What happens to infants when they die?

infants when they dieIf all men and women are born into a state of sinfulness, then what happens to infants when they die? Or when someone is mentally incapacitated to confess their faith?

The question of how God accommodates the souls of children (or for that matter, the souls of invalids, mentally incapacitated, etc.) is not easy to answer, though Scripture does give us a limited answer. First, we must understand how all men are saved. Scripture tells us that all men are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, and by no other means. Without faith in the Savior’s atoning sacrifice, no one may enter God’s presence.

But faith itself is not something that men arrive at by their own power and reason.

Paul says in Romans 3 that no man chooses God – nor even seeks for God – by his own nature and will. On the contrary, the natural (unsaved) man is spiritually opposed to God and is an enemy of God (Rom 5:10).  infants when they die

Romans 5:10 (NKJV)

10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Paul later says in Romans 8:7 that the mind of the natural man is hostile toward God and will not subject itself to God’s decrees nor is even able to do so. Since man will never naturally seek after God nor believe the Gospel,

Romans 8:7 (NKJV)

Because the carnal (fleshly) mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:8 that our faith itself is “a gift” from God. Without God’s intervention to change our hearts, all men would remain forever unbelievers until death.

Ephesians 2:8 (NKJV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

Taking all this together, we see that salvation is only possible when God grants an unbeliever a gift of faith, which leads the recipient to respond positively to the gospel and trust in Jesus. From the new believer’s point of view, he remembers making a decision to believe the gospel and profess faith in Jesus, yet in reality, his confession was itself proof that God had already been working in his heart to prompt this confession. Just as Jesus told Peter after Peter confessed that Jesus was Lord:

Matthew 16:17 (NKJV)

17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

This brings us back to the subject of infants.  infants when they die

Saving faith does not come as the result of a human intellectual process, and therefore it is not dependent upon our mental capacity or any other human, fleshly ability. Otherwise, our salvation could be said to depend – at least in part – on our own effort (e.g., our effort of evaluating and understanding the gospel), but Paul says in Eph 2:8-9 that God grants salvation through the gift of faith so that no man may boast before God. Therefore, faith is a spiritual process initiated by God and entirely apart from the working=s of men.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

As Paul says in Roman 9:

Romans 9:16 (NKJV)

16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

Obviously, believing adults will normally arrive at some level of understanding regarding their belief in Christ, but this process occurs only after the truth of the gospel has been placed in their hearts through the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit.

Consider these words of Paul:

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NKJV)

Christ the Power and Wisdom of God

18 For the message (word) of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (NKJV)

But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Paul teaches that the Gospel is not received by those who are “perishing,” but the One who shines the Light of the knowledge of Christ in our hearts is God Himself. So, faith is something that arrives by God’s power and appointment in order to bring salvation to the unsavable, including you and me.. infants when they die

This means that God may, if He chooses, grant the gift of faith to anyone at any age since God doesn’t depend on our intellect or understanding. God may bring faith into the heart of an infant (or even in the womb, as He did for John the Baptist), though parents won’t detect the faith of a child until some time later, when the child gains the capacity to express themselves, leading to a public profession in Christ and baptism.

On the other hand, if that child dies as an infant, we might never know that God had saved the child. Nevertheless, the child would still be saved by faith even though the child never obtained the physical and intellectual ability to express faith publicly. In a glorified body, that child would still have an opportunity to praise and glorify God in eternity.

This is the source of our present mystery. We can’t know if God saves all children in this way or merely some children – either choice is within God’s rights as sovereign Lord (see Rom 9:14-18).

Romans 9:14-18 (NKJV)

Israel’s Rejection and God’s Justice

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.

We may choose to believe that God grants the gift of faith to some infants but not to all, in the same way,

He saves some adults but not all. On the other hand, we could choose to believe that God will save all children who die in infancy (or before a certain age). In either case, we know that God saves children in the same way He saves all men: not for their inherent goodness nor lack of sinfulness (for there is no person of any age who lacks sin), but rather all must be saved through the gift of faith.

Since scripture never tells us whether God saves some children or all children, we must trust this detail is unnecessary for a successful walk as Christians. Instead, we can know that God will do what is good and holy, and we look forward to a Day when we will understand it all perfectly (1Cor 13:12).

1 Corinthians 13:12 (NKJV)

12 For now, we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.




“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”


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