Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Will Children Be Raptured?

Nathan JonesPDFBy

One of the most frequently asked questions coming into my Inbox involves the role of children in the Rapture. Will children be raptured? What about babies? The unborn? That question can extend as far as covering anyone who is mentally incapable of making a decision to accept Jesus as Savior. In essence, the question extends even further than that, for the ultimate destination of the Rapture is Heaven, and people are wondering about the eternal destiny of these tender people if they die, regardless of the Rapture. Even graver, hanging onto the answer by a thread are people's views of the justice and loving nature of God.

I admit I wince every time I'm asked if children will be raptured. It is a question that hits very close to home for me.

I have three elementary-age children. My older two have asked Jesus to be their Savior and have proclaimed it in baptism. As a father it brings me great joy to see their love for the Lord expressed in cute prayer requests, joyful singing, surprisingly deep questions and an outpouring of love which are all fruits of the Spirit that have me convinced their acceptance of Jesus is genuine. Sure, I know they'll have some bumps along the way as they walk with Christ, and they may even fall away for a bit, but they are His and as Jesus said in John 10:27-29, "no one can snatch them out of my hand."

My youngest boy, though, has autism. At age five Zachary still does not speak. While his gross motor skills are almost olympic in stature, he lacks the finest motor skills to put even his hands together to wash them. The simplest concepts grasped by a one year old seem to be beyond him. And certainly, there is no way that he could comprehend his need for a Savior, much less understand the words that explain that concept. Unless his brain is miraculously healed, Zachary will never "confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead," and so be saved (Rom. 10:9).

Zachary Jones

The question asked of me about whether children will be raptured translates in my mind every time to, "Will Zachary be going to Heaven?"

What the Bible Says

While the work of salvation was wonderfully completed by Jesus sacrificing Himself for our sins and overcoming death by His resurrection, people in turn must accept that salvation in order to be saved from judgment and its sentence of Hell. The decision to repent of our rebellion (sin) against God and in faith accept Jesus as Savior is therefore an act that requires a mental understanding and a decision made (Jn. 1:12; 3:16,36; Acts 2:21,38; 3:19; Heb. 11:16; 1 Jn. 5:5).

It does appear that Jesus teaches that children have and are exempt until an "age of accountability," when they can make their own decision to accept Jesus as Savior. A verse commonly used in support of a child's age of accountability is Matthew 19:14, "Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'" Jesus also said in Matthew 18:3, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

The concept of the age of accountability can be verified by events in the Bible as well. King David recognized this when his baby born of Bathsheba died (2 Sam. 12:23). David responded, "I will go to him, but he will not return to me."

And so, while the Bible doesn't clearly state whether children will be raptured, or that children who die automatically go to Heaven, the Bible does imply that children who have yet to reach the age of accountability belong to the Kingdom of Heaven. The underlying theme still is the ability to accept Jesus and His salvation, so the line of reasoning is that the mentally disabled and the unborn will also never reach the age of accountability, and so also belong to the Kingdom of Heaven.

A Caveat

While those who die before the age of accountability belong to Heaven, the Rapture is a promise to the Church, and minor children who have not accepted the Lord are not members of the Church. While all the little children are destined for Heaven, they may not be destined for the Rapture and so will have to endure the Tribulation — a horrifying thought!

Should that be the scenario, at the time of the Rapture the wombs will not be emptied nor all the children and mentally disabled be taken away with the Church. But (and it's a big "But"), the Bible does shine some hope upon the families of believers, for the Bible indicates that children who have a believing parent are especially protected.

Verses that support parental protection are like 1 Corinthians 7:14 which reads, "For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy." Proverbs 14:26 also provides support. "He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge."

This concept is substantiated when God saved not just the righteous Noah but also all his household when He destroyed the Earth with water. Likewise, God saved not just the righteous Lot but also his two worldly daughters when He decided to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (2 Pet. 2:4-9).

While my salvation cannot be my children's salvation, God may have extended his grace further (as He always does) by covering a believer's child and including them as an honorary member of the Church, and therefore be included in the Rapture.

While the Bible makes it clear there is an age of accountability, and that as a believer my children are protected, the children of the world may not be part of the Rapture. They may have to grow up some through the Tribulation before they can make a decision on their own. That's hard and painful to think about.

Trusting God

The answer I give people who ask me "Do children go to Heaven?" never fully satisfies them. Quite frankly, it doesn't satisfy me either. Too much is inferred and not directly stated on this subject.

