Where do babies go when they die? Everybody wonders that especially when a baby dies shortly after birth, during birth or even before birth (through either losing the baby or through abortion). What happens to their souls? Do they go to Heaven or do they go to Hell? One of the most prominent theologians in church history, John Calvin, taught that non-elect babies did go to Hell when they died, while elect babies ascended to Heaven. But I think there are good reasons, both scripturally and philosophically, to reject this idea. Where do babies go when they die? My view is that they go to be with the Lord.
Those who believe that babies and young children go to Heaven call this view the “Age Of Accountability”. That means that there’s a certain age that children reach where they become mature enough to realize the seriousness of sin and their desperate need for a Savior. Therefore, if they die once they reach that age and they have not yet accepted Christ as their Savior, they will go to Hell. If they die before that age, they will automatically go to Heaven.
*Biblical Reasons To Believe In The “Age Of Accountability”
There is no passage or verse in scripture which outright states that babies automatically go to Heaven when they die. Nevertheless, there are verses in scripture which would allow us to make that inference.
"Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'" - Matthew 19:24 (emp. added)
The one passage that seems to identify with this topic more than any other is 2 Samuel 12:21-23. The context of these verses is that King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, with a resulting pregnancy. The prophet Nathan was sent by the Lord to inform David that because of his sin, the Lord would take the child in death. David responded to this by grieving, mourning, and praying for the child. But once the child died, David's mourning ended. David's servants were astonished to hear this. They said to King David, “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.” David's response was, “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 shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” (emphasis mine). David's response indicates that those who cannot believe are safe in the Lord. David said that he could go to the child, but that he could not bring the child back to him. Also, and just as important, David seemed to be comforted over this. In other words, David seemed to be saying that he would see the child again someday (in heaven), though he could not bring him back.
"All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the Lord. The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the Lord to atone for your lives.”
”And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad--they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it.”
In each of these cases, God does not judge people below a certain age. David said his baby son would be in Heaven with him, hence therefore, he would "go to him". God also acknowledges in Deuteronomy 1:39 that the children with the Israelites did not know good from bad, and that He would not ban them from entering the Promised Land like he would their parents. Therefore, we can infer from these passages that there is an age of accountability even if the teaching is not explicit in the text.
Objection: Psalm 51:5 says we inherit sin from our parents, therefore, even babies are guilty before God.
Some often like to bring up Psalm 51:5 in an attempt to argue that God sends infants to Hell. Psalm 51:5 says “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” They’ll say “See? Even babies are guilty before God! We all inherit sin from our parents and therefore, not even babies get out from under God’s judgment!” They’ll also point to Romans 5 in an attempt to demonstrate this point. The problem with this argument, however, is that neither Romans 5 nor Psalm 51:5 teach that human beings are punished for what our ancestors did. Romans 5 does not teach that God punishes all of humankind because of what Adam and Eve did. Rather it teaches that God punishes us for our own sins.
Romans 5 says that although we inherited our sinful nature from Adam, we are not condemned to Hell for what Adam did, but rather we are condemned to Hell for what we did of our own volition.
Romans 5:12 says “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way DEATH CAME TO ALL PEOPLE BECAUSE ALL SINNED.” – This passage says that because Adam and Eve sinned, they were infected with an *illness* if you will (a sin nature) and because of this, when Adam and Eve reproduced, their sinful nature was passed on to their children, and this nature was passed onto Cain and Seth’s children (Seth is Adam’s youngest son) and this sin nature was passed on to their children and so on. Adam’s children sinned and then their children sinned and their children’s children sinned and so on and so forth. This sin nature keeps getting passed on to each new generation. When I have kids, this same sinful nature will be passed on to them. At the end of the verse, Paul says that all men die, not because of what Adam did, but because of what they did, and what we do. Of course, the only way to get redeemed is to accept Jesus’ substitutional death on the cross for our sins. Those who reject Christ will not have Christ registered as their substitute (the one who took the penalty for their sins Himself), instead he will have to suffer for his own sins in Hell.
In one sense though, I guess you could say we are sent to Hell because of what Adam did, since we have our sinful nature and tendencies to fall into immorality because of what he did. We have our sinful nature because of Adam’s sin. We sin because we have a sin nature. We die because we sin.
