Burning Questions answered
by Rev. Colin Le Noury.
Q9. What will happen to children at the Rapture?
I have received many questions on the whole subject of children and the rapture of the church. I must confess that in some ways it is one of the most difficult subjects to deal with, both because of the sensitivity of it, and because of the lack of direct scriptural evidence.
The fact of the rapture is clear and unmistakable. Scripture in 1 Thessalonians 4 vv 16-17 and in 1 Corinthians 15 vv 51-52 plainly and positively declares such an event. The fact that Christian believers are the subjects of the rapture is also undeniable. But beyond these basic truths we move into areas of some speculation since scripture becomes silent at this point.
The questions I receive deal not only with the matter of whether children will be included in the rapture, but also, will all children be included or only those of believing parents?
I am persuaded that the question of children and the rapture is also related to the wider issue of whether or not children in general are under grace. And if so, then what becomes the age of responsibility and accountability?
These are indeed difficult questions but there are some pointers in scripture so let us examine the evidence.
Almost certainly scripture points to the spiritual safety of children of Christian homes. Indeed the implication is that even children in families where only one partner is a believer experience some degree of grace.
The classic passage in this context is to be found in 1 Corinthians 7 vv 10-16. The passage deals with the matter of whether a couple should separate or stay together if one or other becomes a believer. Paul strongly urges that they should remain together. But the important verse as far as our question is concerned is v. 14 at the end of which states. '....else were your children unclean; but now they are holy'. Paul is definitely asserting that some measure of grace is extended to children in that context, but how should we interpret his statement?
It is difficult to be dogmatic on such issues but it might be well to take note of Matthew Henry's remarks in his famous commentary on the passage. He says, 'Christians are called commonly "saints" such they are by profession, separated to be a peculiar people of God, and as such distinguished from the world; and therefore the children born to Christians, though married to unbelievers, are not to be reckoned as part of the world, but of the church, a holy, not a common and unclean seed'.
Now some of us might find real difficulty embracing all that Matthew Henry says in his comments on the passage, but even if we cannot go all the way with him we still have to find a plausible interpretation for a verse that clearly extends grace to children in a Christian context.
Another good indication of the eternal safety of children is to be found in the Old Testament in the life of David. We are all familiar with the story of David and Bathsheba, of their illicit love affair which led to the murder of her husband and which left her pregnant with David's child. 2 Samuel 12 vv 55ff records the story in which we find that the child is taken very ill and dies despite David's prayers and pleadings for it. Following the child's death David makes a very important statement, he says 'Can I bring him back? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me'. David had no hesitation in believing the child was under grace and that they would be reunited again in the afterlife. This despite the fact that the child was the product of an extra-marital relationship. Seemingly the sins of the parents had in no way detracted from the grace of God extended to the child.
In both the case of David and in the Corinthian passage it is clear that we are talking about the children of believers. It can of course be argued that this says nothing about the position of children in general. We will therefore have to look elsewhere.
Perhaps the clearest indication of the position of children generally is to be found in the gospels and in the teaching of Jesus Himself. Matt. 19 v 13ff says, 'They were brought unto Him little children that he should put His hands on them and pray, and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children and forbid them not for of such is the kingdom of heaven'.
Clearly this was a case of a child taken at random without reference to the parents faith and used as an example of the extent of grace.
In another passage in Luke 17 vv 1-2 Jesus says, 'It is impossible but that offences will come; but woe unto him through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones' And in Matt. 18 v 10 he says, 'Their angels do always behold the face of My Father Who is in heaven'.
In the light of such scriptures it is difficult to conclude other than that children generally are under grace. If this is indeed the case then to be consistent we must extend the principle to the more direct question of children and the rapture and conclude that the same grace will be operational at this event I have tried the best I can to answer a difficult question; perhaps the final word should come from the master Himself, who said, 'Shall not the judge of the earth do right?'