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The Salvation of Babies Who Die, Part 1 B

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
October 10, 2023 4:00 am

The Salvation of Babies Who Die, Part 1 B

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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October 10, 2023 4:00 am

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Wisdom for the Heart
Dr. Stephen Davey

When an infant dies, he or she is elect to eternal salvation and eternal glory. So, dear one, if you have a little one that dies, count not your human loss. Count your eternal gain. Count not that child as having lost, but having gain. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. A little life is precious. It's understandable that parents, even non-Christians, would want to believe their baby girl or boy who died went straight to heaven. But does the Bible back that up? Does God take all babies to heaven even though they haven't trusted Christ for salvation?

Or does he only take some babies? If you've lost a child, or if you know someone who has, make sure you stay here as John MacArthur shows you from Scripture what happens to babies who die. That's the study John continues today on Grace to You, and here's John now with the lesson. This matter of death that exists in the world is obviously a massive force that operates in the realm of the little ones, and we need to understand what it indicates, what it means. Life begins at conception. That is clear in Scripture.

This is what the Bible teaches without question. So any death from the point of conception on is the death of a person, and persons have eternal souls. Millions, perhaps billions of such souls have died throughout history. Millions continue to die today.

In fact, cumulatively in the modern era, billions. One report I read in a book called Empty Arms says that up to 25 percent of all human conceptions do not complete the 20th week of pregnancy. One out of four conceived die. Seventy-five percent of fatal deaths occur in the first 12 weeks. Neonatal death, that is death in the womb. Perinatal death, that is death at the time of birth, occurred in massive numbers. Even today with medical advancement, we have a larger population in the world than we've ever had.

We have a lower mortality rate than we've ever had because of medical advancement. We still have a massive amount of deaths. And these are, as I said, eternal souls. And the question about where are they then is of monumental significance.

They're either populating hell at an incredible rate or populating heaven at an equally incredible rate, or getting divided into heaven and hell. This is a question that needs to be answered. It needs to be answered on the large scale.

It needs to be answered on the individual scale. A parent has the right to know, where is my baby? Where is my child?

Where is that adult child of mine whose mind never developed and who for all intents and purposes mentally is still an infant? And here's where some people jump in and say, well, if they're all sinners, they're all born in sin, they're all guilty, then they're all damned to hell. And all the little ones who die by the millions and billions because they are sinful deserve death and hell and that's where they go.

And since they can't repent and since they can't cry out to God for mercy and grace, they can't believe in Jesus Christ, they all go to hell. Phil Johnson wrote one of his lessons, I met one fellow whose own child died in infancy and he seemed to think there was something meritorious about believing his own child had gone to hell. Every chance he got, he brought up the issue and boasted about he and his wife had come to grips with the fact that their child was simply not among the elect.

I told him I thought he and his wife were in for a pleasant surprise when they get the glory. I recall that he said he was absolutely certain that if God elected that infant to salvation, he would have kept him alive long enough to bring him to faith. My reply was that he would have had just as much biblical warrant to conclude that if God had decided not to elect that child, he would have kept him on earth long enough for the child's heart to be hardened by sin and his rebellion against God to be manifest through deliberate actions.

Because whenever Scripture describes the inhabitants of hell, it always does so with lists of sins and abominations they have deliberately committed. We might look at the biblical data and conclude that when God takes the life of a little one, it is actually an act of mercy, keeping that child from being hardened by a life of exposure to evil and a life of deliberate rebellion against God. One's position on this issue says a lot about one's view of God, I like this, and His grace.

And if you understand, by nature, God is a what? Savior. Haven't we said that over and over and over and over? Is not that the truest expression of his heart? Isn't Jeremiah weeping the tears of God in Jeremiah 13? Isn't Scripture saying God wants people to be saved, He's not willing that they perish?

How can we believe that if He catapults billions of helpless infants into hell? Is this any magnification of grace? Is this any illustration of grace? Somebody else will come at this point and say, ah yes, but God is gracious, but only to baptize babies.

