Do unborn children who are aborted or who die in the womb go straight to heaven? Would this be true even if the parents of the baby were not saved?
The short answer is yes. We'll try to lay it all out for you as briefly and as simply as possible.
We begin with the assumption that preborn babies are just as "eligible" for heaven as anyone else. Why? Because they are just as human as anyone else. According to Genesis 1:27, all human beings are created "in the Image of God." Every individual ever conceived bears that Image. It doesn't matter who his parents are or what they happen to believe. This means that, in some mysterious way, each one of us is a "copy" or "graphic image" of the Creator. Every human being is a formal, visible, and understandable representation of who God is and what He is really like. We've been designed to enjoy interpersonal communion with Him and with each other for all eternity. How do we know this? Because community, fellowship, and relationship are basic to the very nature of the Trinity. That fellowship and community are what heaven is all about.
Note that we said "every individual ever conceived." That was intentional. The Bible clearly indicates that God knows and regards us as unique human persons even while we are still in the womb (and even prior to that time): "For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb … My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret … Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them" (Psalm 139:13-16); "Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:4, 5).
To sum up: every individual ever conceived is a human being made in the Image of God. This means that every individual ever conceived is redeemable and worth redeeming. This is a vital point. It's important theologically. But it's also important because of what it implies about practical issues such as the sanctity of human life.
This leads to the next point. Not only is every individual redeemable, but God has provided the means of every individual's redemption. He has done this by sending His Son. His plan of salvation is the gateway to eternal life for all who believe. The big question, of course, is "How does this apply to a child in the womb? " Is it possible for an unborn baby to be redeemed without understanding anything about sin, the fall, the curse, and Christ's saving work on the cross? Here again we're going to suggest that the answer is yes.
How can we say this? Because of something called the "age of accountability." Biblical passages such as Isaiah 7:15 and 16 seem to indicate that children can't be held responsible for their own actions and decisions until they reach a certain age. Scripture doesn't indicate precisely where this line should be drawn. But we are led to assume that any person whose life ends before he crosses this threshold into "spiritual maturity" is "automatically" redeemed. That person is covered by the blood of Christ and passes immediately into the presence of God. Traditionally, this teaching has provided invaluable comfort to parents who endure the loss of an infant or a very young child. It seems only logical to apply the same reasoning in the case of children who die before birth.
Before closing, it's important to add a word of warning. From the statement "All unborn babies go to heaven" some people jump to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with abortion. After all, why not abort? Wouldn't an abortion guarantee the innocent unborn child a place in God's eternal kingdom? It goes without saying that this kind of reasoning is fallacious. You can see this clearly if you apply the same argument to little children who have not yet reached the age of accountability. Should we, like King Herod, round up all of the two-year-olds and put them to death? Wouldn't we be sending them straight to paradise? The answer is obvious.
If you think it might be helpful to discuss these ideas at greater length, call our staff of pastoral counselors.
I'll Hold You In Heaven