Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.
–2 Samuel 12:23
I believe children who die before they accept Christ as Savior are in heaven because of the promise of 2 Samuel 12:21-23. You remember the sordid story of King David and his tryst with Bathsheba. Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah, one of David’s soldiers. Yet because of that one-night stand Bathsheba became pregnant. David panicked. He instigated a cover-up plan. He had Bathsheba’s husband Uriah killed on the front lines. Eventually David repented of his mistake. He sought and received God’s forgiveness. And although God’s forgiveness erased the eternal consequences of David’s sin, it did not erase the temporary consequences. David still had to suffer the result of a divided kingdom, a disloyal son, and eventually a dead son.
When Bathsheba finally gave birth to the child who was the product of their ungodly alliance, the baby was sick. So David went into a time of mourning, praying, and fasting, asking God to heal his son. While he did so, David refused to eat. He refused to bathe. He refused to change his clothes. Then word came to David that his son had died. Surprisingly, when David heard that news, he stood up, took a bath, put on new clothes, began to eat, and almost had a celebration. David’s men were perplexed. They asked him in 2 Samuel 12:21, “What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” David answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me” (vv. 22-23). David was saying: “As long as my child was alive, I mourned and fasted. I prayed because God might heal my child, but now that He has decided not to, why should I keep doing that? I’m going to get up, put on my clothes, and get on with my life because even though my child can’t come back to me, I will go to him.”
If David’s baby was on his way to hell, then David would have been saying, “My child can’t come back to me, but I will go to him and be in hell forever.” That’s no reason to have a party, is it? It doesn’t make any sense to celebrate that. Some people have suggested that David was simply talking about the inevitability of death. “I will go to him” meant David would go to him in death. Does anybody want to celebrate that? Is that any reason to have a party? Of course not. The only sensical interpretation of this verse is that David was celebrating the fact that his son was in the presence of God, and he rejoiced in the fact that one day he would also be in heaven to be reunited with his son and his Lord.
Admittedly, this passage by itself doesn’t make an air-tight case that children are in heaven, but when you couple it with the knowledge that God is loving, just, merciful, and will do what is right, I think we can say with absolute certainty that God welcomes children into heaven.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Are Children Who Die in Heaven?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.