David Jeremiah - Will Children Be Raptured?
I read a story about Ashley Irwin, who was slightly amused and slightly alarmed when her young son, Wyatt, asked her to pull down his Marvel-themed duffel bag, and he told his mom, "I've got a big trip tomorrow". At first Ashley thought her son was talking about church because this was all happening on Saturday night, but Wyatt had bigger goals in mind. He had a higher destination. He told his mom, "I'm going to heaven". In that moment, Ashley understood because her husband, Tyler, had passed away almost two years before, and Wyatt missed him desperately, and he was planning a trip to visit his dad. Asking no more questions, Ashley handed a duffel bag to her son and allowed him to pack in private. Later, when he was asleep, she went through all the stuff that he had put in his bag, and it was quite an assortment.
First was his superhero mask and capes, then a whistle, two baseball gloves and a ball, a collection of foam darts, two wallets: one belonging to Wyatt and the other to his dad. Both wallets were stuffed with family pictures. And last of all, Ashley found a bottle of her husband's cologne tucked deep inside Wyatt's shoe. I don't know if I've ever heard anything more touching than a boy packing his bag with two gloves, not one, to meet his father on a trip to heaven. But Wyatt's desire to see his father in heaven raises an interesting and important connection with the subject of the Rapture, namely, what will happen to young children on the day the Rapture happens, what will happen to those little ones who are too young to make a decision about eternity when eternity crashes into their world? Does the Bible offer any clarity for parents and grandparents, any hope?
Thankfully, there are four solid reasons in scriptures for believing that children who die and children who are living when the Rapture occurs will go straight to heaven. Listen up and be encouraged. First of all, the character of God. The Bible is full of information about the nature of God. It tells us about his personality, his attributes. The scripture calls him Father. I mean, that's a good place to start. He isn't simply a distant force in the universe. As Jesus put it, he is our Father in heaven, and there's a tender passage that describes him in the book of Deuteronomy, tucked in the Old Testament. You wouldn't find it unless you were looking for it, but here's what it says.
"Do not be terrified, or afraid of them. The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw the Lord your God. He carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place". The Bible teaches us that God is so full of compassion and tenderness and mercy that he carries us through tough places like a father carrying his son when he's no longer able to navigate himself. This is a consistent theme, and if you read the Psalms, you will see it everywhere. If you look for it, it'll jump out at you.
Psalm 86:15 says, "But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, and longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth". In Psalm 145, verse 9, says, "The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all of His works". How many of you know God is a good God? He is a good God, and he's good to all, and that would certainly include children. He knows that little children cannot comprehend the truth of the gospel, yet God loves them deeply. He loves the pre-born and the newborn. He loves the infant and the toddler. And there are some incidents in the Old Testament that help us wrap our minds around all of this. Put on your thinking cap and join me for just a moment as we try to explore this.
When the children of Israel were denied entrance into the Promised Land because of the unbelief of the people, the children were not held responsible, and God allowed them to enter. Do you remember that? Here you see the principle of God applying his grace to those who cannot believe. Here you see God treating children in a unique manner. Deuteronomy 1:39 says, "Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they will go in; to them I will give the land, and they shall possess it". Did you get that? They were defined as children who had no knowledge of good and evil, and they were allowed to go into the Promised Land even though their parents were disqualified.
One of the reasons God gave to Jonah, for instance, for having pity on Nineveh was the huge number of children who lived in the city who could not discern between the right hand and the left. You remember Jonah didn't want to go to Nineveh. He didn't like the Ninevites, and you can understand why. They were a cruel bunch, those people, but God said to Jonah, "Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand who cannot discern between their right hand and their left"? In other words, God understands that there's a special quality about children different than the total population involved in the things that he has said.
Did you know that in the Bible the word "children" is found nearly 100 times just in the Gospels alone? The Bible teaches that God knows children, that he loves children with special care. Our heavenly Father, in his justice, provides for children who are not old enough to comprehend the gospel. In fact, Ezekiel says, "Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me". Words of God. We bore our children to God. These children belong to God, and the character of God provides a special grace for these children who cannot believe. On a number of occasions in the Bible, God refers to children as innocents. I-N-N-O-C-E-N-T-S, innocents. Jeremiah 2:34, "Also your skirts is found the blood and the lives of the poor innocents". Jeremiah 19, "For I have filled this place with the blood of the innocents".
Now, they were sinful creatures like all of us. Babies aren't perfect. They're not sinless. If you haven't had one lately, you should have one, and you will find that out. Babies are selfish, aren't they? They want what they want when they want it. They don't care if you sleep or not. The Bible tells us they are born into sin. We inherit the sin nature of Adam all the way down to our present situation. They are sinful creatures just like all of us, but they are not responsible in the same way as those whose sins are willful and premeditated. And God understands the difference. The character of God lays the foundation for the realization that children who cannot understand the gospel are enveloped within the grace and mercy of the Lord. On them, God has a tender heart. On them, his compassion reigns.
