The Salvation Of Those Who Die In Infancy
By Curt Wildy
Mr. Gilbert Beebe stated the following in his article titled “The Salvation of Infants” published in The Signs of the Times Magazine on December 1, 1856.
….the question returns, Are all infants saved? The answer to this inquiry God has seen proper to withhold from us, it is not our privilege therefore to answer it. Why he has not told us plainly, may be that from necessity on our part, we should trust the whole matter to him. The trial of our faith is very precious, and when we are called to give up unto his hands our little ones, our faith and confidence in him is put to a trying test. Job said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; and blessed be the name of the Lord.”
J. F. Poole, in a Magazine titled The Remnant (Volume 12, No. 6 – November-December, 1998) stated the following:
But we must now come to terms. Humbly, we say that the Bible offers absolutely no proof that God does save all or some infants dying in infancy. He can, and with some uncertainty we say He probably does, save some infants dying in infancy. This no one can prove and certainly we dare not try…. In the absence of Scriptural support we personally feel much more comfortable asserting we do not know how the matter will fall. We are positive that if God takes all or none of the infants dying in infancy He has done according to His good and perfect will. It is not the business of His creation to require of God a reason. The Lord’s arm is not shortened that He cannot save. The question is, will He?
Introduction to Part Two
Contrary to the assertions above, I am confident that God has given us plenty of cause to know and believe that infants who die as such are heaven-bound to be with their Saviour. I have already put forth several arguments in Part One of “The Salvation of Those Who Die in Infancy;” however, I would like to both cover new territory and expand upon the ground already covered. As a brief recap of the first part, God refers to infants as being innocent with innocent being the Hebrew word naqiy (see Psalm 106:38). This word literally means “free, clean, free from [guilt, punishment, obligation], exempt, clear, quit, guiltless, blameless.” They are made innocent by the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ. The Lord Jesus declared, as he picked such young ones up and blessed them, that of such is the children of Heaven (see Luke 18:15 and note that the word infants is the Greek word brephos which means an unborn child, embryo, a foetus, a new-born child, an infant, or a babe). The Lord Jesus did not state “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God symbolically.” God stated “for of such is the kingdom of God;” He stated this without qualification. The entrance of such young ones into the Old Testament Promised Land, the language associated with the sacrificed children, and the sparing of Nineveh all typify this very fact.
Sinners in need of grace
Before I begin, I want to state that I agree with Mr. Beebe’s view on Psalm 51:5 (Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me). In this passage, David is declaring that he was brought forth in iniquity, as the Hebrew verb and Pulal form signifies, and that in sin did his mother conceive him. He is declaring that he is an inheritor of the fallen, sinful nature of his parents and is thus, a sinner. Romans 5: 12, 18-19 declares: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned… Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation… For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners…“
The entrance of the Law and “Not bearing the iniquity of the fathers.”
We read in Romans 5:20 “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” God is clearly stating in the overall chapter that the offence of Adam was enough to make all of the fallen sons of Adam guilty sinners. However, God is also clearly stating that the purpose of the entrance of the Law was for sin to abound. But why would sin need to abound? If we are all fallen creatures guilty of eternal damnation in Adam, as we are, then why would sin need to abound? One answer is immediately stated… so that grace would much more abound. But there is another reason; even though Adam was the “public man,” father, and representative of fallen humanity, God has ordained that the imputation of Adam’s sin is not enough to send anyone to Hell. Is it enough to make them worthy of Hell? Absolutely, for “as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation.” However, we must take into account what many fail to, and that is the purpose and effect of the entrance of the Law in light of this very important rule:
Deuteronomy 24: 16 The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.
Ezekiel 18:20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
Here we see that though sinners in Adam and justly condemned in him, not one of Adam’s natural children will go to Hell solely because of Adam’s sin. According to God’s decreed law, for a soul to die it must be put to death for its own sin. Our sin nature makes us all subject to temporal death and fit for eternal death. However, if a person goes to Hell, it is only through the God-ordained means — the committing of and payment (wages) for personal sin.
