Do you wonder, “Are children innocent?” There are many bible verses about children’s innocence, such as Jeremiah 2:34 Jeremiah 19:4, 2 Kings 21:6, and Psalm 106:38. Children are innocent until they reach the biblical age of accountability.
Table of contents
- Even Babies Wouldn’t Go to Hell as Babies
- The Dispensation of Innocence
- The Connection to Children Being Innocent…
- Children Are Made Holy
Many people’s beliefs about babies going to heaven come more from wishful thinking or sentimentality than Scripture. We all want to believe babies go to heaven. We would probably all say that it seems right for babies to go to heaven. But the question is NOT, “Do we think babies go to heaven?” or “Does it seem right that babies go to heaven?” The question is, “Does the bible TEACH that babies go to heaven?”
Even though I want to believe that babies go to heaven, and it seems right to me that babies to go to heaven, that is not why I believe that babies go to heaven. I believe this because that’s what the Bible teaches.
If you have experienced a miscarriage, I don’t want you wondering what happened to your child and whether you will see that child again. I also don’t want you saying things like, “I believe my baby is in heaven because that’s what so many people have told me,” or “I think my baby is in heaven because the alternative is too terrible to imagine.” I want you saying, “I know my baby is in heaven because that’s what the Bible teaches.”
If you read this as a young person, you face the very real possibility of experiencing a miscarriage, or miscarriages, yourself. But even if, by God’s grace you never have to know the loss of a baby, you are going to meet people who have lost a baby. Few things cause people as much heartache. I want you equipped to minister to people experiencing that trial.
I want you to be able to comfort these people, not with clichés and platitudes, but with a biblical defense for their baby’s salvation. When those parents say something like, “How do I know I will see my child again?” I want you to be able to share Scripture with them.
Even Babies Wouldn’t Go to Hell as Babies
Everyone, believers and unbelievers alike, receive resurrection bodies. Nobody spends eternity in their earthly body. Here are a few verses making the point that our earthly bodies are much different than our resurrection bodies:
1 Corinthians 15:42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown (referring to our earthly bodies) is perishable; what is raised (referring to our resurrection bodies) is imperishable. 43 It (referring to our earthly bodies) is sown in dishonor; it (referring to our resurrection bodies) is raised in glory. It (referring to our earthly bodies) is sown in weakness; it (referring to our resurrection bodies) is raised in power. 44 It (referring to our earthly bodies) is sown a natural body; it (referring to our resurrection bodies) is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body (referring to our earthly bodies), there is also a spiritual body (referring to our resurrection bodies).
We can tell there are considerable differences between our earthly bodies and resurrection bodies. From what I have learned, most scholars don’t believe that our resurrection bodies will be the same age as our earthly bodies. This means that if a 90yo Christian woman dies, she doesn’t spend eternity looking like a 90 year old. If people thought they would spend eternity at the age they died, they might not want to live as long.
So, for lack of a better way to say it, what age will we look like for eternity? Many scholars believe we will be the age Adam and Eve were when they were created. We don’t know exactly what age that was, but we know they were old enough to work and reproduce. If I had to guess, I would say twenties or thirties.
If a baby dies, the baby doesn’t spend eternity looking a few months old. Or if we back up even further, if a woman miscarried early in the pregnancy, the baby would not spend eternity in that undeveloped condition. Instead, that baby would receive a resurrected body and look like a mature, developed adult. We hate the thought of babies going to hell, but a baby would not go to hell like we imagine. 1 Instead, that baby would become an adult for eternity.
So, again, the point is we can’t hold on to sentimental, philosophical thoughts about babies going to heaven simply because we don’t want to think of them going to hell…because babies don’t truly go to hell anyway. Let’s make sure we’re holding to Scripture’s teaching.
The Dispensation of Innocence
Adam and Eve were created during what’s commonly called the Dispensation of Innocence. We say that Adam and Eve were innocent because they hadn’t sinned yet, but it’s also true they were innocent because they couldn’t choose between good and evil yet. And God wanted to preserve Adam and Eve’s innocence:
Genesis 2:16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
As long as Adam and Eve didn’t eat from this tree, they would not have the knowledge of good and evil. And think about what that means: as long as Adam and Eve didn’t eat from the tree, they wouldn’t have to choose between the two. Their innocence would be preserved.2
Adam and Eve’s Lack of Shame
Adam and Eve were innocent. They didn’t have knowledge of good and evil:
Genesis 2:25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
They had so little knowledge of good and evil they didn’t know there was anything wrong with being naked. This is interesting to read, because many verses in Scripture reveal this is the OPPOSITE of how they should have felt. The verse says they were not ashamed, but many verses associate nakedness WITH shame:3
- Micah 1:11 Pass on your way…IN NAKEDNESS AND SHAME.