In the end, though, I have to leave my questioning and doubts behind and trust in who God is. As 1 John 4:16 explains about God's love, "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him." God is also inherently righteous in His judgments. As Romans 1:17 proclaims, "For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.'"

And so, I will live by faith, trusting that God loves Zachary more than I can ever love him, and that by His wonderful righteousness my boy will be with me forever and whole in Heaven.


davidsoncounty said...

I love the verse you used, 1 John 4:16. There is so much covered by God's Love, I feel it's hard to know for certain some things. But the Scripture is clear about God's Love and in Matthew 6:31, for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. I believe it is all about the heart and what God sees in His Perfect Love. He know the difference between right and wrong, His judgements are Perfect. And His Love is Glorious.

Billy said...

Will children, mentally disabled, etc. go to Heaven? I'll add this (keeping in mind I'm speculating and not proclaiming a truth).

What would you do if you had the power to make that choice? I'd say we, as fallen, sinful, sometimes evil people, would likely say "Yes, children, enter into Heaven."

Don't you think God, who is perfect and sinless, would do the same? Matthew 7:9-11 says "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

I'm not sure if this verse is relevant to my point. But to me it implies that we evil people do good for our children. And if that is the case, wouldn't God who is perfect and loving and just do good to them as well?

As for children going through the Rapture, I would agree with Nathan (I think). I'll base that on the fact that children throughout history have suffered the consequences of our evil ways (the Holocaust, wars, etc.)

David said...

My wife and I lead a weekly Bible study out of our home and this question has come up once or twice. My answer has always been this: We take NO part in our salvation. God chooses whom he wishes to save. He create us, so he knows our hearts. The Creator of time is not bound by His creation. He is outside of time. We must remember God is in control of all things. We should not question why He chose to save us, but just live a life full of thankfulness that He DID save us!

Anonymous said...

I think there is an age of accountability as well, but it is likely different for every person based on their ability to comprehend good and evil.

Billy said...


I disagree with your premise. I think the Bible references in Nathan's first paragraph under the heading "What the Bible Says" make it clear that, as Nathan said, "The decision to repent of our rebellion (sin) against God and in faith accept Jesus as Savior is therefore an act that requires a mental understanding and a decision made".

WE must CHOOSE to take the ACTION of belief in Jesus in order to recieve salvation. If not, if God simply rolls the dice or picks and chooses on His own who or who not to save, then the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross would be MEANINGLESS.

Can you please explain how you came to your conclusion that we take NO part? It makes NO sense to me.


Billy said...

Two people have said to the effect of "it's what's in your heart that matters".

I disagree, it has ONLY to do with have you accepted or rejected Jesus Christ. That is what we will determine our eternity, not what's in our hearts...whatever that means.

Dave James said...

Concernng Billy's comment about the idea that "if we as fallen can make such a decision, wouldn't God make the same if since he is perfect"

Although it would be nice (from our perspective) to draw this conclusion, it is based on the same premise that also leads to universal salvation, namely that our decision in this matter is the right or righteous one. Of course, if our decision to not allow anyone to experience hell was the righteous and just one, then God would do the same. However, we are drawing that conclusion from both a limited perspective concerning what is righteous and just - and also we are doing so with a fallen mind that will not be fully renewed and free from the effects of having a sinful nature until we are with Him.

Consequently, we can only judge that saying we would allow children to go to heaven is right and just from a fallen human point of view. Therefore, it doesn't at all follow that God would make the same decision because he is holy and just. In fact, in the Bible we find that concerning those who haven't heard, God does not preserve them from hell, but they are condemned on the basis of their sinful works which have not been forgiven on the basis of faith in Christ's finished work on the cross.

Again, it would be nice to use this as part of the argument for the salvation of children, it is ultimately a non sequitur. (although I do agree with the theological basis for children and others incapable of believing being redeemed).

Dave James
The Alliance for Biblical Integrity

Dave James said...


This is a well thought-through discussion of the subject. I have to admit that I hadn't thought about children not being a part of the church and therefore possibly not participating in the Rapture. However, since we are presently in the Church Age and all who are saved anywhere during this time become a part of the Body of Christ, I think I would conclude that their redemption would necessarily include them as members of the Church.

Dave James
The Alliance for Biblical Integrity

Billy said...

