‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
Song: Alive In Us
We’ve been devastated that our baby girl, Jesse Anna, got sick so quickly and left us in just two days. We had no warning! Her death was like an earthquake and the aftermath, a tsunami. Through waves of tears, we are comforted that heaven is a much better place for her. In heaven there are no tears, there is no hunger, no thirst, no physical pain, no sickness, no infection, no respiratory distress, no fear of death, no risk of sin and no regret. In heaven, there in God’s holy presence there is fullness of joy for all eternity (Psalm 16:11). It is wonderful and amazing for Jesse to be in heaven. We can’t wait to join her there! Her physical death has made eternity MUCH more real to us than ever before. Television shows and movies seem stupid and trivial now. Why entertain ourselves with fantasy when people all around the world are suffering real pain? (Our hearts grieve with the parents of those poor children in Connecticut and Henan.) Millions are dying and going either to an eternity of joy in heaven or an eternity of suffering in hell. Our spirits long to be rid of this body, to rejoin Jesse in eternal bliss with God. Yet for us still here on earth serving out this life sentence, our spirits currently inhabit a temporal body but we have choices to make today which have eternal consequences.
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
God gave us amazing grace on the day of Jesse’s wake, cremation and life celebration service. We cried, yes, but there was a sweet hope, too. There was a grace to keep singing soft hallelujahs. But the next day, there was just the pain. Then family members started leaving. Life went on, but we were still grieving. Our greatest comfort was knowing Jesse was in heaven. One week later, a brother brought up the topic of the Biblical support for babies going to heaven. It was a valid question. If people are saved because they turn to the Lord for mercy, putting their faith in Jesus Christ, what about babies that never have a chance to believe in Jesus? So I spent some time searching the Scriptures and online for the answer. What first came to mind was Romans 1 and 2.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20 ESV)
If a baby or mentally retarded person had no ability to perceive God through creation, then we can reason that they are excused.
He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. (Romans 2:6-8 ESV)
A baby had no chance to willfully do any works to be judged.
For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:12-16 ESV)
I believe we are judged according to the light that we have. If you don’t have the law, you will be judged by your own conscience. Your own conscience becomes that law by which you are judged. I think this is because humans are made in God’s image. We are created with the capability to love because God is love. We similarly can hope, grieve, rejoice and enjoy peace. I don’t think we could do all that without a spirit or soul. But God gave us a spirit and soul.
Babies haven’t had a chance to know good and evil, so they are innocents just like Adam and Eve before they ate he fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. They must have had such joy and peace. They had no guilt. They had no worries. There was no condemnation. They enjoyed wonderful fellowship with God. There was no deceit. There was also no need for repentance. There was no death and I believe the was no sickness. They were naked and felt no shame, just as there is no shame for a baby to be naked in the presence of others.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18 NIV)
A baby has no chance to refuse to believe in Jesus Christ. A baby has no opportunity to reject the gospel and therefore be punished with everlasting destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). People are destined to die only once, and after that to face judgment (Hebrews 9:27). At the judgment before God seated on a great white throne, the dead will be judged according to what they have done (Revelation 20:11-15). Babies who die in infancy do not have a chance to commit willful sin. Jesus said that if we forgive others, then God will forgive us. But if we refuse to forgive others, God will not forgive our sins (Matthew 6:14-15, Matthew 18:21-35). A baby is innocent of bitter unforgiveness. But the Lord will judge with righteousness (Isaiah 11:1-4). And on that day when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea, all animals will live in peace together: wolves and lambs, leopards and goats. Calves, lions and cobras will be led by a little child and infants will play near the cobra’s den (Isaiah 11:6-9). Jesus loves the little children and proclaimed that the kingdom of heaven belonged to small children (Matthew 19:14). In fact, Jesus said that little children have angels in heaven who continually see the face of God (Matthew 18:10). Jesus also quoted Psalm 8:2 saying that out of the lips of babies and unweaned infants come perfect praise (Matthew 21:16 Amplified). If that is the spiritual status of little children, based on Scripture, then I can’t imagine that God would condemn to hell a baby who dies in infancy. We can also take comfort in Paul’s assertion that children of a believer are sanctified (1 Corinthians 7:12-14). We also are glad that such spiritual fathers as John Piper and Charles Spurgeon agree that infants receive mercy from God and will be in heaven.
