Questions From Readers

Is there any hope of a resurrection for a baby that dies in its mother’s womb?

For those who have never suffered the loss of an unborn baby in this way, it may be difficult to imagine the feelings of those who have. Some parents grieve such losses intensely. One mother lost five children before they were born. In time, she felt blessed to raise two healthy sons. Yet, she remembered each loss. To the end of her days, she knew just how old her stillborn and miscarried babies would have been had they survived. Do such Christians have a basis for hoping in a resurrection to restore what they have lost?

The simple answer to the question is that we do not know. The Bible never directly addresses the matter of a resurrection for babies who were stillborn or lost through a miscarriage. Nonetheless, God’s Word does contain principles that bear on the question and that may offer a measure of comfort.

Let us consider two related questions. First, from Jehovah’s viewpoint, when does the life of a human begin—at conception or at birth? Second, how does Jehovah view the unborn—as unique individuals or as mere collections of cells and tissue in a woman’s womb? Bible principles give clear answers to both questions.

The Mosaic Law clearly revealed that life begins, not at birth, but much earlier. How so? It showed that killing a fetus could incur the death penalty. Note this law: “You must give soul for soul.”* (Ex. 21:22, 23) Thus, the unborn child in the womb is alive and is a living soul. Understanding that timeless truth has helped millions of Christians to repudiate the practice of abortion, seeing it as a serious sin against God.

Granted, the unborn child is alive, but what value does Jehovah place on that life? The law cited above demanded that an adult be put to death for causing the death of an unborn child. Clearly, then, the life of an unborn child has great value in God’s eyes. Further, numerous passages in the Scriptures reveal that Jehovah sees the unborn as distinct individuals. For example, King David was inspired to say of Jehovah: “You kept me screened off in the belly of my mother. . . . Your eyes saw even the embryo of me, and in your book all its parts were down in writing, as regards the days when they were formed.”—Ps. 139:13-16; Job 31:14, 15.

Jehovah also sees that the unborn have distinct traits and may have great potential for the future. While Isaac’s wife Rebekah was pregnant with twins, Jehovah uttered a prophecy about the two boys struggling in her womb, suggesting that he already saw traits in them that would have far-reaching effects.—Gen. 25:22, 23; Rom. 9:10-13.

The case of John the Baptist is an interesting one as well. The Gospel account says: “As Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the infant in her womb leaped; and Elizabeth was filled with holy spirit.” (Luke 1:41) In describing this incident, the physician Luke used a Greek word that could refer either to a fetus or to a baby after its birth. He used the same word in referring to the baby Jesus lying in the manger.—Luke 2:12, 16; 18:15.

On the whole, does the Bible give us a basis for drawing a big distinction between a baby in the womb and one that has drawn its first breath? It does not seem so. And that accords with the findings of modern science. For example, researchers have learned that a baby in the womb is able to sense and respond to external stimuli. Thus, it is not surprising that an expectant mother develops such a close bond with the child growing within her.

When the baby finally arrives, the timing of birth can seem quite arbitrary. Consider this example: One mother gives birth prematurely to a living baby, who dies after a few days. Another mother carries her baby to full term, but the child dies just before birth. Is the first mother blessed with the hope that her child will be resurrected simply because of the happenstance of a premature birth, whereas the second mother has no such hope?

To summarize, then, the Bible clearly teaches that life begins at conception and that Jehovah sees the unborn child as a unique and valued individual. In the light of those Scriptural truths, some might see it as inconsistent to argue that there is no hope for a resurrection of an unborn child that dies. Indeed, they might feel that such an argument undermines our Scriptural stand against abortion, which is largely based on those very truths.

In the past, this journal has raised some practical questions that seem to cast doubt on the possibility of a resurrection for children who died before birth. For example, would God implant even a partially developed embryo in the womb of a woman in Paradise? However, further study and prayerful meditation has led the Governing Body to conclude that such considerations do not really have a bearing on the resurrection hope. Jesus said: “All things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27) Jesus’ own experience demonstrated the truth of that statement; his life was transferred from heaven to the womb of a young virgin—surely an utter impossibility from a human standpoint.

Does all of this mean, then, that the Bible teaches that children who perish before birth will be resurrected? We must emphasize that the Bible does not directly answer that question, so there is no basis for humans to be dogmatic on the matter. This subject may give rise to an almost endless variety of questions. Really, though, it seems best to avoid speculation. What we know is this: The matter rests with Jehovah God, who is abundant in loving-kindness and mercy. (Ps. 86:15) Unquestionably, it is his heartfelt desire to undo death by means of the resurrection. (Job 14:14, 15) We can be confident that he always does what is right. He will provide healing for the many wounds inflicted upon us by life in this wicked system of things as he lovingly directs his Son to “break up the works of the Devil.”—1 John 3:8.

[Footnote]

This passage is sometimes translated in a way that implies that only the death of the mother would incur a death penalty. However, the original Hebrew text shows that the law spoke of a fatal injury to either the mother or her unborn child.

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Jehovah will provide healing for all painful experiences