Many people wonder about the eternal destination of those who die so young that they never reach the mental capacity to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Do they go to heaven because they are innocent? How can they be innocent if the Bible teaches that all people are born sinful?
Aborted babies, like all babies that die as a result of diseases, accidents, or other causes, go to heaven when they die, according to the majority of Bible scholars and theologians. Though the Bible doesn’t specifically mention aborted babies, it’s teaching on related topics strongly suggests they go to heaven.
Are babies born innocent or sinful? How can babies, born in sin, go to heaven when they die? Is there an example in the Bible of God caring for babies that have died? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Also see Do You Have To Be Baptized To Go To Heaven? to learn more.
Are babies born innocent or sinful?
Romans 3:23 says, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Does this mean babies? Even ones that haven’t been born yet? Psalm 51:5, which records David’s reflections about his own birth, suggests that it does: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (ESV)
If babies go to heaven when they die, is it because they are innocent? As the verses above indicate, the Bible teaches that no one is born innocent in relation to sin. Someone could correctly say that a baby is “innocent” in relation to their experience of the world, but if they meant innocent in relation to sin they would be contradicting the Bible’s teaching.
How can a baby be sinful if they haven’t willfully made any choices? When the Bible teaches that all people are born sinful, it doesn’t mean that people are choosing rebellion from inside the womb with full awareness of their unholy defiance. Rather, Scripture teaches that all people are born with a sinful nature.
What is the difference between committing a sin and having a sinful nature? Examples of committing a sin include stealing, lying, and blasphemy. These actions come from a heart that is disinclined toward God and his holy standards. The sins people commit are rooted in a nature that is corrupt.
Why do people, even babies, have a sinful nature? According to the Bible, people inherited a sinful nature from Adam. When Adam rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden, it had disastrous implications for the entire human race. Romans 5:12 says, “just as sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (ESV)
“Some ground the idea of the eternal blessedness of the infant upon its innocence. We do no such thing; we believe that the infant fell in the first Adam, ‘for in Adam all died.’ All Adam’s posterity, whether infant or adult, were represented by him—he stood for them all, and when he fell, he fell for them all.” (Charles Spurgeon)
If babies are born sinful, why do people believe they go to heaven when they die? The seriousness of possessing a sinful nature can’t be overstated. It separates a person from God and, without divine intervention, has eternal ramifications. Sin, however, isn’t more powerful than God. Even though babies don’t have the mental capacity to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ, their eternal fate isn’t sealed thanks to the cross of Christ (more below).
Also see Do Children Go To Heaven? to learn more.
How can babies, born in sin, go to heaven when they die?
The vast majority of Christian theologies since the time of Christ have held that babies go to heaven when they die. According to some people, Calvinists have the most rigid — some critics would even say uncaring — approach to understanding salvation. (Calvinists would dispute this.) Yet, even the chief proponents of that theological system teach that babies go to heaven when they die.
What verse or passage teaches that babies go to heaven when they die? There isn’t a verse or passage of Scripture that explicitly states that all babies go to heaven when they die. Instead, certain verses and passages, and the combination of all of them understood together, lead people to this conclusion.
How did Jesus feel about children? Jesus had a special heart for children. In the 21st century, most cultures around the world value born children. Yet, many people in the first century didn’t. Jesus challenged those social norms, loved and cared for children, and taught they are a perfect fit in his kingdom.
“Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’ And he laid his hands on them and went away.” (Matthew 19:13-14, ESV)
By welcoming, and loving children, Jesus wasn’t denying their sinful nature. According to the Bible, all people, even though they possess a sinful nature, are created in God’s image and have value and worth (Gen. 1:26-27). All people, including babies and children, are simultaneously sinful by birth and loved by God.
Is there an example in the Bible of God caring for babies that have died? Yes. In one of the darkest periods in Old Testament history, people sacrificed their children, stirring anger in God’s heart. His response to the guilty reads, in part, “you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering” (Ezek. 16:21, emphasis added). Even though they were born with a sinful nature, God called the children his.
Does God give angels special assignments for children? Many Bible scholars and theologians believe that Matthew 18:10 teaches that God treats children in a special way: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (ESV)
What does “their angels” mean in Matthew 18:10? Some believe that this phrase refers to guardian angels, in which one angel is assigned to one child for purposes like guidance and protection. Others believe that the verse doesn’t describe guardian angels per se, but that angels, in general, are given the task of watching over children.
Did David believe that he would be reunited with his deceased child in heaven? In 2 Samuel 12:23, David reflects, “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.” Regarding the last sentence, some believe David means death; meaning, one day David will join his child in death. Others believe that when David says “I shall go to him” he is referring to reuniting with his son in heaven.
So how exactly are babies able to go to heaven when they die? According to the Bible, there is only one way that people born in sin can go to heaven when they and it is through Christ: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5)
God, in grace, applies the cross of Christ, and its victory over sin, to those who don’t have the mental capacity to comprehend and respond to the gospel on their own. All people are born sinful (Rom. 3:23) and God loves them all anyway (John 3:16). The Bible gives readers reason to believe that God loves, cares for, embraces, and welcomes into heaven, aborted babies.
“If they be saved, we believe it is not because of any natural innocence. They enter heaven by the very same way that we do; they are received in the name of Christ.” (Charles Spurgeon)
Also see Do Miscarried Babies Go To Heaven? to learn more.
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