Are Dead Infants Saved?
aymon de albatrus
"38 And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized, each of you on the name of Jesus Christ to remission of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all those afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call." (Act 2:38-39)
The argument is complex and surely we must be confident that God will only do what is right judging righteously, according to His will and His pleasure.
Not much is written on the argument and this makes the interpretation rather difficult for at least two reasons: little is said in the Bible on the subject and, secondly, no one likes to contemplate that children, so called innocent, go to Hell.
Nowhere in Scripture we find an obvious text that tells us categorically that dead infants go automatically to heaven. There are verses that are interpreted as such, but these are spiritualised or badly interpreted. For example the famous verse that refers to the death of the son of David and Bath-Sheba: "And now he has died. Why this, that I should fast? Am I able to bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." (2Sa 12:23) These interpret the verse as saying that dead infants go automatically to Heaven. after all David was the Lord's favourite and surely his son went to Paradise and that the phrase "I shall go to him" proves that his son was in Paradise. The only thing that the verse says is that David said so and not necessarily that the child was in Heaven. The text confirms only the obvious, that the child was dead and will not return to David and that one day David will die as the child did, for the words "I shall go to him" are translated from the Hebrew (halak) that has also the meaning of dying or to depart from this life. To interpret that the child assuredly went to Heaven is an extrapolation. The child could very well be in Paradise, but it is not a certainty. Anyway, from this we cannot say with complete certainty that ALL the dead infants will go to Heaven, Moreover David was a believer, what about the dead children of unbelievers!
On the other hand there are no specific verses that demonstrate that dead infants will surely go to Hell except in saying that ALL Adam's children are corrupted by the Original Sin and are on the way to Hell unless regenerated by the Grace of God. It is absolutely certain that no one, truly nobody, will enter Heaven with the sinful nature inherited from Adam. To enter the presence of God one has to be "born again" thus receiving a new nature having been regenerated by the Spirit of God with a new heart given by Him, a heart of flesh to replace the heart of stone. "And I shall give to them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. And I will remove the stony heart out of their flesh, and I will give them a heart of flesh," (Eze 11:19)
In Christendom there are two currents of Soteriology (order of salvation), the Leftists say: "Jesus has paid on the cross all the sins of everybody. Man obtains salvation only by accepting, by his free will, the atonement of Christ".
The Rightist current instead says: "on the cross Jesus has paid all the sins of His own people, the elect: "And she will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins." (Mat 1:21) For them there is nothing that man can do to obtain salvation, unless God sovereingly changes his heart and with that man his enabled to seek the Grace of God: "26 And I will also give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give to you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do them." (Eze 36:26-27)
Indeed the Word clearly says that there is nobody that by his own will (without God's intervention) actually seeks God: "There is none that understands, there is "not one that seeks after God." (Rom 3:11)
In this presentation i do not wish to enter on the merit of one or the other, only to demonstrate that depending which doctrine is used there is a different understanding and a different conclusion, logically.
The leftists believe in the concept of "free will" meaning that men have to choose by their own will, from their own resources, if they want to be saved or not, and if they do not choose Christ they are condemned to eternal damnation. Consequently if we believe in the myth of "free will", then we are absolutely certain that children dead in infancy, or not born or aborted are not saved for in no way they can exercise their "free will" and go to Him.
Some use Jesus' words to justify their stance: "But Jesus said, Allow the little children and do not prevent them to come to Me, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven." (Mat 19:14 ) but this is out of context, for children to go to Him must have made a decision. The argument here is that if infants that die before they can reason, or speak or move or able to take any decision are saved! Being so little and unable to take any decision whatsoever how can they decide to go to Christ to be saved? Considering that this doctrine requires a conscious decision, which they cannot do, then according to the teaching of "free will" they are surely lost.
The leftist doctrine assures us categorically that dead infants, being unable to express any decision, are indeed lost. And it cannot be said that their parents or anyone else can take the decision for them, for that decision has to be personal. Using creative theology some say that children are saved if they die before the age of accountability, whatever that is, for no one can define the actual age. Then one would ask: "were these children saved before the age of accountability?" The answer would be: "yes". To this another question is posed: "then after the age of accountability they lost their salvation and unless they make a decision about it, they are lost to Hell?" Seeing the inconsistency of their position they retract and quickly say: "well, under the age of accountability they were not saved, but under Grace". But isn't Grace and Salvation the same thing?
