Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)
One of the most common questions about the rapture of the church is if babies and young children will be taken with us. (The second most common question is if pets will come with us too!)
First of all, I DO believe that babies, young children, and mentally handicapped children of a BELIEVER will be raptured. However, contrary to what some people teach, I do NOT believe that the babies, children, and mentally handicapped offspring of UNBELIEVERS will be raptured. I do not believe there is scripture to support this position, and while we can hope it is true, I think it is wrong to teach it as a likely occurrence.
(Before you throw stones, remember that this is an entirely different question than if these young ones’ souls go to heaven upon death!)
Why Does it Matter?
Well, if we go around telling people to watch for all babies and children to disappear, as a sign of the rapture, and then not all children disappear… wouldn’t that cause people to wrongly believe the rapture didn’t occur? Wouldn’t that make them more susceptible to believing the deception instead of the truth? We must be careful what we teach as fact!
Children of a Believer
I believe that those under a certain comprehension level that fall under the care of a believer will be raptured. I base this on the teaching of 1 Corinthians 7:
“To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” (1 Corinthians 7:12-16)
We cannot *save* our spouses or children; they will have to make a decision for or against Christ for themselves. However, our godly influence and prayers can move the hand of God to open their eyes, ears, and hearts to the gospel. I believe the phrase “otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy” represents this godly influence of one believing parent, and would apply to those who are under a certain comprehension level for rapture purposes. It’s not clear, but this is as clear as scripture gets on this matter.
I also base my understanding that a believer’s young or mentally handicapped children will be raptured on the fact that Noah’s children were physically spared from the global flood, and Lot’s children were physically spared from destruction, based on the faith of their fathers. (As far as eternal salvation, their children would have had to choose who to follow for themselves). The upcoming end times are compared to “as in the days of Noah” and “as in the days of Lot”, and I would suggest that believers’ children will be spared based on these two scriptural models.
Children of an Unbeliever
I believe that those under a comprehension level that do NOT fall under the care of a believer will NOT be raptured. I again base this on 1 Corinthians 7, which would suggest that the children of unbelievers are “unclean” without the godly influence of a believing parent.
Now before you go all psycho on me, I *do* believe that when they die they will go to heaven. So although they may face a difficult time on earth, they will be eternally spared if they are under a certain comprehension level – which is different for each person.
I base this understanding also on the days of Noah and Lot, which is what we are to compare the end times to. The babies, children, and mentally handicapped in Noah’s day and in Lot’s day were NOT spared earthly destruction. They drowned or were pulverized by fire and brimstone, along with their parents (but again I would suggest they would have been spared ETERNAL destruction!!!).
“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)
Those who cannot comprehend the Law, cannot comprehend that they are breaking it (are sinners) and that they have a responsibility for that (need a Savior). Paul describes it this way:
“For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.” (Romans 7:8-10)
This passage suggests that Paul, like all of us, was at one point alive apart from the law – where sin lies dead. This would seem to apply to those who are very young or mentally disabled. I do not believe that there is a certain age (or mental age) that applies here, but rather each person will be individually evaluated by God.
What we can trust in, with 100% certainty, is that God is GOOD. ALL the time. His judgment is righteous and holy. Jesus, who is the examiner of hearts, knows the comprehension and heart of every man, woman, and child. He will do what is FAIR and RIGHT, regarding each human being who has ever, and will ever, live. These things are in His hands alone.
“I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10)
God is Good – ALL the Time
I understand that it is difficult to cope with the thought of babies and children suffering. It is difficult to cope with the thought of any humans suffering en masse to the extent that they are going to – SOON! I do believe that we need to step outside our own feelings on the matter, though, and look at what scripture actually says, and not what we want it to say (not just on this matter but on every matter!).
My sweet friends, we would ALL be “left behind” if it weren’t for God’s amazing grace. NONE of us are “worthy” to escape what is to come, apart from the blood of the Lamb. We ALL deserve God’s judgment and wrath!!! Oh the glorious and tender mercies of our Father in heaven who saves us from the wrath to come! Be on your knees, saints, and plead for the salvation of loved ones while it is still day.
“While it is daytime, we must do the works of Him who sent Me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” (John 9:4)
What we can know is that God loves and cares about babies, children, and the hearts of ALL humans, far more than we do! In the end, all we can know for certain is our heart alone. Are YOU ready? If you have any doubts I encourage you to read Blessed Assurance – A Guide to Rapture Readiness.
The Bible is infallible. I am not. I am merely challenging traditional models and testing them against Scripture. I believe that traditional pretribulation teachings provide a solid backbone upon which to lay the musculature of details. I encourage you to consider my thoughts as you also examine the scriptures to see if these things are so!