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The Salvation of Babies Who Die, Part 2

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
October 11, 2023 4:00 am

The Salvation of Babies Who Die, Part 2

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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October 11, 2023 4:00 am

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Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son." Then it was told to hold the king as weeping and mourning for Absalom.

This is the exact opposite. He stopped mourning when the baby died. He started mourning when Absalom died. What's the difference? He knew the baby was in the presence of the Lord.

Absalom was not. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur. I'm your host, Phil Johnson. Currently, about three and a half million babies are born each year in the United States, and before Roe versus Wade was overturned, there were well over a half million abortions per year. And with the millions of miscarriages and the thousands of children who die from accidents or disease, well, the death toll of all those little ones is staggering. What happens to all those precious children? Find out today on Grace to You as John MacArthur continues his study, What Happens to Babies Who Die?

And here's John now with the lesson. There is the reality that millions, even billions, through human history of human beings have been conceived and died before they ever reached a condition of accountability, before they could ever understand law and grace and sin and salvation, before they could ever consciously reject the truth. What is their eternal destiny? Well, the Scripture weighs very heavily on the fact that they are received into heaven as redeemed souls to live forever with God.

Now just briefly to recap to sort of get you in the flow, we ask the question, who are we referring to when we talk about these infants, these little ones, these children who dying are saved? And the answer is this, those who have not reached sufficient, mature understanding to comprehend convincingly the issues of sin and salvation. And let me say as a footnote, that does not apply to the heathen. Adult heathen are caught up in the Romans 1 passage. When they know God, they glorify Him not as God, become empty in their imaginations, create their own gods and worship the creature more than the Creator. We're not talking about them. We're talking about those who have not reached sufficient, mature understanding to comprehend the issues of sin and salvation.

I told you there is no age of accountability, but there is a condition of accountability and it is true for children and it is true for some adults who are mentally retarded or handicapped. The second question we address, and this is a quick review, are all such souls conceived as sinners? Are they guilty before God and worthy of death?

And the answer is yes. The Bible is very clear that all are sinners, that we are conceived in iniquity, that we are wicked from the point of conception because we bear the guilt of Adam's sin and we bear the fallenness of Adam's nature passed down to us. All who are conceived from the moment of conception possess within them the power of sin.

It is in their humanness and they bear guilt before God. If infants were not sinful, if they were morally neutral, there would be then no basis for them to die because it is the wages of sin that is death. It is their inherited sin nature that plants in them the seeds of death. And for most who are conceived, it makes survival at least as if not more difficult than life.

Avoiding death seems to be harder than just living. From the time of conception there are so many things that threaten that life. Since it is true that all those that are conceived are depraved sinners, what implications does that truth of depravity have on dying children and their salvation? Well, it makes their salvation solely a matter of sovereign grace. They don't deserve to be saved because they are guilty sinners by inheritance. If they are saved, it is by the sovereign grace of God based on nothing that they can do, nothing they can achieve and nothing they can merit. The salvation of those souls then is absolutely consistent with the salvation of adults, which is also based on sovereign grace apart from anything that they can do.

And the fourth question we asked, by what means are infants saved when they die in a condition prior to accountability? And the answer, they are saved through the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ, His death for them because He bore the wrath of God for them as for all who could and would believe. They are saved then by grace, by sovereign grace. The only difference between their salvation and ours is faith is a part of ours.

It's not a part of theirs. But then again, faith isn't something we contribute. Faith is a gift from God. So they are saved by grace in sovereign election so that the work of Christ is freely applied to them. Ours is justification by faith, theirs is justification without faith because without the knowledge and ability to understand convincingly sin and salvation, they cannot exercise that faith.

We also ended last time by saying, Scripture nowhere teaches infant damnation, nowhere. What Scripture does teach, according to Revelation chapter 20, verse 11 and 12, remember is that all the people who are sent to hell forever are sent there based upon a record that God has kept and it's a record of their what? Their sins, Revelation 20, 11 and 12. Dominant sin they commit is unbelief...unbelief. Tied to that unbelief is a rejection of their true condition and a rejection of God's provision. So they are guilty of a failure to recognize their own sinful condition and a failure to believe what God has revealed to them. Whether in the case of a heathen who needs to believe the revelation that God has placed in creation and conscience, or whether someone has actually heard the gospel and rejected that, it is their rejection and unbelief that is the dominating and damning sin. But their judgment comes about based upon the record of the consequent sins to their willful unbelief. Children don't fit into that category. It is true, they sin, little ones sin.

