Devotional | “Are They in Heaven?”
I’ve been asked this question dozens and dozens of times over the nearly nine years I’ve pastored my church. Only a few times has it been a theoretical question: do babies or toddlers who die get to go to Heaven? Sometimes this is asked more “theoretically.”
However, this sort of question is more often asked of me when I’m sitting in the living room with parents who’ve lost a child in the womb. It’s when I’m on the phone with a weeping church sister who has to bury a loved one and she has little confidence in their salvation. My answers to the theoretical question remain, but they have to stand in line behind the more urgent pastoral response. This person does need truth from the Bible--but it’s not their mind that needs the help, it’s their aching, weeping heart.
So, what do we do when someone we love, whether it’s an unborn baby or an elderly person who’s died and we don’t know if they’re in Heaven? What can we give to the mind of the mourning that might bring calm and healing to their heart?
Here’s what I have to offer and I hope you are able to plant it deeply within yourself so you can be of service to those around you:
Psalm 89:14: “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.” Our God is a God of justice. He does no injustice. He is righteous and holy. He does no wrong. You can trust that, no matter what, God will do nothing unfair, unkind, or unjust to those who have passed away into his presence.
From God’s throne, (Psalm 89) built upon righteousness and justice, steadfast (patient, sturdy, ongoing) love proceeds forward. Our God is not only just, he is gracious. Over and over, the Bible speaks of the grace and long-suffering and the patient mercy of God. No human being can ever be as loving and patient and gracious to your loved one as God can be.
In Mark 10 and Matthew 18, along with many other instances in the New Testament, Jesus talks about and demonstrates his special love for children. When it comes to God’s people, he identifies himself as our Father and gives exceedingly frightening warnings to those who would “lead his little ones astray” (Matthew 18:6)--it’d be better for you to tie a big rock around your neck and sink to the bottom of the ocean. That’s how the Lord feels about children especially, and his church.
If this is the God you know and trust--and you don’t know and you can’t trust in the salvation of your loved one--I urge you to fall upon and trust in the justice and mercy of your God. You might not know about your baby or your grandmother, but you do know about your God.
I can’t tell you whether your baby or your brother are in Heaven with Jesus, but I can tell you that if they are there, they got there the same way you will: by the justice, the righteousness, the grace, and the love of God in Jesus Christ.
Finally, I want to lead people to let the Lord do what he wants to do with the death of their loved one--that is, to serve the still-living.
If you aren’t sure about their spiritual security, are you certain of yours? The Lord doesn’t want any life or death to be wasted--how will he draw you to closer trust and reliance upon him for your life?
What would your departed loved one say to you if they could return from the Lord’s presence right now? They can’t return, of course, but their death and the Word of God will say the same thing.
What about those you love and are living now? If you could reach your dearly departed with new and greater gospel urgency--but you can’t, now--what will you do for those who are yet living and who don’t know Jesus?
How many more dear friends and family will you suffer through confused anguish and the unknown after they die?
I end reiterating what I said earlier, above: though you might not know what’s happened or what will happen, you can know the God who holds all things in his hand. No matter what the answer is (are they in Heaven), you can know what kind of God he is and you can trust him--even in a flood of tears, you can trust and not be undone. The Lord is just, gracious, and good.