The Bible is very clear that everyone who rejects Jesus Christ and and does not believe in Him will spend eternity separated from God (John 3:18, 36; Acts 4:12). People are confronted with a choice, either to accept the gospel and surrender their lives to Jesus, or to reject the free gift of God and live their own way, ultimately ending up in hell. These are the only two options for all of humanity, and each person must make a conscious, willing choice to repent and believe in Christ.
But what about those who are unable to make a decision such as either to accept or reject Jesus Christ? Infants, whether still in their mother’s womb or only a couple of years old, are not physically able to make decisions like these. The same could be said about those who are mentally undeveloped. They are unable to understand things like faith, morality, repentance, and so on.
This issue has been extensively thought about by theologians through the centuries, and a number of different views have resulted. There are at least seven different views that I have read about, with some having modified positions held by certain people. In other words, this is not an easy subject to discuss, and it’s impossible to say with one-hundred percent certainty what the ultimate truth about it is because there is no passage in the Bible that definitively speaks to the matter.
But we can use a strategy that is necessary in other cases when the Bible doesn’t directly speak to a subject. That is, we can infer or appropriately deduce teachings of Scripture by other, more explicit and clear biblical teachings. For example, the doctrine of the Trinity is not explicitly stated in Scripture, but Christians have appropriately deduced the truth of it.
Before I begin my explanation, I want to clarify that this is my explanation. There are many others that hold a different view than the one I will give here, but there are many who do hold my view, or perhaps a modified version of it. In any case, it is always a good idea to approach subjects like this with discernment and caution, always carefully examining the evidence.
Biblical Teaching on Salvation
I agree with the Bible when it speaks about the elements of salvation, what is necessary for a person to be saved. For example, I believe in God’s sovereign, unconditional election, where He chooses some to be saved and in great sorrow passes over others. I believe that all people are born spiritually dead with a sinful inclination to reject God, and that God must work in their heart in order for them to even seek and come to God. I believe that God’s Holy Spirit must do a work in a person’s life, regenerating them and giving them new life and thus enabling them to believe. I believe that a person must choose for themselves to put faith in Christ and repent of their sins in order to be saved.
I believe all of this, because the Bible clearly teaches these things. However, though it may appear to be contrary to these beliefs, I believe that all infants go to heaven to be with their Creator. Not just because of the idea of them not being there is too horrible, or because they’re just too cute, or any other sentimental reason. In fact, I believe that babies are all participants in sin because they inherited the same sin nature that everyone inherits (Psalm 51:5) and are “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). Even so, I do believe that all infants go to heaven. If the baby dies in the womb or it’s life is short after its birth, I believe that all babies and children too young to make a personal decision for Christ will be received into heaven.
The View That God Will Save All Infants Because They Cannot Believe
I will first give some Scripture references that are commonly used to support this position. These verses, while I myself lean toward them in support for this argument, can reasonably be interpreted in ways different than how I will use them here. After these, I will give some theological arguments to provide additional support for why I believe this is a correct position to have.
Little Children Are Part of the Kingdom of God
In the gospels, Jesus Christ says that the kingdom of God belongs to little children (Mark 10:14). The idea is that since the text does not place a limit on how many children will be in heaven, all children are included. Opponents have said that there is no proof that the text includes infants or those prior to an “age of belief.” However, in the Gospel of Luke, specifically, Jesus is talking about infants: “Now they were bringing him even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God'” (Luke 18:15-16). Here, Luke calls infants by name and includes them as those who will be in the kingdom of God.
David’s Infant Son Went to Heaven
When we read about King David’s child dying, he then says, “Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23). This verse has been understood by some as meaning that David will “go to” his son in heaven. It has been argued that because in the Old Testament the biblical teachings about the afterlife isn’t highly developed, this verse can be interpreted as saying that David will “go to” the child in death generally, not heaven specifically.
However, we know that David went to heaven (Psalm 16:10; 23:6), and it seems likely that his belief of being with his son in death meant more than just their bodies being placed in a grave. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to interpret this verse as David saying that he will see his son in heaven.
The Bible Talks About Children Who are Not Old Enough to Know Good or Evil
Those who believe that all infants go to heaven note that the Bible seems to talk about an “age of accountability” in certain passages. There are a couple of passages in the Old Testament that imply this idea. “And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil…” (Deuteronomy 1:39). Isaiah also talks about a child not knowing good from evil: “He shall eat curds and honey when knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good…” (Isaiah 7:15-16).
To provide more support for this, even of adults Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt, but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains” (John 9:41). This seems to establish a principle that those who do not know truth about God cannot be held accountable to it (at least in some sense). How much more would this apply to infants who cannot yet know right from wrong.
John the Baptist Was Filled with the Spirit in His Mother’s Womb
In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1 verse 15, we read that John the Baptist will be “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” In Luke’s theology, being filled with the Spirit is consistently seen as an aspect of the Spirit’s work among those who are regenerate (Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 6:3, 5; 9:17; 11:24). This is an example in Scripture of an infant who seems to be saved even before they were born. Some have concluded this same thing to be true of David, based on Psalm 22:10. Therefore, the Bible indicates that at least some infants are saved.
