Until children reach the maturity that enables them to love, worship, and obey God in Christ, they have not "sinned." While "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23), they have not earned such "wages." If they die in this state, they are with God in heaven. This unbroken relationship with the Lord makes them "greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:4), so that "the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matt. 19:14).
In the end, Erickson expresses well my position:
We all were involved in Adam's sin, and thus receive both the corrupted nature that was his after the fall, and the guilt and condemnation that attach to his sin. With this matter of guilt, however, just as with the imputation of Christ's righteousness, there must be some conscious and voluntary decision on our part. Until this is the case, there is only a conditional imputation of guilt. Thus, there is no condemnation until one reaches the age of responsibility.
David said of his deceased newborn son, "I shall go to him, but he will not return to me" (2 Sam. 12:23). He believed that his child was with the Lord, and that he would join him one day in heaven (Ps. 23:6). I would offer the same assurance to every believer who suffers the death of a child. Your child belonged to his or her Father and is now with him in eternal paradise.
One of the hardest days of my life was spent beside a couple in a neonatal ICU unit as they had to decide whether or not to continue life support for their 18-day-old daughter. As they agonized, they happened to look up at the tiny window in the room. They watched as a red helium balloon floated past that window and up into the sky. They sensed God's assurance that if they released their little girl, she would be in heaven with her Lord.
And so they did. And so she is.
This post originally appeared on the Denison Forum.
Jim Denison, is founder the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, a non-sectarian "think tank" designed to engage contemporary issues with biblical truth. He is the author of seven books, including Radical Islam: What You Need to Know.