The question of whether babies and young children will be taken in the rapture is one that many Christian parents ponder. The Bible does not give a definitive answer, but looking at key scriptures and theological principles can provide some insight.
The Nature of the Rapture
The rapture refers to the event where believers in Christ will suddenly be “caught up” to meet Jesus in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This will occur unexpectedly, in “the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). The rapture is believed to directly precede the Tribulation period, a 7-year time of great suffering on earth when God’s wrath will be poured out.
Only true followers of Jesus are promised to be caught up in the rapture. Passages like 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 describe believers who have placed their faith in Christ’s death and resurrection being united with Him. Unbelievers will remain on the earth to endure the trials of the Tribulation (Revelation 3:10).
The Age of Accountability
Many Christians believe in an “age of accountability.” This is the concept that children below a certain age are not held accountable for sin or their need for salvation. The age varies based on opinion, but is often considered to be anywhere from age 6 to 12.
This view is based on scriptures describing children as examples of innocence and humility that adults should emulate (Matthew 18:3-4, 19:14). It also comes from the notion that children do not have the cognitive ability or moral understanding to comprehend concepts like sin and the need for redemption.
If an age of accountability exists, it suggests that babies and very young children who have not yet reached it would automatically be covered by Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. They would have no need to make a conscious decision to follow Him or profess faith in order to be acceptable to God.
God’s Redemption and Justice
The question of what happens to babies and young children after death points to God’s mercy and justice. Passages like Psalm 116:5 describe God as “gracious and righteous.” Other verses emphasize God’s compassion, purity, and hatred of sin (Exodus 34:6-7, Psalm 11:7).
From this, many theologians conclude God would not condemn babies and young children who are too young to understand sin and the gospel message. His grace and redemption through Christ’s sacrifice covers those who lack an intellectual comprehension of salvation.
At the same time, the Bible underscores God’s holiness and intolerance of sin. His justice demands a payment for mankind’s disobedience (Romans 6:23). God does not merely overlook sin, but must punish it.
Based on God’s attributes of righteousness, love, and mercy, some deduce that He exempts babies and young children due to their innocence. They have not willfully committed sinful acts or rejected salvation.
Infant Baptism vs. Believer’s Baptism
Different opinions on infant baptism versus believer’s baptism also relate to this topic. Infant baptism sees baptism as imparting grace and regeneration to children too young to have personal faith. In this view, babies and children belonging to believing parents are part of the church community and included in the covenant promises.
Believer’s baptism calls for those able to place conscious faith in Jesus to be baptized. This excludes infants and young children, since baptism is an outward sign of an inward commitment to Christ.
Those holding to believer’s baptism may also argue that babies and young children will automatically be taken in the rapture. They are below the age where they can understand and respond to the gospel.
Examples in Scripture
There are some examples in Scripture pointing to the salvation of babies and children:
- David expresses confidence he will one day join his deceased newborn son (2 Samuel 12:23)
- Isaiah mentions “nursing babes” and weaned children in descriptions of the peace and prosperity of the future kingdom of God (Isaiah 11:6-8, 65:20)
- Jesus blesses the children brought to Him and says the kingdom of heaven belongs to “such as these” (Matthew 19:13-15)
- The Israelite baby boys were spared during the plague on the firstborns of Egypt (Exodus 11:5)
While not definitive, these passages may suggest God places young children under His protection and care.
God’s Justice in Judgment
The strongest case for babies and children being raptured comes from recognizing that God is perfectly just and righteous in all His judgments. Abraham appeals to this fact when interceding with God not to destroy Sodom if righteous people are present:
Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just? (Genesis 18:25)
Likewise, God would not condemn babies and children who do not yet have moral understanding or the ability to accept or reject Christ. His nature is to deal justly with all people.
For God to exclude babies and young children from the rapture on grounds they have not professed faith would be unjust. They lack both the consciousness of sin and the cognitive ability to comprehend their need for a Savior.
God’s Compassion for the Helpless
The Bible often highlights God’s care and compassion toward those vulnerable and helpless. In Deuteronomy, God promises to execute justice for orphans, widows, and those oppressed (Deuteronomy 10:17-18). He also instructs His people to show compassion to foreigners, widows, and orphans (Zechariah 7:9-10).
Babies and young children are completely helpless and dependent on adults. God demonstrates particular concern for protecting the vulnerable. It follows He would show special compassion toward babies and children who do not have the capacity to protect themselves.
Excluding them from the rapture solely because they have not yet professed faith seems inconsistent with God’s heart for the weak and defenseless.
Parallels to Old Testament Firstborn
Another argument is that babies and young children being taken in the rapture would mirror the Passover in Exodus. The Israelite firstborns were spared by placing lamb’s blood over their doorposts. They did not have to take any action themselves to be protected from the final plague.
In the same way, babies and very young children belonging to Christian parents may experience salvation and deliverance from divine wrath by virtue of that covenant relationship. The decision of the believing parents covers the children.
No Definite Biblical Statement
In the end, the Bible does not make a definitive pronouncement on whether babies and young children will be raptured. Scripture emphasizes following Christ in faith as the way to salvation. By strict definition, those unable to consciously exercise such faith do not meet the qualifications.
Nevertheless, the themes of God’s righteousness, compassion, and special concern for the helpless suggest He makes provision for babies and children. Their inability to discern right and wrong or understand the gospel likely prompts God to grant them mercy and redemption.
Parents can find comfort and assurance in God’s attributes of justice and love. While not explicitly stated, Scriptural evidence leans toward God including babies and young children in the rapture due to their innocence and inability to accept or reject Christ on their own.