So the first reason why we should believe that God has a special plan for children who can't understand the gospel is the character of God himself. That's the kind of God we have. It makes sense that he would do that, that he would think that way in behalf of his creatures. Number two is the condition of salvation. There's another reason why children go straight to heaven when they die and why they will be raptured into Jesus's arms if they're living when he comes back. This second reason has to do with the condition for salvation. So let me ask this question. What must a person do to be lost? And the answer is they must refuse the free offer of God's saving grace. That's how you get lost. You hear the gospel. Somebody explains it to you, and you refuse it.
One writer expresses it this way. "Little children have no record of unbelief or evil works. There's no basis for their deserving an eternity apart from God. They are graciously and sovereignly saved by God as a part of the atoning work of Jesus Christ". Isaiah the prophet speaks about such a period in the moral innocence in the life of a child. Isaiah 7:16 says, "Before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good". Isaiah said there's a time in a child's life before they know how to choose evil and accept good. In the Bible, infants, little children, and any others who cannot believe are neither told to believe nor expected to do so. They are not classified as wicked evildoers and rejecters of God's grace. It's always the adults who are described like that, either directly or indirectly.
And so the Bible teaches us that because of the character of God and the condition for salvation, our children are in a special place, but I'm not done. There's two more. The compassion of our Savior. Listen to this. When we read the stories of Jesus in the Gospels, we discover that Jesus had an incredible love for children. Listen to this. Matthew 19:13 and 14, "Then little children were brought to Jesus that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them for bringing these children to Jesus".
You can see they're Jesus's handlers. You know what I mean? "Don't let these children mess with Jesus". "But Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for such is the kingdom of heaven.'" He said children are the kind of people that are in heaven. "Don't keep them away from me". We also have a wonderful passage in Matthew's Gospel that is as definitive as any verse in the Bible on the eternal love that Jesus has for children. This is Matthew 18:14, and here's what it says. "Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish". I put that in big print in my Bible. I underlined it. That's one of the key verses. The Bible says that it is not the will of your Father, who is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.
There you have a strong, unambiguous statement of the Savior. He's not willing that one of these little ones should perish. And if that's all that I had, I'd build my hope on that alone. The Lord Jesus has compassion for little children and infants, and he's not willing that even one of them should perish, not one. Perhaps this is a good time to answer the question concerning the unborn. What about babies that are never born because of miscarriages or abortions? Listen to me. Because of his mercy, that little one now lost will be waiting for you in heaven, and you will enjoy an eternity of loving fellowship with that precious child. Jesus loves you, and he loves every child from conception. In fact, he loves us even before time began. John MacArthur wrote this. He said, "I can't imagine that the same Savior who blessed little babies and said of such is the kingdom of heaven secretly intended to deny them that mercy".
We know from the character of God, from the condition for salvation, and from the compassion of Jesus that little ones go to heaven when they die. But I've saved the best reason, the best proof of that, until last. There is an incident in the life of King David that is fundamental to answering this question, and if I had nothing else to say to you today, I'd go right to this passage in 2 Samuel 12.
Let me tell you the story. This section of scripture records the events that happened in the life of David after he was confronted by the prophet Nathan. As you remember, Nathan was appointed by God to confront David concerning his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah the Hittite. And when Nathan confronted David, among other things, he told David that the child that he and Bathsheba had brought into the world would be taken away from them in death. And let's pick up our reading of 2 Samuel, and it's really told better in the scripture than I could ever tell you. 2 Samuel 12:14 to 23. I'm reading the scripture.
"'However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you,' said Nathan, 'shall surely die.' And Nathan departed and went to his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and it became ill. And David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. So the elders of his house arose and went to him, to raise him up from the ground. But he would not, nor did he eat food with them. And on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead. For they said, 'Indeed, while the child was alive, we spoke to him. He would not even listen to us. How can we tell him that the child is dead? He may do some harm.' When David saw that his servants were whispering, he perceived that the child was dead. Therefore David said to his servants, 'Is the child dead?' And they said, 'He is dead.' So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes and went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. And he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate. And his servant said to him, 'What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died you arose and ate food.'"
They couldn't figure it out. "And David said, '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.'" And listen to these words. "Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me". What a tremendous story that is. The last sentence in that passage is arguably the greatest sentence in the Bible on the subject of what happens to a child when they die or when the Rapture happens. It was this thought of a reunion with his dead child which cheered David. But where did he think the reunion would be, in the grave, in hell, in heaven? David believed that he himself would go to heaven after death and consequently meant to express the belief that his child had gone on before him to that blessed place. And the idea of meeting his child in the unconscious grave could not have rationally comforted him, nor could the thought of meeting him in hell have cheered his spirit, but the thought of meeting that child in heaven had in itself the power of turning his weeping into joy.
What a story. Here's a few things that we have to collect toward the end of this message. What about the age of accountability? People ask you about that. Are little children innocent until they reach a certain age? I mean, is it 9? Is it 11? Is it 5? In our attempt to bring comfort to those who mourn, we must not deny the truth of God's Word. No one is truly innocent. Jesus's statements about children being innocent doesn't mean that they are without sin. It means that they were not responsible for their sin. The Bible teaches that all of us are sinners. Psalm says it clearly. "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me". From the beginning we're all sinners, and Psalm 58:3 says, "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies".
