“One always wonders about roads not taken.” Warren Christopher
Some of the most beautiful roads you’ll ever travel are small side roads that deviate a bit from your main destination. Over the years I’ve traveled many of them. For example, in the Appalachians, it seems like any small road that’s a bit off the beaten path delivers tantalizing eye-candy. It’s one reason that I prefer to drive. It lets me savor the beauty of God’s creation.
Studying the Bible is like that. To see some of Scripture’s richest and most encouraging truths, it takes extra time and even a few detours from the destined path. Because of the limitations of time many beautiful sideroads must be hurried by each week. Last Sunday we had to hurry by a very comforting truth. It’s one that touches nearly everyone in our church family: What happens when a child or baby dies? As we worked our way through Luke 18:15-17, Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”
Many in our church family have experienced a miscarriage or lost a child. Some had an abortion or someone close to them had one. There are special needs children who never develop the mental capacity to make a cognitive decision to follow Christ. So, what happens to all of these individuals when they die? Does Scripture say anything about this? And what can we share from Scripture to parents or loved ones on the death of a child?
In the normal order of life, children bury their parents. A child’s death reverses this order. For those parents and families, life will never be the same. It’s a wound that will never totally heal this side of heaven.
Shortly after 9/11, Larry King, interviewed nationally known author and pastor, John MacArthur. During the live interview, Larry fired a question at Pastor MacArthur that seemingly came out of nowhere. King’s question reveals a nagging, troubling issue in the human heart: “What about a two-year-old baby crushed at the bottom of the World Trade Center?” To which MacArthur responded, “Instant heaven.”
It’s a heartrending question that plagues Christians and non-Christians alike: What happens to children that die? It’s a very real question. It’s estimated that up to 25% of all human conceptions never complete the 20th week of pregnancy. Neo-natal death, (death in the womb), para-natal death, (death at the time of birth), occur in massive numbers even in our day of medical advancement. We have a larger population in the world than we’ve ever had, yet even with a lower infant mortality rate than we’ve ever had, there are still massive amounts of childhood deaths.
25,000 children under five die every day. That’s over nine million each year. Take that number, nine million annually, and keep adding years. The numbers of young deaths are staggering. So, the question, What happens to them? Where are they? has monumental significance. Jesus’ words are so comforting, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”
Although all humans are born into sin, in that we’re all sinners, as Psalm 51:5 states, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me,” yet because children are unable to cognitively believe and comprehend the issues of the gospel, they go to Heaven. Why?
Because Jesus, God’s Son, died on the cross for the sin of the whole world (1 John 2:2). He alone is the Savior of all human beings. The only means of receiving that salvation is by personal faith in Christ. This can only really apply to those who are able to believe. Small children can’t understand that they’re sinners, nor can they reject Christ. Since Jesus paid for their sin by His death on the Cross, children will be in heaven. The Lord Jesus died for all of our sin. The only sin that can keep a person separated from God is the sin of unbelief and rejection of Christ.
This is why, too, in that while we’re thankful many other religions and denominations are pro-life, we greatly differ with them in our motive. Because we believe life begins at conception, we believe abortion is murder. Other religious groups believe that, too, but they also believe that if a baby dies or an infant is aborted without being “baptized,” that child is doomed to hell. Apart from the fact that the Bible never teaches infant or child baptism, it certainly doesn’t teach an unbaptized child is sentenced to hell. It’s a manmade dogma with absolutely no biblical support.
The Bible never says that “by Christian baptism one enters the Kingdom of God and into the sphere of the saving work of Christ.” If baptism saves someone, why did Jesus have to die? Wouldn’t it make more sense that instead of Jesus dying we just “kidnap” people and baptize them so that they all go to heaven? Isn’t the unspoken answer to Jesus’ question in the Garden of Gethsemane? “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” But there was no other way than His substitutionary death on the cross.
C.S. Lewis in his wonderful book, The Last Battle, wrote about a terrible train accident that killed all the children in a family. That surfaced the question; What about those children? Here’s what Lewis wrote. “And as God spoke, he no longer looked to them like a lion” (Remember, Lewis pictures God as a lion, Aslan) but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them, and for us this is the end of all stories and we can say most truly that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world had only been the cover of the title page, now at last they were beginning chapter one of the great story which goes on forever in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
I love that! What a comforting truth for grieving parents and family – when children die they live happily ever after. It’s what Scripture affirms! It gives us hope! Jesus said, “for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”
Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.