(This is Part Two of a two-part series. Part One posted yesterday.)
The Bible teaches us that all people are sinners from birth; we have inherited the sin nature of Adam. “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” (Romans 6:12). We know this is true because even infants die.
When Jonah proclaimed the need for repentance to the Ninevites, 120,000 of them are described as “not knowing their right hand from their left” (Jonah 4:11). This is a description of young children unable to understand their standing before God. The Lord views them as “innocents” and claims them as His (Jeremiah 2:34; 19:4). He takes special notice of their mistreatment, abuse or death. Young children are not held culpable in the same way as those who understand their sinful state and willingly rebel against God. This includes children even of unbelieving parents or in heathen cultures. Children are not held accountable for the sins of their parents or vice versa. Each person will give their own account to God for how they lived (Romans 14:12).
Ezekiel 18:20 provides the principle, “The soul that sins shall die.” So if the Lord does not hold infants and young children culpable for their sins, when does He? No specific age is given in Scripture. However, the Hebrew culture understood young people to be morally mature by age thirteen and able to understand their accountability to God.
What is the eternal destiny of a child whose earthly life has ended? What about the millions of babies who do not reach term due to miscarriage or abortion, who are stillborn, succumb to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), or who live for several years and die due to accident or illness?
The Bible provides comfort for us in the story of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:16-23). David lay on the ground fasting and praying for his sick infant son. The elders of the household attempted to raise him from the ground but he refused. Neither would he eat. On the seventh day when the child died, the servants were afraid to tell David since he had been so despondent. They feared he might take his own life. But David perceived what had transpired when he noticed the behavior of the servants and they confirmed his suspicion. However, his response was not at all what they had expected. David rose, cleaned up, changed his clothes, went into the house of the Lord, worshipped and ate. The servants questioned him regarding the turnabout in his behavior. He no longer wept and fasted but arose and ate food. David responded by saying that when the child was alive he prayed that the Lord would show mercy, but now that he was gone he could not bring him back. He was comforted in knowing that the child would be in the Lord’s presence and that he would be reunited with him in eternity. Verse 23, “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 and Bathsheba mourned the death of their son but not as those around him expected. David’s grief dissipated with the assurance that the child had left the earth to be with God in Paradise. David was greatly comforted by this. He knew that he would be reunited for eternity with this son.
However, years later David would lose another son – Absalom, who tried to wrest the kingdom from his father. David was greatly distraught upon this son’s death crying, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33b). It might have seemed that David would have been relieved to have his kingdom restored and the threat against it removed, but his greatest concern was for his son. He knew that Absalom lived in rebellion against man and God. His deep grief and anguish were over the eternal destiny of his son away from the presence of God. David’s chief concern was that he would one day be reunited with his loved ones in God’s Kingdom. The stark realization that Absalom would not be there was the greatest grief his heart could bear.
Do you know someone who is grieving the loss of a child? Care for them. Only they can determine the length of their grieving over such a profound loss. However, comfort them with truth and pray for their hearts that they can be encouraged in knowing that children who die go immediately into the presence of God as do all believers. They fall asleep until the Lord resurrects them and reunites all believers for all eternity. Help them understand their own eternal destiny before God. Have they personally believed on the saving grace of Christ for their own salvation?
Jesus Christ will once and for all be victorious over sin and death. Pain and sorrow will be no more. “And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Let us be encouraged and strengthen one another in this marvelous hope!