Read Matthew 2:16-18
16 Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. 17 Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18 “A cry was heard in Ramah—
weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children,
refusing to be comforted,
for they are dead.” (NLT)
An unpleasant text, admittedly one of many in our Scriptures which we would prefer not be included. However, this event actually happened. Infants were murdered in Bethlehem. A reminder that the wonderful message of Christmas has a shadow side. Darkness, as always, hates the light.
But the text raises another issue for us. What happens to these and many other children who die in childhood? Were the children mentioned here mere pawns in the machinations of Herod, and ‘collateral damage’ in regards to the coming of the Messiah?
I, for one, firmly believe such children who die young are safe with Jesus in the new heavens and new earth. Sure, if they had grown up they would inevitably have rebelled against God and be responsible for their own destinies. But God does not judge us according to what we might have done, but for what we actually do.
Coupled with this, God desires that none perish but all be rescued. We see in Jesus’ life a blessed welcome for little children. So, even without a ‘proof text’ to establish the point, the evidence we have points to children being welcomed by God if they die as children.
This is a very great comfort to those who have endured the tragedy of the death of a child, or a miscarriage. We have no need to furrow our brow and merely make statements about leaving it up to a just God to decide their fate. We can say more. We can say that given what we know about the character of God, the example of Jesus, the nature of sin and judgement, that children so tragically taken from us live forever with God. Tragedy is not the last word.