What happens to children and infants who pass away?

About 1 in 4 recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. In the U.S.A, another 2,500 infants pass away before their first birthday. Ten thousand or so more die from accidental causes each year.

In my 11 years of ministry, thankfully, I have never been called upon to do the funeral of a young person. However, given the statistics, it is important to address a question that must be on the minds of many of you who have experienced the loss of a child, particularly infants and toddlers, whether through miscarriage or by some other cause.

First, I want to say this to those of you who have experienced this sort of loss… I am so sorry. I cannot imagine the grief that you have endured and the sorrow with which you must still wrestle. I pray that the Lord will bring you comfort through what I have to share.

Does an infant or toddler who dies go to heaven? I believe the answer is clear in scripture. I am quite certain that the little ones who are taken from us, are taken home by their Heavenly Father. They are, by the grace of God alone, saved by the finished work of Christ on the cross of Calvary. They are, by the mercy of God, spared not only from the fires of hell but also from a lifetime of suffering in this fallen world.

Why do I say, “by the grace of God alone?” Scripture is very clear that all human beings are born in iniquity and sin. Sin is not just something that human beings do. It is a condition, an inherited disease that can only be cured by the blood of Christ working through the grace and mercy of God (cf. Romans 5:12-20; Psalm 51:5-7). No one is innocent. We are all born under sin (cf. Romans 3:9-10).

How am I able then to say that toddlers and infants are saved by grace? Answer: because children are special to the Lord. The ones that He elects to bring home before they have a chance to experience all the woes of this world are the most special ones of all. Jesus own words plainly affirm this, “but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 19:14).
Mark reports that when the disciples attempted to hinder the children from being brought to Him, He was “indignant.” He adamantly stated that the Kingdom belonged to the little children “such as these.” He took them in his arms and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)

There is another account of Jesus’ heart for little children in Matthew 18, “And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me’” (Matthew 18:2-5).

It is important to remember that this child that Jesus put before them was not perfect or innocent. He was born under sin just like every other child. Like any toddler, he had lied, been disobedient to his parents, and broken the commandments of God. Even so, He was chosen by Christ as an example of the humility required to enter the presence of God.
I also call your attention to the last phrase in Matthew 18:5. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.’” Jesus’ heart for children is such that He links His identity with theirs. He is their defender. When a child is ministered to, so is Jesus.

The question remains if children are so special to the Lord, then why do so many die? Those kinds of why questions will never be answered on this side of eternity. We just know that God is good. He never does wrong. All His ways are perfect, and we must trust Him with childlike faith. I like to think, though, that when Jesus takes a toddler or infant home, He does so to teach us. Perhaps it is His way of setting them before us and saying… “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.’”