By Terry James
Most always the confutation over the issue of children and the rapture of the church is wrapped around the scripture: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy” (1 Cor. 7:14).
The Character of God
The very character of God, himself, is at the heart of the issues involved in the question that is raised quite often. “What about children and the rapture? Will they stay on earth, or go to be with Christ?” And, there is nothing of more profound eternal significance than the individual human being’s consideration of God’s character. The all-importance of that consideration is cocooned within the words of Jesus Christ, himself, at the center of whom God’s great character is made manifest for fallen mankind.
“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets” (Matt. 16:13-14).
Jesus’ question was straight from the heart of God. Jesus was God come to the earth in the flesh. Therefore, He, of course, knew what the people were saying about Him. He wanted His disciples to consider the question through spiritual eyes and ears, regarding themselves, individually. His follow-up question asked plainly: “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?” (Matt. 16:15).
The totality of scripture which went before Jesus asked the question, and all scripture that came after He asked the question, encapsulates –attests to—the holy, loving, merciful character of mankind’s Creator. His question is directed not to corporate mankind, however, but to each and every individual who has lived upon earth since He asked it. How each one of us answers that specific question Jesus asked will determine each and every individual’s position in Jesus Christ. The individual answer you and I and every other person give to that specific question Jesus asked will determine where you, I, or any other individual spends eternity. And, make no mistake, each and every person who has or ever will live –and that means from conception onward—will spend eternity in one of two places: either in hell, or in heaven.
The coming into existence of the creature called man, and the fall from walking perfectly with the Creator is a matter for another study. Suffice it to say that a quick perusal of any newspaper or a quick listen to any news story will attest to man’s fallen state. We human beings do not walk a perfect walk. We sin, and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). The fact is that we need redemption –we must have reconciliation with God, our Creator, or we remain lost forever. And, keep in mind, the matter is based not upon a corporate or collective relationship, but upon an individual relationship with God.
And, this is where the awesome, loving grace – the very character of the Lord God-- comes into view. God’s Word says,” The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
We are each fallen. We need God’s grace gift of salvation. It is an individual need. Each of us must come to repentance for the sin into which we were born because of the fall of our father, Adam. God’s holiness requires blood sacrifice for remission of sin (Heb. 9: 22; 10:18). And, this is why God, himself, in the form of His Son Jesus Christ –the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world-- came to die on the cross at Calvary. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16).
About each of us –you, me, and every other person—God’s Word says further: “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (Jn. 3:18). Remember this verse; it is profoundly important to looking at the matter of children and the rapture of the Church.
Man is born into sin because the first man (Adam) disobeyed or rebelled against his Creator. The human blood line has been, since that time, polluted, contaminated by the horrible thing called sin. Because of Adam’s fall, disease, deterioration, decay, and death entered the world, God’s Word says. God has provided reconciliation with himself for human beings –redemption, through the blood sacrifice of His holy, perfect sacrificial lamb, His Son, Jesus Christ. Now, all can be saved through belief in Jesus as the only way back to God the Creator. Jesus is the way –the only way, truth and life. No one comes to God the Father (the Creator) except through belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, and what He did on the cross at Calvary (read John 14:6).
Belief is absolutely essential. This is the sort of faith Jesus spoke to Thomas about, when Thomas doubted that Jesus had resurrected after the crucifixion. When Thomas saw Jesus stand among the disciples, the Lord, having passed through solid matter to be with them, and Jesus bid Thomas to touch His wounds, Thomas believed, and could but mutter, “My Lord, and My God!"
Jesus then said: “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (Jn 20:29).
Jesus, with that statement, was, I’m convinced, looking not only at the disciples who were in that room, but down through time to all who would believe in His death, burial, and resurrection for salvation.
So, “belief” is absolutely essential--the kind of belief that saves, in order to be “born again” (John 3: 3) into God’s eternal family.
The Apostle Paul gave the precise formula required by God for the salvation of the individual soul: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:9-10).
This is what is required to assure salvation for the individual soul. This places the person in God’s family through Christ Jesus--i.e, when the individual believes in the way Paul, through divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, plainly tells us, that person is saved. That is, God no longer looks at the person as fallen, as rebellious, as a sinner, but now looks at the individual through His Son Jesus. God now sees the “believer” through the prism of the shed blood of His precious Son. About that, God’s Word says: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1).
It is obvious beyond any rationale to the contrary that this sort of belief –belief that brings one into the very family of God for all of eternity-- must be a belief that requires understanding that Jesus is the way –the ONLY way to such a position in God’s family. And, it is clear, according to God’s Word, that that position is gained through belief in Christ, totally, with no other prescription as antidote to the soul-destroying venom called sin. In other words, each individual’s soul owes his place in God’s family for eternity to what Jesus –alone—has done for that individual.
So, it is the person’s position in Christ –through his or her belief—that God looks at in the matter of whether the individual is “saved.” To come to this “salvation” position, the individual must “believe." There must be a cognitive decision to achieve the position in Christ that saves the individual’s soul. Remember the Scripture: “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (Jn. 3:18).