In response to Dave James:

*** "Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. "Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there."

*** "At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure."

*** "The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they were indignant.

"Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. "Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read, " 'From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise'?"

Does the Jesus in these verses sound like He would send little children to Hell?

I have to believe in an age of accountability.

Additionally, Dave, the Bible says "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Based on that I conclude that though we have a "fallen human point of view" as you say, this verse indicates that doesn't mean we can't know what is good or right. So if we think something is good or right, that isn't discounted outright because of our fallen nature.

Quick last point which closes the debate for me however is as Nathan points out in his post King David said "But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” Is this not proof that this little child that died went to Heaven?

To Nathan, I believe, too, your son will be in Heaven with you. I think he may go in ahead of the rest of us.

Billy said...

And to clarify, Dave, I NEVER said no one should ever experience hell. I said just the opposite. If you reject Christ you will NOT be saved.

Billy said... comment to you didn't sound right "he may go in ahead of us". I think you know I meant I was thinking of Jesus telling (the Jewish leaders?) the sinners they were critizing would go in Heaven before them. Sorry for this poorly worded comment.

son of thunder said...

I may be wrong, and maybe it's wishfull thinking on my part, but I think that children, both born and unborn, who are not yet to the age where they understand who this Jesus is and what He did, will be raptured.

This also applies, in my mind, to adults who have a child's mind.

When I was younger, there was an aged couple at our church who had a son. In the son's 40's, he had the mind of a 6 or 7 year old (he may have been autistic, I'm not sure). He knew who Jesus was, but I don't think he had any understanding of redemption through Jesus' sacrifice.

I like to think that one day soon, standing before Jesus at the Rapture, I will meet Alan again with his mind intact as he praises his Lord.

And, Nathan, unless God heals Zachary here, I have no doubt that the same will happen to you at the Rapture: You will meet your son whole and perfected at that glorious meeting in the clouds.

Billy said...

My Aunt Betty was afflicted with polio and was physically and mentally handicapped. She had a child's mind, was very kind and loved me and my brothers and our cousins very much.

I have NO doubt saying...


End of discussion as far as I'M concerned!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I want to believe they would all go, but the children in the days of Noah didn't and neither were the children in Sodom and Gomorrah saved. That was just recently pointed out to me and it causes much turmoil in my heart. I can only say that I have to leave it in the hands of a just and loving Father.

C in Salem

hartdawg said...

well, will not the perfect judge do what is right? i doubt very seriousely children, mentally handicap (including zachery) or unborn children in the womb (who are people despite what liberals say)will face the tribulation. thes are people who may be tested at the end of the millenium during satans revolt. if a child goes thru the tribulation than he'll very likely be decieved by anti-christ and God will give everyone a chance

Billy said...

I find it unbelievable someone can ssy that a young child, a mentally handicapped person, etc. will be damned to hell and call it just and loving.

A JUST and LOVING God will welcome the souls of aborted babies, small children, mentally handicapped, etc. into Heaven. How anyone could think otherwise is beyond my ability to comprehend!!!!!!!

Billy said... about that claim that the children who, yes, died in the days of Noah and Sodom and Gomorrah are now in hell? This whole issue is becoming greatly disturbing to me.

son of thunder said...

Billy, I think it all depends on whether, in the case of Noah, the children who were old enough to understand Noah's preaching and accepted what he said. I think the children suffered for the parents stupidity in the case of the flood.

It all comes down to being able to understand what is said. Someone born with mental problems may not understand the Gospel; not because they don't want to, but because they don't have the mental facilites. The same with a very young child or the unborn.

We could also ask the same about some tribesmen in South America who never heard the Gospel. Can they be held accountable for something they've never heard? Is it their fault? Would God punish the just with the unjust? Let it never be so!!

Nathan Jones said...

Thank you for your all's encouraging words about Zachary!

I've never thought about children in Sodom and Gomorrah, but indeed there must have been some. If you check back to the article Shadows of the Persecution to Come - India we see Indian orphanages with the children still inside burned to the ground by Hindu mobs just because the orphanages are Christian. Children tragically don't escape the effects of sin in this world. I'd imagine that though the children of Sodom and Gomorrah and those Indian children died physically, they went to Paradise (OT times) and then Heaven.

son of thunder said...

And, technically, they are in "hell". Sheol, the place of the dead, is translated as "hell" in many Bible translations. It's not to be confused with the Lake of Fire, the final punishment of unbelievers.

