Then some people came to him bringing little children for him to touch. The disciples tried to discourage them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant and told them, “You must let little children come to me—never stop them! For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Indeed, I assure you that the man who does not accept the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and laid his hands on them and blessed them. (PHILLIPS)
Among the many tragedies that befall people in our out of shape world, the death of a young child is at or near the top. Those of us who have been pastorally involved in such sad situations are sometimes asked if their precious child is in heaven.
It is sad to hear that some respond with a generalised statement about God being good. I think we can say much more. I think we can say that little child is with Jesus rather than speculate on the nature of sin and salvation.
This view does not arise out of sheer sentimentality, or a desire to make those bereaved to feel better. It stems from consideration of the character of God. He is just: he does not condemn on the basis of what that little child might have done later in life.
True, all have sinned and fallen short of his glory, but that little child has not yet had a chance to truly sin. Naughtiness or immaturity is not sin. True, that child when grown might have rejected Jesus and so accepted the consequences, but that is hypothetical and our eternal destinies are not decided by hypotheticals.
And our God is rich in mercy. He wants all to be saved. Strange, then, if he excludes a little child from heaven given that wicked adults who make a deathbed confession and repentance are granted entry. Strange if the same Jesus who encouraged little children to come to him turns his back on them when they prematurely draw their last breath on earth.
The Jesus who welcomes little children on earth, is going to welcome them into heaven.