Ask the Pastor: The Rapture and Children?
Don’t forget to submit your Bible questions to us – firstname.lastname@example.org or in the “Question Box” outside the sanctuary.)
One question submitted this week by a congregation member:
At the rapture, will children go with us (those that are alive)?
A good question! Let’s first start with the nature of Christ’s return.
A SINGLE SECOND COMING?
At the time of Christ’s ascension, the disciples were told that “this Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Christ’s ascension was both visible and physical. Likewise, His second coming and return will be both visible and physical as well.
The second of Jesus Christ is constantly listed as a visible and piercing event, which also includes the resurrection of the dead. This is why 1 Thessalonians 4:16 contains one of the most intense descriptions of the second coming of Christ:
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
The same connection of the sound of the trumpet with the resurrection is also made in 1 Cor. 15:51-52.
Matthew 24:21-32 also states that the second coming of Jesus Christ will be “as the lightning” (v. 27) and that ” all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (vv. 30-31).
In addition to describing this event as vivid, noisy, and utterly visible by all people of planet earth, this passage also warns us against belief in a secret coming of Christ:
Matthew 24:23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.
Matthew 24:26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.
In short, there won’t be any question about what has happened after Christ has once and for all come. Those left behind, apparently, won’t be trying to explain what happened. Rather, they’ll be mourning because their judgment has come.
2 Thess. 2:1-10 instructs of us of two events that will happen before Christ returns:
- “the rebellion comes” (v. 3a)
- “the man of lawlessness is revealed” (v. 3b)
So, no matter if we take the Antichrist as the spirit of Antichrist or as a certain, specific person, it is evident that the unveiling of the Antichrist will be prior to and before Christ’s second coming, not afterwards.
Further, 1 Thess. 5:1-10 instructs us that the return of Christ will be unexpected and sudden—especially to non-Christians. Being sudden and unexpected doesn’t mean it will be in secret.
Luke 17:31-37 certainly and perfectly teaches that unbelievers “taken” in judgment (just like vv. 26-27 talks about judgment in the days of Noah and Lot). But there’s nada here to suggest one being taken away secretly. When studying the Scripture, it is always best to let Scripture interpret Scripture.
When looking Scripture with Scripture, we must determine that those left behind are left behind to suffer judgment.
Second Thess. 1:3-10 speaks of the Lord Jesus “in flaming fire taking vengeance” when He is revealed from heaven. This is the fate to which non-Christians are left to.
So, in summary, Christ’s return will be:
-Personal (1 Thess. 4:16)
-Visible (Acts 1:11)
-Sudden and unexpected (1 Thess 5:1-3)
-Glorious and triumphant (2 Thess. 1:7-10)
-Single Second Coming & Single Physical Resurrection (Rev. 20:11-15).
The teachings of Peter, John and James are also consistent with these truths: (1 Pet. 4:5, 17; 2 Pe.t 3:7; Acts 10:42; 1 John 4:17; Rev 20:12; James 5:8-9, etc.).
It appears from a brief overview of biblical study the rapture will be a noisy and public event. And, additionally, that it will happen in a one and only second coming, since it occurs at the last trumpet. And there’s no trumpet after the last one.
Said another way: The New Testament teaches that the Lord’s church will be the witness for Jesus Christ until the day when the Lord returns for both the blessing of His people and the cursing of His enemies. Before that great day, the Lord’s church will have to endure great trials, tribulations, and specifically, right before the end of the age, the apostasy and the persecution led by Antichrist—the Man of Lawlessness.
No specific sign will announce the pending coming of Jesus Christ (Luke 17:26-36). It will be as a thief in the night, since not even believers know on what day the Lord will come (Matt 24:42-44; 25:13, 1 Thess. 5:1-3; 2 Pet. 3:9-10, etc.). This is why we are repeatedly called to be on guard, sober-minded, and alert. That is, because true Christians don’t need to be prompted by signs, since as good Christ’s soldiers they’re always ready.
WHAT ABOUT THE FINAL JUDGMENT?
Revelation 20:11-15 says:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
People assume that they will get away with sin. Who will be in hell? The great and small alike (v. 12). No powerful person can buy or influence their way out. Everyone is wrong, and everyone will be judged. We have all sinned against God. As a good God, He will judge us all. One day we will all face judgment (v. 12). The “books” are books of our deeds. The resurrection in verse 13 will not be a good resurrection for you if you have no savior.
Every injustice will be done away with (vs. 14). Christ is victorious over death itself. If you turn from your sins and trust in Christ, on that dreadful day of wrath, He will be your stay. People do not get away with stuff; everyone will be judged.
WHAT ABOUT CHILDREN?
Some teach a so-called “age of accountability” (it goes by different names – but the concept is generally the same). This teaching assumes that one isn’t morally responsible until they reach an age of reasoning ability.
However, a person doesn’t go to sleep one night as an infant without moral responsibility and wake up the next morning as a child responsible for her or his behavior and conduct. It’s not simply off until one day it goes on like a light switch in your home.
Rather, our moral responsibility should and does grow as we do physically in age and life. In this way, moral understanding is much like a dimmer switch: there’s more light of right and wrong as we grow in wisdom with age.
1 Cor. 15:22 says:
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
One “nail in the coffin” to the age of accountability, I believe, are Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:15:
and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
The Greek word for “childhood,” according to several Greek lexicons, is the era of time when one is very young—childhood (probably implying a time when a child is still nursing), infancy. It is possible for even a young child to know the Scriptures because there’s a growing moral responsibility as we come to better understand the instruction of our conscience internally and God’s word externally.
Luke 2:52 says:
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Jesus’ growth was all-inclusive. He grew in every way as He aged. This was Jesus humbling Himself, setting aside His glory and demonstrating humility by identifying with our humanity while retaining His divinity (Philippians 2:1-10). Jesus’ example of growing in wisdom by the Spirit’s power as he grew physically is God’s intent for all who belong to him.
I believe R.A. McLaughlin summed this up well:
Paul teaches that knowledge of the Law inspires sin, he still believes that those who do not have the Law are sinners who will die without the Law (Rom. 2:12). Further, in the places in Scripture where people are less guilty because they lack knowledge, they still bear some guilt, and thus must still repent,render an offering for it, etc. (e.g. Lev. 4:2ff.; Num. 15:22ff.). Moreover, while God spared Nineveh with its children, he elsewhere commanded the deaths of infants (Deut. 20:13-18; Josh. 6:17ff.; etc.).
It is my understanding that there is no “age of accountability,” per se (unless we place it at the moment of conception). Rather, it seems to me that in Scripture all people start with guilt and accountability by virtue of Adam’s imputed sin. Each person then gradually increases his guilt and accountability as he grows in knowledge and understanding.