So there’s like a causal chain in effect. Adam committed sin --> Adam obtained a sin nature because of that sin he committed --> This lead to all of Adam’s descendents having a sin nature because they inherited it all the way back from Adam --> This lead to Adam’s descendents sinning --> Therefore, Adam’s descendents going to Hell for their sins.
In another sense though, God doesn’t condemn people because of what somebody else did. God will never say to the unbeliever “I’m sending you to a place of torment because of what 1 man did 50,000 years ago.” Instead, He will say to the non-Christian “I’m sending you to a place of torment because during your lifetime, you lied, cheated, stole, blasphemed me, took my name in vein etc. and did not take the only way of escaping your punishment” Psalm 51:5 likewise only states that we inherited our sinful nature from our parents. But there’s a big difference between the sin nature and sin itself. The sin nature causes us to be predisposed to wrong doing. The sin nature causes us to be naturally inclined to breaking God’s laws. However, just because babies do have a sin nature, does that mean God punishes them because of that nature? Does He really punish people just for having a predisposition to doing wrong? I don’t think so. I think he punishes people for actually doing wrong, not merely being born with an inclination to do wrong.
Moreover, The Bible teaches that children are not punished for the sins of their parents. When the Bible says “for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” in Exodus 20:5, that is not to say that the children are held guilty because of what their parents did. We are not held guilty because of what Adam did. It is to say that we suffer the consequences of it. The parents are setting up a chain of events, for which the children will bear the consequences in the future. It is like if a man gambles his farm away. The children will bear the consequences. But as far as judicial punishment of children for the crimes of the parents, the Bible says in Ezekiel 18:20, “The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son.”
Philosophical Argument Against Infant Damnation
Little babies don’t have the opportunity to do any good or evil. A little baby who has just come into the world and died shortly after hasn’t had the opportunity to commit a willful act against God or mankind. They never had the opportunity to lie, cheat, steal, murder, rape, commit adultery, curse, take the Lord’s name in vein, covet, or anything else God considers morally wrong. People who die in infancy don’t have the chance to commit any of these acts! How then, would God be justified in condemning such people to Hell to suffer for all eternity? Hell is a place of punishment for people who have done wrong in this life. If someone never has even had a chance to do wrong in this life, then sending them to Hell is a pointless exercise. You don’t do the time unless you do the crime! The only thing little babies can do is cry, eat, sleep and soil themselves, Oh! And put numerous things they find into their mouths. These things are hardly things worthy of eternal damnation.
"And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done." - Revelation 20:12-13 (emphasis added)
So if this is the case, and those who are judged are judged according to "what they had done," and as I said above, people who die in infancy don’t have the opportunity to do anything wrong.
It’s not fair to be damning babies for inheriting an inclination to do wrong and for not responding to a gospel message they never heard nor could they for they don't even know any languages yet. They don't even know how to walk, talk, read, or write. They don't even know their own name yet much less the name above all names which is the only name under Heaven which can save (Acts 4:12). And if it's not fair, then God doesn't do it. As Abraham put it “Won’t The Lord of all the Earth do what is right?” (Genesis 18:25) Indeed! Indeed! He will do what is right. And condemning babies who haven’t had the chance do any evil deeds or hear the gospel isn’t right! God is not a baby burner despite what some would want you to think.
God does not send little babies and 5 year old children to Hell. That would be horribly vicious of a supposedly loving God. They're too young to truly comprehend the severity of sin, the importance of the cross, etc. But the older they get, they closer they come to that point where they won't have an excuse, and so, they will have to accept Christ or accept the consequences of their sins. No one really knows when this age of accountability is or when one reaches it, but I'm certain that it's under 4, 5 6, years old. It may be closer to 7 or 8. I’m more than certain however that God would not send infants to Hell.
Above, I said that the age of accountability is not explicitly stated in scripture. There’s a probably a good reason for that. To think that God condemns people who are only capable of crying, eating, sleeping and pooping to an eternal torment defies common sense. Any rational human being would affirm that if God is all loving and perfectly just then He would not condemn infants! God expects His creation to think logically. When God inspired The Holy Bible, He probably thought “There is no need for me to mention that I do not damn infants and the unborn because such a thing is clearly unjust. If people think otherwise, then it’s their fault for being so illogical.”
There is absolutely no reason, biblically or logically, to think that infants will end up in Hell. These Christians therefore, put forth this ghastly teaching without any merit whatsoever.