W. Austin Gardner
Do babies go to Heaven?
The very short answer is “yes.”
But the question raises very significant theological issues that we do not want to treat lightly. The best book or teaching on this subject to my knowledge is by Dr. Robert Lightner in his brief sixty-four-page book entitled Heaven for Those Who Can’t Believe. He writes the following in chapter 4 as he frames the issue clearly:
A review of the ground covered thus far is in order. Every human being is born in sin. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10). All are “objects of wrath” at birth (Eph. 2:3).
The Lord Jesus Christ made provision for the salvation of all in His substitutionary death. Every member of Adam’s race is savable. There is only one way of salvation. The sinner can only be justified, or declared righteous before God, through the finished work of Christ. The only way of salvation is through Christ and His finished work. His death in the stead of every man is the basis of salvation; it is the only ground upon which God can forgive sin. And what is more, only one condition of salvation is set forth in the Bible—the Lord Jesus Christ must be accepted by faith. He must be received as personal Savior; and when He is, His completed work of salvation is applied to the believer.
But what happens to all those who cannot meet this one condition of salvation? I believe firmly that all such receive eternal life. When they die, they go to Heaven. No one will spend eternity in the eternal punishment of Hell who was not able to believe, to meet God’s one condition of salvation. This conviction will now be defended, first from several general Biblical considerations and then from the study of several specific passages of Scripture in the next chapter.
Dr. Lightner makes a careful and clear distinction of those who can’t believe and those who refuse to believe and/or fail to respond to the revelation (in nature, in conscience, or in Scripture). Far from teaching any kind of universalism, the Scripture indicates the following:
1. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory—Romans 3:23.
2. The consequence of sin is death (separation from God)—Romans 6:23.
3. Christ died to pay for all sin for all people of all time—1 John 2:1–2.
4. Trusting (exercising faith) to receive God’s free provision of salvation is necessary for salvation to be appropriated in our lives—John 1:12; Romans 5:1.
5. How does God then save and forgive those who do not have the mental or spiritual capacity to respond? Babies, toddlers, etc.
a. He died for them and all mankind.
b. Jesus demonstrated compassion for children.
c. God’s character is one of wisdom, mercy, and justice.
d. The basis of judgment of the unsaved (Great White Throne) is “judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books”—Revelation 20:12.
e. David’s confidence that he would be reunited with the baby born of Bathsheba—2 Samuel 12:22–23.
f. Jesus’ teaching on entering the Kingdom is to become like a little child—Matthew 18:1–4; Mark 10:13–16.
Finally, the Scripture declares that Heaven will be populated by people from “every nation, tribe, people and language” in Revelation 5:9 and Revelation 7:9. It would seem logical that the death of so many who never reached the decision-making age status from the beginning of time, may be God’s way of populating Heaven and fulfilling this passage.
There is hope and a certain future for those of us that have lost babies, infants, and young children who were simply unable to believe.
Chip Ingram and Lance Witt, The Real Heaven: What the Bible Actually Says (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2016).