Position in Jesus Christ
The soul of the individual comes into existence at the moment of conception –the moment the Lord gives that life within the womb. I won’t argue the point. God’s Word says without reservation that life begins at conception. We could go into a study of that truth, but that’s for another time and space. Suffice it to say that God gives the soul at conception, and it becomes more than obvious when studying records of children in the womb. Two examples are Jacob and his twin brother, Esau, struggling within the womb of their mother. Another is the account of John, who would become the baptizer, who recognized the Messiah, Jesus, who was in His mother’s womb when the two women were in the same proximity. Children in the womb are living beings –with God-given souls.
These babies have certain abilities to think, and, in John’s case, certainly, a supernatural understanding about the fact he and his mother were in the presence of God, himself, come to earth in the flesh. However, it is a fact understood by anyone, with any common sense whatever, that a child in the womb, or for the first, formative years of life, are incapable of coming to comprehension of anything like making a decision about where his or her soul will spend eternity. These little ones are sinners every bit as much as any adult human being. The difference is the adult –presuming he or she hasn’t a severe mental incapacitation-- can understand, and make decisions about things like whether to accept Christ for salvation. These are therefore “accountable” for their belief or lack thereof. The child, whose reasoning powers haven’t reached that conceptual level of functioning, are not yet “accountable” for whether they believe to the point of salvation.
The adult whom the Holy Spirit has called to salvation through Jesus Christ is “accountable” for his or her own soul at the point he or she then accepts or rejects. The child is not called to salvation because he or she hasn’t, at that point in his or her young life, achieved through growth the cognitive ability to make such decisions. These are not “accountable.” The child who hasn’t reached the “age of accountability” has a position in Jesus Christ, the same as the adult who has “believed” unto salvation. If the child were to die before becoming responsible for his or her own decision to accept or reject Christ, that child would go directly into the presence of God, for all eternity.
Remember King David. He put off his robes of mourning for his baby when the son died, because David said that the baby couldn’t come to him, but that he, David, would go to the child. The baby was in heaven with God, for all of eternity, where King David would surely go upon his death. We know this is where David would go, because God called him “a man after my own heart.”
So, the position we, as individuals (not collectively) have in Jesus Christ, is the determining factor –the all-important matter—in considering where you or I –or any person will spend eternity. All children before they reach the age of accountability are positioned securely in the Lord Jesus Christ, whose shed blood is the only remission for the soul-destroying thing called sin.
Rapture a Salvation Issue
The rapture of the Church is a salvation issue. These realities –rapture and salvation--are inexorably linked in God’s great economy. This truth is based upon a vast body of scriptural proof text, but is wrapped up by the Apostle Paul in one particular scripture, I think: “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ…”(1 Thes. 5:9).
Paul, again through divine inspiration, had just gone through the facts surrounding the rapture of believers ( the Church). He used the personal pronouns "we," "us," "your," etc., as opposed to "they," "them," etc., to separate believers from unbelievers. Believers (Christians of the Church Age) were not, Paul said, appointed to wrath, because they were children of the day (the light found in Christ). The unbelievers were children of the night –the sin-blackened darkness of the fallen realm. Paul prophesied that the day of the Lord will begin like a thief-in-the-night experience. The children of the night would be taken by surprise, but the children of the day (believers) would escape the coming wrath of God, which the day of the Lord will bring upon a rebellious world of earth-dwellers.
This escape from God’s wrath will come, Paul said, through salvation, which is in Christ Jesus. The individual’s position in Christ will provide the escape. This is the same escape foretold by Jesus –through John—in Revelation 3: 10: “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev. 3:10).
Children below the age of accountability are individual souls within Christ’s salvation –the salvation that keeps the individual believer out of hell, eternally apart from the Creator –out of the time of God’s wrath, which will come upon the whole world of rebellious earth-dwellers –unbelievers. Again, God does not deal with human beings collectively, or corporately, when it comes to salvation of the soul. He, mercifully, deals with us one on one. Jesus asks each of us: “Who do you say that I am?” Unbelievers are those who, individually, have rejected the Holy Spirit’s call to salvation. Each will be left behind at the time of the rapture. Children, like all of lost mankind, are sinners, but those who haven’t reached the age of being able to understand God’s grace gift are not unbelievers. They are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. They are, individually, in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Lamb’s Book of Life
Let us look for a moment at this all-important volume God calls “The Lamb’s Book of Life.” This book is crucial to your and my souls, and to the soul of each and every individual human being who has ever been born –or who has died in the womb, before having a chance to draw a first breath.
Here are two relevant scripture passages on that Book.
“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before
my Father, and before his angels” (Rev. 3:5).
“And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither [whatsoever] worketh abomination, or [maketh] a lie: but they which are written
in the Lamb's book of life” (Rev. 21:27).
