By far the most popular article (in terms of site hits) we’ve ever published at Between the Times is “Why We Believe Children Who Die Go To Heaven,” which we have posted on two occasions. The article was co-authored by Al Mohler and Danny Akin over a decade ago and has been published in a number of venues under a couple of different names over the years (including on Dr. Mohler’s website). I would not be suprised if more people have read this article than anything else Dr. Akin or even Dr. Mohler has ever written.
Last weekend I took part in a panel discussion at a local pastor’s conference in Durham. One of the questions was the eternal destiny of infants. I went on record, as I have in the past, in favor of the “salvation of all infants” view, though I confessed that it is impossible to “proof-text” any view with total accuracy. In fact, the famous Presbyterian theologian B. B. Warfield noted at least five views just among Reformed Christians, not counting all the other options that have been advocated throughout church history! This particular question has vexed Christians since at least the second century, and I suspect it will continue to do so until the end of the age.
While Mohler and Akin provide several reasons why they hold their position, I want to add an additional thought. While I do not think it provides a “slam-dunk” defense of the salvation of all infants, I do believe it provides corroborating evidence for the salvation of at least vast numbers of infants who do not come from believing families, which is the position held by many of our Presbyterian friends.
Revelation 5:9 and 7:9 both provide glimpses into the heavenly court wherein we see a great multitude of believers from every tribe, tongue, and nation in the presence of God. Now Baptists and other evangelicals are used to thinking of these verses as Great Commission passages; after all, how will they hear and believe unless someone preaches the gospel to them (cf. Rom. 10:10-15)? But I think we also see in these passages a hint about the salvation of infants. Remember that there were entire civilizations that had come and gone prior to the time of Christ, and many others that were extinct prior to the time they first had access to the gospel. Most evangelicals agree that conscious faith in Christ is normally necessary for salvation, with the possible exceptions of infants, very young children, and the developmentally challenged. So if inclusivism is not an option (and I think it isn’t) how is it that there are people from every people group around God’s throne if some people groups never had access to the gospel? I think the answer is that there are infants from every people group who have, by God’s grace, been redeemed, and therefore are now believers in the presence of their King. To say it another way, some of those tribes and tongues and nations are represented by redeemed infants rather than men and women who exercised conscious faith in Christ.
Again, I confess this doesn’t entirely solve the problem of infant salvation. Nor does it necessarily provide the only viable answer for how there are redeemed individuals from all people groups in heaven. But as one who rejects inclusivism as a legitimate biblical option, this seems like the best interpretation to me. And it directly addresses the question of what happens to those who die in infancy.
So for this reason, coupled with the several of the reasons articulated by Drs. Mohler and Akin, I think I can say with some confidence that at least large numbers of infants go to heaven. And since I see no biblical reason to place limitations on the number of infants who will be saved, I lean very heavily toward the idea that all infants will be saved, again confessing that there is no way we can be sure about this question. We can, however, be sure of this: God both just and merciful and always does what is right, no matter what and even when we have a hard time explaining it. This is true in the case of the salvation of infants, no matter who turns out to be right in the end.