What happens when we die? Christians believe in Heaven and Hell, and where we end up depends on whether or not we believed that Jesus died for our salvation. There is no third option for humans that we are told of. But that begs a follow up question: what happens to those not yet capable of belief or understanding? This could apply to young children, or even those with mental disabilities. It could also apply to unborn babies who die by natural causes or from abortion. Where do they go? Would a loving and just God condemn them? Do babies go to Heaven?
It’s important to note that we are never given a direct answer to the question in the Bible. We can however make something of a cumulative case from a few different points.
Is there an Age of Accountability?
Historically, Christians have held that there is an age of accountability, where prior to a certain age we are not held accountable for our actions. Thus, babies and many children would not be judged as guilty by God. This concept is never explicitly taught in the Bible, but a strong case for it can be made from certain passages. In Isaiah 7:15 and Deuteronomy 1:39 we find messages regarding children who do not yet know right from wrong. Consider also the significance placed on the knowledge of good and evil in the fall in Genesis 3.
What follows then is not necessarily an age of accountability, but perhaps a state of or knowledge of accountability. Those either too young or too mentally disabled to have that knowledge would therefore not be condemned. There is not a ton to go from, but what we have paints a positive picture. There is disagreement over certain passages like 2 Samuel 12 where King David talks about going to see his now dead son, and whether that just closes the argument or not, but most Christians come to the same answer for do babies go to Heaven regardless of that passage.
The Character of God
There isn’t a lot of scripture on the matter.Despite the small amount of scripture on the matter, a great deal can be inferred from what we do know about God. He cares about humanity and made us in his image. We know that God is both just and merciful. From that we must ask if a just and merciful God would condemn someone physically incapable of understanding their own guilt? Ultimately God is the judge, and the God we read about does not strike me as the kind to cast someone out of his presence without giving them an opportunity to be saved.
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