THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF UNBORN, INFANTS, AND YOUNG CHILDREN
What is the spiritual condition of the unborn, infants, and young children? Some believe that because the unborn have never sinned they will be granted salvation and that infants and very young children who die are granted salvation, because they could not possibly understand what sin is. Others suggest that before a certain age, children are not held accountable for sin. The major problem with these beliefs and assumptions is that no one can find scriptural conformation to support them.
Some point to Matthew 18:3-6 and Mark 10:13-16, which say that one must become as a little child to enter the Kingdom of God. Therefore, infants and young children are granted salvation by virtue of their youth. Notice what Jesus really said:
"And he said, Truly I say to you, Unless you convert, and become as the little children, in no way can you enter into the Kingdom of God. Therefore, whosoever will humble himself as this little child, this one is the greater in the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matt.18:3-4 Para.).
Jesus did not say that little children will enter the Kingdom of God nor did he imply they are granted salvation. In this example, Jesus noted two things that are necessary in order to enter the Kingdom of God. First, a person must be converted. Second, a person must become child-like in humility. It is very clear that Jesus was merely using young children as an example of the attitudes and attributes a person should have if they expect to enter the Kingdom of God.
The Age of Accountability
The age a person must be before they are spiritually accountable is impossible for humans to establish with certainty, because this is God the Father's decision and it is predicated on belief, understanding, and repentance. All three of these are mental conditions and are prerequisites to conversion and baptism. All three are dependent on each other. For a person to have belief, there must be some understanding of what is to be believed.
Jesus says repent and believe the Gospel: "Now that after John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:14-15 Para.). To repent, a person must have an understanding of what to repent (literally, re-think) and what the gospel (good news) of the Kingdom is. Notice Acts 16:31-33 and Acts 8:27-38. In both scriptures the people spoken of understood the circumstances surrounding Jesus and what he preached. Therefore, they were able to make their decisions based on the facts presented.
A major prerequisite for baptism is repentance: "Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the holy spirit" (Acts 2:38 KJV). But, repent of what? Be sorry for what? Desire to change what? In order to repent, a person must first understand something about the plan of God.
It is quite evident that a person cannot have the kind of belief, understanding, and repentance necessary for baptism unless he or she is old enough to have developed the mental capacity to make intelligent decisions based on the information presented. It is also evident that infants and young children have not developed the life experience and emotional stability to make and stand behind decisions of the magnitude that must be made before and after baptism. All of the scriptural examples show only adults (including young adults) being baptized. There are no examples of infants or young children being converted.
The setting of a minimum age requirement for conversion is an impossibility because of the differences in the speed with which each individual grows into mental and emotional maturity. The ability to make decisions concerning conversion depends entirely on a person's maturity level, understanding of the gospel, and desire to follow God's way of life. (See Luke 3:8)
Common sense dictates that the unborn, the infant, and young children, have not had the time or the life experience necessary to understand the requirements of salvation. They are certainly not able to understand the awesome implications or responsibilities of making a covenant with God. Therefore, the spiritual condition of the unborn, the infant, and young children is the same as any unconverted person who has never had the opportunity for salvation.
God will only grant immortality and eternal life after a person goes through the process of conversion. The unborn, the infant, and young children who die before the return of Christ will be resurrected in the resurrection of "The Rest of the Dead". Those who remain alive at his coming will live into the first thousand years of Christ's reign and have their opportunity for salvation at that time.
By B.L Cocherell, file b7w15