Additional Theological Points
The verses and points used above are the common arguments made for the view that all infants go to heaven. However, none of these verses, even if understood as meaning that some infants are saved, do not teach that all infants are saved. Indeed, just because some infants are apparently saved, the Bible teaches that this is not God’s normal way of doing things.
As I studied this issue and read about the different views, it seemed that at some point each view appeared to come into conflict with other biblical teachings. The two biggest things that seem to problems for the view that all infants are saved are the doctrine of original sin and the doctrine of election. One teaches that all humans are connected with the guilt of Adam (Romans 5:12-21), while the other teaches that only some persons are saved, and that only because God sovereignly chooses them.
With all of preceding points, the doctrine of original sin, and the doctrine of election in mind, some have concluded that God saves some infants but not all. They point out that this seems most consistent with original sin and election.
Therefore, so far, these points have only demonstrated that it is biblically possible and even likely that some infants are saved. This wasn’t enough to settle me on the matter, and I believe there is reason to believe that all infants are saved even though their inherited sin shows they deserve to be in hell like all mankind and God only chooses some to be saved. Below are the additional points I give.
1 – Based on People’s Accountability to God’s Revelation
The argument I’m making here is based on the first chapter of Romans:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20).
These verses teach that the condemnation of all people is just because they are all guilty of rejecting the evidence that so obviously bears witness to a Creator. Because they have creation which bears witness to the Creator and they choose to reject Him, they are “without excuse.”
This seems to imply that if humanity did not have creation to bear witness to God, then they would have an excuse. Since infants are unable to witness creation and draw any conclusions from it, it would follow that infants do have an excuse and are therefore not held guilty of rejecting creation’s witness to God like the rest of mankind.
Because of this I believe that God has a way of covering the sins of infants in a way that He doesn’t use for those who are undeniably guilty because of their rejection. I believe He covers their sins still through the work of Jesus Christ somehow, even though an infant does not express personal faith in Him (though it is theologically possible they immediately do so in heaven).
This point would deal with original sin. If God’s grace covers an infant who is alive but cannot physically reason and be said to have willfully rejected God, it makes sense that by extension it would cover the fact that they are born sinful and “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3).
Though not the purpose of this article, I believe that this argument would apply to those persons whom are mentally undeveloped and therefore unable to reason and be said to have willfully rejected God’s revelation in the created world.
2 – Based on God’s Love and His Desire for All to Be Saved
God is Himself love (1 John 4:8, 16), meaning He gives of Himself for the benefit of others and desires the good of others. The apostle Peter affirms that God does not wish that any should perish, that is, be eternally separated from Him (2 Peter 3:9). Paul also says that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). In the Old Testament God speaks directly through a prophet about His will that none perish (Ezekiel 33:11).
This point deals with how infant salvation relates to the doctrine of election. God saves people, not because of anything about them, but because of His own purpose and pleasure. Whenever God passes over a person and they are not saved, it is always presented in Scripture as being at the fault of the sinner and as something that brings God sorrow. Even though God’s election and people’s response of personal faith to the gospel message is the normal way that God saves people, we have already concluded that infants are not handled in the normal way.
So, if there is a case for God not having to pass over an infant because they have no ability to either choose or reject Him, and I believe there is, for if God doesn’t hold infants accountable to revelation like the rest of mankind as in the previous point, why should He need to pass over infants like the rest of mankind? And if God desires all to be saved and the eternal perishing of anyone brings Him sorrow (which Scripture is clear that these things are true), then it is reasonable to think that God would save all infants.
Further, it could be said that all infants who die are elect of God, though this is only an idea that is possible. Some have said that God elects the infants who die, but this does not fit within the teaching of election, since God elects people in eternity past. However, it could be said that it is only elect infants whom God allows to die. But, again, this idea cannot exactly be inferred from Scripture. But it cannot be disproven by Scripture either, and it would satisfy the apparent inconsistency between all infants being saved and only those elect of God being saved.
These are my beliefs on if infants go to heaven or not. Again, I want to say that this is my view on the matter, and there are others that have some theologically possible views. But these arguments I have given are biblically based and biblically possible.
Because this is a biblically reasonable view to have, it should provide hope and comfort. To anyone who has lost a young child, or for the more than 50 million babies who have been aborted in the United States over the last several decades (and who knows how many worldwide), there is the glorious thought that these children are now in the presence of their Creator and Savior, worshipping Him and having eternal joy in Him as they were created to do.
Norman Geisler’s Systematic Theology and resources from Desiring God’s website were used in making this article, some of them having direct quotes, though I did not indicate this in the article.
Following are the links to the resources from Desiring God. I agree with them on the issues presented in this article, but there are even specific things that I perhaps disagree with them on. Therefore my use of their resources should not be considered a representation of their views necessarily. For John Piper’s podcast on the subject, click here. For a guest writer’s article, click here.