Safe In The Arms Of God by John MacArthur
MacArthur has a premise: Those too young or mentally incapable, to understand the consequences of sin and the gospel message go safely into the arms of God upon death. While this has been the commonly held view throughout much of church history there are many who object. The objection is based upon the fact that even an infant is born a sinner in need of redemption, and there exists no clear passage of Scripture stating that anyone, including infants, is saved apart from receiving God’s grace by faith.
Nevertheless, MacArthur is dogmatic in his assertion that infants will be given a special mercy by God. Lacking a direct reference in Scripture MacArthur’s biblical evidence is from secondary arguments. Nevertheless, some of them are impressive. The best are:
1. The innocent children of Jonah’s Nineveh were the objects of God’s pity (p. 36). However, he fixes the age of moral culpability at roughly age 12 (p. 37), which is pure guesswork at best.
2. Calling children “innocent” in various places in Scripture (e.g. Jeremiah 19:4-7) (p. 39).
3. Heaven is filled with people out of every tribe and tongue (Revelation 5:9) – this could not be the case, since not every tribe and tongue heard the gospel, unless children are in heaven (p. 41).
4. The children at Exodus were considered innocent of their parent’s sin and, therefore allowed into the Promise Land (Deuteronomy 1:39) (p. 44).
5. Adults who have never heard the gospel are held accountable because they have rejected both natural revelation and their own conscience. (Romans 1:16-2:1). This is not true of children.
6. Jeroboam’s baby (1 Kings 14:9-11) which was spared the judgment of the rest of the family.
7. Job’s description of the paradise enjoyed by stillborn children (Job 3:11-19) (pp. 53-55).
8. Jesus likening our becoming believers to becoming like children (Matthew 18:10) (pp. 57-59).
9. Jesus blesses children but at no other time blesses nonbelievers (P. 59).
10. We are saved by grace, but damned by works (Revelation 20:11-15) (pp. 79-90). Nowhere in the Bible is anyone condemned to hell merely for the guilt of Adam’s sin. The inhabitants of hell are there because of their own willful sin and rebellion (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:6; Revelations 21:8; 22:15). God’s wrath comes on those who suppress truth (Romans 1:18), children cannot do that (pp. 83-84). Babies are not without sin natures but they are without sin deeds (p. 89).
11. At the death of David’s son, David expected to one day be with his son. Where, in hell? Of course not. In a grave in the ground – that would hardly make a person want to clean up and have a meal. No, David expected to dwell with God forever (Psalm 23:6) (pp. 91-95).
12. When David’s son Absalom died, David’s reaction was one of sorrow. Why? Because He knew Absalom was in hell while Bathsheba’s son was not. (2 Samuel 18:32-33) (p. 96).
MacArthur covers some other ground as well, such as the biblical reasons for suffering and what is heaven like. The book is filled with stories of folks who have lost children, which might serve to encourage those going through the same thing, but they did nothing to further his argument.
Overall, I believe MacArthur supported his position as well as possible, lacking direct revelation on the subject.