Can infants and mentally disabled individuals be saved and go to heaven? To
answer that question, we must go back to Adam in the garden of Eden. The
Bible affirms humanity's physical and spiritual connection to Adam; he
sinned, therefore, "all sinned" (Romans 5:12). Without God's gracious
intervention, all humanity-including infants, born and unborn-would be
The Bible upholds this view with the words of King
David, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother
conceived me" (Psalm 51:5 NIV). After his newborn son died, David also
said, "Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return
to me" (2 Samuel 12:23 NIV). David's words go beyond affirming the
permanence of death to show his expectation of future fellowship with his
son. David revealed that although babies are sinful from the womb, God has
a place for them in heaven. But how?
Scripture doesn't explicitly teach an "age of accountability," a time when
children become responsible to actively repent and receive the gift of
salvation. Rather, Scripture indicates that only those who have a
knowledge of good and evil—regardless of age—have the responsibility to
repent (Genesis 2:17; Deuteronomy 1:39; Isaiah 7:15).
As Christians, we
know that Christ's death paid for all sins and that God extends forgiveness
to all who believe in His Son. But what about infants and mentally disabled
individuals who cannot believe in Jesus? God's merciful and
compassionate character suggests that grace is applied to them as well
(Matthew 18:14; Romans 5:18–19). In fact, Jesus called the children to
Himself, actively taking a role in their well-being (Matthew 19:14).
these factors in mind, we can affirm that an infant's or mentally disabled
person's inability to articulate faith in Jesus does not prevent God from
saving him or her. And God, in His compassion and mercy, would draw these
individuals to Himself in heaven based on the sacrifice of Christ for all
The issue of God saving infants and mentally disabled individuals takes us
to the heart of God's character and to the meaning of salvation. The
apostle Paul taught that salvation comes by grace through faith (Ephesians
2:8). Salvation is not a gift we give ourselves but a gift we receive from
God. Prior to conversion to Christ, most people go through a process of
illumination regarding the ugliness of sin and the contrasting beauty of
God's redemptive work in Jesus.
However, for those who cannot go through
such a process because of their limited mental faculties, the character of
God suggests that He would make provision for them. As a result, while we
recognize that most saved people have at least some understanding of sin,
repentance, redemption through Christ, and eternal life, we also recognize
that those of limited mental capacity—such as infants and individuals who
are mentally disabled—may be saved by grace without such understanding.
Written by Insight for Living Ministries staff members.
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