Have you experienced the loss of an embryo, baby, or small child through death? If so, you may have many unspoken or unresolved questions. Or you may have received answers from various sources that are neither biblical nor satisfactory, leaving you with a deeper hurt. The death of a baby or child is a very painful experience for any parent or family member. And the falsehoods that have been taught only add more pain to the wounds. My husband and I have several grandbaby souls in heaven—babies whose faces I will never get to see on earth. Their deaths, including a recent one, hurt our hearts every day. But I believe without a doubt that I will see them all when I get to heaven. How can I say that with such confidence? It is only because of my confidence in God’s grace and goodness.
My Quest for Understanding
Over the years, church denominations and religious traditions have developed explanations of what happens to a baby or small child when that little one dies. Some are biblical; others are not.
Several years ago when my nephew died at birth, I began a quest to understand the eternal destiny of babies especially. Someone in a church I attended answered the question with, “No, we cannot believe they go to heaven because they never did believe in Jesus.” I remember being appalled at this answer because our church was a very grace-oriented church with strong Bible teaching.
So, I talked to our pastor and women’s ministry leader to get their perspective. I researched any Bible verses and articles from trusted sources related to babies and small children dying. And one morning I heard a program on our Christian radio station directly addressing this topic. Soon, I put all the truth I learned together in a simple format that I could understand and could share with others, as in this blog.
What We Can Know
Although Scripture does not answer the question directly, we can come to some conclusions about what happens to those who cannot believe, or who are too young yet to believe, when they die. There are some biblical truths you and I can know to give us confidence that the destiny of embryos, babies, and young children IS eternal life in the presence of God in heaven.
Here is one thing we can know: Life comes from God.
Life comes from God. From the moment an egg is fertilized by a sperm, there is life. God gives that life. That life is in His hands and belongs to Him.
Here is another truth we can know: Some actions belong to the Lord alone.
The Spirit of God led Moses to declare something about God that we all need to remember:
The secret things belong to the Lord, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever. (Deuteronomy 29:29)
The secret things belong to the Lord.
If God has not revealed it to us, that means He has it covered without our needing to know. God cares about our children, and God cares about us. Since He did not address in His Word the eternal destiny of embryos, babies, and small children, it is not something that we have to worry about. Our God has it covered. Therefore, we can trust that those little lives go to be with God in heaven when they die.
You may not agree with what I write below. At least, read it and see for yourself why we can trust that God has it covered.
Why can we trust that embryos, babies, and small children go to heaven when they die?
1. We can trust in the character of God.
God is not a vengeful dictator with a whip. He is both loving and just. He does not condemn anyone who has not chosen to reject His truth and love. All the discussion of judgment leading to eternal death in the New Testament clearly reference those who have made the decision to reject God (1 Thessalonians 5:8-9; John 3:17-18; John 3:36).
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. (Psalm 103:8 NIV)
2. We can depend on the grace of God.
Understanding God’s grace tells me that none of us deserve to be saved. None of us at any age could ever make it to heaven on our own merit. It is only His grace that accepts you and me because of what Jesus already did.
3. We can know that Jesus paid the penalty of sin for everyone of any age.
Jesus died on the cross to pay it all—the entire penalty of sin—for every one of any age. That is the Gospel. The only sin that separates anyone at any age from eternal salvation and future with God in heaven is rejection of His Son Jesus Christ (John 3:17-18; John 3:36).
The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrathremains on him. (John 3:36 NET)
Jesus died for the sins of those embryos, babies, small children, and mentally deficient ones as well. God has the right to extend His grace and salvation to all those who have not yet reached the age of being able to reject Him.
Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God already belongs to them.
Then little children were brought to him for him to lay his hands on them and pray. But the disciples scolded those who brought them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not try to stop them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” And he placed his hands on them and went on his way. (Matthew 19:13-15 NET)
The kingdom of heaven belongs to little children. It is their property. Since Scripture only addresses the issue of youth and adults as believers or unbelievers, it can be surmised that the salvation of babies and small children is God’s concern, not ours.
Some church traditions believe in the practice of water baptism for those who are too young to make a decision for Christ (usually done to infants). But here is the truth we must not forget: Salvation comes through God’s grace alone and not through our works—water baptism or other.
Long-time Bible apologetics teacher said this:
I do not personally believe that baptizing an infant with water, without an understanding of the Gospel, accomplishes anything. It isn’t even mentioned in Scripture. (Jimmy Williams, “Do Babies Go to Hell?”, accessed at probe.org)
And such practices as infant baptism only apply to those already born. What about those given life by God but never born? Truth must apply to everyone of any age, included those who die inside the womb.
4. We can know that our God places great value on children.
Jesus gave this confirmation by His words and actions.
He called a child, had him stand among them, and said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn around and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven! Whoever then humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a child like this in my name welcomes me. “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a huge millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the open sea.” (Matthew 18:2-6)
Children are born with an innate sense of belief or trust in the existence and love of God the Father and love for Jesus. They do not have to be convinced. As they grow older, however, adults or older children convince them not to believe it and thus reject Jesus.