The leftists doctrine has serious problems in its coherence for in one hand it says: "the choice of salvation is entirely in the hands of man and he has to choose by his free will to be saved" and on the other for infants they say: "God will save them", but in doing so He would have to impose His will on them, a thing He "cannot" do according to this very doctrine for He would have destroyed their free will".
The Catholic church also falls on the side of the leftists' doctrine, but they have seen this inconsistency and to overcome it they have very ingeniously invented a fanciful fantasy. In their doctrine who is not "baptised" cannot enter Heaven, justifying with this verse: "Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, if one does not receive birth out of water and Spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of God." (Joh 3:5) because the un-baptised are still in possession of the sinful nature of Adam, and for them this is removed by baptism, they are exorcised, and thus these dead infants are still in a state of sin. Therefore, given that dead infants are not baptised they cannot enter Paradise, but because a "good" God would not let these infants go to Hell they have invented for themselves a neutral place, extra Biblical, called "Limbus Infantium" where dead infants would not have the blissful visions of Heaven but would be saved from Hell. The mentally handicapped would also be sent to this place. Of course the Bible has no reference to this speculation of a third place for the dead as it has none also for their other invention, Purgatory, that was devised to justify that swindle of indulgences.
Now let us look at the other doctrine that inexorably takes to the mystery of Predestination, a relevant concept to this argument. The basis of this doctrine is that God applies His salvific Grace to anyone He wants to, when, how, and where He pleases, independently of any merit or dignity intrinsic in the human creature. If it were dependent of whatever is found in us it would not be by Grace but by debt and reward.
In the reformed confession of faith of Westminster, chapter 10 (the effective calling) it is affirmed:
It had pleased God to effectively call His elect: "But whom He predestinated, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; but whom He justified, these He also glorified." (Rom 8:30)
in an acceptable and fixed moment those predestined to life: "in whom we also have been chosen to an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of the One working all things according to the counsel of His own will," (Eph 1:11)
they are called by His Word and His Spirit: "But we ought to thank God always concerning you, brothers, beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth," (2Th 2:13)
from the state of sin and death in which they were by nature to that of grace and salvation through Christ Jesus: "even we being dead in sins, He made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are being saved)," (Eph 2:5)
He enlightens their minds spiritually and in a salvific way so that they may understand the things of God: “to open their eyes, and to turn [them] from darkness to light, and [from] the authority of Satan to God, in order that they [may] receive remission of sins, and an inheritance among those being sanctified by faith in Me.” (Act 26:18)
and replaces their hard hearths of stone with a flesh one: “26 And I will also give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give to you a heart of flesh.” (Eze 36:26)
He renews their will and through His Omnipotence he operates in such away that they will desire and will follow what is good: “for it is God who is working in you both to will and to work for the sake of [His] good pleasure.” (Phi 2:13)
He draws them effectively to Jesus Christ: “No one is able to come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up in the last day.” (Joh 6:44)
nevertheless, as they come in all liberty, they are made well willing to do so through His grace: “All that the Father gives to Me shall come to Me, and the [one] coming to Me I will in no way cast out.” (Joh 6:37)
This special calling gushes out only by the free and special grace of God and absolutely not by anything that man has to be worthy of: “He having saved us and having called [us] with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to [His] own purpose and grace given to us in Christ Jesus before eternal times,” (2Ti 1:9)
on the contrary, in this action, man remains totally passive until awakened and renewed by the Spirit: “But a natural man does not receive the things of [the] Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.” (1Co 2:14)
With this grace man is enabled to respond to this effectual calling and to receive this marvellous Grace: And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do [them].” (Eze 36:27)
In brief this is the progression:
From the great mass of humanity of all times, justly destined to Hell, it has pleased God to call to Himself a huge throng of elect that no one can number, from all nations, tribe, people and tongues (Rev 7:9),
In an acceptable moment to Him,
These are called by His Word and by His Spirit,
They are translated from a state of sin and death to salvation in Christ Jesus,
He enlightens their minds spiritually to understand the things of God,
He replaces their stony hearts with one of flesh,
He renews their will to follow what is good,
He attracts them effectively to Christ,
In all freedom He makes them well willing to His salvific Grace,
This Grace is not motivated by anything found or made by man,
Man remains passive and against to this, until he is renewed by the Spirit,
Finally man is enable to respond to the Grace of God and to accept It.