Some may object, stating that God does make the children bear the iniquity of the father based upon the following verses:
Deuteronomy 5:9 for I the LORD thy God [am] a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth [generation] of them that hate me,
Exodus 34:7 … visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth [generation]
Exodus 20:5 for I the LORD thy God [am] a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth [generation] of them that hate me;
In the three passages above, God is not stating that He causes the children to bear the sins of their fathers nor is He stating that He will put to death the children for their fathers. These verses pertain to the consequences of those children who walk after the same sins as their parents; in time, they risk suffering under the same judgments visited upon their parents. They are also more likely to walk in those sins, inheriting the negative qualities and characteristics from their parents throughout several generations. Finally, they risk suffering under the temporal consequences of their parents sin. However, these verses give no cause for fear of eternal damnation based solely upon the sins of their fathers.
Some may counter still, with arguments based upon the deceased child of David and Bathsheba. This child died physically in direct relation to David’s sin, but that newborn elect saint of God was by no means ‘put to death for,’ or ‘forced to bear’ the iniquity of his parents. He suffered the temporal consequences associated with their sin, but his soul (which did not commit a sin of its own, either by omission or commission) was taken up to be with his Saviour. He was made innocent (naqiy) by the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ — his sin nature being thoroughly nailed to the cross (as discussed in my previous post ).
Concerning the issue of how infants can be without personal sin, let me once again reference:
Romans 9:10-11 “but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, [even] by our father Isaac; 11 (For [the children] being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil…”
Romans 5:13-14 “For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.”
In light of these verses, consider Adam more carefully. Would Adam have been guilty of sin if he had eaten of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil before God stated “of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it?” Of course not; Adam would not have been guilty if God had not yet declared “…thou shalt not eat.” Yet once God so declared, once He brought in the law, causing it to enter, then any subsequent eating would have been (and was) transgression.
Likewise, if God declared “…thou shalt not eat…” in a language that was never revealed to Adam, or in documentation never provided to him; that is, if Adam had no means of knowing or understanding the will of God, then he could not be guilty of transgressing it. Why, because no law exists to him. For the law to exist to him, making him subject to its penalties, he must be made aware of the law and he must be given an understanding of it. Thus, “to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth [it] not, to him it is sin (James 4:17).” However, to him that does not know to do good, there is no sin imputed because sin is not imputed when there is no law. This is why God clearly and specifically told him ‘do not eat of it.’ This is also why God wrote the law on the hearts of men as we read in Romans 2:14-15 “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and [their] thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)…”
As I stated in the previous post, after Rebecca conceived, but before the children were born, the children had not yet done any good or evil. Why had they not yet done any good or evil? Because they were still in a state wherein they lacked the wherewithal to have “knowledge between good and evil” (Deuteronomy 1:39) or to know to “refuse the evil, and choose the good” (Isaiah 7:16). Just as Adam could not be guilty of transgression of the law if the law was never made known to his understanding, little children cannot be guilty of transgression if they lack an understanding or perception of the law. Sure sin is in the world, even in their nature, but where there is no law, then there is no reckoning or imputation of sin (no incurred guilt for legal transgression due to them having no ability to remotely understand, or to be aware of it). Their limited mental capacity gives them no ability to have any knowledge of good and evil; they cannot even operate under the law written in their hearts.
How does one commit sin?
The Bible declares that “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). We also read that the strength of sin is the law (1 Corinthians 15:56). However, Romans 3:20 clearly declares “by the law [is] the knowledge of sin.” If there is no knowledge of sin, there is no law; Romans 4:15 declares “where no law is, [there is] no transgression.” Where there is no law, sin is dead for Romans 7:8 tells us plainly “For without the law sin [was] dead.”
The Apostle Paul stated that he had not known sin, he could not distinguish between good and evil, until the law came — for he “…had not known sin, but by the law: for [he] had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in [him and in all of us by nature who come to an understanding of the law] all manner of concupiscence.” But for the infant who has never come to such a knowledge, he is free from such sin — innocent of it though his sin nature still makes him a sinner. They have Adam’s sin imputed to them (the cross of Christ having put this away along with their sin nature) but God has purposed that no one will be damned solely for Adam’s sin. This is why we read that they have not “sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression;” they have not actively disobeyed a law or commandment of God with their understanding. Being innocent of any sins of their own, we can know that God has ordained all such to be His elect children. Is it because they died without active, personal sin that God must elect them and save them? Absolutely not. However, such infants die in their infancy because God has elected them and purposed that they be kept from such active, personal sin. He uses them as a type of how we, older saints, must be in our spiritual walk (i.e. innocent and without personal sin after the inner man) for verily God says unto us in Mark 10:15 “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.”
