Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In the first part, we saw how we can do nothing to earn our salvation, it is a free gift of grace. We only need to have faith that God provided Himself with the perfect sacrifice in His Son. All of God’s wrath against sin was poured out on Jesus on the Cross. We could not atone for our own sins. We could never pay that kind of debt ourselves. We are judged on whether or not we reject the Light that has come into this world.
Based on these facts we have to understand that a child who dies before what is commonly called the “age of accountability” would go to heaven.
1. They are born with sin on their hearts, but God’s wrath against that sin has been quenched in Christ.
2. They have received the same gift everyone else has, but they are unable to reject it.
If a child cannot be saved before they are able to confess Christ, then salvation can only come through works. We as believers are commanded to do certain things as a profession of our faith in Christ, but those actions are for the strengthening of our own faith, a witness to the world, and a building up of the body of Christ. They have no positional effect on our standing as a saved person or not.
Realize that this is not cutting Christ out of the picture. It is only through the work of Christ that these children are allowed into heaven. When we are at the judgment ourselves we will not be able to do anything but plead the blood of Christ that covers our sins. These children are coming to the Father through the Son. They are entering through the narrow gate. They are not being saved through any other name than the name of Christ.
If it is true that an unborn child or a child who dies before they are old enough to understand the work that Christ did for them can go to heaven, then the same must be true for those who are born with a mental disability but grow to adulthood. They, too, never have the capacity to reject the Light. We ourselves testify that these handicapped people are not fully capable of understanding the consequences of their actions. Many handicapped people can act violently form time to time, but we do not treat them as violent people.
Let me make one caveat. If someone is handicapped after they have reached adulthood, then they will judged according to the condition of their heart before they incapacitated.
But what about adults who have never heard the name of Jesus? How do I reason that it is possible for them to go to heaven?
First of all, I base it off the fact that the nation of Israel never knew the name of Jesus. They did know that a Messiah was coming to take away their sins, but if they died before Jesus came, how could they call on Him to save them? Their animal sacrifices did not take away their sins, these offerings were just a teaching point on what the Messiah would do for them.
Hebrew 10:1-7 For the law possesses a shadow of the good things to come but not the reality itself, and is therefore completely unable, by the same sacrifices offered continually, year after year, to perfect those who come to worship. For otherwise would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers would have been purified once for all and so have no further consciousness of sin? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year after year. For the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins. So when he came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me. “Whole burnt offerings and sin-offerings you took no delight in. “Then I said, ‘Here I am: I have come – it is written of me in the scroll of the book – to do your will, O God.’”
Isaiah 1:11-15 “Of what importance to me are your many sacrifices?”says the Lord. “I am stuffed with burnt sacrifices of rams and the fat from steers. The blood of bulls, lambs, and goats I do not want. When you enter my presence, do you actually think I want this – animals trampling on my courtyards? Do not bring any more meaningless offerings; I consider your incense detestable! You observe new moon festivals, Sabbaths, and convocations, but I cannot tolerate sin-stained celebrations! I hate your new moon festivals and assemblies; they are a burden that I am tired of carrying. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I look the other way; when you offer your many prayers, I do not listen, because your hands are covered with blood.
The animals to be sacrificed were to be the firstborn and without blemish. The animal sacrifice was only to remind people that there is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood. Those in the Old Testament will also be able to claim the eternal work of Christ, but never knew His name.
Just for clarification, Jesus’ redemptive work was completed before the earth was ever formed.
2 Timothy 1:9 He is the one who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not based on our works but on his own purpose and grace, granted to us in Christ Jesus before time began,
This may require some future explanation on how the Son paid the price before He was born on earth, but I will cover that at some later date. For the time being, just realize that the work Jesus did on earth covers those before His crucifixion in the same way it covers us.
What were the components of Israel’s faith that gained them salvation? They understood that there was a God. They knew that according to the Law, they were sinful people and that only God could provide a sacrifice that would remove the stain of sin on their heart. It is possible for those who do not know the Bible and have never heard of Jesus to understand all these key elements. Everyone knows there is a God.
Romans 1:19-21 because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened.
God tells us that those who have never been taught the law have it written on their heart.
Romans 2:14-16 For whenever the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things required by the law, these who do not have the law are a law to themselves. They show that the work of the law is written in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend them, on the day when God will judge the secrets of human hearts, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus.
When someone realizes that God exists, and that they are not able to keep His laws, a key turning point is reached. The final piece is missing in their conversion from the damned to those who can be saved. They must realize that there is nothing they can do to make up for these broken laws. If they can somehow understand that only God can provide them with a way to bridge the gap, THEN I say they have faith in the work that Christ accomplished. They must somehow grasp the fact of a sacrifice that is made on their behalf.
How does this happen? I have no clue. It may be a special revelation that God gives them. It may be a vision like what Paul experienced. I do not know, and I do not assume that it will be the same for every person, but I believe that it can and does happen. I do not at all think it happens regularly, therefore we must continually preach the gospel to a fallen world. Many more people will go to hell if we do not evangelize the four corners of the world. People are not saved because they are sincere in their wrong beliefs, have an improved nature because of their tribal religion, or even that they are ignorant of Christ. Yet, these reasons do not negate the fact that God is able to save those whom He desires to save. I only point out that salvation is possible for all, so that every man is without excuse.
The Bible even states that there will be people from every tribe and tongue in heaven.
Revelation 5:9-10 They were singing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were killed, and at the cost of your own blood you have purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation. You have appointed them as a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
Revelation 7:9 After these things I looked, and here was an enormous crowd that no one could count, made up of persons from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb dressed in long white robes, and with palm branches in their hands.