This is right. This is Lutheranism. Now we certainly have much to thank Martin Luther for, but infant baptism isn't one of the things. Luther's catechism says this, quote, "'Baptism worketh forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives everlasting salvation to all who believe as the word of the promise of God declare.'"

Well, the baby can't believe. That's where Luther jumped in and said, well, surrogate faith on the part of his parents is rendered in his behalf. So baptized babies will be saved. The Lutheran Augsburg Confession says, quote, "'Baptism, Lutherans teach that it is necessary to salvation and that by baptism the grace of God is offered and that children are to be baptized who by baptism being offered to God are received into God's favor,'" end quote.

This view is held by Anglicans and Episcopalians and some Reformed groups. The Roman Catholic Church essentially teaches the same thing, that the removal of sin depends on the sacrament of infant baptism. Without infant baptism, without baptism, no child can be saved. Council of Trent, 1563, based the salvation of infants on Roman Catholic baptism. In 1951, Pius XII taught that, quote, "'No other way besides baptism is seen as imparting the life of Christ to little children.'"

The New Catholic Catechism says, "'By Christian baptism one enters into the kingdom of God and into the sphere of the saving work of Christ.'" So the answer of the sacramentalists is the baptized babies are saved and the unbaptized babies aren't. Well this would make salvation not an act of grace, but an act of works. That is no credit to the grace of God.

The point must be rejected outright. First of all, since infant baptism isn't mentioned or taught in Scripture. If you're trying to find infant baptism in the Bible, you're not going to find it. Infant baptism would certainly be a work. And if babies are saved in that work, then salvation is not by grace. Now let me summarize. No view of infant salvation which denies original sin and total depravity is true.

Did you get that? No view of infant salvation which denies original sin and total depravity is true. Babies are not free from sin, they are sinners.

Second summary point. No view of universal damnation of infants who die necessarily protects the doctrines of salvation since salvation is grounded in absolute sovereignty and comprehensive grace. All babies saved would be an act of grace apart from any merit on the part of any child and that is true of adult salvation. And thirdly, no baptism of anyone including infants saves them. That would make salvation by works. What I just said to you, in case you didn't follow it, is that all babies are depraved, fallen, guilty, corrupt sinners. But sending them all to hell doesn't necessarily protect the doctrine of salvation since the glory of the doctrine of salvation is that it is a sovereign choice by God provided for unworthy, incapable sinners purely on the basis of grace. That eliminates any work including baptism.

One more question. If infants are saved when they die, by what means are they saved? If those who are retarded, mentally retarded, mentally disabled, dysfunctional, and therefore in the same category as an infant would be in the condition of not having a capability to understand matters of salvation. If they are saved when they die, by what means are they saved? By what means? Well, I'll tell you the means, by the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ, because that is the only means that anybody can be saved.

Now listen to what I say. God has predestined all He wills into salvation, including those in infancy. That salvation is by His sovereign choice through grace alone, though all infants deserve eternal judgment because of their guilt and corruption. Their sins were paid for by the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross in which He bore the wrath of God not only for all who could believe, but for all who could not believe. I really do believe that only those who understand true Reformed theology can grasp the redemption of little ones which fit so beautifully because it's all of sovereignty and it's all of grace.

B. B. Warfield, the great Princeton theologian, wrote this, "'The destiny of infants who die is determined irrespective of their choice by an unconditional decree of God suspended for its execution on no act of their own. And their salvation is wrought by an unconditional application of the grace of Christ to their souls through the immediate and irresistible operation of the Holy Spirit prior to and apart from any action of their own proper wills. And if death in infancy does depend on God's providence, it is assuredly God in His providence who selects this vast multitude to be made participants of His unconditional salvation. This is but to say that they are unconditionally predestined to salvation from the foundation of the world. If only a single infant dying in irresponsible infancy be saved, the whole Arminian principle is traversed. If all infants dying such are saved, not only the majority of the saved, but doubtless the majority of the human race hitherto have entered into life by a non-Arminian pathway.'"