When I said that the children suffered for the parents stupidity, I meant thay didn't listen to Noah. Perhaps many children did and wanted to go with Noah. We have to remember that Noah preached for 100 years+ that it was going to rain. Many of the people who died were children when Noah got his warning to begin with.

But it just kept not raining. Eventually, the grown children would stop believeing (assuming that at some point they did). And maybe after they had kids they told them to stay away from that crazy old man who keeps talking about rain. "For the past 100 years he's told us it's going to rain. Where is the promise of this rain?"

But I still think that those children are in Paradise.

David said...

In response to Billy...

Billy, can you explain to me how we are saved by faith, which is a gift from God yet have to take an Action to be saved. If we have to take Action then that is a work and we are not saved by ANYTHING we DO. It is by the Grace of God alone. This does not make Jesus' work on the cross meaningless! It is because of His work on the cross we are offered this Grace. We have to understand that we CANNOT understand the mind of God. Faith is trusting in a Just and Loving God who saved us through His Grace and Mercy. If we say we must take an ACTION then we have something to boast about. The only thing we DO is accept our position as cursed sinners and accept His FREE gift of salvation.

Billy said...


I was responding to your comment "We take NO part in our salvation. God chooses whom he wishes to save." HOWEVER, in your latest post you said "The only thing we DO is accept our position as cursed sinners and accept His FREE gift of salvation."

I completely agree with that. We DO have to accept the free gift. That is the ACT I spoke of. So, actually, I think we agree completely.

The part that confursed me was your statement "We take NO part in our salvation."

Choosing to accept or reject the free gift of salvation IS having a PART. So I think I'm clear now and I thank you and appreciate your latest post.

Sal said...

Son of Thunder, you mean Hell is the Lake of Fire and Hades/Sheol with its two compartments of Paradise (which is now empty) and Torments is the holding place of the unjust until the Great White Throne Judgment, right?

From Dr. Reagan's article... "Hell is not Hades. A careful study of the Scriptures will reveal that Hades in the New Testament is the same place as Sheol in the Old Testament (Psalm 49:15)."

son of thunder said...

Sal, that is what I mean except for the part about Paradise being empty. The OT saints are being held in that "compartment" waiting for their resurrection at the end of the Tribulation.

I misspoke (or is that miswrote?).

Dave James said...


I think you missed my entire point. I stated at the end (which I should probably have stated at the beginning) that I do believe children are saved, I just don't think the argument about us making a "right judgment" in our estimation must necessarily mean that God would make the same decision. This is a theological and logical mistake and therefore doesn't hold up as a supporting point.


Billy said...


Sometimes I do miss people's points either because either the comments aren't clear, or I misread them, or whatever. That's why I appreciate you helping me understand. Thanks!

Dave James said...

RE: The children of Noah's day

The fact that they weren't saved/spared physically doesn't necessarily mean that they weren't saved spiritually. People who are saved do die - even in broad judgments against the wicked. So, I'm not sure this argues against the overall theological point, though it must be considered.

Dave James
The Alliance for Biblical Integrity

Junbuggg said...

Okay, I was under the impression that Jesus took with Him, Paradise, when He ascended to heaven after His resurrection. Because, the Bible says that He descended down to preach the good news (that he had shed His blood for sins). It also says that the tombs of many holy people broke open and appeared to many people. Also, it says that when Jesus ascended to heaven to go to his fathers side....following Him was a train. (I think that's how it says it)

Anyway, if this was not the old testament saints.....who was it???


Nathan Jones said...

That is my understanding, too, Junbuggg. The OT saints will be resurrected at the end of the Tribulation based on Daniel 12:1-2.

Anonymous said...

Dear Nathan;
You stated that "too much is inferred and not directly stated on this subject." Well, so is the term, "Trinity". Just sayin'.
The Grill Sgt.

Nathan Long said...

Thank you for this timely message from the Spirit. Your article made me cry with hope and joy. I have been asking myself this same question lately. I, too, have a son with autism. His name is Kyle and he'll be 5 in February. I hope to someday be able to have a conversation with him about the love of Christ, but if that day never comes I am confident that God will hold him in his loving arms. My son will be in Heaven...and my son will not have autism there. God Bless you man! Feel free to contact me if you want to talk autism with another dad.

Nathan Long.

Nathan Jones said...