Little children disobey, they're selfish, they're angry, etc. But they are incapable of understanding the moral essence of that sin. They are incapable of understanding God and they're incapable of understanding the gospel. They're incapable of exercising a true repentance toward God and a saving faith so that they are with excuse, whereas the pagans in Romans 1 are without use because they are capable of knowing and understanding the revelation God has given them in creation and conscience and they are capable of faith. And so unbelief for them is a willful choice. And so, in sort of summing that up from last time, all who die without reaching the condition of accountability are graciously forgiven and saved by God through the work of Jesus Christ being elect by sovereign grace and innocent of willful rebellion and unbelief against God and therefore accumulating a life of sinful works by which they would be justly condemned to eternal punishment. That's what we framed for you in our last message. Now I want to go to some supporting Scripture because I want you to understand how the Bible speaks to this issue.

This is very helpful material. I want us to look at the Old Testament and the New Testament, okay? And each of those under three headings, innocence, ownership and salvation. We'll start in the Old Testament. And what we're looking for in the Old Testament is passages that indicate that these little ones are before God innocent.

That is that they do not have culpability for which divine judgment is the just punishment. Turn to Jeremiah 19.4, because they have forsaken Me and made this an alien place and have burned sacrifices in it to other gods. Again, you know the story of Jeremiah. You know that God called Jeremiah to be a prophet and Jeremiah to come and speak of the judgment, the exile of Jerusalem, the judgment that was going to fall upon Judah, the southern kingdom, and Jerusalem. We know it as the Babylonian captivity.

And this is just a rehearsal of the same thing. They have forsaken Me. They've made this an alien place. In other words, they've made it a place of idolatry. They've burned sacrifices in it to other gods. Neither they nor their forefathers nor the kings of Judah had ever known because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. Now who are the innocent? Well, the best understanding of this passage is that it's a referral to the sacrifice of babies because in the next verse they built the high places of Baal or Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter my mind. You burned your babies. You remember passing the children through the fire of Molech. But the thing that I note here is that these are called innocent...innocent.

You burned the innocent. God viewed them as innocent even though they're not baptized babies of quote-unquote believing parents. These are the children of idolaters. They would be outside the faith of Israel even though they would be Jewish people. They would be outside the will of God. They would be...they would be essentially pagan Jews who are worshiping idols, burning their babies. And even the burned babies of idolaters are viewed here as innocent.

That is God's assessment of them. Turn to the little prophet Jonah and this is another...just an interesting insight into the innocence issue of the little ones. Jonah chapter 4, it's the last chapter of the last verse of Jonah, the eleventh verse of the fourth chapter. God wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh, as you know, and preach and He did, but Jonah hated it because he hated to see Gentiles sort of adopting his God because he hated Gentiles.

That was kind of the way it was and they didn't really want to include them. Jonah wanted Nineveh frankly just wiped out. He would have been happy if God had just destroyed the whole city. And so God told Jonah that that wasn't appropriate. In chapter 4 verse 11, should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals.

Those animals even are creatures that I have made and the beast of the field shall give me honor, He said in Isaiah. But what about the 120,000 persons who don't know the difference between their right and their left hand? This is referring to the little ones, the children, to the mentally retarded handicapped.

Am I going to just go in there and obliterate 120,000 people who really don't know the difference in what they do? You see here that God has restrained His judgment on Nineveh for the express reason that it isn't just to bring that destruction wholesale against those who are, in the words of Jeremiah 19, 4, innocent. So you can see in the Old Testament there are passages, and I'm giving you all of them, there are others, that do indicate this matter of innocence to be a reality. The second is the issue of ownership...ownership, which goes a little beyond innocence.