God’s Word is telling us here that there is a volume in which every human being’s name is written at some point. None whose name isn’t written in this book can enter into God’s holy presence for eternity. The word “Life” in the title of this book is "eternal" life. Every human being who has been conceived in the procreation process has his or her name written in the “Lamb’s Book of Life.”But, there is obviously the chance that one’s name can be blotted out of that book, according to Revelation 3:5. Since it is not possible for one to lose his or her salvation once the person has “believed” in the only begotten Son of God, the term “blot out” in Revelation 3:5 needs to be explained. The meaning becomes clear, when thinking on the fact that each and every individual’s name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The name remains there until the person is shown that he or she is a sinner, and is convicted or called by the Holy Spirit to repent of sin –to “believe” in the Lord Jesus Christ. When the person fully realizes that call, and that Jesus is the ONLY way to reconciliation with God the Father, but refuses or rejects God’s grace gift offer, that name is “blotted out” of the Lamb’s Book of Life. The individual who rejects that grace gift offer of salvation until his or her death will die in sin and spend eternity apart from his or her Creator. That person who has reached the age of accountability for his or her soul will also be left behind, when the Rapture occurs.
The name will be written back in that book when the individual subsequently accepts the Lord Jesus as the Savior of his or her soul. Jesus Christ’s shed blood is the only payment God the Father accepts. But, once a person accepts that free gift from the Lord Jesus, the individual is a member of God’s family –forever.
So, your and my position in Christ is the all-important thing, whether considering going to heaven when we die, or going to heaven at the rapture, when Jesus comes for us to take us to our home, which He, personally, has prepared for each of us, individually. (Read John 14: 1-4.) This is the only collective family gathering that counts in God’s economy, in consideration of the matter of the rapture and Salvation. We will, collectively at the rapture, go home to be in God the Father’s house. Here on earth, our relationship with our earthly parents is tremendously important, of course. But, it is our place in our heavenly family, and in our heavenly home that is absolutely crucial. This is an eternal matter. And, it all relies upon our position in Jesus Christ, not upon our position in our earthly home, or upon the spiritual condition of our parents.
Yes, but what about this?
A number of questions about the rapture and children crop up consistently. I thought it good to look at a couple of them.
Q. Why do you believe children will be taken in the rapture, when God hasn’t intervened for them in wars, and other horrible things that have happened to the children throughout the centuries? Why do you think God will keep them out of the tribulation, when millions have died, and continue to die?
A. These are two different matters entirely. This question involves physical death versus spiritual death (the second death, as the Scripture puts it.) It is the death of the flesh versus the death of the soul of an individual. Sin brought death to the flesh and to the soul (physical and spiritual death), but Christ brings eternal life. That is what I’ve spent the bulk of the article addressing. Wars and other terrible things on earth indeed take physical life –especially, it seems, the lives of innocent children. Unrepented sin takes the soul in death (eternal separation from the soul-giver –God, the Creator). It is comforting to know –according to God’s Word—that all children who have perished over the millennia have gone directly to be with the Lord. Not one single one of them has died in the eternal sense. Again, these are two separate issues –physical death versus spiritual death. The rapture is in the realm of the spiritual or the eternal sphere.
Q. But, won't there be children in the tribulation? Jesus says so in His Olivet Discourse.
A. Yes, the Lord does prophesy there will be children during the time of tribulation. He foretells the following: “And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!” (Matt. 24:19). Notice carefully. Jesus issues a special “woe” for the parents of children in the time of tribulation. But, the Lord specifically gives two ages of children, here: 1) children who are nursing, and 2) children still in the womb. There is absolutely no mention of older children. These children will be those born AFTER the Rapture. And, there will doubtless be millions upon millions born. Sexual debauchery will explode, as the Holy Spirit withdraws from governing the consciences of men and women (read 2 Thess. 2). No doubt, most of these little ones will perish in the horrors of that time. As many as two-thirds of all mankind will die during that period.
Not fair of God, you say? Consider this: Every single child who is born after the rapture will spend eternity with God the Father. None will have reached the age of accountability by the time Jesus Christ brings this decaying, dying world to an end as recorded in Revelation 19:11. For those who are thinking ahead of me, I realize that children who go into the millennium under the age of accountability will have to make the decision to accept Christ for salvation at some point.
As stated in the beginning of the article, God’s very character is at stake in the matter of whether ALL children (below the age of accountability) will go to be with Jesus at the electrifying moment of rapture. What, exactly, is wrapped up in 1 Corinthians 7:14 is a matter for another study. But, this much the overall context of God’s Word, when speaking to salvation matters—plainly, and loudly proclaims. The Bible teaches that the individual’s position in Christ, not his or her position in the physical family here on earth, determines the final disposition of the eternal soul. The rapture is an eternal matter, wrapped up in God’s salvation guarantee. And, it is a guarantee to the individual, not to the corporate –even though the collective will go as the Bride of Christ, the Church.
Every child below the age of accountability –including those in the womb—will go to be with Jesus when He steps out on the clouds of glory and shouts: “Come up here!”