- Nahum 3:5 Behold, I am against you, declares the Lord of hosts, and will lift up your skirts over your face; and I will make nations look at YOUR NAKEDNESS AND KINGDOMS AT YOUR SHAME.
- Revelation 3:18 I counsel you to buy from me…white garments so that you may clothe yourself and THE SHAME OF YOUR NAKEDNESS may not be seen.
Something making this even more interesting is these are prophecies of judgment against ungodly people. Yet even ungodly people, who were not accustomed with experiencing shame, experienced shame when naked. So it is surprising that Adam and Eve did not.4
How Shame Is Created
Shame is created by knowledge of doing something wrong. Imagine you enter the home of people who always take their shoes off, but you don’t know that, so you enter with your shoes on and start walking around. You don’t feel ashamed, but when the owner of the house says, “We always take off our shoes” you feel ashamed, because now you know you were doing something wrong. Or imagine you started eating, but then someone says, “Okay, let’s pray for the meal”? You weren’t ashamed, but now you are…so you try to hide the large amount of food in your mouth.
I have been speeding before, not feeling any shame, but then one of my kids points out that I’m speeding and I feel ashamed. We feel shame when we realize we did something wrong, but until we have the knowledge we did something wrong we don’t feel any shame.
Adam and Eve Had to “Trust and Obey”
Most of what God commands us not to do, we know is evil, so we know we shouldn’t do it. For example, God tells us not to commit murder, adultery, or theft. Because we have knowledge of good and evil, we don’t wonder if these are behaviors are evil or not
But because Adam and Eve didn’t have knowledge of good and evil, when God said not to eat from the tree, they had to obey God in faith that it was wrong to eat from the tree. Think of the famous hymn, Trust and Obey. They had to trust and obey because they couldn’t tell that eating was wrong. Satan came and undermined their trust in God, which is the same thing he attempts to do with us:
Genesis 3:5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Satan was telling the truth, because he deceives people by mixing truth with lies. That’s why Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons will always be greater threats to Christians than Buddhists or Hindus. They have so much truth mixed into their false religions. And when Adam and Eve ate, they experienced the truth Satan said to them:
Genesis 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and THEY KNEW THAT THEY WERE NAKED. AND THEY SEWED FIG LEAVES TOGETHER AND MADE THEMSELVES LOINCLOTHS.
Adam and Eve’s Innocence Was Lost
Just like Satan said, their eyes were opened, they developed knowledge of good and evil, and they knew that it was wrong to be naked. The NLT says, “They suddenly felt SHAME at their nakedness.” So, they clothed themselves:
Genesis 3:11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
God didn’t ask this because he was wondering. He asked to give Adam a chance to confess. God knew the only way they could know there was something wrong with being naked was if they ate from the tree. This marks the end of the Dispensation of Innocence and the beginning of the Dispensation of Conscience.
The Connection to Children Being Innocent…
Babies are the picture of innocence. They are like Adam and Eve prior to eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They also feel no shame being naked or for any other reason. They feel no shame:
- Eating, making huge messes of themselves and everything around them
- Screaming and throwing fits
- Keeping their parents up all night. They never say, “Dear Mother, I know you are exhausted, and I am so sorry. I am going to go back to sleep and stop screaming so that you can rest. Goodnight. I love you so much.”
We love our son, George Muller LaPierre, but he recently started biting people. We are waiting for him to start behaving more like George Muller. That’s why we gave him this name: we thought it would make him godlier. We were hoping that would start when he’s young, but we’ve been wrong so far.
This past week George bit Lydia’s finger. I could see George’s teeth marks in her finger, and I was holding her while she was screaming. George was screaming too, not because he felt bad for his sister or because he couldn’t believe the horrible thing he did to her, but because he wasn’t getting what he wanted…which is why he bit Lydia in the first place. While Katie and I were going over the sermon, Noah came up in tears and showed us the place on his back where George bit him.
Babies don’t have knowledge of good and evil. They don’t know right from wrong. This is why they don’t feel shame until they are older.
Jeremiah 2:33 and 19:4 Teach Children Are Innocent
Let’s look at some verses revealing babies are innocent:
Jeremiah 2:33 “How well you direct your course to seek love! So that even to wicked women you have taught your ways. 34 Also on your skirts is found the lifeblood of THE GUILTLESS POOR; you did not find them breaking in.
