This is a quickie, and yes, I will get to some “Signs” of the end times. I’ve got a whole page of notes on my desk as I was working on those…
But first! The Age of Accountability. Where did the idea of this come from?
A few denominations, or Christian religions, such as Catholicism, baptize infants because they believe it is necessary for salvation. They have, in my view, gone too far in their interpretation of original sin. That’s a monster topic for another day. I also think the Bible teaches quite clearly that baptism all by itself doesn’t save a person. Salvation starts with believing and putting your faith in Jesus Christ for instance.
If all we had to do was baptize people, we could round them up and hose them down.
When it comes to babies, or young children, God has shown by example in the Old Testament that He does not judge people for their sins until they have had the chance to accept or reject Him for themselves.
It seems only fair doesn’t it? It sounds right, but more than that, there is precedent in the Bible for it. God has withheld judgment from children before on the basis of the fact that they did not know right from wrong.
Here’s the example:
In the book of Numbers, God judged the nation of Israel, condemning them to die in the desert because of their unbelief:
29 In this desert your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. 30 Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. 31 As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected.
Notice, God did not judge the children. In fact, in these verses, God did not judge anyone under the age of 20! Check out the next verse and notice how God describes these children in the book of Deuteronomy:
39 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.
1. It says they did not yet know “good from bad”
2. Those “children” were 20 years old and younger.
There are other Scriptures, but the details in these two really make you think. I mean, that’s quite a bit more time than any of us would ever give someone! God withheld judgment for those Israelites who were under 20. If he had left it at that, we could have reasoned the Lord knew the decision making in those families came from the older folks, not the younger. We would be answering questions like this instead: What about the 22 year old girl who had no say, yet died in the desert because of God’s judgment?
However, God does not base his decision in these Scriptures on who made the decisions, but on knowing good from bad. Thus, the principle at least for an age of accountability is right there. After all, didn’t Paul say in I Corinthians that these things happened to them as examples to us? God’s example here is that children are not held accountable.
If we needed more, there are these verses:
Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.
To be converted and enter the kingdom of heaven, we must become as a child.
Whoever humbles himself as a child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever receives one little child in Jesus name, receives Jesus.
It would be difficult to understand how Jesus could say these things, yet demand that children be baptized or believe that children would be sent to hell. He did not qualify any of his statements above, or mention their guilt in regards to Adam’s sin, nor did he qualify this statement:
“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. -Matthew 18:10
Original sin is the concept that leads many people to believe children would face judgment, not the Bible itself which demonstrates and indicates that God has a special place in his heart for kids.
This should push us toward a better understanding of original sin, which I believe does not transfer the actual guilt and sentence of Adam’s sin. In Ezekiel, God says, “the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” It is not the sin of Adam that I inherited, but his fallen, separated-from-God, nature which leads me to commit my own sin.
If God is the same today, yesterday, and forever as the Bible says, then we have great hope in His mercy for children and those who do not know good from bad. The example in the Old Testament in fact, is one of great patience and fairness in giving judgment. God, who can see the heart, knows when a person is capable of accepting or rejecting Him, and God knows when someone has had plenty of time to decide. While I believe the age of accountability probably varies from person to person according to God’s wisdom and insight into their heart, the example of God withholding judgment from those who were too young to choose for themselves is plain to see.
So there’s some interesting thoughts which come to mind:
-We can hope for the grace of God for teenagers who have committed suicide.
-We can be confident in the mercy of God for the mentally handicapped, who may never gain a comprehension of right and wrong like we do. They may miss out on much of this life, while being guaranteed eternal life.
-We can be confident that children will not be judged.