Innocence is just a categoric definition. Ownership personalizes it with God, and I'll show you this from a number of Old Testament passages. Jeremiah chapter 1...Jeremiah chapter 1, here we have Jeremiah introducing himself as a son of Hilkiah, one of the priests in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin. The Word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah, the son of Ammon, king of Judah in the thirteenth year of his reign, came also in the days of Jehoiakim, son of Josiah, king of Judah until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah in the exile of Jerusalem in the fifth month, and this is the whole thing leading up to exile. And then verse 4, now the Word of the Lord came to me saying, here's the first message that Jeremiah ever got, before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I consecrated you. I have appointed you as a prophet to the nations. Now this is consistent with Psalm 139. In Psalm 139 I read to you last time, and I won't go back over it, but I think you will remember Psalm 139 because it is so unique where David says you formed me from my inward parts, you wove me in my mother's womb, my frame was not hidden from you when I was made in secret, skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance and in your book they were all written the days that were ordained for me when as yet there wasn't one of them.

And that's very parallel to this. God says, not only do I deem you at that point as innocent, but I knew you then. You were a person then and you were known to Me then. Not only did I know you, but I had already set you apart for that determination that you would be a prophet.

You were Mine even then. In Ezekiel chapter 16, another remarkable statement that expands one's understanding of what I just read, you might say, well that's reserved for a prophet. That's reserved for a prophet.

Well, it's also what David said was true about him. Well you say, well those are special people, Jeremiah is a special person, David's a special person, maybe the Lord knows them in a special way, maybe He has saving intent toward them and after all they grew to adulthood and they believed, but it's much broader than that. In Ezekiel 16 and verse 20, you took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me and you sacrificed them to idols to be devoured. Here they are again burning up their babies. And then verse 21, you slaughtered whose children? My children, underline my. You slaughtered my children. You offered them up to idols by causing them to pass through the fire. You can't do that with my children, my children. That's a broad and general statement, my children.

But there's even more. You can go from innocence to ownership to salvation in the Old Testament. Come to 2 Samuel, this is most helpful, 2 Samuel chapter 12, 2 Samuel chapter 12. You know the story, this is David and Bathsheba, an infamous incident in which David committed adultery with a woman who was not his wife and in order to continue that relationship in an ongoing way, made sure that her husband Uriah was killed. So David was not only an adulterer, he was a murderer. This is a man of God in spite of his sins, face down on the floor for seven days, mourning and fasting and praying with grief, his sorrow so great that the servants think he might even take his own life to their shock.

When he finds out the baby has died, he stops weeping, gets up, washes, puts on clean clothes and eats and says, nothing to be sad about, gentlemen, I shall go to him. David was a believer. David sinned. David was chastened and David was forgiven.

He was God's child. So we know David wasn't saying, I'll meet him in hell. There's only one answer to this whole thing and that is that David knew where the child was and he knew there would be a reunion. And here's the key, David knew where he was going. It was David who said, I will be satisfied when I awaken thy likeness. David knew where he was going. He was going into the presence of God.

There was no question about that in David's mind. He knew when he died where he would go. Psalm 16, thou wilt not abandon my soul to the grave, to Sheol, neither wilt thou allow thy holy one to undergo decay. Thou wilt make known to me the path of life. In thy presence is fullness of joy.

In thy right hand there are pleasures forever. David knew he was going into the presence of God where there was eternal joy and eternal pleasure. And if he said, I shall go to him, then he knew where that child was.

And David it was who gave us the incredibly wonderful twenty-third Psalm in which David said, surely goodness and loving kindness shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Where do you think he thought the little one was? In the house of the Lord. And that's why there wasn't any reason to fast and that's why there wasn't any reason to weep.

Clean up. He's with the Lord and you'll be there too soon. Now I want you to turn a few chapters over to 2 Samuel 18 because I want to show you a contrast. This wasn't the only child David had. He had another son whose name Absalom is associated with a distastefulness, Absalom. Absalom was an adult son, a grown son. Now you remember that Absalom tried to pull a coup on his father.

That's the worst, isn't it? Your own son leading a revolution. I mean, it was a real tangled mess. You can read the prior chapters. David was cursed and all kinds of things. And Absalom was running around the country trying to gather a band of soldiers to himself to go and knock off the palace.

But yeah, he actually developed a conspiracy and chased David right out of Jerusalem. Here's his own son trying to kill his father. And this is the worst of sons.

