In 2 Samuel 12:23 David’s baby died and he said: "He cannot come to me, but I shall go to him." This seems to imply that David knew his child was going to heaven. Acts 16:31 says “ "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."
ESV - 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely.
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Roman Catholic Church theology teaches that believers can pray for the departed souls of their relatives who did not obey the RCC Faith and even pay penance for their release from purgatory. This question therefore appears to be informed by this theology. However, it is nowhere taught or even implied in scripture that praying for the departed would influence their destiny. The teaching is based on Roman Catholic Church tradition rather than the Bible. However, as concerns babies, I believe God in the fullness of His grace knows that a baby who dies is innocent though not sinless and has divine provision for the souls of dead children. Child innocence is however not synonymous with being sinless. Whereas a baby below conscious age cannot make a decision for obedience, he however shares in our fallen nature because the sin of Adam is equally imputed on them. Nonetheless, knowing the moral nature of our loving God and based on some indications in scripture passages, it may be safe to.conclude that God in His loving grace has a special plan for the souls of departed children in His Eternal Kingdom. Jesus showed special concern for children and declared that the kingdom of God belonged to such (Matthew 19:14). In the Old Testament, David declared that he will one day meet his son by Bathsheba who had died under God's judgment for David's own sin (2 Samuel 12:23). Some may however interpret David's statement as indicating his eventual death when he will be "gathered unto his fathers" in death. The Hebrew idea of death appears to suggest that that the departed relatives continue to maintain some fellowship or communion of some sorts. King Josiah who was a righteous king was given a special promise by God when He declares in 2 Kings 22:17 "I will gather thee unto thy fathers and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace." However knowing that the Hebrews believed in the after life, we can also deduce that David looked forward to seeing his son when he shall stand in his lot "at the end of the days" (Daniel 12:13). In conclusion, we can deduce that while prayers for departed children is unscriptural there does seem to be some basis for salvific grace based on a number of New Testament scriptures. Paul says 1 Corinthians 7:14 "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy." 1 Corinthians 7:16 says "For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? This verse suggests that the influence in this context by reason of godly living that leads the unbelieving spouse into faith in Christ and does agree with 1 Peter 3:1-6. However as regards the saving faith for children, it is difficult to draw this conclusion based on the two passages alone because Paul's teaching is rather obscure since he does not develop or amplify it in any other passage or in any other epistle he wrote. Besides, no other New Testament writer delved into this teaching. Instead, this issue raises more questions than answers. For instance, did Paul imply that the faith of the believing parent cleanses the children so that by this fact they escape God's wrath? Could this imply that God uses the faith and godliness of the parent to release divine grace on the babies so that upon infant death they automatically go to heaven? What about the children of unbelievers who are equally innocent?
Many protestants believe that anyone who dies before the age of accountability (generally ages 11-13) or anyone who never has the mental capacity to understand the Gospel message is saved. David's baby was saved not because of David's faith but because he had not reached an age at which he could accept or reject the Gospel. He was not held accountable for something he could not yet understand. Witness the many references to "little children" by both Jesus and the Apostles in their writing. Little children were innocent and open-minded, totally dependent upon someone for their care. Believers likewise have the righteousness of Jesus, are judged "innocent" in God's eye from the penalty of death and understand their total dependency on God for their care. The fact that Jesus welcomed little children to Him and told us to be like them says to me that they were saved, at least at that point in their lives. Cornelius' household probably consisted of servants and young adults old enough to acknowledge Christ and be baptized. No one is saved because someone in their family has been. It's a PERSONAL decision each person must make for him/herself. And the Bible never models infant baptism since infants do not have the capacity to accept or reject the Gospel. Baptism does not save--faith in Christ alone saves.
Romans 2:11 says: "For there is no respect of persons with God." God will judge each person according to his/her works (Romans 2:6). Each person will have to answer for his/her own self. One person is not responsible for another person's sins. Addressing the second part of your question, in 2 Samuel 12:23 David was sure that he would see his baby when he died. We need to keep in mind that the child was very young - a baby. He was too small to understand how to get saved. Verses like Psalm 116:5 tell us that God is gracious, merciful, and just. He wouldn't throw innocent babies into hell. This causes me to believe that babies who die do go to heaven.
Babies who died before reaching accountability age will be saved. Isaiah 11:6 tells us there will by babies in Paradise. Also Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:14 tells that the babies are holy in the account of their parents. What happen to the babies of of non-believers? The Bible does not say but knowing that God is just and fair, there is high probability that will be saved. In 2 Samuel 12:23 David is lamenting the fact that he is going to be separated from his child till the resurrection. David understood that we are not going to heaven or hell when we die; we just go into a dreamless sleep; Ps. 13:3, Ps. 115:17; Ps146:4. Solomon, David son, believed the same thing Eccles. 9:5-6. Also please see Job 3:11-13, 14:12, Jer. 51:39, Dan. 12:2, and John 11:11.
