Do unborn babies and young children go to Heaven and do people who have never heard about Jesus go to Hell?

The loss of a child is deeply personal and painful. The eternal fate of unborn children and infants is a mystery that has always haunted the church. There are six options available as possible answers:

  1. All babies are reprobate sinners and thus immediately banned from Heaven, awaiting the final eternal judgment for their sin nature inherited from Adam and sentenced to Hell.
  2. All babies are elect by God and thus immediately translated into God’s presence in Heaven upon death.
  3. God chooses whom He saves and damns, therefore some babies are taken to Heaven and the rest are left to spend eternity in Hell.
  4. All babies are innocent until they reach the age of accountability, therefore all children who die before the age of accountability go to Heaven.
  5. All babies who are baptized into a covenant family are part of the New Covenant and therefore go to Heaven upon death.
  6. God is both the Father and Son who make the decision about salvation, the Spirit can save from the womb, and the decision is ultimately the Lord’s, whom we trust by faith.

There are three towering truths that help frame our understanding of infant life:

  1. We are sinners from our mother’s womb. [FOOTNOTE: Ps. 51:5 (NLT)]
  2. God knows us and is intimately involved with us from our mother’s womb. [FOOTNOTE: Ps. 139:13-16 (NLT)]
  3. God can and does save people from their mother’s womb. [FOOTNOTE: Ps 22:9-10 (NKJV)]

Isaiah [FOOTNOTE: Isa. 49:1–7] and Jeremiah [FOOTNOTE: Jer. 1:4–5] were both called by God for prophetic ministry from their mothers’ wombs. John the Baptizer was promised to “be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” [FOOTNOTE:  Lk. 1:15.]

Long before ultrasounds, our Creator God saw exactly what happens in the womb. Additionally, Jesus Christ, who became a baby, also loves children and said Heaven was for kids. [FOOTNOTE: Luke 18:15-17.]

For parents who have lost a child, the gospel of Jesus Christ is a great comfort. God is a Father, and Jesus Christ is the Son of God. When the Son of God died on the cross, the Father experienced exactly what it feels like to lose a beloved child.

Regarding what happens to a child after they die, and whether or not they go to Heaven, the most common Scripture given to answer that question is from the Old Testament. There, David is the father of a beloved child who died. [FOOTNOTE: 2 Sam. 12:15–23.]

David was in mourning, pleading with God to spare the life of his child who was very ill. David was in the pit of despair, so grieved that others wondered if he was suicidal. Yet, David stopped grieving and quickly moved on with his life once the child died. Why?

David had hope for his deceased child on the other side of death, and so should we.

God is a Father and to become a Christian is to be adopted into His family as His child. This is how everyone is saved, young and old. Ultimately, God the Father determines which children He will spiritually adopt into His family. The Father decides. And that is good news. Since He is a loving Father, our hearts should be at peace trusting Him for the eternity of our child in the same way we are trusting Him for our own eternity.

Pastor Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892) said, “I cannot conceive it possible of him [Jesus] as the loving and tender one, that when he shall sit to judge all nations, he should put the little ones on the left hand, and should banish them for ever from his presence.” [ENDNOTE #1]

Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” [FOOTNOTE: John 14:6.] Peter preached, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” [FOOTNOTE: Acts 4:12.]

The conclusion is simple: there is only one way to the Father and that is through Jesus Christ. All other religious roads lead to false gods and a real hell.

But there are many ways to Jesus. While the norm is responding to the preached Word of God, [FOOTNOTE: Rom. 10:13–15] there are biblical examples as well as life experiences where God gives special revelation of the Messiah to unsaved people in other forms, including direct speech, dreams, and visions. God called Abraham directly. [FOOTNOTE: Gen. 12:1–3] He gave Pharaoh dreams. [FOOTNOTE: Genesis 40–41.] He spoke to the treacherous prophet Balaam in a vision so that he prophesied about the Messiah. [FOOTNOTE: Num. 24:4, 16–19.] He appeared to Cornelius in a vision, which resulted in his being saved. [FOOTNOTE: Acts 10:3–6.]

I (Dr. Gerry Breshears) once talked with a Chinese man who was a brilliant university student and a rising member of the Communist party. One night as he slept, a shining person appeared in a vision, saying in Chinese, “I am who you are looking for. My name is ‘Gospel,’” with the last word in English. The young man had never heard the word gospel before but soon found it in his dictionary. He is now a Christian pastor with a very effective ministry. There are many such stories. The reality is that anyone who is searching and willing to respond to the goodness of God as Cornelius did will receive special revelation. God is perfectly able to bypass the “normal” channels to accomplish his purposes.

No one who comes to the Lord will be cast out. [FOOTNOTE: John 6:37.] As Paul says, “The Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” [FOOTNOTE: Rom. 10:11–13.]

Therefore, while there is no salvation apart from faith in Jesus Christ, there is also no reason to overlook the creativity of God to get the gospel out. His creativity includes using us to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth as pioneering missionaries to unreached people groups and generous givers to ministries that translate the Bible into new languages.