This is no tender little baby held in the arms. This is a wicked, wretched, ugly, selfish, murderous, plotting, inspiring son. This is a father's worst nightmare, wretched son, sought to kill his father. He came after him to that effect. However, we find in chapter 18 that Absalom ran into a problem, literally. Verse 9, he was riding on his mule. Mule went under the thick branches of a great oak and his head caught fast in the oak.

Folks, if you're riding a horse through the woods, duck before the tree appears. Absalom didn't duck and his head wedged in a V in the tree and he was hanging there and the mule kept going. And somebody saw it and told Joab who was with him, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.

They killed him. Now verse 32, Cushite messenger comes and David says to him, hey, how's Absalom? How's Absalom?

Is it well with Absalom? And the Cushite answered, let the enemies of my Lord the King and all who rise up against you for evil be as that young man. May everybody else who's against you be like Absalom. Well, he knew what he meant. May all your enemies be killed the way he was killed. Now here's a second son who's dead. And the king was deeply moved. He went to the chamber over the gate and he what? He wept. And he said as he walked, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom, would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son. Then it was told Joab, chapter 19, behold the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.

This is the exact opposite. He stopped mourning when the baby died. He started mourning when Absalom died.

What's the difference? He knew the baby was in the presence of the Lord. He knew Absalom was not. In that first son, there was hope of a reunion. In the second, there was horror. No sorrow for the death of the first. Almost unrelieved sorrow in the death of the second.

If you've lost a little one, you know how crushing it is. But at the same time, there's hope when you realize your child is in heaven, rejoicing at the throne of God. That's the focus of John MacArthur's current study here on Grace to You, titled, What Happens to Babies Who Die?

Besides teaching on this daily radio broadcast, John is also chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. Now, you know, John, for Christian parents who've lost a child and anticipate a heavenly reunion, that does often raise a question. Are they going to recognize their own little one in heaven?

What about that? Well, the answer to that question is, of course you'll recognize your little one in heaven, not because of physical familiarity, but because of supernatural, heavenly, comprehensive, and complete knowledge. The Bible says that when we're with the Lord, we will know as we are known. We will enter into the fullness of comprehension of all the things that God has provided for us in the glories of heaven, including fellowship with other believers.

Yes, we will recognize everyone in heaven, including the ones that have come to heaven from our families. This question, of course, and a whole lot of other questions about heaven are answered in a book I've written called The Glory of Heaven. I can't understand why there's not a stampede to get this book on the glory of heaven. If you're a believer, you're going there. I can't imagine that you wouldn't want to know what it's like, what you're going to do when you arrive, and all the details of life in heaven that are laid out in the Scripture. We've pulled them all together, put them in the book, The Glory of Heaven.

It'll do a lot more than satisfy your curiosity. It'll describe the very place you're going to spend eternity. Now the book The Glory of Heaven is especially helpful to someone who's lost a believing friend or family member and wants to know kind of what's going on now that they have entered into the presence of the Lord. Again, the book The Glory of Heaven, available from grace to you, is always affordably priced. Thanks John, and friend, do you have a clear picture of heaven? John's book The Glory of Heaven shows you encouraging truth about what you'll do there, what your new body will look like, and why you should eagerly anticipate your future home.

Order your copy when you contact us today. To order, call 800-55-GRACE, which translates to 800-55-47223, or visit our website at The Glory of Heaven costs $11.50, and shipping is free from grace to you.

Many books about heaven are filled with fabricated, fictional accounts that claim to tell the truth about heaven. John MacArthur critiques some of those claims, showing you what the Bible really teaches about your glorious future home. Again, order by calling 800-55-GRACE or go to And let me remind you that grace to you is listener supported. When you pray for us and support us financially, you are helping us reach people around the world with the life-changing truth of God's Word. You can mail your tax-deductible gift to grace to you, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, California 91412, or you can also partner with us by calling us at 800-55-GRACE or log on to our website Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson. Be sure to watch Grace to You television Sundays on DirecTV channel 378, or you can watch online at And be back tomorrow for another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-22 09:13:40 / 2023-10-22 09:23:28 / 10

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