Before I begin to answer, let me remind you that this question is not only about born babies, but also about the fetus and the embryo, even from the first moment of fertilization: That’s a HUMAN BEING. And many of such human beings are dying today, especially with the increase in the abortions…
Where do babies go when they die?
No question is easier than this one for a person who really knows the doctrine of Salvation, and yet people make a case of this question, because they do not really understand the truth of Salvation.
Let’s clarify the misunderstandings, and you will see how much this question’s answer is simple.
1. Are humans judged for the sin of Adam, i.e. the original sin (the sinful nature that they inherited from Adam)?
The Bible is clear about the fact that all humans have the sinful human nature that they received from Adam:
“For this [cause], even as by one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death; and thus death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned“ (Romans 5:12)
If we didn’t have a sinful nature, we would not commit sins, or we would be able to save ourselves from our sins, and so we would not need Jesus to die in order to save us. But as we do have this sinful nature, so we can’t save ourselves from any sin, and we are slaves to sin. So we need the Salvation of Jesus Christ who makes us free from the slavery. When we believe in Christ and are born of God, the flesh (i.e. the sinful nature) is crucified with Christ and we receive a new nature.
So we all received a bad human nature from Adam, and this means we are not good by nature. And, of course, God is not the One to blame here, because He was not the one who gave us that bad nature, but we received that nature from Adam. God does not create anything bad. When He finished creating everything, including man, He declared His approval on all what was created, and He said:
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)
So man was originally very good; he had a freedom, and he used this freedom to be in a good relationship with God, thus doing everything right and good. But Adam then freely decided to disobey God and to break the good relationship that was between him and God. And as God is the only One who is Good absolutely, so as soon as Adam broke his relation with God, he became bad by nature. Any nature that is not in right relationship with God (who is Good) is bad.
We see that God is not the one to blame. It is our first parent who decided to break the right relationship with God.
So our relationship with God was broken with the sin of Adam. And this is spiritual death, i.e. separation from God. Now, if Adam were not separated from God after his sin, then he would stay in Eden. But we see that he didn’t stay there. He was separated from the presence of God, because God hates sin. Besides this, if Adam didn’t become sinful by nature and was not separated from God spiritually, then he would be able to return to Eden by his good works. But he was unable. Why? Because sin separated him from God, and thus he became the slave of sin. And all those who are born from Adam are born with the same nature of Adam, in his image. So we all are born separated from God’s presence and in spiritual death.
But one may ask: But why should I be responsible for my first parent’s error??
Well, we’re not responsible of our first parent’s error, in the sense that we will not be held responsible for what Adam did. THIS is the point that people need to understand before asking about the babies who die. We are NOT responsible before the Judge for the sin of Adam. But we ARE responsible for refusing to deny that sinful nature and to receive the new good nature in Jesus Christ. Actually, God sent Jesus Christ to save us from our slavery in this bad nature and to reconcile us with God, after Adam had broken that relationship with his rebellion. So today, if we refuse to be reconciled with God, then we are fully responsible of the sinfulness of our bad nature that we refused to deny.
That’s why we call all men today to be reconciled with God:
“We are ambassadors therefore for Christ, God as [it were] beseeching by us, we entreat for Christ, Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
So all what we will be held responsible for is the fact of refusing to be reconciled with God.
Our bad nature is hated by God. But God loves us as persons despite the fact that we are in that bad nature, and He wants to bring us back to a right relationship with Him, and that’s why He sent His Son Jesus Christ to save us from the corruption of sin in which we are.
When you try to be good by doing good works, you prove that you are refusing to get in right relationship with God by His Son Jesus Christ, i.e. you’re refusing the reconciliation, and you insist on continuing in your bad nature. You know, even by experience, that you can’t be good. So trying to be good by yourself means that you don’t admit the fact that you can’t become good by your own efforts. Even with this, God loves you and wants you to realize that you need the new nature that He gives, and thus to be reconciled with Him. Only then you will be able to do works that are good in God’s sight.
So as long as our relationship with God is not right, then we will be held responsible for every sin we do, and we will not be able to be sanctified more and more each day to become more like Christ in holiness.
So, in brief, we are NOT held responsible for the sin of Adam, but for our sins that we commit in the sinful nature that we received from Adam. If we refuse to crucify that bad nature by faith in Christ, then we are held responsible for our bad deeds.
Here, let’s read the whole passage in Romans 5:
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned–
for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.” (Romans 5:12-14)
In this passage, it is clear that accountability is according to a law that we have, i.e. a law that we understand. A baby does not know good and evil, as we will see in Deuteronomy 1:39. If Abraham was not accountable to the Law of Moses for taking his sister as wife (something that is forbidden by the Law of Moses), in the same way a child is not accountable to the whole Law as he doesn’t know or understand anything in any law, not even the sound of conscience, as he still didn’t sin. And yet a child dies, and this is the topic of our article!! And this in itself shows that a child has the sinful nature of Adam, or else he wouldn’t die, as the passage that we quoted from Romans 5 says.