Can a baby distinguish between lawful and unlawful food?
In the Greek, the word for law is nomos and it means anything established, anything received by usage, a custom, a law, a command. It comes from the primary Greek word nemo which means to parcel out, especially food or grazing to animals. God’s spiritual law (as opposed to the “moral law”), His words which are Spirit, His agape love — all can be likened to the spiritual food that He parcels out to His elect sheep — it is our spiritual daily bread. This is why the Lord Jesus declared “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4)” and “…My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work (John 4:34).” The inspired writer speaks of those that “…are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk [is] unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, [even] those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:12-14).” Job stated in Job 23:12 “Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary [food].” Thus, the law of Christ, the perfect law of liberty, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, even the law of faith is the Christian’s law — his parcelled out food. The reprobate have as their lawful food the moral law and/or the law written on their hearts (Romans 2:15) which they reject in favor of forbidden fruit.
To transgress the law of God then, to sin, is to eat of that which the Lord does not parcel out (nemo) to us; it is to eat of strange or unlawful food. It goes back to Adam; to obey the law was to eat of the food God parcelled out to him, but to disobey the law was to eat of the food that was not parcelled out, not lawful for him (the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil). Adam was given the requisite ability to understand what food he could eat and what food he could not eat — a baby cannot discern between lawful and unlawful food — he places anything in his mouth that is put before him, and if it can be eaten, he will eat it. Just as a baby cannot discern between lawful and unlawful food, but will innocently eat all — a baby cannot discern the law, cannot discern between good and evil, and thus the law has no tangible or cognitive existence to him. If there is no law, there is no reckoning of sin.
And they were judged every man according to their works
Consider Revelation 20:11-15 “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Notice how the passage above repeatedly speaks of “their works;“ it does not speak of “Adam’s work imputed to them,” but to their own works (plural). Hell is the wages of sin and we will be recompensed for all of our evil works if we lack a Divine Saviour, Redeemer, and Substitute. But where there are no works, where one has neither done any good or evil, there can be no judgment according to their works. As a result, we can say that babies are not accountable to the law for their own sins because they cannot sin in any reckonable (imputable) fashion. They can do neither good nor evil. The purpose of them being made sinners in, or resulting from, Adam’s transgression is to guarantee that when they reach the state wherein they can know to refuse the evil and choose the good — they will refuse the good and choose the evil. God purposed that all who reach that point will sin; he has ordained that all should walk according to their nature (as children of wrath who stand and fall before him for their own sins).
Before Adam or this world was, God sovereignly elected a people unto salvation and eternal union with Him. He then purposed that some amongst His elect family would die in infancy (or in an infantile mental state, being in that state from infancy) — as discussed above. Reprobate infants, on the other hand, are reserved for darkness; they will always live long enough to commit their own personal sins. They too are fallen creatures in Adam; sinners because of his sin (with him being their carnal representative and federal head). Yet they also have no sin of their own omission or commission until they reach the mental state wherein they can know to choose the good and refuse the evil. God keeps them physically alive to the point wherein they can transgress the law. Once that point is reached, there sin nature will always cause them to choose the forbidden food. All men, elect and reprobate, upon reaching this point will always choose the evil and refuse the good — it is completely inevitable and completely outside of their corrupted wills and desires to refrain from so doing. The only difference is the purpose of God; one group He purposed and predestinated to save from their sins and the other He purposed to leave therein unto their total damnation. The latter are those whom God endures with much longsuffering, even the vessels of wrath fitted to (thoroughly completed for) destruction” Romans 9:22. They are the ones reserved unto the day of judgment to be punished (2 Peter 2:9 and Job 21:30). God declares that He “has made all [things] for Himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” Proverbs 16:4.
