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Is My Baby in Heaven (written by Ben King)

Is My Baby in Heaven (written by Ben King)

Experiencing the death of a loved one is always painful, but there is a special kind of grief associated with the loss of a child. It strikes so powerfully at our hearts reminding us of the truth – the truth we all know but spend much of our lives trying to ignore. Death is an intruder, an enemy, an evil that rips from us the ones we love the most. And when the one that is ripped from us is a child, we are left not only with pain and grief, but with unfulfilled hopes, the broken promise of memories that were never made, and with the sadness of knowing what could have been but never will be. Moreover, the loss of a child may cause us to begin asking really big and overwhelming questions. Is there a God? If there is a God, how could he let something like this happen? Does God care about my baby? Where is my baby now?

The question of what happens to infants when they die (either in the womb, at birth, or early on in life) can be one of the most perplexing questions. Perhaps you’ve wrestled with that question before, but have found little biblical assurance that your child is at rest in the presence of Jesus. Maybe you’ve contented yourself to just hope for the best, but lack the kind of confidence that provides real comfort as you grieve. I’d like to give you a handful of biblical examples which I think, taken collectively, make a strong argument that infants who die are counted among the redeemed in Christ and are, therefore, in heaven.

1.) David’s Confidence

After King David had an illicit affair with Bathsheba that resulted in the birth of a child, the Lord afflicted the child and he died. While the boy was still alive David fasted and prayed to the Lord that he might be spared – but once he died, we read that David “arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes.” (2 Sam 12:20) He went into the temple to worship, then went home, ate a meal, and resumed his life. When his servants questioned him as to why the sudden change in demeanor, David responded, “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?’ [23] 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.” (2 Sam 12:23)

David understood the finality of death. He could not bring his child back, however, he took comfort in knowing that he would one day go to him.  In other words, even though David couldn’t be with him here and now, he believed that at his own death he would be reunited with his child. Moreover, the author of Ecclesiastes asserts that a stillborn child is better off than those who experience the troubles of this life, for “it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet it finds rest.” (Eccl 6:5) The author seems to assume that stillborn babies receive a kind of relief in their death, and that there is benefit in their early departure because they are spared the hardships and sufferings of this world. If David found comfort and hope in the promise that he would see his deceased child again, I believe, so can we.

2.) An “Age of Accountability”

Throughout scripture there is the assumption that while we are guilty in Adam – that is while our guilt comes first from the sinful nature we’ve inherited from our first parents (Adam & Eve) – we are accountable before God for the things we have done.[1] Paul writes to the Corinthians:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says –

For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:27)

In each of these instances there is an expectation that God’s judgment will fall on those who can consciously understand what they have done. Is a stillborn child guilty of committing sin? Is a four-month old child conscious of his or her own wrongdoing before God? If infants are not redeemed by God in Christ, we would have to be willing to embrace a scenario where countless deceased babies are suffering under the judgment of God without any knowledge of their own wrongdoing.[2] The Old Testament on the other hand refers to children as “innocents.” (Jeremiah 19:4) I don’t take that to mean that they are not sinful but that God does not hold their guilt against them because of their age.[3] So I think we need to be clear in saying that the Bible does not give us a definitive age when we become accountable before God, and yet I believe we are standing on solid ground when we say that God mercifully counts deceased children as innocent and redeems them in Christ.

3.) The Character of God

Lastly, a broad look at the character of God through the scriptures reveals to us a God who is infinitely just and yet abounding in steadfast love and mercy. From what we know of God revealed to us by the Scriptures, does sentencing unborn and young children to an eternity of torment sound like something he would do? I understand that’s a question open to all kinds of answers, and yet God has made himself known to us clearly and sufficiently in his Word. It is his ongoing purpose to reveal himself, his nature and his attributes, to his people as they seek after him in his Word and in prayer. Perhaps the place in the Old Testament where God most vividly reveals himself is when he hides Moses in the cleft of a rock and passes by him so that Moses might see his glory. When Moses asks the Lord to show him his glory, the Lord responds, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’” When the Lord determines to show his glory to Moses, he describes the event by saying, “I will make all my goodness pass before you.” According to God, a sight of his glory is most deeply and most essentially the revelation of His goodness. Furthermore, when God determined to make himself fully known to mankind, he sent his Son who is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. (Heb 1:3) Of that glory the Apostle John says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The glory as of the only Son from the Father is most aptly described as the fullness of grace – that is undeserved blessing – and truth. So when we come to the question of whether or not condemning infants to an eternity of suffering sounds like something the supremely good and abundantly gracious God would do, I think the answer is ‘no.’ Though there is no way for any of us to know for sure who is in heaven and who is not, we can be sure that in the final assessment, all God’s actions and decisions will have been perfectly just and perfectly loving. No one will question the righteousness of his judgments for, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.” (Psalm 89:14)

Now What?

So where does that leave grieving parents? It should leave them with a great sense of comfort in trusting that their children are not only free of all pain and sorrow, but are supremely joyful in the presence of their Savior. It should also leave them with a deep sense of hope that death does not have the final word. That final word belongs to Jesus Christ, the Word incarnate. Not only does Jesus know and sympathize with your grief, he entered into our sufferings so that he could rescue us from an eternal grief and an everlasting sorrow. He came into this world, experienced every temptation and every trial. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3) He died under the judgment of God, not for his own sin but for your sin and my sin. The pain of separation you now feel because of your loss is only a fraction of the separation and forsakenness that Jesus endured on the cross when God the Father turned from him and poured out all his wrath upon His Son. He did this so that all who put their faith in Him could know the complete forgiveness of sin and the fullness of reconciliation with God. In his sacrificial death and his victorious resurrection, he stands in the place of His people and perfectly secures their salvation so that they can be restored to a right relationship with their heavenly Father.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. (1 Peter 3:18)

It is this perfect salvation that should give grieving parents hope. For all that have put their faith in Christ they can be sure that not one ounce of suffering has been in vain and that in the final assessment, all our sorrows will have made our eternity that much sweeter. And finally, there is a sure hope that for everyone who has been united to Christ by faith, they will see the children they have lost again when they themselves are brought safely into the arms of Jesus – and they will rejoice in their Savior with their children and all God’s people forever and ever.

 

Benjamin King is the pastor at Joy Community Fellowship Church of Williamstown. He and his wife Lindsay live in South Jersey and have 4 children.  https://joycfwilliamstown.org/

 

[1] Storms, Sam. Do All Infants Go to Heaven?

[2] Webb, R.A. The Theology of Infant Salvation.

[3] Perman, Matt. What Happens to Infants Who Die?

Lisa Giordano

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