This is essential to understand, because a baby does NOT commit sins in the bad nature that he received from Adam. The baby is still unable to choose between good and evil, so he’s not accountable. But as soon as he becomes accountable, then he is held responsible for any sin he commits, and not for the sins of another.
2. Are we judged for another’s bad works?
The Bible is clear that each person will be judged according to his works:
“But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 2:5-10)
This is another important point about Salvation that people misunderstand and that is directly related to our subject. People think that Salvation by faith means that God lowers His Standard of Righteousness when He justifies the ungodly by faith. But that’s not true. God wants a perfect Righteousness from you in order that you may enter Heaven. And as you are unable to provide that perfect Righteousness because of your slavery to sin, so Christ came and provided that perfect Righteousness for you, and you can now receive it by faith and have eternal life, or refuse it and be condemned forever for your bad deeds.
But the essential is that you are not condemned for another’s bad deeds. You are condemned for YOUR bad deeds. While you are NOT saved for YOUR good deeds, but because of Christ’s Righteousness.
Now, simply apply this truth to an infant: Does an infant do bad or good deeds by his choice? No. The Bible says that an infant is not accountable, as he doesn’t know good and evil:
“And your little ones, of whom ye said, They shall be a prey, and your children, who this day know neither good nor evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.“ (Deuteronomy 1:39)
This is a VERY important text in relation to our topic. These little ones of Israel were not judged for their parents’ sins, because they were not accountable; they had no knowledge of good and evil.
So an infant does NOT do bad deeds by his choice. Then can you tell me according to which bad deeds will an infant be judged to Hell?? He has NOT committed any bad deed yet.
And yet, an infant does not enter Heaven for any merit in him, as he doesn’t do any good deed by his choice and he has the sinful nature of Adam so he’s not perfect in himself. As we have seen above, it is because of the Righteousness of Christ that this baby or any human being will ever enter Heaven.
But does the baby accept this Righteousness of Christ so that this Righteousness may be accounted for him? The Righteousness accounted for someone is Justification, i.e. the declaration that a person is right and good before God although he’s not perfect in himself. This Justification happens by the Righteousness of Christ. Well, we have seen that a baby has not sinned yet with personal sins so that he may need to be justified for his personal sins. He only needs to have the Grace of God in Christ in order to be under Christ’s authority and not under Adam’s authority, although not by his choice but by God’s choice for him. So what he needs is that Jesus dies for him.
Now, the first thing to notice here is that the Salvation of ALL believers — and not only the Salvation of babies — is not by their choice but by the choice of God. It is God who chose to save us and sent His Son to die for all humans, including infants. God wants ALL humans to be saved:
“for this is good and acceptable before our Saviour God, who desires that all men should be saved and come to [the] knowledge of [the] truth.“ (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
And Jesus is the Savior of all men, but only believers receive that Salvation and do not refuse it:
“for this we labour and suffer reproach, because we hope in a living God, who is preserver of all men, specially of those that believe.“ (1 Timothy 4:10)
Now, when an adult believer receives this Salvation and does not refuse it, it is not because of a merit in himself that he does that, but because of the Grace of God. Faith is an empty hand that receives the Grace of God, and not a full hand. As for the baby, he doesn’t have the ability to choose between good and evil, so the Grace of God that is presented by God to all men is his, as he’s already empty and has no achievements to present to God. But this faith of the baby in itself is not the saving faith as there is not the point of accountability in it. It is that faith that Jesus has put in infants and made them praise Him:
“and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF’?” (Matthew 21:16)
You see that it is JESUS who prepared this praise from infants. So an infant is saved by this Grace that is presented to all men and that belongs to the babies too, as they have empty hands because they don’t have human achievements that may hinder their acceptance of this Grace. And this is what Jesus clarified in the following passage:
“And He called a child to Himself and set him before them,
and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
“Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-4)
This is the empty hand of a child’s faith: he’s humble and has no achievements of which he may boast, and he’s not even able to boast.