From the womb
I believe that the reprobate being reserved to sin, and left forever in their sin, is the very thing that God meant for us to understand when He declared in Psalm 58:3 “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” The Hebrew word for speaking is dabar (Strong’s #H1696) and it literally means setting in a row, ranging in order words in speech, declaration, conversation, threatenings, or singing. God is not instructing that children who clearly cannot orderly set forth their words orderly in speech nonetheless tell lies from the moment they are born. Instead, He is declaring that from the womb, the wicked have been eternally purposed to be liars and spiritual strangers — ever estranged from Christ and His Kingdom. From conception to birth to maturity they have been setup for the purpose of being eternally alienated from God. We can find proof of this interpretation in the opposite language concerning the elect.
We see that the accountable saints will grow to some degree of maturity, will be led through the fiery furnace, and will be refined as gold. Their sins will be forgiven them and mercy and loving-kindness will overflow them due to the finished work of Christ on the cross. Such amongst the elect are covered/defended from the womb (Psalm 139:13); holden up/upheld from the womb (Psalm 71:6); cast upon God from the womb (Psalm 22:10); known and sanctified from the womb (Jeremiah 1:5); prepared and established from the womb (Job 31:15); narrowed, straitened, and fashioned from the womb (Isaiah 44:2, Jeremiah 1:5); and called and ordained to their appointed godly callings in this life from the womb (Job 31:18, Jeremiah 1:5, Galatians 1:15-16, Isaiah 49:5). From the womb, to their birth, to the culmination of their individual life experiences, God has hedged them in, narrowed and straightened them, and preveniently guided them, sculpted them, to shape them for the godly purposes that He has ordained for them. This is why Job could declare in Job 31:15-18 “Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion [lit. establish, prepare, make ready, set-up, ] us in the womb? 16 If I have withheld the poor from [their] desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; 17 Or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof; 18 For from my youth he was brought up with me, as [with] a father, and I have guided her from my mother’s womb.“
Like the Israelites in Deuteronomy 1:39, far too many of God’s people today believe that little ones “should be a prey;” but they are not a prey. God promises concerning our spiritual Promised Land that the innocent, the little ones, shall go in thither. Unto them He has given the Land to possess it — for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven. Though inheritors of a sinful nature by way of Adam’s fall, they have no works listed in the open books from which they can be judged (Revelation 20:11-15). Unlike Adam, they cannot understand the law; they cannot distinguish between the God-provided parcelled out food (all that is lawful) and the forbidden fruit (all that is unlawful). If “sin is the transgression of the law” and they have no understanding of the law, they cannot be said to sin. Where no law is, there is neither the strength of sin nor the imputing of it. Like Adam, one must know and understand the law before they can be held accountable for transgressing it. If “by the law [is] the knowledge of sin” and the infant doesn’t even know the law, let alone know sin, there is no transgression for where no law is, [there is] no transgression — because sin is dead without the law.
Therefore, let us not say that “God has seen proper to withhold from us” that which He clearly sets before us. Let us abstain from arguing that the Lord “has not told us plainly” that which He plainly tells us (if we look openly into His word). Let us not be so bold as to declare that “the Bible offers absolutely no proof that God does save all or some infants dying in infancy” when the proof is right before us. Finally, let no one maintain that “no one can prove” what God’s own word proves for us. I agree that “in the absence of Scriptural support we personally feel much more comfortable asserting we do not know how the matter will fall;” however, in the presence of Scriptural support we should submit ourselves to the biblical evidence and fall before His revealed truth with praise and thanksgiving. Yet I say these things faulting no man, because we all see through a glass darkly. We all can only see as far as what God ordains for us to see. If any see any more or any less; if any be right or mistaken; it is all in the hand of God for ‘who makes us to differ [from another]? and what have we that we did not receive? now if we did receive [it], why do we glory, as if we had not received [it]?’ Be it far from us to take pride in such things. If I have erred in anyway, I trust that God will show and correct me in due time. If I have spoken truth, I pray that God will bless others with it. Either way, to God be the glory in all things.