Q. What’s the proper response to people who when talking about the children who died in Newtown say in reverent tones, “They are all little angels in Heaven”? Do all children under a certain age automatically go to Heaven? We also talked about aborted babies and babies in the Rapture. I didn’t have sufficient answer and was hoping you would help me with this.
A. In Romans 7:9 Paul wrote, “Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.”
Since Paul was physically alive at the time, many scholars (myself included) believe he was speaking of the spiritual death that only unbelievers will experience. That means all children are born with eternal life. In His mercy God does not count their sins against them until they are able to intellectually understand the idea of sin and its consequences. If they die before that time it’s as if they never sinned.
When Paul said, “But when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died,” he was speaking of reaching the age where he could understand this. At that time he became accountable for his sins and was destined for spiritual death. In Jewish culture this is thought to happen at age 13 for boys and 12 for girls, but no specific age has ever been established in the Bible. By becoming born again Paul escaped this destiny and regained the eternal life with which he was born.
What we can say about the victims of the Newtown tragedy is if they hadn’t achieved sufficient intellectual maturity to understand the consequences of their sin, they belong to God and though their bodies have died, their spirits are with Him. They’ll receive new bodies at the rapture/resurrection.
The same is true for all aborted babies and other children who never reach the required intellectual maturity, whether due to accident, illness, or birth defects.
At the rapture of the Church children who have died will receive new bodies, while those who are still alive will be transformed from mortal to immortal like their adult counterparts.