The Salvation of infants or young children
My wife and I have a question regarding the salvation of our two year old. I was raised to believe that children who are not able to understand and comprehend what Jesus did for us would be saved by Him on resurrection day. We both agree that we are born sinners. She defends that if he were to die today he would spend eternity in hell. Please help us understand better.
The question regarding the salvation of 'infants or young children' is a very delicate question. This is not a theoretical or doctrinal question either for many couples do face the reality of these struggles. Added to this is the reality of the millions of aborted children. So the issue raised is very sensitive. How many parents don't struggle with the torn and pained feelings about their children they needed to bury. Besides the sensitive feelings and needs of the parents is the important question of God's honor and glory. To 'theorize' about little infants going to hell or heaven does involve the decree of God. Scripture teaches about 'election and reprobation' and that also includes children. Yet the thought that God would sent the 'unborn or still born' or the 'infants that die' to hell becomes therefore a very sensitive issue. It concerns the glory and character of God. Mostly because of this issue did our forefathers at the Synod of Dordt have lengthy discussions on this issue. These discussions resulted in the 17th article in the first chapter of the Canons of Dort.
Where the souls of children go that die infancy is not answered in the Bible. There are a few examples of children that were saved in infancy, such as John the Baptist. The child of David and Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:22-23) and Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:13) do appear to be saved. Yet the Bible doesn't speak anywhere else about the subject of the children that died in their infancy. If that's the case, how then could our forefathers write this article in the Canons in which they wrote that 'godly parents have no reason to doubt of the election and salvation of their children whom it pleases God to call out of this life in their infancy'?
First of all, they are writing about children that belong to God's church. Nothing is said about the 'heathen children' because, as said earlier, the Bible doesn't speak about it. The article wisely stated in the opening sentence, "Since we are to judge of the will of God from His Word ..." His Word doesn't speak about the children of heathen parents. But it does say something about the children of believers. They are 'holy' or 'set aside.' Our children are spiritually just like any other children, inwardly corrupt, children of wrath, under the curse of God, lost in Adam. Yet they are called by God to be part of this Church. They are placed in the 'garden of the administration of His covenant.' That privileged position doesn't change the spiritual state of our children. Clearly, Scripture teaches that 'not all Israel is Israel.' Except a man be born again, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. That is also true of our infant children. Yet this position is of great advantage. It brings them nearer to Christ than other children. Our children are 'elected head for head to be placed in Christ's nearness.' They are not to be considered as 'saved' unless there are evidences of that in their life.
However, children that die in the womb, or shortly after birth, or as young children, what about them? Then the instruction in the Canons becomes 'pastoral.' They don't teach an automatic salvation of infants.' But they do insist that godly parents don't need to doubt the election and salvation of their child who dies in infancy. Why may only 'godly' parents have that hope? What about 'ungodly' parents?
Godly parents are parents who wrestle with the souls of their children before God. They seek the best for their children even before birth already. From the moment they know that the child is conceived, they are lifting up their little one in the arms of faith to the Lord Jesus Christ. Godly parents realize that although their child in the womb or as young infant isn't committing actual sins, he or she is still a child of wrath, laying under the curse of Adam. With that reality they are exercised before the Lord. They are like the parents in Mark 10:13-16 and are bringing their children to the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ so that He would bless them. If it now pleases God to remove such a child from this life, godly parents may be comforted by the words of the Lord Jesus that He took those children up in His arms and putting His hands upon them, blessed them. You can also take example of Job. What an exercised man he was with the souls of his children (see Job 1:5)!
Neglectful parents, even though their child has been 'set aside in Christ' don't have that comfort. They cannot rest on the Scripture in Mark 10:16. That's doesn't mean that the children of neglectful parents' aren't saved. God hasn't given us a straightforward answer on this in the Bible. But neglectful parents don't have the comfort that godly parents may have. For the Bible is not silent about what the Lord Jesus will do with those children that are brought to Him when they are too small to come to Him themselves. The Lord Jesus is the same today as He was then. How eager and desirous He was to receive and embrace these children! So He is today. When we bring our children in prayer before the Lord and wrestle for their souls as they are too young to do that themselves, we may be assured that He is as ready to receive and bless our children as He was then. So if God now takes the children in infancy of such parents, then they are not to doubt but that their child is well off. Such parents may pray, as I read somewhere, "Lord, we have in Thy name brought forth this little one, and we received it with thanksgiving from Thee. To Thee we have devoted our child from the day we knew he/she was conceived that it may be Thy child, by grace. It has now pleased Thee to remove this child from life. Therefore in the same faith whereby we received this child from Thee and dedicated it to Thee, we rest satisfied in Thy way, without being filled with fearful doubt about the salvation and election of our little one. We know that thou does according to Thy good pleasure which by faith we acknowledge to be good. We trust Thy promise that Thou would be a God of grace to us and to seed."
That leaves us the question yet if there will be 'little children in hell?" Will the souls of the 'murdered children' (abortion) go to hell because mostly these children are born outside the covenant? Or what about the souls of children with 'believing parents' (those that belong to the covenant) who have been neglectful parents in not bringing their child to the Lord Jesus? As said earlier, there isn't a clear answer on this question. But there an implication we can draw from God's character. God is a just God. This attribute of God isn't a negative attribute but a positive. He is just in that He 'doesn't reap where He hasn't sown.' He judges according to the measure of light and opportunity giving to each individual. Children that die before infancy and young children that die in their infancy, haven't sinned as we older ones sin: consciously choosing to go against what we know is God's will. God will therefore not punish them as He will punish those who have broken His covenant in personal and conscious choices. Therefore in the light of this justice of God along with His attributes of mercy and grace, I can find myself completely siding with the opinion of John Gill, who spoke about the children dying in infancy or before birth, "Now though their election is a secret to us and unrevealed, it may be reasonably supported, yea in a judgment of charity, it may rather be concluded, that they all are chosen than that none are." Let it be noted however, that this is only a conclusion drawn from various observations about God's character and dealings with sinners in general. So such is only an opinion. The safest position therefore is to stand with Paul, "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God." (1 Cor. 4:5)
Let's us seek to be a parent for our children as Job was for his! How he wrestled for each of them bringing their names along with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ before God's throne.