What happens to babies who die before they're born?
Many people ask about what happens to children who die before they reach the so called 'age of accountability.' The question is caused by the Bible's insistence that one must believe in Jesus Christ to be saved (Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9), but our awareness that young children who pass away have usually made no such confession. The apparent problem is even greater in cases like miscarriage and SIDS where the child certainly hadn't had opportunity to confess Jesus as Savior and Lord.
For those who don't know, the 'age of accountability' is a theory held by many Christians which proposes that all children who die before they reach a point of maturity in which they are able to confess Jesus as Lord, do in fact go to heaven. I believe this is true. Let me share with you one Bible passage that leads me in this direction, one that specifically has to do with the death of a young child.
Many of you are familiar with the story of David's great sin. He committed adultery (and murder) and the child born from that relationship became very ill as a result. David, of course, fasted and prayed for the child's life, but when he was finally informed of his son's passing, he was surprisingly at peace with it. When David was asked the source of his comfort, he said this about his son:
"Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:23).
We have to be careful here. The passage doesn't prove anything. But it seems reasonable to claim that David (who had been forgiven for his sins) believed he would see his child again in the afterlife with God. And it seems reasonable for us to believe the same thing when we lose a child.
If we believe that life begins at conception (a belief that I would argue is supported by both Scripture and science) and in the age of accountability (a topic I'd be glad to tackle more thoroughly in a future Q&A Friday), then we have every reason to believe that children who die before their birth or before they reach the age of accountability find themselves in the hands of Jesus who once said:
"Let the little children come to me... for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these" (Matthew 19:14).