What do we say to a mother who has lost her child in infancy when she asks, "Is my child in heaven?"
GODFREY: The Canons of Dort, First Head of Doctrine, Article 17, say that godly parents may believe without doubt that their children dying in infancy are elect and saved. And I think that’s true.
DEYOUNG: That is exactly what I was going to say. Everyone up here has faced that question, and pastors can’t avoid that question. It’s not something that the Bible deals with as head-on as we might like. But I’ve always found that 2 Samuel is probably the best case, where David’s child is killed because of the sin with Bathsheba, and he prays. Then he changes his mood because the Lord tells him that he will go to be with his child.
There’s some discrepancy among Hebrew scholars about whether Jews in the Old Testament had an understanding of the afterlife, and I think it’s clear from Daniel 12 and elsewhere that they certainly did. So if we can clear that away and understand that David had an understanding of the afterlife, it goes on immediately after that to say, “And he comforted his wife, Bathsheba” (2 Sam. 12:24).
The juxtaposition of those two things suggests to me that he’s comforting his wife, Bathsheba, with the understanding that his child who has died in infancy he will see again. He will “go to him,” he says clearly (2 Sam. 12:23). And “go to him” not just in the sense of “I too will go to Sheol, and go to the grave,” but in the sense that there’s some comfort to be experienced in that because there will be some sort of reuniting.
So, at the very least, I would certainly agree with the Canons of Dort that children of at least one covenant parent should be assured of their election and their being in heaven.
Lightly edited for readability, this is a transcript of Kevin DeYoung’s and W. Robert Godfrey’s answers given at our 2015 National Conference. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.