What Happens to Young Children and Those with Disabilities When They Die? - Radical

What Happens to Young Children and Those with Disabilities When They Die?

The Bible teaches that a person cannot come to God without faith in Jesus. But what does this mean for young children and the disabled—who cannot comprehend what it means to have faith in Jesus—when they die? In this video, Pastor David Platt makes a biblical case that young children and those with disabilities will be welcomed to God through his grace. Rather than basing this idea in feelings, Pastor Platt shows biblical precedence for God’s mercy, goodness, and justice to children and the disabled. Furthermore, he identifies knowledge of right and wrong as a component part of how a person is judged. Whether we are disabled or not, young or old, salvation does not come except through the grace of God.

  1. God’s Character Revealed through His Word
  2. Believers Will See Young Children After Death
  3. Judged by Different Measures of Accountability

Watch Full Message of Jesus, Children, and Special Needs

People cannot come to God apart from faith in Jesus, which we looked at last week. Little children, and children and adults with intellectual disabilities who cannot comprehend what it means to have faith in Jesus, what does the Bible teach about them? We always need to be careful to let God’s word, not our circumstances, our thoughts or our feelings dictate what we believe. Amen.

Young Children Can Not Always Understand the Gospel

So with that said, I want to give you three reasons based on God’s word why I am confident that young children as well as people who cannot intellectually comprehend the gospel, why children like Waverly and Oliver are safe in the arms of Jesus forever.

The first reason is based on God’s character revealed in His word, His goodness, His justice and His mercy, particularly when it comes to children and people with special needs. Genesis 18:25 makes clear that everything God does is good and just, and right. That obviously doesn’t mean that everyone goes to heaven because the Bible clearly teaches we have sin that separates us from God, all the things we looked at last week.

We’ll come back to this in a moment, but suffice to say at this point that God cares about children deeply, see Matthew 18, as well as people with special needs, see all over the gospel. And Jesus delights in showing His goodness to them and God is guaranteed to show His justice ultimately.

What happens to Young Children and Those with Disabilities after Death?

It leads to a second reason why I believe they’re with God in heaven. Because the Bible expresses confidence that believers will see young children after death. After losing his own young son, David worships God and says, 2 Samuel Chapter 12 verse 23, “Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” Then David comforts his wife with this hope. So the Bible itself expresses confidence and a comfort that parents who themselves are trusting in God’s salvation will be with their children again.

The final reason, I would say most important and clearest reason, is because of how God judges people and how young children are judged differently than others. So at this point, some people start talking about an age of accountability, a certain age where a child becomes accountable before God for his or her sin. That’s not what I’m talking about.

In the exact chapters we looked at last week, Romans 1, 2, and 3, we saw that God holds people accountable for judgment before him based on a couple of criteria. First, based on an understanding of right and wrong and willful transgression against God, disobedience to God. Romans 2:14-16 talks about how we have a moral law written on our hearts so that all people everywhere know good and evil, right and wrong. And as we’ve talked about, we sin and disobedience against God.

Young Children and Those with Disabilities Can Not Yet Distinguish Right from Wrong

However, you look at Deuteronomy chapter 1, verse 34-39 and you see the Bible talking about little ones, your children who do not yet know good from bad. And you look at that instance in the Old Testament where the children in Deuteronomy were not judged for the disobedience of older Israelites in their day. And as a result, even though God had cursed the Israelites because of their disobedience, the children were able to enter into the promised land. So we see a distinction there.

And then you think back to the second criteria that affects our judgment before God. And we saw last week in Romans 1:18-21, when we saw God has revealed His glory to all people through creation, we stand before him, the Bible says with no excuse because all of us have rejected His glory. However, if a child or someone with an intellectual disability is unable to know and reject God’s glory because they don’t have the capacity to recognize and reject God’s revelation in that way, then that would separate them from us. They are not without excuse, Romans 1:20, in the same way.

Judgment is based on these things, the capacity to understand right and wrong, willful transgression against God’s law written on our hearts, and the capacity to understand and reject God. For those who don’t have these capacities, they’ll not be judged in the same way we are judged. Now, that doesn’t mean that people in this situation stand innocent before God. The Bible’s clear that we all have a sinful nature. And like we saw last week, no one is innocent, Romans 3.

What Happens After Death?

None of us learns to sin. All of us express the sinful nature inherent in us. And as a result, anyone who is saved from God’s judgment is saved because of God’s grace in Jesus. And that’s what Colossians 1 is teaching. We can only be reconciled to God through the work of Jesus on the cross.

So put all these truths together, now we realize God’s word teaches that young children, people with severe intellectual disabilities who die, stand before God with a different measure of accountability, yet they still need the grace and righteousness of Jesus. And based upon the goodness, mercy, and justice of God, we are confident that God, through Jesus, welcomes them into His arms for eternity. Which leads us to say with the confidence and comfort of David, that Waverly and Oliver and so many like them are safe in the presence of God.


And in the end, Jesus gets all glory for bringing them safely to Him.

David Platt

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.


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