The Death of Infants

By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. Edwin Lutzer; ©2003
Dr. Ankerberg with Dr. Erwin Lutzer. The death of an infant or young child is always difficult to understand. While the Bible does not give a clear answer to what happens to those children, there are implications that can be drawn. Dr. Erwin speaks from his own experience to give help and hope to grieving families.

The Death of Infants

Dr. John Ankerberg: Today we’re going to talk about something that is very sensitive and that is the death of infants. Erwin, what can you tell grieving parents and grandparents out there?

Dr. Erwin Lutzer: John, this is a subject that touches my own heart, too, very, very deeply. It’s very difficult, you know, to accept the death of a child. My wife and I have had to accept the death of a grandchild that was stillborn. So we know something of the pain.

You know, the remarkable thing was that as a man who never touched the baby, it was difficult for me to cry when I heard that my daughter was going to lose the child. But the time when the tears really flowed was when we looked at the little one and knew that she was a girl. Somehow, the reality that she was a girl just touched my heart. My son-in-law and daughter named that little one “Sarah.”

I think of Sarah from time to time. I think of her there in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And we need to begin by talking about that issue because it has touched the lives of so many, many people. In fact, when it happened to us, immediately people from the con­gregation or outside of the congregation came to us and said, “You know, we had the same experience, too.”

So the question is, “What about the death of babies, of infants?”

Well, we wish that the Bible were clearer. I wish I could just point to the text and say, “I’m reading it right here. This is what God’s Word says.” It’s not as clear as we’d like it to be, but I believe that all infants that die are in the presence of Christ. Now, they are in the presence of Christ not because they are sinless, because they were born under the con­demnation of Adam’s sin. In fact, that’s why they die. The Bible is very clear that it is be­cause of sin that death came. But they’ve committed no personal sin and so I assume that God takes whatever impact original sin has, attributes it to Christ so that they can go di­rectly into the presence of the Lord.

Now, there are some indications of this in the Bible. Do you remember the story of David? David lost two sons. Well, actually he lost even more than that, but I’m thinking of two. One was Absalom. When Absalom, who was really a wicked, rebellious son, died, David would not cease crying. He wailed, “Absalom, my son! My Son! Would God that I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son.” To the point where Joab came to him and said, “David, shape up. You’ve got to run this country. You can’t spend all this time in mourning.”

But do you remember, earlier David had lost another son. It was the one that Bathsheba bore. And David didn’t shave. He didn’t eat. He was in great agony when that son was lying on a bed sick. But when the son died, you remember David shaved and he ate. And people said, “Well, why are you rejoicing now, as you weren’t before that time?” And he said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not come to me.”

Now, I think David meant much more than simply saying, “Well, I’m going to go to the grave like my son has gone to the grave.” Obviously, that is true. What David seems to be saying here is, “I expect to see my son again.”

But maybe even a clearer indication of the preciousness of children is in the 18th chapter of Matthew where Jesus says these words about them, “Even their angels behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.” I always like to think that takes little children and puts them right up there, right with God in His very presence; right in the very presence of the angels.

If you ask me the question, “What does Sarah look like?” What does our little grand­daughter look like? I can’t really answer that. Though I have a suspicion that in the day of resurrection she’ll be given a grown body because in heaven those kinds of limitations I don’t think will apply–the limitations that an infant would have. I expect that we will get to know her, that we will fellowship with her. And I don’t know, but I like to think that when we get to heaven God might even give us the grace to be able to recognize her instantly and know who she is.

You know, when you think about the death of an infant, which is so hard to accept. I mean, one of the psychologists says that it’s like putting a period before the end of a sen­tence. We ask the question, “Of what benefit was this child if he or she was unable to live?” I like the story that J. Vernon McGee sometimes has told. He says in the spring when the shepherd wants to take some of the sheep to the top of the mountain, they won’t go. They don’t like those steep paths. And you can’t chase them up to the top of the mountain. But what the shepherd does is, he reaches in and he takes two little lambs and he puts them over his arms. Then he begins to walk up the path and, of course, the mothers of these little lambs begin to follow, and soon the whole flock begins to wind its way to the top of the mountain.

I’ll tell you that the death of an infant makes heaven a lot closer. You know, after our little granddaughter Sarah died, I asked my wife, “Well, honey, are we grandparents or aren’t we?” because this is our first grandchild. And she said, “Yes, of course we’re grandparents. It’s just that our grandchild is in heaven.” And I like to think of it that way. Somebody gave me a t-shirt that says, “Grandfathers are great.” Something to that effect. And I’ve had some trouble wearing it, but from time to time I do because I say, “I am a grandfather.” It’s just that our little granddaughter is in heaven.

May I also speak to ladies who have had an abortion. And as a pastor I’ve counseled women who have asked two things: first, “Will I recognize my baby in heaven?” and, “Will the baby understand?” Well, I want to say two things. Yes, like the rest of us, I’m sure you’ll recognize your child in heaven, but also, I believe God will help you and help that child to understand. In heaven there is reconciliation. In heaven there is fullness of joy and God wipes away all tears from their eyes. And there will be reconciliation and there will be un­derstanding. I can assure you of that.

Sometime ago I came across a poem written by a man, a father, who lost an infant. And it is so touching that, John, I think it would be good if I just took time to read it, if that would be okay. It’s written by a Bob Neudorf and this is what he says. It’s entitled, “To My Baby”:

Is it proper to cry
For a baby too small
For a coffin?
Yes, I think it is.
Does Jesus have
My too-small baby
In His tender arms?
Yes, I think He does.
There is so much I do not know
About you—my child—He, she? quiet or restless?
Will I recognize
Someone I knew so little about,
Yet loved so much?
Yes, I think I will.
Ah, sweet, small child,
Can I say
That loving you is like loving God?
Loving—yet not seeing,
Holding—yet not touching,
Caressing—yet separated by the chasm of time.
No tombstone marks your sojourn,
And only God recorded your name.
The banquet was not canceled,
Just moved. Just moved.
Yet a tear remains
Where a baby should have been.” [1]

You know that what God wants when He takes a child from us is to recognize the near­ness of heaven and for those of you who have never accepted Christ as your Savior, I want you to know that unless you die as one who has believed in Jesus, you will not see that child again. It is those who have trusted Christ who will be in heaven. They will be recon­ciled and in heaven, as we shall discover, the families shall be reunited and the larger family of God shall all join together and then we will understand. We will know fully “even as we also are fully known.”


  1. The Alliance Witness, 16 September 1987, p. 14, as quoted in Erwin W. Lutzer, One Minute After You Die (Chicago: Moody Press, 1997), p. 76.

Leave a Comment