Where Do We Go When We Die?
Are babies condemned to Hell because of Adam's original sin, or is there hope for all of the aborted, stillborn and short lived souls?
Several Bible verses explain why they go to heaven.
The Bible's teaching on this topic began to become clear to me during a children's sermon about sin. Near the end of the sermon, the preacher asked the rhetorical question, "And who here has never sinned?" While most of the children cast their eyes down in guilt, two toddlers and a very well behaved four-year-old held up their hands. The preacher paused, then said, "They may be right. They may be right."
The Bible supports those children's belief that they were innocent of sin. The most important Bible passage about the origin of sin and death says, "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned-To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone's account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come." (Romans 5:12-14 NIV *)
This passage declares that sin and death originated with Adam, and it defines sin as breaking one of God's commands. It also declares that sin is not counted where there is no law, that is, before God's law was revealed to Moses, even though death continued from the time of Adam. This contradicts the notion that everyone is condemned to Hell because of Adam's Original Sin. Everyone has inherited Adam's propensity to sin, but we die for our own sins, not Adam's original sin. All of Ezekiel 18 is a lengthy discussion to make one point: Children are not punished for the father's sin, but "the one who sins is the one who will die." (Ezekiel 18:3)
In Romans 7, Paul gives an example from his own life to illustrate what this means, "For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died." (Romans 7:7b-9)
When Paul wrote, "Once I was alive apart from the law," he is referring to the time before he understood the commands of the Law of Moses. Like the toddlers at the children's sermon, he was innocent of sin before he was old enough to understand the commands of the Law of Moses. When Paul learned the meaning of the Law, temptation led him into sin and he deserved the penalty of death.
Psalm 51 seems to contradict what Paul wrote in Romans 5 and 7. King David wrote, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." (Psalm 51:5) I have heard preachers speculate on how David might have sinned before he was born. However, compare David's poetry to the factual statement that God chose Jacob over Esau "before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad." (Romans 9:11a) Since Jacob and Esau had not done anything good or bad before they were born, why would David be guilty of sin before he was born? David's words in Psalm 51 are best explained as hyperbole, exaggeration to make a point. He is so distressed by the greatness of his sin that he speculates that he must have started sinning before he was born. Psalm 51:5 does not disprove the assertion by Paul in Romans that he was innocent while he was too young to understand the law.
Therefore, the unborn, stillborn and very young children are not guilty of sin, because they are not capable of understanding God's commands or choosing to disobey them. Their spiritual state is the same sinless state that Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden before they sinned. Since Adam and Eve lived in the presence of God before they sinned, surely these sinless children would be accepted into the presence of God if they died.
For older children of believers, there is another Bible verse that applies. "For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy." (1 Corinthians 7:14) This verse declares that unbelieving spouses and children are brought into a relationship with God through the believer. Verse 16 plainly says that this relationship is not enough to bring an unbelieving spouse into salvation, but children are made holy according to verse 14. While there is no Bible verse which specifically says so, it appears that children of believers are saved by the faith of their parents until they reach the "age of accountability" where they become aware of their sinfulness and need to repent and pray for salvation for themselves. The age of twelve is often given as the age of accountability since that is the age when Jewish children pass from childhood to adulthood. However, the exact age seems to vary according to each child since some children pray for repentance and salvation as early as age six. Some people with severe mental challenges seem to continue in a state of innocence throughout their lives. Only God knows for sure.
Therefore, the unborn, stillborn, short lived and young children of believers are considered to be innocent of sin, so they would go to the same place believers go when they die. The Bible teaches that believer's souls go to be with Jesus when they die. Only their bodies sleep in the grave. When Jesus returns to the earth, he will bring their souls back with him and gather up the believers who are still alive. At that time, both the dead in Christ and the living will receive their resurrection bodies. Paul wrote, "Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must cloth itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality." (1 Corinthians 15:51-53) Then the believers will be caught up into the clouds to meet Jesus and to be with him forever.
John adds these details about Jesus' return. "Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years." (Revelation 20:6) When Jesus returns, he will establish his kingdom on the earth for one thousand years. Believers will reign with Jesus and will serve as priests to the nonbelievers who survive the Tribulation and go into the Millennium.
After the Great White Throne Judgment, there will be "a new heaven and a new earth", (Revelation 21:1). The Apostle John "saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God." (Revelation 21:2). John "heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'" (Revelation 21:3) This passage plainly teaches that God's dwelling place will change from heaven to the earth. It is further confirmed by a following passage. "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it." (Revelation 21:23-26). So, after the Great White Throne Judgment, believers do not go up to heaven, but the Holy City comes down, out of heaven, to the earth, and God dwells on the Earth with mankind.
God has prepared this wonderful dwelling place for mankind. God has promised, "He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son." (Revelation 21:7) "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city." (Revelation 22:14)
Paul received this righteousness by faith when he was confronted by Jesus on the road to Damascus and his unbelief was changed to belief in Jesus Christ. (Acts 9:1-20, 22:4-16) God then sent a man called Ananias to Paul to tell him, "You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name." (Acts 22:15-16)
Paul, and everyone who has trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation, have "washed their robes" and God has written their names in the Book of Life. They will spend eternity with God.
People who believe in God and trust in Jesus to save them go to be with Jesus in Paradise. People who do not believe in God, or who trust in their own goodness to save them, go to Hades. When Jesus returns to the Earth, believers who have died will come with him and reign for 1,000 years. After that, God will judge everyone for their actions at the Great White Throne Judgment. Non-believers are thrown into the Lake of Fire along with Satan and his demons. Believers will then spend eternity with God in the New Jerusalem. Where will you go when you die?
* Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan
If you have questions or comments, please email me at rodandshellie (at) frontier.com.
The order of events at the end of the age is:
The Tribulation. Matt. 24:21, Mark 13:19, 2 Thes. 2:3-4, Rev. 6-18
The Wedding Supper is prepared for the Lamb and his Bride. Rev. 19:7-9
Jesus returns, and the saints who had died and the living saints, his Bride, meet him in the air: the Rapture. Matt. 24:30-31, Mark 13:26-27, 1Thes. 4:13-18, Rev. 19:11-14, 20:4-5,
Jesus destroys Satan's army and Satan is put in prison for 1,000 years. Revelation 19:19-20:3
Jesus and the saints rule for 1,000 years on Earth along with non-believers who survived the Tribulation: the Millennium. Revelation 20:4-6
At the end of the 1,000 years, Satan is released from prison and gathers another army from the non-believers. Revelation 20:7-9a
Jesus destroys Satan's army and Satan is thrown into the Lake of Fire. Revelation 20:9b-10
At the White Throne Judgment, everyone who has ever lived is judged. Non-believers are thrown into the Lake of Fire. Revelation 20:11-15
The New Jerusalem comes down from Heaven to the new Earth and God dwells with Believers for eternity. Revelation 21:1-22:6
This article may be downloaded and reprinted as long as no changes are made to the text and the source is properly credited:
Our Triune God: God the Three in One
Reasoning With a Bible Thumper
The Bible Story. The main characters and events of the Bible condensed into six pages.