Question: Thanks for the wonderful website. A friend of mine lost her child a few years ago at an early age. She asked me whether I know what is going to happen, when in heaven one day, they are reconciled with Christ. Will she again be given the opportunity to raise her child further? What role is she going to play in the child's life in heaven? Does the Bible have any reference to this kind of question or is not for us to know as I can see this is a big obstacle for her in her walk with Christ. If you could help with any Scripture reference I would appreciate it.
This is a very difficult burden for anyone to bear. All of us who have
lost someone dear to us where the loss was unexpected and premature have
a certain amount of regret and unfulfilled expectations that inevitably
produce much emotional pressure - an extreme test of faith to be sure.
Although I know a little something about this from personal experience,
I cannot imagine anything more difficult than the loss of a child. First
let me say that I think your approach is the right one, namely, seek
God's counsel and God's comfort. For as His children we have as our
heritage a consolation and comfort that is more than sufficient for any
test, for any trial, and for any loss (1Thes.1:4-10; cf. 2Cor.1:3-12),
no matter what the world tells us, or even what our heart tells us, for
God is greater than our hearts (1Jn.3:20), and He is the strength of our
hearts forever (Ps.73:26).
Let me just say by way of overview, speaking to what I believe scripture does say and not going beyond what I know to be written in it, that all those who die before having had the opportunity to choose for Jesus Christ are most definitely partakers in salvation. David said of his departed child, "the child cannot return to me, but I will go to him" (2Sam.12:23; cf. 1Ki.13:12-13). From this passage we may be sure that, in addition to all those adult believers who were dear to us in this life, we will also be reunited in heaven with all young children whom we may have lost before they had a chance to put their faith in the Lord. And since we are all part of Christ's body, a family that is and will be more close than any family on this earth, it surely stands to reason that we shall not only have full fellowship with all whom we have lost in this life, but shall have that fellowship apart from all the impediments of this mortal life in the flesh. Scripture leaves much about our eternal future unanswered, but we do know God, and we know that He is good and just in every way. He is our Father, and our Lord Jesus is our Savior, our friend, our husband to be. Therefore we must understand that eternity, eternal life, will truly be better in every way than what we are experiencing now, and will be so to an as yet unimaginable degree. It will not entail the loss of anything worthwhile, but the gaining of everything that is good and glorious. So even in cases where we don't have all the details we would like, if we trust God and have even the most rudimentary knowledge of what He is like, we know in our hearts through the Spirit that only good awaits. This is the hope that anchors us (Heb.6:19). Our heavenly Father is taking us by the hand and leading us around a corner. We can't see around the corner, but we know Him and so we don't really need to see with our eyes, for we see by means of our faith in Him (2Cor.4:18; 5:7), who He is, and what He has done for us already in the gift of His only Son.
All believers, once this earthly veil is lifted, will "know even as we are known" (1Cor.13:12), meaning, among other things, that it is only in this life, in this mortal body, that our knowledge, vision, etc. is limited. Therefore I feel safe in saying from this passage and everything else I know from scripture that even in the interim state (which most of us will experience before the actual resurrection) it will not be a case of limitation or of needing to grow the way we do on this earth, but of unlimited blessing and knowledge and joy beyond anything we can now even properly conceive of. And this will be true no matter what our mental, physical or developmental state was at the end of our lives in this temporary world. For on that day we will be like Him (1Jn.3:2), and I take that to mean that in our eternal bodies we will, like our Lord Jesus, be neither very old nor very young but in the prime and vigor of life, an eternal life at that. Whatever the specifics of our future relationships with out departed loved ones, we can be sure that these will be wonderful and blessed in every way imaginable, even if, as I say, the details are not now revealed and are largely beyond our ken at present. The glories of the life to come are not to be compared to anything on this earth (Rom.8:18; 2Cor.4:17), and that must apply to every aspect of that eternal life, including our future fellowship with all our of earthly loved ones. Just as we shall delight in the sweet fellowship with our Lord who bought us forevermore, so we shall enjoy the company of all who have a share in Jesus Christ, including those with whom we shared this life (and that most definitely includes children who died before reaching the age of accountability; see “Accountability” in section IV.7 of Bible Basics 3B: Hamartiology). Everything of this earth and on this earth turns to dust, but in Jesus Christ everything truly good is eternal, including the relationships we prize the most.
For more details and scripture references please see these links:
Why not save that child?
Are the children of unbelievers lost if they die before receiving Christ?
What is heaven like according to Christian teachings?
What does the Bible say about heaven and hell?
And on the interim state, see Peter lesson#20: The Resurrection
I hope that you and your friend will find some of this helpful. Please do not hesitate to write back.
In our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.