Where do babies go when they die? When King David’s infant son died, he said, “…While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:22-23)
David said, “I shall go to him.” Where did his baby go? We know that babies cannot believe in the Lord. In the Old Testament, people were justified by faith like they are in the New Testament. The Bible says of Abraham: “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6) David described the blessings of justification by faith. “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” (Romans 4:5-8)
It is commonly believed that Old Testament saints did not know about the afterlife. However, this is hard to prove. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans believed in life after death. Many other cultures did as well. David knew the true God and believed in God’s Son. There is no reason to believe that he did not know about life after death and many reasons to believe that he did. For example, David knew where his eternal home was. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” (Psalm 23:6) And he was not afraid of death. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
David believed in the Son of God and encouraged others to do the same. “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” (Psalm 2:12)
It is evident, then, that David believed his baby had gone into the presence of God at death. “…I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:23) This speaks of more than David joining his son in the grave. David expected to join him in Paradise!
Since an infant cannot believe in Christ and cannot comprehend sin or the gospel, a baby can’t be saved by faith. How then can a little one be saved? The Bible says, “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” (Romans 9:16)
Ultimately, salvation is a work of God. A baby does not need to willingly be saved because “it is not of him that willeth…but of God that showeth mercy.” A baby is not saved against his will because the will of the child does not come into play in this situation.
Christ died for everyone’s sins. “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) Since an infant is part of the world, his sins have been paid for by Jesus Christ.
Because Christ died for the infant’s sins, a baby does not have to die for his sins. Because the baby cannot willingly believe in Christ and does not know what sin is, the faith required of older children and adults for salvation is irrelevant. The baby’s sins have been atoned for. The baby cannot believe or disbelieve, but God can still save the infant by grace.
From my book, Repentance: God’s Marvelous Gift:
When I preach in jail, I often use this illustration of the freeness of salvation.
Many people think that their sins are going to send them to Hell. However, ultimately, there is only one reason why people go to Hell. Here is what the Bible says in John 3:18.
“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
This verse tells us exactly why a person is condemned to Hell. “…he that believeth not is condemned already, BECAUSE he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” People are not condemned to Hell because they are sinners. According to the Bible, they are condemned to Hell because they are unbelievers!
Here is an illustration to help us understand. Let us say that you were locked up in jail for committing some crime. Let us say that you stole something from a store. The reason why you were sentenced to jail was because you broke the law. You robbed a store.
Now, let us say that the judge is feeling very generous one day, so he offers a pardon to everyone in jail. The guard comes in and opens all the cells and says, “You’re free to go! You have been pardoned!”
Let us say that you do not believe the guard. You sit in your cell while everyone else leaves. “This is too easy.” You think to yourself. “This can’t be real.”
At that point, you would no longer be condemned to jail because you broke the law. You would be condemned to jail because you would not believe that you had been pardoned! And that is the situation with people all over the world. They deserve Hell because of their sins. In fact, all of us deserve Hell because of our sins. But Jesus Christ has died on the cross and paid the penalty for everyone! The pardon has been signed by the Judge of the universe. The prison has been opened. All can go free! But not everyone will. In fact, most will not. Many cannot believe that it could be that simple. Why are people condemned to Hell? “…He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18b) (Baker, 2014)
Now, let us look at an infant. Can the infant refuse to believe in the Son of God? Can the baby disbelieve Christ? The answer is NO! Then, how can an infant be condemned to Hell? You might answer, “His sins, Adam’s sin; sin makes him deserve Hell.” But he will not go there, because he cannot be condemned. Christ has died for all his sins and since he cannot disbelieve Christ, he cannot be condemned to Hell.
“But he cannot believe in Christ!” True, but neither could you or I unless God had ordained it. “…and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48 b.) We are dead in our sins until God makes us alive. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;” (Ephesians 2:1)
Evangelist John R. Rice was a Provisionist and made this argument for infant salvation based on 1 Corinthians 15:22 which says, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22) He wrote: “Note that no one goes to Hell for Adam’s sin, nor for his inherited taint. Little babies are kept safe because all that we lost in Adam is bought back by Jesus Christ. People only go to Hell for their own sins, not for something they cannot help.” (Rice, 1981, p. 1246)
Calvinists usually handle this subject differently because they believe that babies are guilty before God. They are born with a sinful nature inherited from Adam and guilty of Adam’s sin which has been imputed to all his descendants. “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5) They do not believe that 1 Corinthians 15:22 teaches that Christ will make all men, without exception, alive. Calvinist Matthew Henry argued that this verse pertains to the elect, those “in Christ” who will be made alive. He wrote: “But the meaning is not that, as all men died in Adam, so all men, without exception, shall be made alive in Christ…Thus it seemed fit to the divine wisdom that, as the first Adam ruined his posterity by sin, the second Adam should raise his seed to a glorious immortality.” (Henry, 2017)
Calvinist pastor “Charles Spurgeon said in an 1861 sermon, ‘We say, with regard to infants, Scripture saith but little, and, therefore, where Scripture is confessedly scant, it is for no man to determine dogmatically. But I think I speak for the entire body, or certainly with exceedingly few exceptions… when I say, we hold that all infants are elect of God and are therefore saved.’” (Roach, 2015)
God chose to know Jeremiah before he was conceived and ordained him to be a prophet before he was born. God can certainly know and save an infant who will have no chance to know Him by faith because of premature death. God can do this by His grace! “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
Since God foreknows those who will believe in Christ, it is logical to think that God foreknows all infants who will die as infants. In other words, God knows that if the baby had lived and grown up, she would have believed in Christ if she had heard the gospel and been able to believe it. Therefore, God ordains her salvation with the knowledge that she will not grow up and believe the gospel. It is also possible that God knows that if the infant had grown up, she would not have believed the gospel because of the circumstances she would have grown up in. Therefore, God takes the child’s life before the child grows up in those circumstances and consequently, disbelieves the gospel.
This opens an amazing possibility. Infant mortality rates were once much higher than they are now. According to an article on infant mortality by Max Roser, “Many researchers have independently studied mortality rates for children in the past: in different societies, locations, and historical periods. The average across a large number of historical studies suggests that in the past around one-quarter of infants died in their first year of life and around half of all children died before they reached the end of puberty. Since then the risk of death for children has fallen around the world. The global average today is 10 times lower than the average of the past. In countries with the best child health today an infant is 170 times more likely to survive.” (Roser, 2019)
It is possible that in countries where the gospel was not available, thousands of babies who would have grown up and not believed in Christ and consequently, gone to Hell; are now in Heaven because they died as infants. In this scenario, something that seems to be horrible: infant mortality, turns out to be merciful. Think of the millions of babies who have been aborted in modern times. Perhaps some would have been saved had they lived. Perhaps some would not. But now they are all saved and in Heaven because of God’s grace! God often turns things that look evil into good things for His people. Joseph said to his brothers who sold him into slavery many years before: “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)
This also raises another interesting question. “Do babies remain babies in Heaven, or do they grow?” I do not know. The Bible does not say. It is safe to conclude, however, that if babies do grow up in Heaven, they would know Christ and love Him. They would see and believe as Thomas did. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
 The theological term, Provisionist did not exist when John Rice was alive and preaching the gospel. It was created later by Leighton Flowers. However, any reading of Dr. Rice’s books or sermons will show that he was a Provisionist in his beliefs.
© 2022 Stephen D. Baker. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. From the book: ALL YOU OR ALL GOD?