There are no exceptions. Nobody is born perfect. All of us are born with a sin nature. Even though we have not yet done anything wrong, our nature is sinful and every baby needs a Savior just like every adult does, but at what age does a child become responsible for his relationship with God? Is there an age of accountability? Isaiah refers to such a time in the life of the child. Remember he said, "Before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good".
The important thing to remember here is this. The Bible does not make any reference to an age of accountability. That's not in the Bible that phrase, but there is a time in the life of every child when they are able to understand God's love and when they comprehend what it means to be a sinner, and for some children, that knowledge comes at a very early age.
I have met some children who I know accepted Jesus Christ when they were three or four years old, and they absolutely understand what it means, and sometimes we even have them baptized in our church. And you can't get baptized at Shadow Mountain without giving a public testimony, and some of those children give better testimonies than the adults do 'cause it's simple to them. Somebody says, "Well, okay. How old are children going to be when they're in heaven"? Everybody go, "Hm, hm, hm". Well, that's an interesting question, and I'm not sure I can give you a definitive answer. There are differing views about this, and there's no absolute answer in scripture.
Some believe that when we are in heaven, we'll all be mature in body, mind, and spirit. The thought is if babies cannot fully enjoy this life, how could we expect them to fully enjoy eternal life with God? One proponent of this view says that the book of Revelation describes worship in heaven as involving everyone. Therefore, whoever is in heaven will be of such an age to be able to worship the eternal God. Alister McGrath supports this view. He said it, "Each person reaches their peak of perfection around the age of 30. They will be resurrected as they would have appeared at that time, even if they had never lived to reach that age. The New Jerusalem thus will be populated by men and women as they would appear at the age of 30".
Others hold that children will be allowed to grow up in heaven. That's what I believe. In support of this view is the reference to the conditions in the millennium. If you know prophecy, you know, let me just give you a little picture. There's the Rapture. There's seven years of tribulation. Jesus comes back in the second advent, and then the 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth takes place, the millennium. And the millennium, believe it or not, there's more in the Bible about the millennium than any other subject written about in the whole Bible. The Bible is full of information of what's going to happen on earth when King Jesus is reigning, David is his vice regent, and this earth is under the control of a righteous King.
How about that? Well, during that time, the Bible says in Isaiah, you remember this passage? "And a little child shall lead them, the nursing child shall play on the cobra's hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper's den". In the millennium, there will be children. Dr. J. Vernon McGee, one of my favorite people in all the world, said this: "I believe with all my heart that God will raise the little ones such that the mother's arms who have ached for them will have the opportunity of holding them, and the father's hand, which never held the little hand, will be given the privilege. I believe that little ones will grow up in heaven in the care of their earthly parents if they are saved".
So you may think your parenting days are over, but when you go to heaven, if you got little ones up there, you're going to have to bring them up, but you have to bring them up in a perfect environment. You don't have to do anything, just show up, amen. So on the basis of God's character and salvation's condition and Jesus's compassion and David's child, I could say with authority that little children, infants, unborns, when they die, they go straight into the arms of Jesus in heaven. There was a family whose baby boy had died, and their little girl came to the mother and asked her where her baby brother had gone, and the mother said, "To be with Jesus".
A few days later the mother was visiting a friend and said to this friend, "I am so grieved to have lost my baby". And the little girl overhearing her mother came to her and said, "Mama, is something lost when you know where it is"? "Of course not," replied the mother. "Well, how can Baby be lost when he's gone to be with Jesus"? Not lost. Isn't that a wonderful truth to remember? Little ones are in heaven.
You know, when I got out of seminary, I went to the Haddon Heights Baptist Church in New Jersey to be... I know you're going to laugh at this, the youth pastor and the Christian ed director. And I wasn't there very long before the pastor came to me and he said, "I'm going to take a little time off, three or four days, and I want you to be in charge while I'm gone". I wasn't ready to be in charge of anything, and I was deathly afraid that while he was gone something would happen that I wouldn't know what to do, and I was absolutely right. And the second day he left, I got a call from his secretary. She said, "You need to go over", and she told me the name of the couple, to their house. "Something really tragic has happened".
So I went. And when I walked in, they were in tears. Their little girl had died. It was a crib death. We used to have those all the time a long time ago. Remember that? And so I had to go and minister to those people, and I had a funeral for that little one, the first funeral I ever had, and it was the hardest funeral I've ever had in 50 years. Children are not supposed to die before their parents. Someone once told me that a death of a child is like a period in the middle of a sentence.
But here's the good news, if you can just believe it. Even if that happens, as tragic as it may be, God has got you. He's got your back, he's got your heart, he's got your soul, and he's got your future, and you've got something to look forward to. One day you will see that little one again. And if you know people that have gone through this struggle, you tell them that. You remind them that. You tell them the story of David. That's the best thing you could ever do. And you let them know that God is a gracious, compassionate, loving God, who cares for your children and mine. Can I get a witness? Amen, yeah.