“See that ye do not despise one of these little ones; for I say unto you that their angels in [the] heavens continually behold the face of my Father who is in [the] heavens.“ (Matthew 18:10)
So here the Lord makes it clear that all infants are accepted by God because of Christ’s Grace to them, as He also makes it clear later when He says:
“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.“ (Matthew 19:14)
So all infants are accepted by Christ because of the Work of Salvation that He did on the cross for all humans. And when a child grows up, the accountability factor comes in as he begins to sin and to know good and evil, so here is where faith will need to prove itself as a saving faith by repentance; and it is there where the fruit of Salvation appears. In other terms, any child who dies as an infant would surely repent as an adult IF he lived, as Christ would not accept that any of these little ones die without really giving them His Grace of Salvation. But if an adult refuses to repent and believe the Gospel, then he proves not to be an elect, i.e. he is not born of God by saving faith.
3. When does the new birth happen?
This is the last but not the least important question to be clarified. Actually, because of false doctrine concerning the new birth, people think that our faith as adults makes us be born again, as if our faith were a merit that God sees and gives the new birth as a reward for it. But actually our faith is not the cause of our new birth; it is the result of the Grace of God that we receive and that makes us new in Christ. It is that Grace of the cross that makes us new creation in Christ, and not our faith. Our faith receives that Grace; it does not make it or invent it. And it is by this Grace that our faith is a living faith. In other terms, according to the Word of God, the new birth actually happened on the cross, and we receive that Grace by faith. The new birth is something we receive, and not something we make with any merit in us.
Why did I want to clarify this point? It is because heretics mock the biblical doctrine of Salvation and of the total depravity of our sinful nature in Adam. And to do that, they take an opportunity from misunderstandings concerning the new birth and the Salvation of babies. They ask: “Does the child who was saved as an infant lose his Salvation again when he grows up, and thus he needs to be saved again?” They do not understand the nature of Salvation and of the new birth. Salvation and the new birth are not things that the infant made or that an adult will make. They are the free Gift of God, the free Grace of God to all humans. Salvation is not produced by someone when he believes, but it was finished on the cross and is received by this person when he believes. An infant who dies as a baby and does not grow up, would surely repent when he grows up, as he died with Christ’s Grace. But we can’t suppose that, as he didn’t grow up. If that baby would not repent when he grows up, Jesus would not accept that he dies as an infant and goes to Hell!! People really have a bad picture about God: They think He’s against humanity and that He wants to send all people to Hell! But that’s very wrong, as we have seen above: He wants all humans to be saved, but it is the sinner who refuses to be saved and thus goes to Hell by his personal choice. As people think wrongly and negatively about God, so they suppose that God would rather let a baby live with the intention that he may be lost and not with the intention that he may be saved. What a wrong idea about God who is Love! The truth is that if a baby would grow up and would not have faith in Christ, then God would give him life so that he would repent, and He would be patient with him leading him with His goodness and kindness to repentance (see Romans 2:4). THIS is the true picture of the loving God as described in the whole Bible. But I repeat again: it is because of the fact that we are limited in time that we think in terms of “would grow up”. But for God, there is nothing uncertain, and He knows perfectly each person’s past and present and future even before he is formed in the womb: “My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.” (Psalm 139:15-16) It is essential to understand that there is NO injustice with God. As for the children who live and grow up and do not have saving faith and even die without having saving faith, these have refused in the condition of accountability the Grace of the cross that is presented to all humans, and thus are condemned for their sins and for refusing the Grace of God; they did not receive the Grace of new birth that happened on the cross. They did not believe in Christ with a saving faith. So they were not saved in the first place so that they may lose that Salvation again, as the heretics mockingly say. As children, they were accepted by Christ by free Grace as we have seen, but they did not receive Salvation with a personal choice as they couldn’t choose between good and evil. And once again, we can’t suppose and say “what if they died as infants and didn’t grow up?” because God knows all things before they happen, as we have seen above, and He would not accept that they die and go to Hell without having the opportunity to repent. So, as children, these grown up adults were accepted by Christ by free Grace, just as all humans — and not only children — are accepted by Jesus because of the Work of Salvation that He accomplished, or else no one would be able to be saved by faith as our faith has no merit in itself to deserve eternal life. But an adult who refuses to believe in Christ is refusing this free Grace that is given to all humans, so he refuses the invitation of Christ to be reconciled with God, and thus he deserves eternal Hell. Although Jesus loved him and accepts him without any previous merit in him, but he refuses that acceptance and goes to Hell by his personal free choice.
Finally, I remind you again that the sin of Adam because of which infants and all humans die is not the error of God, so God cannot be accused for anything resulting from this sin. But from God comes all goodness towards all humans for their Salvation, as we have seen in this article.
Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ
P.S.: Some people quote 2 Samuel 12:23 when studying the case of babies who die:
“But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
They say that David says the baby went to Heaven, and that he will go to him to Heaven while the baby will not come back. But actually, the verse simply says that the baby died and went to the grave or to the place of the dead, and that David also will die and go to the grave. In this verse, nothing is said about what comes after the grave. That truth is declared in other parts of the Scripture.