Little tongue in cheek there. What he's saying is, anybody who has an Arminian system has in that system some contribution to salvation made by the individual, that it's partly God and partly us. And that's why he intends to say that it is only a pure understanding of the doctrine of salvation that says it's all of God and all of grace that can account for the salvation of these little ones. And I quickly added that salvation is not apart from Christ, it is through Christ.

He, as Warfield says, is the bearer of their sins in His own body on the cross. You say, but, but, but, but they didn't believe, they didn't believe. They couldn't believe.

They couldn't believe. And so in grace and mercy and sovereign election through the sacrifice of Christ and His resurrection freely applied to them, they are ushered into God's kingdom. And of course Scripture nowhere teaches infant damnation, and I'll show you next time how it teaches the opposite.

And I want to close with this. What does Scripture teach about damnation? Turn to Revelation chapter 20. This is important.

This is the main point that I want you to get in this message. Revelation chapter 20. Scripture teaches, listen very carefully, Scripture teaches, and here's a summary statement and I'm going to show you how it comes through Scripture, teaches that men and women are saved by what? Grace, but damned by works. Scripture teaches that all condemned sinners earn their eternal punishment by their sins.

How do I know that? Because whenever you go to the judgment seat, this is what you see, Revelation 20 verses 11 and 12. Here's the great white throne, this is the final judgment of all the ungodly of all history. And the one sitting upon the throne, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away and no place was found for them, obviously the great judge. God has committed that judgment to Christ, it tells us in John 5. There is Christ the great judge on the throne. And verse 12, I saw the dead, the great, the small standing before the throne and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged, listen to this, from the things which were written in the books according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them. And they were judged, every one of them, according to their...what?

Deeds or works. I'm going to say this again, Scripture always, always connects eternal condemnation to the sinner's deeds, works always. In John 8, 21 and 24, the most significant damning work, Jesus says, because you believe not in Me, you will die in your sins and where I go you'll never come. The greatest of all the sinner's evil works is unbelief...unbelief. And unbelief is always singled out as the primary damning sin. John 3, 36, he who believes in the Son is eternal life, he who doesn't obey the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God abides on Him. Earlier in the chapter he says, you don't believe, you don't believe, and because you don't believe, you're condemned. You're condemned if you don't believe.

And when you don't believe, you don't obey. So there's a life of evil works that are recorded, the books recorded. God has a complete record of every sin of every sinner who has ever lived and it is on the basis of those records that they will be condemned. It is the sins that sinners commit that constitute the record that is established against them by which condemnation falls from the throne of God.

Little children don't have that record. In Jonah 4.11, should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who don't know the difference between their right and left hand and left hand, as well as many animals? There are people there, God says, who deserve compassion because they don't know the difference.

They don't know the difference between their right and left hand. He's speaking of those who are infants or those who are mentally incapable of understanding truth. And God says they deserve compassion because of that condition. In Deuteronomy 1.39, God talks about your little ones who have no knowledge of good or evil. There's a point in life when you don't have the knowledge of good or evil.

You haven't reached that condition of accountability. Similarly, in Isaiah 7.16, before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, and so forth. Infants who die then have never had anything written in the record because they've never committed the deeds, conscious deeds of rebellion and iniquity.

God knows at what point they become accountable. Infants who die have been protected by God's providence from committing those deeds, those responsible acts of sin by which they would be condemned. And listen, there is no place in the Bible where judgment is based on any other grounds than the deeds of sin. It's true they're sinful by nature, but the account against them that condemns them is their deeds. God doesn't charge people with actual sins until they commit them. Now listen, salvation then is by grace completely apart from works.

Damnation is by works completely apart from grace. Infants have no sinful works to fill the books and condemn them. So I say this, if a baby dies, that baby is elect. Instant heaven. Let me read you something in closing written in 1907 by R. A. Webb.

Listen to this. If a dead infant were sent to hell on no other account than that of original sin, there would be a good reason to the divine mind for the judgment because sin is a reality. But the child's mind would be a perfect blank as to the reason of its suffering. Under such circumstances, it would know suffering, but it would have no understanding of the reason for its suffering. It could not tell itself why it was so awfully smitten and consequently the whole meaning and significance of its sufferings being to it a conscious enigma, the very essence of the penalty would be absent and justice would be disappointed, cheated of its validation, end quote. Yes, children are born sinners, their death proves that.

