“I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”
2 Samuel 12:23
“I am going to turn off the machine now,” said the doctor. In a few moments our son Ashton, then 16 months old, slipped from this world and into the arms of Jesus. In the face of such tragedies Christians find comfort in the belief that their loved one “is in a better place.” The problem of course is that the Bible insists that there is more than one potential destination for those who leave the earth. Though Christ’s redemptive work made the world savable (1 Timothy 4:10; 1 John 2:2), only those who trust in Him for salvation are received into that place He has gone to prepare for us (John 14:2-3). “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life,” wrote John, “he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). This leaves us with the difficult question of what happens to little children when they die. Babies obviously can’t exercise faith in Jesus. Does this mean they are lost? Our God-given moral sensibilities recoil at the suggestion. The Scriptures themselves, I think, support our moral intuition on this. The Lord stated unequivocally why some people are lost: “This is the condemnation,” He said, “that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). This obviously does not describe a little child who doesn’t know how to choose good and reject evil (Isaiah 7:16). Though they too come into the world with a sin nature that disqualifies them from heaven (Psalm 51:5), God nevertheless displays saving grace to the little ones (Deuteronomy 1:39; Jonah 4:11). When they die, the saving benefits of Christ’s redemptive work are applied to their accounts. In his epistle to the Romans, the great apostle Paul draws our attention to the words of David in order to explain and defend the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith (Romans 4:7-8). David was no stranger to personal tragedy. Though he prayed fervently for the life of his ailing infant son, the LORD saw fit to take him anyway. David’s reaction is most instructive; “now he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23). David the prophet-king was confident that he was not only going to spend eternity with God (Psalm 23:6), but that he would be reunited with his son in that blessed place also. The Lord Himself pronounced little children the “greatest in the kingdom” (Matthew 18:3-4), and granted them free access to Himself (Mark 10:14). May the tender heart of Jesus and His amazing saving grace thrill and encourage you today, dear saints.