"The Grill Sgt." - great alias! And, great site on Kyle, Nathan Long!

J.R. Hall of Berean Watchman Ministries sent me another great verse that implies an age of accountability...

"And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad—they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it." (Deut. 1:39)

Anonymous said...

Yes! Children will be taken during the sound of that trumpet! I also believe that those (no matter how old)that never really fully understand the graveness of sin being whatever the mental state that they are in that would keep them unaccountable!
I know that this will be hard to swallow for some and a blessing for others! We will be surprised on who did and did not make it past those gates! Only Jesus can redeem us of our sins and only He knows the state of ones mind!

DaveL said...

Children have always suffered because of unGodly parents. Suffered physically, not spiritually. You don't go to hell because of your sins, your sins have been paid for. You go to hell for rejecting the payment. Nathan, you will hear your son sing praises to his redeemer in heaven.

Chuck said...

Matthew 18:3-4 (King James Version)

3And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

4Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus says that the children are to be in heaven. So, when he removes his people from the Earth to protect them from the Tribulation to come, he will protect all the children just as he will protect his church.

Matthew 19:14
But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus says the kingdom of Heaven belongs to why would he make them stay here after the Rapture to suffer while they grow and will be too late...the Earth will be so evil and will destroy the children left behind.

Anonymous said...

Two months ago, I lost my grandbaby girl Alessandra to melanoma cancer.
I KNOW she is in Heaven, even if I don't understand why she had to leave us so soon. She was 2 1/2 years old. I know I'm going to be with her forever when the Lord calls me. My question is, will she be the same age forever, or will she grow up in Heaven?
What do you think?

Nathan Jones said...

GrandmaYeya, we do know from the Bible that our new heavenly bodies will have substance, we'll eat, can fly, will not be able to reproduce, can transcend the physical boundaries that separate Heaven and Earth, and will never get old and never die.

The Bible doesn't say at what age we'll be when we are in Heaven, but we do know that there will be work for us to do, and a being trapped forever in a child's body cannot reach their full potential in service to the Lord. Therefore, it is generally held that everyone in Heaven will be like we're in our adult youth.

Rick said...

I'm not sure we can really know what the answer truly is. One thing we do know is that God is fair and just and anything done will be right. It seems to create a conflict for aborted babies at least to go to heaven automatically as Nathan speculates since abortionists would then be saving millions (maybe they are, but maybe these are the ones to whom Jesus says "depart from me...")

Anonymous said...

Dear Nathan,
Thank you for your kind answer.
I have been a Christian for 10 years, and never questioned why God allows bad things to happen. I know He always has a reason and all things He permits is for our own good. However, this time, even if I don't question Him "why", I do not understand what good would come out of Alessandra's death.
Family and friends tell me that maybe He took her to save her from pain and suffering. The truth is I miss her very much. I know she is in the best place anyone can be, I 'm ready myself to go any time the Lord calls me, still, I'm selfish and cry for her every day.
She was the strongest little girl I've ever known and the most special one too.

Thank you so much,

Grandma Yeya (She called me that)

Diana said...

If children are born before they are able to commit an intentional sin, such as a "white lie", which we all knowis a lie and a sin anyway, why would they go to hell? It seems to me that when Jesus said that children are very special to him, they would go back to God (where, in my opinion they came from. It is impossible for me to believe that God would allow an infant,or any child before the age of accountability to burn for eternity in Hell before they were able to understand what this was all about. All children come from God. All children will return to Him. Otherwise how could Heaven BE a peaceful place, knowing that our innocents were burning? Have faith.

Anonymous said...

This is the 3rd time Ive been to your site so if I'm all wet pleases forgive me. I hope you know how important your FOUNDATION is. It appears that you are using the NIV. Please I implore you to do research on the use of this (pleanty of sites on the web) I checked just one of the verses on this subject from 2 Peter 2:4-9 It does't mention Lots daughters or that they were worldly(yes its in Genesis 19). Check the NIV and compare it to the KJV on II Tim 2:15. This comparison should help you to discover how critical it is, (with the people you have exposure to and to help lead these people) to study and rightly divide the Word. I pray for you during this time of critical self examination during which you may have to reevaluate some of the precepts of which you stand on.

Allie W said...

How do you know the children who died in the flood and in Sodom and Gomorah didn't go to heaven or aren't asleep until the Lord's return? We don't know unless God's Word says.

Allie W said...

I agree.