But never being able to understand the truth and therefore consciously reject it and choose rebellion, they have no record against them in the books of God and they then constitute a marvelous and vast opportunity for sovereign grace to operate apart from any works at all. So here's a final summary. All children who die before they reach the condition of accountability by which they convincingly understand their sin and corruption and embrace the gospel by faith are graciously saved eternally by God through the work of Jesus Christ, being elect by sovereign choice, innocent of willful sin, rebellion and unbelief by which works they would be justly condemned to eternal punishment.

Get the tape if you want that again. So when an infant dies, he or she is elect to eternal salvation and eternal glory. So, dear one, if you have a little one that dies, rejoice. Count not your human loss.

Count your eternal gain. Count not that child as having lost, but having gained, having passed briefly through this life untouched by the wicked world, only to enter into eternal glory and grace. The true sadness should be over those children of yours who live and reject the gospel. Don't sorrow over your children in heaven. Sorrow over your children on earth that they should come to Christ.

This is your great responsibility, your great opportunity. Father, thank You again for Your compassion on sinners. You have saved those who have no ability to remedy the sin they've inherited and must be cast upon Your mercy. And so it is that You save us the same way, only for us You impart conviction, repentance and faith in Your Son, who is our Savior and the Savior of all the little ones who die. For this great grace, for this rescue, particularly from pagan countries, idolatrous and godless societies, we praise You, we thank You, and we glorify You for this abundant grace. In our Savior's name, amen. Amen. It's just sheer joy, and when that is interrupted by death, it's a horrendous emotional blow.

And I understand the pain of that. We've all lived very closely to that through our lives. But I think even additionally, there has been so little effort on the part of the church to give an answer to the question, what happens to babies that die? I remember doing a pastors' conference, and there were five of the leading pastors in this nation on a panel, and the question was asked, what happens to babies that die? And each of the four men that preceded me gave the answer, well, we really don't know. Well, we're really not sure. Well, elect babies go to heaven and non-elect babies go to hell.

And by the time they got to me, I said, wait a minute, we need a better answer than that. We need a biblical answer. And it launched me to try to give that answer from Scripture, and I did, and it is in a book, Safe in the Arms of God. Safe in the Arms of God.

Here's the good news. For anyone who's been affected by the death of a child, I'd like to send you this book free of charge. That's right, free of charge. Let us know that you've had a loss of a child in your life, in your family, and just ask for the free book, Safe in the Arms of God. It's a beautiful little hardback book that will give you biblical answers. And by the way, the rest of you who want to get ahold of this, you can order it from our ministry and give it to doctors and nurses and people that work in hospitals and pastors and biblical counselors who need to know what the Bible says about this very traumatic human experience.

But it's free to those of you who have gone through that struggle. Just let us know you'd want one. That's right, and you will certainly be encouraged and comforted by this book, and you'll be moved to worship as you consider the breadth of God's compassion for babies. Again, if you've been affected by the death of a child, get in touch and ask for a free copy of Safe in the Arms of God.

Contact us today. Our number here, 855-GRACE, and that translates to 800-554-7223. If you'd like extra copies of this book, or if you'd like to give a copy as a gift to a chaplain or a biblical counselor, as John mentioned, Safe in the Arms of God costs $16, and shipping is free. And remember that John's current study, What Happens to Babies Who Die, is free in MP3 and transcript format at our website,

Also, you can read or listen to more than 3,500 of John's other sermons free of charge. And if you've been encouraged and comforted by the books and messages on Grace To You, would you tell us your story? We'd love to hear from you. It's more important to us than you might think. So email your note to letters at, or send it to our mailing address at Grace To You, Box 4000, Panorama City, California 91412. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson, with a question. What comfort does the Bible give to parents with aching hearts who've lost children? Find out tomorrow as John teaches about What Happens to Babies Who Die. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-23 15:51:03 / 2023-10-23 16:00:21 / 9

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