In the last News, I began a discussion of several texts quoted by a reader that are claimed as biblical proof that all children who die in infancy are saved. The text I treated was Ezekiel 18:1-4, 20.
I wrote the last article, however, under a misconception. I have since learned that the reader’s question is not: Are all the children of believing parents who die in infancy saved? The question is much broader: Areall the children of believers and unbelievers who die in infancy saved? There are those, chiefly though not exclusively, to be found among Baptists who hold to this position. As a matter of fact, Zwingli, the Swiss Reformer, who himself held to the baptism of the children of believers, also held that all infants who die in infancy are saved. I briefly alluded to this idea in my last article, but failed to realize that this was the main question at issue.
And so we must consider if the texts appealed to prove that all infants of believing and unbelieving parents who die in infancy are saved. Presumably, this also includes all aborted babies, both those destroyed by spontaneous abortion and those slain by human interruption of the pregnancy.
The next text is Jeremiah 32:18-19: “Thou shewest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them: the Great, the Mighty God, the Lord of hosts, is his name, great in counsel, and mighty in work: for thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”
The point in quoting this text is, it seems, this: verses 18 and 19 might appear to contradict each other. How should we understand these verses to avoid this? The seeming contradiction is apparently in the fact that verse 18 speaks of God recompensing the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children, while verse 19 speaks of the fact that Jehovah sees all that men do and gives to every man according to his doings. Presumably, the statement that God gives every man according to his doings is interpreted to mean the reward of grace, of which the New Testament speaks repeatedly. So, if I understand the argument correctly, the apparent contradiction lies in the children suffering for the iniquity of their fathers and yet being rewarded with the reward of grace. And so, the conclusion is that the children to whom the iniquity of the fathers is recompensed do not include infants, because verse 19 promises them a great reward. Hence infants are saved. Now, that is a rather convoluted explanation of the text and the reasoning here seems specious. (I hope I am not misinterpreting what the questioner means; if I am, he must feel free to correct me.)
The context of this powerful text is this: Jerusalem was about to be destroyed, yet Jeremiah was told to purchase a parcel of land. How utterly foolish to buy land when Judah is overrun with Chaldeans. But Jeremiah was instructed to buy land as a sure guarantee that God would bring His people back again to the promised land, which also He did after seventy years. In response to this seemingly impossible promise of a return, Jeremiah prays. It is a wonderful prayer, but it also suggests that Jeremiah does not understand how that will be possible, for the Chaldeans have devastated the land and Jerusalem is about to be captured. It all seemed to be hopeless.
The fact that God recompenses the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children is something I explained in the last News, and I will not repeat what I said. We ought to notice, however, that Jeremiah is admitting in his prayer to God that Jerusalem’s and Judah’s woes are brought upon them justly. And this is the point of verse nineteen. God is just in all His ways. God gives to every one of the sons of men according to the fruit of their doings. This is not a reference to the reward of grace; it is a reference to what God in His justice is doing to Judah for its sins.
Jeremiah wonders how it is possible for Judah ever to return. Read verses 24-25. But what is the Lord’s answer? “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” (27). Now read the rest of the chapter. It is profoundly moving. Yes, Jerusalem shall be chastised for her sins. But, behold, I will gather them out of all countries ... And they shall be my people, and I will be their God ... But read for yourself the whole chapter—and marvel at the greatness of the mercy and power of Almighty God. His covenant is absolutely unconditional!
The next text is Deuteronomy 1:39: “Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.”
The argument here for the salvation of all infants dying in infancy is: “The people of Israel were kept out of the promised land because of their unbelief, but Deuteronomy 1:39 tells us that the little ones and the children, who were too young either to believe the ten bad spies or not to believe the two good spies, would go in.” The argument is, I presume, that Canaan is a picture of heaven, and just as the children of those who perished in the wilderness, though they did not either believe or refuse to believe the ten wicked spies, went into Canaan, so children who die in infancy go to heaven.
It is immediately obvious that there is something seriously wrong with the argument. The children who entered Canaan were not children who died in infancy, but were children who had grown up and become men and women. Deuteronomy is talking about what happened years before the nation heard Moses give the laws of Deuteronomy while Israel was in the plains of Moab and near the Jordan. The text itself says this, for it is talking about what happened “in that day.”
Deuteronomy 2:14 tells us that Israel left Kadesh-barnea (whence the spies were sent out to Canaan) thirty-eight years before they crossed the brook Zered and entered Moab, soon to conquer the promised land. Thus the youngest children who were alive at Kadesh would have been thirty-eight when they entered Canaan. It all seems so obvious that I may be missing the point. If so, the reader may write it again.
- Volume: 13
- Issue: 19
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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