God is condemning Jewish harlots. They worked hard to find men for business. They were so bad they could even teach the wickedest women. Pregnancy was one of the regular unwanted consequences for harlots in the ancient world. They wouldn’t want to remain pregnant, as that would destroy their business, so they frequently had abortions. God condemned them for murdering their babies. This pictures women murdering their babies and having blood on their “skirts:”
- Ellicott’s Commentary reads, “The general meaning is clear, and points to the guilt of Israel in offering her children, the “[guiltless] poor,” in horrid sacrifice to Molech.”
- Matthew Poole’s Commentary reads, “[It refers to] their sacrificing of their little children to their idols.”
- Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible reads, “[It refers to] the innocent infants of poor persons, who were sacrificed to Moloch.”
The phrase “you did not find them breaking in” means the murdered children didn’t do anything wrong to deserve this, such as breaking into their homes. The ESV says the babies were “guiltless” while other translations such as the NKJV, NIV, and NASB say “innocent.” Either way God looked at the babies that were murdered and called them guiltless and innocent.
Jeremiah 19:2 and go out to the Valley of the Son of Hinnom at the entry of the Potsherd Gate, and proclaim there the words that I tell you…4 Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with THE BLOOD OF INNOCENTS…6 therefore, behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when this place shall no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter.
The Valley of the Son of Hinnom was at the south end of Jerusalem. The followers of Baal sacrificed their children there to Molech in the days of Ahaz and Manasseh (2 Kings 16:3, 21:6; 2 Chronicles 28:3, 33:6).5
Tophet is in the Valley of Hinnom, which is why have the same name. Toph is the Hebrew word for drum, which is probably where Tophet got its name. Drums were used to drown out the cries of the children being sacrificed. God doesn’t just say that the children who were sacrificed were innocent. He says innocents – plural – because he’s describing a category or group who are innocent. All babies are innocent
God Is not Too Severe
The Jews slaughtered their children in this valley, and God says they are going to be slaughtered in it by the Babylonians. They will become like their children, with the Babylonians doing to them what they did to their children. Sometimes you read verses like this about God’s judgment – he’s going to use the Babylonians to slaughter the Jews – and he could seem harsh:
- About 100 years earlier he used the Assyrians to punish the northern kingdom of Israel.
- About 200 years earlier he used the Israelites to punish the Amalekites.
- About 700 years earlier he used the Israelites to punish the Canaanites
But all these nations were sacrificing children. If that doesn’t deserve God’s punishment, I don’t know what does. They were willing to murder their babies to try to improve their lives. It is not much different than abortion, or murdering babies today.
Psalm 106:38 Teaches Children Are Innocent
Psalm 106:34 They (the Israelites) did not destroy the peoples (the Canaanites), as the Lord commanded them, 35 but they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did. 36 They served their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They SACRIFICED THEIR SONS AND THEIR DAUGHTERS TO THE DEMONS; 38 they poured out INNOCENT BLOOD, THE BLOOD OF THEIR SONS AND DAUGHTERS, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood.
This Psalm looks back on Israel’s history. They entered the Promised Land, failed to destroy all the Canaanites, and then learned their practices, including child sacrifice. Again, God said the sacrificed children were innocent.
Second Kings 21:6 Teaches Children Are Innocent
2 Chronicles 33:6 [Manasseh] burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom.
Manasseh was the evilest king in the Old Testament, and arguably one of the evilest men who ever lived. Unbelievably he sacrificed, not just one of his sons, but many of them. In the parallel account in 2 Kings 21, God said:
2 Kings 21:6 Moreover, Manasseh shed VERY MUCH INNOCENT BLOOD, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides the sin that he made Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.
Again, God said the sacrificed children were innocent.
First Kings 14:10 Teaches God Is Pleased with Children
1 Kings 14:10 therefore behold, I will bring harm upon the house of Jeroboam and will cut off from Jeroboam every male, both bond and free in Israel, and will burn up the house of Jeroboam, as a man burns up dung until it is all gone. 11 Anyone belonging to Jeroboam who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat, for the Lord has spoken it.”’ 12 Arise therefore, go to your house. When your feet enter the city, the child shall die. 13 And all Israel shall mourn for him AND BURY HIM, for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because IN HIM THERE IS FOUND SOMETHING PLEASING TO THE LORD, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam.
Jeroboam was the wicked king of the northern kingdom of Israel who set up the golden calves and led the nation into idolatry they never recovered from. God punished him by cutting off his line. Jeroboam’s son, Nadab, was his only son to sit on the throne. Not only would Jeroboam’s descendants die, they would die in dishonorable ways. You know it’s bad when you die like dung [being burned up]. None of Jeroboam’s descendants would be buried, which to an Israelite was a punishment almost worse than death. Their bodies would be left above ground for animals to consume.
