Do All Children Go To Heaven?
This question has undoubtedly been posed by many throughout history, especially by those who have tragically lost children or young family members. Most recently, the horrific slaying in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14th 2012, that resulted in the loss of 27 lives — most of whom were children — is causing many around the world to ask this question as well. One might also ask something similar in regards to the 100,516 unborn children who are murdered every month (in the U.S. alone) by their own mothers. Do babies and young children who die before a certain age automatically go to heaven? What is the age of accountability? Does God, in His infinite wisdom, extend grace to “innocent” children?
As Jesus made it clear in Matthew 19, Children are very special to Him. Consider Mark’s account of the same scene:
“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And He took them in His arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
God often shows a special mercy to those who because of age or mental deficiency are incapable of faith or willful disbelief. (Jonah 4:11a) Furthermore, many times throughout the old testament, young children who were killed or died, were often referred to as “innocent.” Babies that were passed through the fire as sacrifices to the false god Moloch, were defined as the “innocents.” I truly believe that God, prior to the “age of accountability” treats children as “innocent.” That doesn’t mean that they are not fallen and sinful, but it does mean that God mercifully treats them as “innocent” in spite of that, and it is only by Him exercising grace, just as He exercises grace to save those who believe, that they may enter the kingdom of heaven.
This category of people are not culpable in the same sense as those whose sins are premeditated and intentional. Jesus’ words in Matthew suggest that God’s mercy is graciously extended to infants and small children so that those who die are sovereignly granted entrance into Heaven. Not because they are worthy of Heaven or that because a young one suffered a tragedy in their earthly lifetime they are somehow deserving of a pardon, but because God in His GRACE chooses to redeem them.
“It’s Just Not Fair”
Look at King David and the result of his illicit affair with Bathsheba found in 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12. King David desired a married woman, had her husband killed, slept with her, and she bore him a son. Obviously, this displeased God very much. The prophet Nathan tells David, “because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.” (2 sam. 12:14) You might say, “well that’s not fair!? What did the child do!? It’s not his fault that his Dad messed up!”
God is not fair…He’s just. God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. We can take rest in knowing God is holy and therefore anything He does is right and just. We may not like it at the time, but ultimately, I’d rather trust God’s plan everytime over my own.
“If we knew what God knows, we’d want what God wants.” – Rick Ferguson
So the story continues, the child fell very ill and David fasted and prayed until at last his servants came to give him the tragic news, “The boy is dead.” The words of King David should give comfort to those who have lost young children:
2 Samuel 12:23
“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.”
David had no doubt that when he himself died, He would indeed be in heaven with God and therefore, for the King to make such a statement about seeing the child later, meant he also knew God had taken this child to heaven.
To sum it all up, the “age of accountability” is not ever identified in Scripture. It’s up to parents — every time a child wants to respond and open their heart to Christ — you need to encourage that, all the way, until they come to that point where it is genuine. God knows when that time is and He will rescue each child as He chooses.
Go hug your kids. If you’ve tragically lost a child, take peace and comfort in knowing the best Daddy in the universe is hugging them in heaven till you get there.
For more on biblical responses to tragedies, check out: