Do Children and Others Who Die Without the Knowledge of Christ Go to Heaven?
The question was asked in my Sunday school class whether children who died would go to heaven if they were under the age of accountability. Later in the week, I was doing my Bible study when I ran across Romans 5:13 which states that until the law came, sin was in the world, but sin was not imputed when there is no law. I believe this verse answers the question at hand.
In the reference to that verse, it was explained that before the Law (The Ten Commandments) was given, there was no sacrifice for a sin offering. But after the Law was given, the sin offering was sacrificed for the personal sins of human beings. Before the Law personal guilt was not imputed. The word imputed according to the Strong’s concordance means “set to one's account.” So before the Law was given, personal sin was not counted against those who didn’t have the Law.
So I believe that in the case of children and those who are not mentally capable of understanding the Law, which since New Testament times is the grace of Jesus Christ by faith, they are not held accountable for their personal sin or their sin nature. This would also apply to those who have never heard of Jesus Christ or the Law of God, which is the ten commandments. I also believe that if a person can’t understand, or has never been told of God’s Laws, nor of Jesus Christ, then God will not hold that person accountable for personal sin and that person will by God’s mercy and grace enter into heaven, which is consistent with God’s character.
This would also apply to those of other faiths who have never been told of Christ, nor been given the Law of God, though Muslims and Jews have both been given the Law and most have been told of Christ. If they have been given the Law and have been told the gospel of Christ and rejected its truth, then they are held accountable for that choice.
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there is no more sacrifice for our sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and the punishment of fire which will burn up the enemies (of God). Someone who has made the law of Moses to be nothing dies without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses. So how much worse punishment, do you think, will those be judged worthy of, who have not accepted the Son of God, and have counted the blood of the covenant with which we are sanctified as an unholy thing, and have insulted the Spirit of grace? Hebrews 10:26-29
Jesus himself spoke these words which tells us that those who have no knowledge of Christ will not have sin counted against them, but that those who have the knowledge of Christ and reject him will have no excuse for their sin.
If I hadn’t come and spoken to them, they wouldn’t have had sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me, hates my Father also. If I hadn’t done among them the works which none other did, they wouldn’t have had sin. But now they’ve seen and also hated both me and my Father. John 15:22-24
For example, if Muslims or Buddhists have been told of Christ and they reject the gospel, then they will have no excuse. But if they are never told the Law or about Christ, then it is not counted as sin against them by God, and they will go to Heaven by God’s grace. Even if they are not told about Christ, if they have the Law, they will be judged by the Law. As Christians, who have been given the awesome responsibility to go into all the world and preach the gospel, we will be held accountable for those we don’t tell about Christ. We must be like the watchman on the wall and warn those who are in danger and let God take care of those who aren’t reached before their death.