We are so grateful to know that our perfect little baby daughter, Jesse Anna 美兰, is continually gazing on the face of our Father in heaven. She’s up there singing an endless hallelujah. The Lord Jesus said to not worry because He would go ahead of us to prepare a place for us. Jesus assures us that there will be more than enough room for us in His Father’s house to be with Him (John 14:1-3). Because Jesse is in heaven now, we want to know what heaven is like even more than ever before. As I read about heaven in the book of Revelation, I noticed the twenty-four elders.
Song: We Fall Down
Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. … And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation of John 4:4, 9-11 ESV)
Who are these elders? I wondered. Why are they so privileged as to be given golden crowns and thrones to sit on. Their thrones are positioned just around the very throne of the Living God. And what do they do with their privileged status? They continually give all glory and honor straight back to God in worship. When I first read about the Revelations chapter 4 scene in heaven, it seems a bit mechanical to me. Over and over again the four living creatures cry “Holy, Holy, Holy”. Then the twenty-four elders fall on their faces, cast their crowns to the ground and repeat the same refrain over and over. But surely worship in heaven is not like an automated Disneyland “It’s a Small World After All” ride with mechanized “cuckoo clock”-like actors. No, I’m sure these twenty-four elders are all very close friends of God. I would imagine that during their lifetime on earth each one of them suffered greatly and each time continued to trust in God’s goodness. Like David they probably were willing to offer costly sacrifices (2 Samuel 24:24). The elders’ crowns symbolized treasure, position and authority. But they continually ascribe all glory right back to the Lord. Each time they did so, I’m sure they worshipped with deep meaning, in spirit and in truth–acceptable to God–with a faith tested by fire and proven by persistence. Jesse, our precious girl, is a treasure, taken from us against our will. Will I respond like those elders, as each of them must have done when they faced suffering on earth? Will I relinquish my “right” to have her with us or will I become bitter that she was taken? May the Lord find us willing, just like those twenty-four elders, to fall down and cast down our crowns and keep on worshipping Him.
The lyrics of the song, “Show Me,” describe the worshipper who continues to trust and adore even through pain.
Bind up these broken bones.
Mercy bend and bring me back to life.
But not before You show me how to die.
In the midst of the tears of missing Jesse, I realized that she was made in our image. She was issued from us. How painful it is for us to be separated from her. I didn’t understand this grief before! I didn’t know I could be so wrecked. But it is comforting to know that Jesse is safe in the arms of Jesus in heaven.
Jesse was made in our image. Every person is made in God’s image. If we feel great love for our children, how much more does God love His children! This past year a short clip from a young pastor in Hawaii has really made me think about my worth as a child of God. He said that he often sees angels during worship go up to people’s faces and stare at them. The reason why they do it is because they are fascinated with people because they carry the image of God Himself in them.
If I was made in God’s image, and I can experience such pain at the loss of my child, how much more does God grieve when He loses one of His children. Every person is made in God’s image. He imprints His image on every new person’s spirit at their conception. How painful it must be for God to lose the countless multitudes of His children which He created in His image to hell because of sin and their unwillingness to turn to God for mercy. We have the comfort of knowing Jesse is safe in heaven and that we will see her again one day when we go there. But for God, He has no hope to be with those of His beloved children who have rejected Him and are suffering forever in hell. We only knew Jesse for three weeks, but God knows everyone more intimately than they know themselves. We only lost one child, but God has lost untold billions. I can’t imagine the magnitude of God’s pain!
Thank You, Lord, that through this pain of losing Jesse, I can realize how much You love each and every one of Your children which You have created in Your image. Thank You for giving me a glimpse of how much You love each of us and how You grieve terribly when one is lost.
The magnitude of the love of God is incomprehensible. The eternal relationship between the Father and the Son was so close, they were One. For them to suffer separation when the Father condemned the Son to die for the sins of the world must have been unimaginably painful. But He was willing to suffer that pain for the sake of redeeming some of His children who would trust Him. How deep the Father’s love for us!
Song: How Deep The Father’s Love For Us
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels. (Isaiah 53:4-12 NLT)
Lord, help us hang on to You through every trial, every pain. I give up my rights. You are good. My hope is in You!