous and just and good and also knows all things, we can therefore trust him implicitly.
Let me ask you a question. Do you think a God like that would send little children or even the unborn to hell?
Let me change angle.
The bible states that we are all sinners by nature and choice;
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
“There is no-one righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10)
It even shows that we were sinful at or before birth;
“Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.” (Psalm 58:3)
“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5)
This means that yes, young children and even the unborn are sinful. Being so young, they are unable to repent or believe, but how different is that to adults? We have all turned away from God. There is no-one who seeks after God
“there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” (Romans 3:11)
Anyone who is a Christian is only a Christian because God has fore-ordained it because Salvation is from God alone and it is based solely on his grace.
“who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” (2 Timothy 1:9)
“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— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (Ephesians 1:4-6)
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
God choosing us is called the doctrine of ‘Election’. Speaking about Jacob and Esau it says in Romans;
“Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Romans 9:11-13)
So the fact that anybodyis saved (Children or adult) is a miracle of God.
If God chooses and saves adults by his grace not because of anything they have done, will he not also save children by his grace as they have not even had a chance to do anything, good or bad?
There is evidence in the bible of God’s hand of grace on unborn children. Speaking of John the Baptist in Luke’s gospel it says..
“for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.” (Luke 1:15)
And King David says in the Psalms..
“From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” (Psalm 22:10)
After the death of David’s child, David makes an interesting statement, which would certainly suggest that his newborn son has gone to heaven..
“But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:23)
There are other clues in the bible if you look for them that suggest that young children or the unborn who die prematurely are at rest, which would certainly not be the description of hell. After Job has had all his family and possessions wiped out he mourns and curses the day of his birth. In Job 3:11–13 he says;
“Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb? Why were there knees to receive me and breasts that I might be nursed? For now I would be lying down in peace; I would be asleep and at rest”
And in Ecclesiastes it makes a statement about a stillborn child;
“A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he.” (Ecclesiastes 6:3)
Better off? In hell?
Another interesting point to note is that throughout the bible, whenever judgement is mentioned it is always in the context of works, for instance;
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 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 doneas recorded in the books.” (Revelation 20:11-12)
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (John 3:36)
Even though young children are born with a sin nature and are therefore sinful, they have no chance to follow or reject God, so how can they be judged?
“And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad—they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it.” (Deuteronomy 1:39)
If your view of God is of a cruel, nit picky and capricious God who stands at the gates of heaven with a clipboard and if you don’t tick all the boxes you don’t get in, then you will believe that God judges harshly with young children and the unborn and resigns them to hell because “those are the rules.”
But if your view of God is based on how God has revealed himself in the bible; a gracious, kind, patient, giving, forgiving, merciful, compassionate heavenly father, who lavishes his grace on us not because of anything we have done but because of his great mercy, then I suspect your view might be quite different.
Let’s leave the last words with Jesus which I believe is the clincher;
“Jesus said “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)