1. DYING IN A SINLESS CONDITION
Contrary to the teaching of Calvinism, babies are not born guilty of sin. Calvinism teaches that, as the result of Adam's transgression, men are born in sin and by nature are spiritually dead. Calvinists refer to this as "inborn corruption" or "total inability." Calvinists use the word "total" to indicate that the whole of man's being has been affected by sin, and that this corruption extends to every part of man--body and soul. By inability they mean that the sinner is so spiritually bankrupt that he can do nothing pertaining to salvation. "Total Hereditary Depravity" is another name for this doctrine.
The Bible teaches, however, that "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself" (Ezek. 18:20). Children may inherit a lot of things from their parents, but they do not inherit their parent's guilt. A child's body comes from his parents, but his spirit comes from God. The Lord "forms the spirit of man within him", according to Zechariah 12:1. The Hebrews writer spoke of a difference between our human fathers and the Father of our spirits (cf. Heb. 12:9). We know that God created the human spirit in His image. Surely He would not create a spirit that was intrinsically or naturally sinful! This is contrary to God's nature.
Consider what Jesus said about the innocence of children in Matthew 18:3 - "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you become converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." He also said in 19:14 - "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven." One can only enter the kingdom of heaven by becoming sinless as little children. If children were not sinless, then why would Jesus tell us to become like them in order to be saved? It should be noted that Jesus does say "little children"--not the older ones!
A child who dies in a sinless condition will enter heaven. This would also include those who have never been accountable for themselves. I'm thinking specifically of mentally handicapped people who do not understand the difference between right and wrong. Although they may grow old in chronological years, they never reach the age of accountability, as we often refer to it.
2. DYING IN A SINFUL CONDITION
Sin begins in the period of life the Bible calls "youth." We know this from what God's word says in Genesis 8:21, where God said in His heart that "He would never again curse the ground for man's sake, although the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." Consider what Jeremiah wrote in 3:25 - "We lie down in our shame, and our reproach covers us. For we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God." Although born without any sin, children will become youths who must learn to refuse evil and choose good (cf. Isa. 7:16). This also harmonizes with what Solomon stated in Ecclesiastes 12:1 - "Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth."
When a young person knows the difference between good and evil and knows that he should refuse evil and pursue good, he becomes accountable to God for his choices. When a youth chooses to do evil and refuses the good, at this point, he sins, and sin separates him from God. Listen to Isaiah 59:1,2 - "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear." Paul had this to say in Romans 3:23 - "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Also, in Romans 6:23 - "For the wages of sin is death". When a person dies physically, capable of knowing good from evil (as defined by the Scriptures), but having refused the good, that person will die in a sinful condition. This is seemingly where most folks will be after death. Those who die in sin will be a part of the many on their way to destruction (cf. Matt. 7:13). Ultimately, those who are without Christ have no hope (cf. Eph. 2:12). Those who haven't obeyed the gospel will suffer God's vengeance (cf. II Thess. 1:7-9). They will have their part in the lake of fire (cf. Rev. 21:8).
We will conclude this study in our next lesson.