Anyone with an ounce of compassion wants to assure parents who have lost a child that their little boy or little girl is in Heaven. However, the Bible teaches that only those who trust in Christ will be saved.
So, how does that apply to a child too young to believe? No Bible passage gives an absolutely clear answer.
However, there are five biblical principles, that when taken together, give full assurance that children (and the mentally child-like) who die will certainly be in Heaven.
God’s Love for Children
God’s concern for infants begins even before they are born. Psalm 139:13–14 states:
“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
David comforted himself with the assurance—and worshipped even—that his son was in Heaven, and one day, he would join him there.
The fertilized egg in the womb is a child whom God loves and has uniquely designed. Jesus also displays God’s love for children. In Mark 10:14–15, He says, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”
We must all become humble—just like children—if we hope to enter the kingdom of God. For, “the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
God Views Inherited Sin Differently than Willful Sin
Romans 5:12 states, “…[T]hrough one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” We have all inherited Adam’s guilt and his proclivity to rebel against God. Death proves this.
However, God punishes us for individual sins (Ezekiel 18:20) and the Bible makes clear that young children cannot choose to sin. In Numbers 13, the adult Israelites—except for Joshua and Caleb—chose to disbelieve God’s promise to give them the Promised Land. So God forbid any adults of that generation from entering the land—except Joshua and Caleb.
However, in Deuteronomy 1:39, God states, “Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it.” The children were allowed to enter the Promised Land because they had not rebelled against God. They were too young to do so.
Children Have Not Yet Rejected God’s Revelation
In the Bible, unbelief is the deliberate decision to reject God’s revelation (Hebrews 3:18–19). You may not witness God parting the Red Sea, but Romans 1:18, 20 states, “For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness … For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Nature reveals God’s existence to everyone.
For, no one goes to Hell for rejecting a gospel they have never heard. Rather, people go to Hell for rejecting whatever revelation God has given to them. But, whenever anyone, anywhere, responds to natural revelation, God will send them information about Jesus Christ. Children however, have not rejected any revelation because they have not yet reached the age of accountability.
God’s Grace Saves Us, Not Our Faith
We are saved by God’s grace. We are not saved by faith. God’s grace was demonstrated by Christ coming, dying, and paying our sin debt. That is the means of our salvation. Faith is simply how we access that grace. Ephesians 2:8–9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
For illustration, let’s say a woman is trapped on the third-floor ledge of a burning building. She takes “a leap of faith” off the ledge and safely lands in a net below. Did that jump save her? No. The net saved her. Her faith simply allowed her to access the net.
Now, let’s say a fireman rushes up to the third floor. There, he finds a three-year-old. The toddler cannot comprehend what is happening. So the fireman scoops up the child and jumps over the ledge into the net.
What saved the child? The same thing that saved the woman: the net. The only difference is the fireman caused the child to access the provision below. I believe God does the same with children who are incapable of exercising faith.
In the Old Testament, King David had a child that was born sick and who eventually died. But David displayed strange behavior regarding his son—behavior that his men questioned in 2 Samuel 12:21: “What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” In verse 22, David responded, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ 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.”
David comforted himself with the assurance—and worshipped even (verse 12:20)—that his son was in Heaven, and one day, he would join him there.