|Will There Be Infants and Young
Children in Hell?
by Bro. Charles Hunt
This question has been the matter of much discussion for centuries, and still many
Christians lack sound scriptural arguments that prove the heavenly destination of these
most cherished persons. It is understandable that God in His wisdom would hide the
biblical answer from the view of those who would trample it under their feet and tear its
truth into shreds of confusion, but it is not consistent with the Bible's revealed character
of God that He would keep this information from sincere believers, some of whom have
grievously lost precious little ones.
If direct statements on this subject cannot be found in God's Holy Scriptures, then the
answer must be found in clearly stated biblical principles that can be properly applied to
the case at hand. One such valid and convincing principle is found in a most
unsuspecting place, Romans chapter nine. It is here in what is thought by many to be the
portion of scripture depicting a harsh and unreasonable God that we find a most
glorious God of mercy. This chapter is probably one of the most misunderstood and
unaccepted passages in the entire Bible, yet it contains a precious gem of truth which
weighs heavily on this subject.
Beginning at verses 10-13 we see the Apostle Paul seeking to rule out works as the basis
upon which God bestows mercy. Jacob and Esau were equally sinners by nature in the
womb of Rebecca when God made known to her the decree that Jacob would be the seed
of promise and the recipient of God's mercy (Genesis 25:21-23, Psalms 51:5). That God's
choice issued from his purpose to bring glory to Himself and not from any
foreknowledge of their deeds is plainly taught. It was not God's foreknowledge of man's
actions and works that was the cause of His choice of whom He would save but rather a
foreknowledge that flowed from God's eternal purpose and electing love (note verse 13).
The Apostle further states, "For whom (not what) he did foreknow, he also did
predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29). This is an
important point because if God must foresee a person's repentance and faith, what
happens to those dying in the womb and infancy?
Our sinful nature inherited by conception is worthy of God's wrath for all eternity, but
our text will show if one possessing such a nature is cut off by death before it manifests a
self conscience resistance to God, it has been manifestly made a vessel of mercy. God
viewed both Jacob and Esau as in need of mercy when the electing grace was purposed
toward Jacob and withheld from Esau. Apart from God's mercy there is no hope. Man's
own will and determination are futile (verse 16).
Just as Jacob is a classic case of God's grace and represents all the elect, Pharaoh is a
classic example of all those upon whom God will exercise wrath. Esau falls into this
latter category but is mentioned in our text to show the graciousness of God's choice of
Jacob. God had a better example to demonstrate His purposes concerning His holy
wrath in the infamous Pharaoh.
God permits the sinful nature of some to blossom into an object of wrath upon whom
God gets glory. Verse 17 shows that God was long suffering with the ever increasing
wickedness of Pharaoh just so Pharaoh would be fitted as the object of God's wrath. An
understanding of verse 18 is crucial to comprehending the principle upon which this
passage is built. All mankind is included in this God- inspired pronouncement of verse
18. There is not a person on this earth that dies being something other than either a
vessel of mercy or a vessel of wrath. Either one has experienced the regenerating work of
the Spirit or one has remained subject to the process of hardening of the heart. The
"same lump" spoken of in verse 21 is a reference to all humanity in its fallen estate. Clay
has the inherent qualities that bring about its own hardening. Just leaving it in its
natural state and permitting it to exist will cause it to harden. The hardening is
attributed to God, but it is a negative work because God allows some to continue in their
ruined nature until it manifests resistance to the righteousness of God. If the process of
the hardening of the heart is not stopped, it is proof that such is a vessel of wrath. If the
process of hardening is halted in one whom it formerly had dominion, it is evidence that
such a person is a vessel of mercy. Only God's grace manifesting itself in the new birth
can cut off the hardening influence of the fallen human nature (Ephesians 2:1-10).
God did not create fresh evil in the heart of Pharaoh nor the heart of anyone. "...God
cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. But every man is tempted
when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed" (James 1:13b-14). The sinner
unaided by God's electing grace will continue in his hardening until some measure of
ugly resistance to God's righteousness appears. All of humanity are either part in the
hardening process and therefore a vessel of wrath, or part in the work of regeneration
that stops the hardening and manifestly a vessel of mercy.
The vessels of wrath must be fitted for destruction (God's judgment of eternal
punishment). No vessel that has not been fitted for destruction will have part in God's
destructive judgment (verse 22). No lost person will go to hell that has not been a subject
of God's endurance and longsuffering. Not all will be fitted to the same measure of
wrath just like not all vessels of mercy will manifest the same decree of deliverance.
Romans 2:3-6 teaches that the more one's heart resists repentance the more wrath God
will pour out upon it.
In Matthew 18:1-6 Jesus uses children as an illustration of some quality that exists in the
kingdom of God. What is it that Jesus saw in these children? Not a sinless nature, for all
are sinful from the time of conception. What Jesus referred to in the children was this
lack of conscience resistance, this process of hardening spoken of in Romans chapter
nine. What is similar about the saved and children? Both still have a sinful nature, the
regenerate also have a holy nature that exercises a power that breaks the process of
hardening, making them like children. What is commonly called the age of
accountability is in reality that point in life when a child's sinful nature consciously, i.e.,
personally resists the witness of God's righteousness. It should be noted that the
argument developed in this article rests not on the non-accountability of an infant or
child but upon proof that they are recipients of mercy.
Here is the precious gem found in Romans nine that answers our question. If God, who
holds the life of all in His hands, chooses to remove from this world one whose age from
conception to his death has not permitted him time to experience this hardening process
he is not fit for God's wrath, consequently must be a vessel of mercy. God would not
receive glory from one who was not fitted (prepared) for hell. God's longsuffermg is not
shown to be active until this hardening process begins. If one dies before this hardening
process begins to take place it falls into the category of those who are vessels of mercy.
None deserve salvation, not even those yet in the womb. But there is a group who leave
this world before it can be said of them that in God's eyes they committed any good or
evil as a personal action consciously toward God. This is the category that Jacob and
Esau were in while they were still in the womb. From Jesus' teaching concerning the
kingdom in which He used young children as His object of comparison it appears
evident that young children, though sinners by nature, can also be in this group.
All persons without exception when they die, die as one who is a vessel of mercy or a
vessel of wrath. The principle of truth taught in Romans nine places infants and children
who die before their heart begins to harden against God in the category of those upon
whom God has shown mercy. Their death testifies that God must have instantaneously
prepared them for Heaven through cleansing and regeneration, knowing that they died
unprepared for wrath. Matthew 21:16b is an appropriate conclusion, "…Out of the
mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise." Their praise of God's mercy
will be heard in Heaven not in Hell.