Most people agree that it is a tragedy when a baby dies. It is a tragedy when anyone dies, but it is especially difficult when the life of a young one ends, regardless of the reason.
There is little comfort that can be given to one who is grieving such a loss, but would it not be helpful to know that the departed child is in the care of a loving and gracious God? Well, that is the majority view in Christianity. When a baby dies, the child goes to heaven to be with God.
However, what is the reason for this belief? After all, the Bible does tell us that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). This includes babies (Psalm 51:5). The Bible also tells us that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Scripture is clear that all people are sinners from birth and that they deserve death and separation from God. The only way to avoid death and separation is to place our trust in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, which is able to atone for our sins and give us eternal life with God.
A baby is not able to come to such a decision, so if it is true that a baby is “born into sin” as the Bible states, how could it ever be saved? The most common answer I have heard to this question comes from theologically derived reasoning. There is no specific passage of Scripture that gives us the answer, but instead we look at things we can learn from the text of the Bible and develop our reasons from there.
It is argued that babies go to heaven because God is just. He is good. And he is loving. Would a just God send a baby to eternal punishment? Would he do so if he was good and loving as well? The answer we arrive at is usually “no” to these questions. There is no justice in sending a baby to hell. It is not good. It is not loving.
There is nothing wrong with developing our understanding of God and his character through theological reasoning, but would it not be better if we had a specific verse to give us assurance? Well, in this case, I believe that there is a passage that we can look at that gives us some insight into this issue. I am surprised that this passage is not cited more frequently by those discussing the subject of child death.
In 2 Samuel 12:15-23, David’s young son is dying. We find David in a state of mourning. He is laying on the ground and not eating. He is pleading with God to save his son. Then the child dies. David’s men are afraid to tell him about the death of his son for fear that David may harm himself. If he was so distraught while the child was still alive, how is he going to respond when he learns that the child has died?
However, when David is made aware of his son’s death, something odd happens. David ceases to mourn and returns to his normal routine of life. The men ask him why he mourned while the child was alive, but stopped when the child died. David responds:
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?’ But 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. (1 Samuel 12:22-23, ESV, emphasis mine).
The words of David give us great insight into our topic. David states in verse 23 that he expects to one day “go to him”. That is, he expects to one day be reunited with his child. David was no doubt a man of God. Scripture presents him in no other way. So if David expects to be reunited with his deceased child, while also expecting to be with God, we can have the same expectation.
I believe that those who die before reaching an age of understanding go to be with God. I believe this for theological reasons. I believe this because Scripture hints at this fact. Losing a child is a tragedy. I hope that having assurance of the child’s destiny can give us all some level of comfort.