If you don't mind, I am going to answer this question with a quick story that may create more questions than answers. A few years back, I was filling in for an absent Sunday school teacher and I was over prepared. I had enough material for probably 10 lessons. I had come across the question "will all children be saved or just the children of Christians?" and I had several pages of research about that topic including a strong paper by someone I don't remember which argued that only the children of Christians would be saved. Anyway, I had those papers and research at the bottom of my stack of preparedness meaning to only use it if I ran out of material. (fat chance) However, just a few minutes into my lesson, I opened my mouth to say something and nothing would come out. I excused myself, got a drink and tried to start again but nothing. To shorten the story, I couldn't say anything until I pulled out this topic. When I did, my vocal cords let go and we had a very nice discussion of this question. We discussed the story of the passover where Israel's children were spared but not Egyptian children. We discussed the story of Dothan in Numbers who was destroyed with his whole household when he rebelled by God opening a huge and swallowed them, as well as other stories. We also talk about the "age of accountability" which some say covers this topic. The consensus of the class was that it "could be" that only the children of Christians would be saved. A few hours after church I got a call from a woman that had been in the class who called to thank me for the class. She went on to explain that her son had been visiting from New Orleans and that because of the decussion we had he had decided to get his life right with the Lord because he could not take the chance that his kids salvation could be dependent upon his. I don't know If this validated our discussion or not. I do know that God would not let me speak until I brought out this topic. Would He do so even if we came to the wrong conclusion? I don't know. HE DOES. But at least I know in my heart He wanted us to discuss it.
Question: "Can the parents faith in Christ save a baby that dies?" In John 1:11-13 we read: "He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Becoming born again/saved has nothing to do with blood relation, nor because of the human nature, neither because individual(s) willed it to happen. It is of God.
A few responses here mention an "age of accountability." This is the correct direction to head in answering your question as the parents' faith has nothing to do with a child being in heaven. Does an infant born to "Christian" parents go to heaven while an infant born to Muslim or Buddhist parents go to Hell? Certainly not! None of these little children had an opportunity to accept or reject Jesus. So, the question then becomes, "What is the age of accountability for sin?" Some believe it is thirteen, yet the only Scriptural basis for this is that Ishmael was circumcised at this age (Gen 17:10-12). It is also a current "tradition” among the Jews to Bar Mitzvah a child at thirteen to celebrate them entering adulthood. However, this tradition celebrates entering into adulthood not becoming an accountable adult. Neither of these is conclusive regarding the age of accountability. So, most will tell you they simply do not know what the age is; however, God is a merciful judge. This does little to comfort parents who have lost child. And, the older the child... the less comforting it is. However, I believe that Scripture provides a solid answer to this question in the Torah. Following the completion of the tabernacle God tells Moses, “When you take the census of the children of Israel... every man shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD... it shall be a half shekel... (a shekel is twenty gerahs)... from those from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering to the LORD... it shall be a memorial... to make atonement for yourselves.” (Ex 30:12–16) Here the “Age of Accountability” is set at twenty years old when a person becomes responsible to pay a “ransom” price to make personal “atonement” for them. Shortly after Israel’s second Passover God tells Moses: “Take a census... of every male individually, from twenty years old and above—all who are able to go to war...” (Num 1:2–3) Here God reaffirms the “Age of Accountability” but we now learn it is for going to war and likewise “having victory” or “being killed” in battle. Five months later Israel is to take the Promised Land; but, rebels and refuses to go to war. The result is forty years wandering in the wilderness and the deaths of those “twenty years old and above” who would not “enter the Promised Land.” (Num 14:29) Here, the “Age of Accountability” is enforced on those twenty years old and above. They were held accountable for sin. However, children nineteen and under would enter the “Promised Land.” (Num 14:31) They were not held accountable for sin. Next, God tells us WHY “the children” nineteen and under are not accountable. “Surely not one of... this evil generation shall see that good land... except Caleb the son of Jephunneh... and to Joshua the son of Nun... he shall... cause Israel to inherit it. ‘Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.” (Deut 1:35–39) Note: “Joshua the son of Nun” translates: “Jesus the son of Eternity” and “Caleb the son of Jephunneh” translates as: “Wholeheartedly (the son of) He that shall be Turned” and... Caleb was a grafted in Gentile (a son of Esau – Num 32:12) who led the tribe of Judah. That is... Jesus the son of Eternity had a Gentile grafted into Judah named “Wholeheartedly he that shall be turned” at His side leading Israel into the Promised Land and with them are children who have no knowledge of good and evil! Praise God! God states the “little ones” AND the “children” under the age of twenty “have no knowledge of good and evil” and are not accountable for their sin. Simply stated, the little ones and children found grace in the eyes of God and it was based on the age God Himself set. God establishes the time of a person’s twentieth birthday as the time by which they know enough to refuse evil and do good. I hope this helps!
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