The doctrine of the rapture is believed by many Christians, including many of the most popular preachers on television and radio. Despite false teachers who insist on predicting the date of something the Bible specifically says cannot be predicted (Matthew 25:13), the rapture is a Biblical idea. The rapture is a coming event where Jesus takes all believers off the earth. When the rapture happens, all the redeemed, living and dead, will be taken from the earth directly to heaven. One question raised about the rapture concerns the fate of infants and children. Will they be taken or left behind? This is a particularly important question for those who believe the rapture will take place before the Tribulation, a seven year period of great turmoil and suffering on the earth.
The Bible does not say anything about the age of those of who will be raptured. Scripture says those in Christ will be taken up to be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17) All children who believe and are saved will be raptured. What about those too young to believe the gospel? Because the Bible does not say anything about the fate of those too young to believe, great care must be taken in giving an answer. Dogmatic certainty must be avoided.
The argument for the rapture of young children is based upon the idea of childhood innocence. The teaching that babies who die go to heaven is based upon a concept of innocence. Innocence, in this context, does not mean young children do not sin. Innocence does not teach that young children were not born under the curse of Adam. Instead, because a child is unable to understand and respond to the gospel God views that child as innocent until she comes to a point of being able to reject the gospel. This is often called the age of accountability. This teaching is based upon passages like Deuteronomy 1:39 which says, “your children . . . had no knowledge between good and evil” and Jeremiah 19:4 which describes children as “innocent”. If these innocent ones go to heaven, why would they not be raptured when Jesus returns?
The rapture of the church and the death of a child are different in one significant area. Missing the rapture does not eliminate the opportunity to be saved. Those who live through the Tribulation will have opportunity to repent and believe Jesus. Those who die in infancy never have this chance. The only clear statement about the identity of those raptured is that those who are in Christ will be caught up to meet Him. Children, though protected by God, are not yet in Christ. This author’s opinion is that infants and unsaved children will not be taken in the rapture, but many of these children will have opportunity to believe Jesus before He establishes His kingdom.
Ultimately no definite answer can be given. Regardless of whether young children are raptured or left, we can be confident that God’s actions are always right. “All His ways are just.” (Deuteronomy 32:4)