5. We can learn from the assurance of David.
David’s newborn son had died. This is what David declared to be true:
His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!” He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:21-23 NET)
Life after death was something that was absolutely certain to David. He was not simply saying that he would join his child in death. He was anticipating a joyful reunion with this seven-day-old boy. For David, that could only be in heaven as referenced in so many of his psalms. So he worshipped God. David had great assurance that this little baby was in heaven, and he would one day see that baby again. Later, in chapter 18, his grief over Absalom’s death indicates his lack of assurance at seeing this adult son again after death.
Based on the authority of Matthew 19:13-14 and 2 Samuel 12:19-23, when an infant or small child dies, he or she slips into the Lord’s presence instantly. How that child is dealt with or what happens so that he or she can enjoy heaven is not revealed for us. Apparently, God gives instant maturity and the ability to enjoy the things of heaven with the adults. But I take it from 2 Sam. 12:23 that the child is securely in the Lord’s presence at the time of death. (Chuck Swindoll, “Crucial Questions Concerning the Dead,” Insight for Living, accessed on February 22, 2004)
When little ones die, God’s character is such that He will make provision for them, and we will see them again in heaven someday.
Trust God Without Having It All Figured Out
Humans want to lay out rules to follow. Do this>>>Get this. The Bible is very clear that anyone who has the ability to make a choice to trust in Jesus Christ or reject Him is held accountable by God for that choice.
Since Scripture is silent about the process of salvation for embryos, babies, and small children, it must be of no concern to us. God is still in charge. We do not have to figure everything out. Jesus, in His teaching, refers to little ones who believe in Him. We must trust our God who knows every heart and judges by the intent of the heart not by our rules. When embryos, babies, and young children die, they go to heaven because the blood of Jesus covered their sin.
Will they live as babies or children there throughout eternity?
We do not know. We do know that God promises us the enjoyment of heaven. So, their souls will be old enough to enjoy the presence of the Lord and have the privileges of praising and glorifying God as older humans have. One Bible teacher I heard suggested that little ones will grow up in heaven in the care of their earthly parents (if those parents are saved). Sounds nice, but we do not know.
Will you recognize your child in heaven and will your child recognize you?
There is no reason not to believe you will recognize one another. Paul declared about heaven,
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12 NET)
If you have read the book, Heaven Is for Real, you will see confirmation of what I just wrote. During surgery, a little boy spent a few minutes in heaven where he was greeted by a sister whom he never knew. The girl, who appeared as a 7-year-old in heaven, had been miscarried in early pregnancy unknown to the boy. His parents then confirmed the miscarriage to the boy. I am not saying this is how it is, but this is what God allowed the little boy to see and tell. The boy did not know about his unborn sister before seeing her in a heavenly setting.
Your embryo, baby, or small child who died is with God in His heaven, experiencing life there in whatever age existence God chooses for them until we all get our resurrected bodies.
Is My Baby in Heaven? Yes!
Have you grieved the loss of a baby or small child? If so, place your confidence in God’s grace and goodness. When you get to heaven your baby will be there. Not because that child has been baptized or is innocent of sin. Not because the parents are believers. Little ones go to heaven when they die because they are washed clean by the blood of Jesus. Christ’s death made it possible for the salvation of all people, even unborn and newborn babies. It is the character of God to apply that blood even though they cannot believe because they are too young. Your little child is in heaven with our gracious God!
The more difficult question is this, “Will you be there one day to join them?” Your baby or child could not make a decision to trust Christ’s death for the payment of their sin. But as a morally responsible adult, you can and must make that decision. Trust in Jesus Christ for yourself (Acts 16:31). Then, thank God He has made it possible for you to see your child again someday because you have trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior.
Several years ago, I shared this information in a Bible Study lecture to a large group of women. One young woman came up to me and thanked me for satisfying her heart on this issue. She had lost twins at birth. No one had ever helped her to know what happened to them. She was so grateful to know they had gone immediately to be in heaven with God.
Since then, what I have learned also has encouraged me and my family as we have grieved the loss of babies who graduated to heaven from the womb. Truth prevails: We may not know a solid argument that would stand up in the court of public opinion, BUT WE KNOW OUR GOD! Trust Him!
If what I have written gives you confidence and hope that you will see your dead little ones in heaven, share it with someone else who needs that hope as well.
- The Biblical Perspective on Death blog series
- Some Frequently Asked Questions about the Dead
- “Is My Child in Heaven?,” Back to the Bible Ministries (accessed at https://www.backtothebible.org/what-the-bible-says-about; “Tough Questions” pull-down menu)
- 10. Where Do Infants Go When They Die? 2 Samuel 12 (Bible.org lesson)
- Read Sue Bohlin’s response to a woman grieving the premature death of her daughter.
- Read “Do Babies Go to Heaven?” on probe.org.