Now we understand that neither a profession of faith nor baptism, by themselves, save anyone, but these witness that one is already saved and that this salvation is given by God to whom He wants to. Therefore one may be saved in death in his mother's womb, or when 100 years old being unable to confess with his mouth Jesus, or un-baptised or a savage that has never heard of Jesus, for God is absolutely Sovereign over His creation. But, as far as it concern us, salvation is only in Christ Jesus, and Him crucified.
Concerning the infants we must not forget that they also are irremediably contaminated by Adam's sin and thus, in front of the revealed standards of God, no child is "innocent" (Psa 51:5) and, whether we like it or not, they are lost, unless God sovereignly intervenes with His salvific Grace.
This is what the Westminster confession says regarding dead infants:
All the elect dead infants, born or not born, are regenerated by Christ through the Spirit: “38 And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized, each of you on the name of Jesus Christ to remission of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all those afar off, as many as [the] Lord our God shall call.” (Act 2:38-39)
that operates when and were He wants to: “The Spirit breathes where He desires, and you hear His voice; but you do not know from where He comes, and where He goes; so is everyone who has received birth from the Spirit.” (Joh 3:8)
This also remains true for all the elect people that do not have the possibility to be externally called through the ministry of the Word: “and there is salvation in no other One, for neither is there any other name under Heaven having been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Act 4:12)
As we see the rightist doctrine is coherent with itself from the beginning to the end, for it says that "salvation is given by God alone and He gives it to whom he wants to, His elect, to believers, to dead infants, to savages that never heard of Christ, etcetera". This principle is clear and straight forward for it is always God that is the author and finisher of our salvation, in every case.
This system brings ALL glory to God.
Let us then hear the conclusion:
are dead infants, not born, and aborted, saved?
For unbelieving parents this question has little relevance for they do not believe in God, nor are interested to do so and could not care less about it. This is one of those question that Augustine said that Hell was made for those who ask such "stupid" questions. However, God is absolutely Sovereign and can save whomsoever and when He wants to, therefore no one can say that unbelievers' dead infants are surely excluded form Heaven. The only thing that can be said is that there is no specific promise for them expressed in the Bible, except God's Sovereignty.
For the believers' dead infants even though there is no absolutely categorical references we can confide in: “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all those afar off, as many as [the] Lord our God shall call.” (Act 2:39) To be noted that here it says "promise" and not "certainty". Nevertheless, we that live in faith can make this promise as our own and believe that our dead infants have been regenerated by the Lord and are in Heaven awaiting for us. We can be absolutely sure that God will always and only do what is right, according to His will and good pleasure.
Let us then take comfort from the words of our Lord: “31 But seek the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you. 32 Stop being afraid, little flock, because your Father was pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Luk 12:31-32)
We Christians must be well informed on the things of God and not get into fantasies:
God has created us all out of nothing and we are but dust,
God keeps us in life, totally and if He were to say "enough" we all would return to dust, (Ecc 3:20)
God has given us all that we are and have, the whole is entirely His (1Co 4:7),
God has every right over His creation for there is nothing created that He has not created,
God is the owner of all children, we have them only to look after them for a while,
God can dispose of His as He pleases and no one can contest Him: “Yes, rather, O man, who are you answering against God? Shall the thing formed say to the [One] forming [it], Why did You make me like this? [Isa 29:16]” (Rom 9:20)
God is Unique, Supreme and Sovereign: “See now that I, I [am] He, and there [is] no other God with Me. I kill, and I keep alive. I wound and I heal, and there [is] no deliverer from My hand.” (Deu 32:39)
Thus our attitude must be to lower our head and say like Jesus with conviction: let not My will be done, but Your will.