It seems that little has been recorded in Scripture about this topic, but we are told that the sufficiency of scripture is complete as it is presented in the sixty-six books of the Bible—thirty-nine in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New Testament. And Paul, talking with the elders from the church at Ephesus while on his journey back to Jerusalem, declared that he “had not neglected to speak to them of the whole counsel of God” during his time with them (Acts 20:27).
Therefore, is it possible that we can find out the mind of God on such a crucial issue? Or, does God keep that answer hidden away, leaving believers uncertain as to how He has determined—before time began—the provision for those individuals? (The character of God readily refutes this dumb question, of course!)
Behind all considerations in the realm of theological truth must be the overall characteristics of God’s eternal nature. Possibly others have written on this subject, but I am choosing, primarily, to let the “sufficiency of Scripture” determine the answers. John wrote, in John 16:13, the words of Jesus:
“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”
So let’s commit the issue to Him and carefully follow His guidance into all truth, as He promises.
There are two passages in the Scriptures that are traditionally looked to as support for the redemption of children who have not reached the “age of accountability,” which is not anywhere clarified as a specific point in time of a child’s life. We are not told the ages of Cain and Abel in Genesis when they came with their sacrificial offerings, but they were making their own offerings. It was not done by their parents, thus we can assume they were of the age of accountability.
The first of those two passage is in the context of 2 Samuel 12:20-23 where the death of David’s first son born to Bathsheba did not survive a sickness. It was a judgment of God upon David for his ungodly and evil deeds regarding his claiming Bathsheba for his wife. While the child lived, David was fasting and praying in repentance for the boy, but when he died, David ceased his activities and made this declaration to those who wondered why he did not continue fasting:
“While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:22-23).
Now, let’s think out of the box and look at the whole counsel of God. When a believer dies, where does he go? To the grave? 2 Corinthians 5:8 tells us this:
“We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”
In January, 2016, when my wife of forty-six years passed away, her last words were, “Help me, Jesus,” and I am sure she—her spirit and soul—went into the arms of her Savior, and her body, her tent, as both Paul and Peter called their bodies, gave up its mortal existence to return to the dust of which it was formed. Not once while Marge’s remains were with me and as we of the family gathered around the grave site and deposited those ashes there did I think of her being there with us. She had moved out of her tent to a more permanent place.
As an aside note, we chose cremation which may be to some a problem area. However, the end result is the same as time passes for the mortal body is destined to return to dust. It may be a bit more gruesome to think of how Job looked at his future situation, yet he, at that early date, some 1900 years before Christ, could say this:
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25-26).
He spoke with confidence that in the latter days he would appear before God in a resurrected body that had been destroyed and returned to the dust of the earth.
So if the argument is that David would go to meet his son in the grave, it is a clear contradiction of contributing Scripture on the subject. No, David believed he would go to his son who was now in the bosom of the Savior. If that is true for David and his son, and God is no respecter of persons—that is, He does not treat one person above another in matters of justice and mercy—then we can be assured that this would apply to all babies and youngsters who have not reached their own knowledge of their sinfulness. We will come back to obvious questions that now arise when we look at the situation of the unborn later in the article.
Another passage is found in Mark 10:13-15 that addresses this issue because Jesus broadens the topic to include the eternal kingdom of God:
“Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.’”
That is a very exacting statement, not meaning that adults should act like little kids, but that the simple faith of a little child is the desire of God for those coming to Him.
In this setting the responsibilities of parents are extremely magnified. The requirement to bring children up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) would be the foundation which could determine when a child’s knowledge reaches the point of accountability. Many times a child understands in the simplicity of the gospel of Christ and accepts Him by the age of five years.
That same verse in Ephesians 6 lays out a great responsibility to fathers before coming to the nurturing and admonition of the Lord:
“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training (nurture) and admonition of the Lord.”
Several years ago a morning news report told of a man who was to be executed in Florida that day for murdering someone. He was asked if he had any last words that he wanted to say, and he replied, “Well, my daddy always said I would never amount to anything, and I guess he was right.”
Another morning several summers ago a man and his son came to work on the apartment next door, and all morning long I could overhear the father belittling his son continually for being “worthless and unable to do anything right.” No doubt that young man would grow up hating his father and somehow it would most likely convince him that he really was worthless and undesirable. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger” is a warning that has great impact in a parent-child relationship. It is a heart-breaking reality.
Finally, what about the unborn, those who are conceived and later miscarried or aborted, or are still born, as well as those who suffer mental disorders and cannot rise above it? The so-called “Pro-Choice” faction would like for people to believe that that conceived entity the mother is carrying is merely fleshy tissue and does not have a life of its own. What God says about that is recorded in Psalm 139:13-16 as David acknowledges these truths:
“For You formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
“Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me when as yet there were none of them.”
According to this Scripture from the Holy Book of Truth, when does God start paying attention to that new person in the womb? Is it when once out of the womb and the doctor has swatted the newly born on its rump? Or, is it when you can hear that first heartbeat? That Scripture says it is when that moment of conception happens. He is right there, then, we are told.
In the record of David and his son we recognize that his son is in heaven because that is where David will go and meet him there. But we do not know how and why the son gets there, do we?
But we know of God’s character and integrity, and of His perfect justice, that it is never one-sided. That is why the statue of Lady Justice is blindfolded and holding scales that are evenly balanced, showing that the universal understanding of mankind follows that pattern. It is true that God requires repentance, but who can repent of the sin of Adam which is the heritage of every mortal being? When Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2), the price for that sin was paid
Man’s repentance of his sin of Adam has to be when he turns to Christ and is born again. We need salvation because of who we are, and we have done sinful things because of who we are. Those who were unborn for any reason and those not able to know their sinfulness had no acts of sinfulness to require repentance. We must commit ourselves to the mercy, justice and grace of God that He is able to bring together the loose ends of these unanswered questions.
Our God knows the end from the beginning; He knows our thoughts before we think them, as that Psalm says earlier; He knows our framework before it is formed!
He even writes it all down in His book, along with our history before it is lived. It is a great mystery about the Book of Life and our place in it. Does our name get removed when we refuse to believe? The Scripture does say, in Revelation 3:5, that “he who overcomes…will not be blotted out of the Book of Life….” And the fact that only those who have Christ in their lives will overcome is fully supported in other passages. It is a vital subject for its own article for exploration.
One thing is sure, and that is that our God gives specific attention to all of those who are created in the likeness of Himself, in His image. It is astounding that He would take on the form of a man such as we are, yet remain God in the flesh for all eternity and have His believers with Him there. After reading through Psalm 139 and relating it to Paul’s explanation of God to those philosophers at Mars Hill in Acts 17:26-28, it is clear that God is much more attentive to His creation than our finite minds can grasp:
“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being….”
Our response could be like that of the psalmist in Psalm 119:32, Enlarge my heart that I may run the way of Your commandments (paraphrased).
His mercy is everlasting and He loved us before the foundation of the world. His sovereignty is the foundation of our existence and our sustenance. It is as Psalm 90:2 expresses it:
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”
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