Q. My brother passed away suddenly. Because he was born severely retarded and couldn’t speak or hear, I’ve always believed that he would go to be with the Father when he died, the same as children who are too young to make the choice that you and I and your readers made. I know it has to be Biblically based, but I don’t recall ever seeing the scriptures that belief is based on. Can you help?
A. You can support your conclusion from studying the Character of God which tells you He is just (Deut. 32:4). That means He won’t condemn someone who lacks the capacity to make an informed decision about Him. Little children, mentally handicapped and others who lack this capability go to be with Him when they die.
Some years ago, out of curiosity, I asked a number of rabbis what the tradition is concerning a bar mitzvah for mentally handicapped Jewish boys. (A bar mitzvah is the ceremony where a Jewish boy becomes a man and is thereafter held responsible for his actions.)
The consensus was that to avoid embarrassing the boy they would hold a bar mitzvah for anyone who desired it. But as a matter of practice they don’t consider someone who can’t understand the concept of personal responsibility to be accountable for his actions.
A Biblical example can be found in Romans 7:9, where Paul said that once he was alive apart from the law. He meant that from the time he was born until He reached the age of accountability, he had eternal life. But when He became accountable, sin sprang to life and he died. His eternal life was gone. In order to regain it, he had to be born again.
This means like Paul, your brother was born with eternal life. But unlike Paul, he never attained the intellectual capability to understand the nature of sin and its consequences, so he was never held accountable for his sins and never lost his eternal life. Therefore, he was qualified to go to heaven when he died. Based on that I feel certain you’ll see your brother in heaven. And when you do, he’ll be free from all of his infirmities.