Jeroboam had an infant son, whom he probably hoped wouldn’t die. It’s like David’s situation when he sinned, and he hoped his baby would live. He did end up dying, but even though Jeroboam and all his descendants would be unburied, this baby would be buried, because there was something about him that [pleased the] Lord. Because he was an infant I don’t think he could have done anything that pleased God. He didn’t act morally or righteously. Instead, I think his innocence pleased God.
Ezekiel 16:20 Teaches Children Belong to God
Ezekiel 16:20 “You took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to [idols] to be devoured. Were your whorings so small a matter 21 that you SLAUGHTERED MY CHILDREN and delivered them up as an offering by fire to them?
Ezekiel was one of the prophets to the Jews in exile in Babylon, along with Daniel. He condemned the Jews for their idolatry that led to their exile, including sacrificing their children.
Many people are not “God’s children.” When the nation of Israel was unbelieving, God told Moses they were Moses’ people instead of His people. In John 8:44 Jesus told the religious leaders they were children of the devil. But God calls the sacrificed children, “My children,” which is a title reserved for the elect.
Job Thought Children Escape Suffering
Job 3:11 “Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire?…13 For then I would have lain DOWN AND BEEN QUIET; I WOULD HAVE SLEPT; THEN I WOULD HAVE BEEN AT REST,
Soon after Job’s trials began, he expressed his desire to die at birth to avoid his suffering. The afterlife was veiled in the Old Testament compared to the revelation we are given. But under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Job said dying at birth meant peace and rest, versus torment and suffering.
Children Are Made Holy
1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, THEY ARE HOLY.
The children of even one believing parent are holy. This does not mean they are saved or righteous. Holy means set apart: the children of even one believing parent are set apart for a special work. Imagine the Christian influence in a home with even one believing parent versus the homes of two unbelieving parents.
We could think the children of one believing parent, are holy, or set apart, and by extension innocent. But the children of two unbelieving parents, who are not holy, or not set apart, would not be innocent. If we imagine the wickedest parents children could be born to, they would be parents (like those in the above verses) who sacrifice their children to demons. We can even assume that prior to these children’s deaths they were around their parents’ wickedness, even if only for a short period of time. But God still said even those children were innocent.
In other words, it would be one thing to recognize the children of believing parents are innocent, but even the children of the evilest parents are still innocent. I hope it comforts you, as it comforts me, that when these children were sacrificed, they passed immediately from their torment in this life, to peace and comfort in the next life.
Our Older Children Are Not Innocent
There might be a debate about whether infants go to heaven, but all biblical scholars agree our older children are no innocent. The only older children going to heaven are those who have repented and put their faith in Christ. As parents, we need to do everything we can to support seeing our children be saved. This means:
- Praying for our children’s salvation
- Clearly preaching the gospel to our children
- Praying with our children
- Reading the Word with our children
- Faithfully taking our children to church, not just so they hear the Word preached – whether in Sunday school or the worship service – but so they see our commitment to the local church. We can’t expect our children to take their faith seriously if they don’t see us taking our faith seriously.
If you have lost a baby, be comforted that that child is in heaven. But if you have other children, they don’t have the same guarantee.
- If it bothers us to think of babies going to hell, it should bother us just as much to think of anyone going to hell. Yes, it would be terrible for babies to go to hell, but we should think of how terrible it is for anyone to go to hell.
- Just as God wanted to preserve Adam and Eve’s innocence, and we (parents)should try to preserve our children’s innocence as well.
- See also:
Isaiah 47:3 Your nakedness shall be uncovered, and your disgrace shall be seen. I will take vengeance, and I will spare no one.
Isaiah 20:4 so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptian captives and the Cushite exiles, both the young and the old, naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered, the nakedness of Egypt.
- If even some of the un-godliest people in the Old Testament experienced shame when they were naked, that says something about people revealing their bodies on television, the Internet, or social media, yet not experience shame. At least in this respect, it makes them look worse than these people in the Old Testament who are being judged.
- The English word Gehenna comes from the Aramaic Gehena, which is equivalent to the Hebrew “Ge bene Hinnom” or “Valley of Hinnom.” So, Gehenna and the Valley of Hinnom are the same place. Because this valley was right outside Jerusalem, Josiah eventually turned it into a garbage dump during his reforms. The fires were kept burning to consume the garbage and dead bodies. With smoke continually rising up from it, it became a symbol for fires of hell continually burning bodies. That’s why in the New Testament Gehenna is a metaphor for Hell. The word for hell in the New Testament (used 12 times, 11 times in the Gospels and once in James) is geenna. As you can imagine, the Valley became a picture of judgment, and a fitting place for Jeremiah to go for this object lesson illustrating the Jews’ coming judgment.