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QUESTION: Where do children go who die before reaching the age of accountability?

 

ANSWER:  In a previous article I defined what some people call the age of accountability.  I explained that, because moral development differs from person to person, a more accurate term might be “state of accountability.”  So then, when an infant or child dies before assuming personal responsibility for their sin or before being able to understand salvation, where do they go?  The Bible teaches they go to Heaven.

 

Every innocent who dies, from the moment of conception until God righteously holds them personally accountable for sin, is carried into the presence of God by His angels.  This includes every baby miscarried or even murdered by the diabolic act of abortion.  (There is no question that abortion is sin.  But there is good news in the message that God forgives us from all our sin.  There is good news in knowing that God gives second chances. And there is good news is knowing that a misguided sinner can see their child again in Heaven some day if they’ll only repent of their sin.)

 

At least two key figures in the Word of God believed that children who die before becoming responsible for their sin went to Heaven.  The first is in the Old Testament.  King David sat weeping, praying and fasting that his newborn son would not die.  This son had come out of an adulterous relationship that could not be hid and eventually led to the murder of the mother’s husband.  The baby died.  No one in David’s court wanted to give him the bad news.  But with just a glance he knew.  As soon as his son’s death was confirmed, David got up, washed up, and asked for some dinner.  His courtiers were astonished.  “You were so distraught while the child laid dying, why has his death made you react like this?”  Listen to David’s reply, “While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (2 Sam 12:22-23)  David knew and believed in his heart that he would see his son again.

 

In the New Testament we have another statement that, when understood in context, agrees totally with David’s conclusion.  Paul was explaining the effect that the Law of God has on our lives.  In doing so he said in Romans 7:9, “…I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came sin revived, and I died.”  Paul was saying that, as a child (before he understood his moral obligation to the Law of God), he was sovereignly protected by grace and thus “alive” should he have died as a child with no moral understanding “I was alive without the law once.”  But as soon as the commandment of God “came” to him (he matured and understood what sin is) he became personally accountable to a holy God.  In that moment of realization Paul said “the moment I understood the condemnation of the law I died.”

 

A baby goes to Heaven when they die because they are innocent.  You and I however, are not.  We stand condemned before a holy God unless we repent and believe the Gospel.  “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).