Faithless Eternal LifeWriten by Nathan C. Johnson

In my message, "The Age of Accountability," I argued that the so-called "age of accountability" is not a Biblical concept for two reasons. First of all, such an idea is never mentioned in Scripture. Second of all, the Scripture indicates that it is the action of God that brings responsibility, not the achievement of a certain age or level of intellectual capacity (John 15:22-24.) But there is a third reason that the idea of the age of accountability cannot be true. That reason is that, if it were true, it would have children living forever without ever having expressed any faith in God.

God has stated in the book of Hebrews chapter 11 verse 6, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (NKJV) So we know that faith is not only important, it is essential in order to please God. However, this idea of the age of accountability states that all children who die before the age of 3-5 or so, at which time they are able to understand and appreciate the gospel of Jesus Christ, are automatically saved. This means that anyone who is aborted, anyone who is stillborn, and anyone who dies in infancy or young childhood before reaching this "age of accountability" would automatically receive eternal life. But does this make sense? If this were so, these children would receive eternal life without ever having pleased God, and without ever expressing faith in Him. What then would become of them in the life to come?

An important thing to keep in mind is why exactly God began creating other beings besides Himself. He did this, as near as we can tell from Scripture, in order to glorify Himself and to create other beings in His image who could understand and appreciate Who He is and What He is. Such an understanding and such a fellowship as God desires can only come about when God is in personal relationship and communion with an individual. However, in order for this to be possible, this relationship has to be something that not only God desires, but that the individual desires as well.

Consider heavenly beings. These were not exempt from having to choose to be in relationship to God. Satan was a cherub, one of the most exalted beings God created, and yet he chose to exalt himself and not God, and thus he fell from heaven like lightning. Then the angels and spirits had to choose whom they would serve, God or Satan. Then there were the sons of God, who, upon seeing the fair daughters of Adam, had to choose whether to remain in their proper estate or whether to leave it and take strange flesh by marrying human women, which some of them...perhaps many of them...did.

So men were not the only ones who had to express faith in God in order to please Him. Yet they certainly were not the least. First Adam and Eve, in the great test of their faith, failed to believe the words that God had spoken and instead chose to believe the lie, in Eve's case through deception, and in Adam's through outright rebellion. And in the same way men since that time have had a choice to make...whether to follow the knowledge of God revealed to them by His Spirit working in their inner selves, or whether to follow their own path and reject His leading. When men have chosen to believe God, this is called faith, and those who have expressed faith in God have been given the right to become children of God, as we read in John 1:12. But those who have rejected the revealed knowledge of God, He has given over to a reprobate mind, as we read in Romans 1:28.

But what are we to say of unborn or ungrown children? We know that no work of God that could produce faith in them could possibly have taken place when they were far too young to understand it. But does this mean that they should automatically be saved?

Let us consider what it would be like to live with someone for all eternity who had been automatically saved in such a fashion...say with your own child who had died in infancy. Many grieving parents have comforted themselves with the thought that now they are assured at least that their lost child will live with them forever. But is this really the case? And is this even desirable? Imagine if you will being married to someone who could never love or appreciate you. This person could never truly express love to you, could never do anything to make you feel loved or special, could never tell you that he loved you and mean it from the heart. What sort of a marriage would this be?

The same thing would be true of a child who was "forced" into eternal life. This child could never truly love God, and could never truly express his love for God. Imagine living in eternity in fellowship and loving communion with God, and all that time having a child who could never share in your love for God, and who could never understand or appreciate what He means to you or how wonderful He is. Would this be good or desirable? The fact is that this would be no better than living for all time with an unbeliever!

And what then could one say to such a child? We bring up our children to love and obey God. We tell them how it is that they are to serve and please Him. But what could one tell such a child? If without faith it is impossible to please God, then these children would be doomed never to please Him, for they would never have the opportunity to express faith. So if you were to tell such a child of God and how wonderful He is and what a great Father He is, and he were then to respond and say to you, "How can I serve this God? How can I show Him how much I love Him?" your answer would have to be, "You can't. It's impossible for you to ever please God, or ever demonstrate your love to Him." Would this be good and right? Of course not! Love by its very nature must be expressed.

Imagine a similar situation with me for a moment. Imagine that a man proposes to a woman, but along with his proposal makes this stipulation, that she cannot do anything at all to show him her love. She couldn't buy him presents ever. She couldn't cook his favorite meal couldn't cook for him period, he would do that for himself. She couldn't smile at him or take his hand. She couldn't collect his things for him when he was heading off for work, and couldn't kiss him at the door. She could never try to surprise him or do something special for him in any way, and she couldn't even THINK of ever risking her life for him if he should happen to be in danger. What kind of a proposal would this be? I imagine that any woman of sense would reject such a proposal at once. Love cannot be treated in this way love MUST be expressed. And so of course our love for God is the same way. But if without faith it is impossible to please him, then any being that never had the opportunity to CHOOSE to serve God by faith would never, never be able to express his love for Him. He would be doomed forever to the sort of existence to which the poor, foolish woman who would actually accept the above proposal would be doomed. Would this be fair of God? Of course not!

So what then becomes of young or unborn children who die? I believe that they will be given another chance at life. I will not be accused of saying that they are lost, for that would be just as unfair as automatically saving them. No, they will be given another life, but rather than guaranteed eternal life such as we will have, this life will be conditional. In other words, they will have to experience sometime in the life to come a choice whereby they can either choose to serve God by faith or else reject Him. This is the only way that they could ever truly inherit eternal life, for life without God, even life in the new heavens and the new earth, would be nothing more than a life of eternal misery.

Let me close by saying that I am aware that the Bible does not say what happens to children who die before they are old enough to read and understand it. I believe that the reason for this is that no child who was not old enough to read or understand has ever read the Bible. God does not speak to those who are destined not to hear Him. Nevertheless, since He is a kind and loving Father, full of mercy and compassion, as we DO read in Scripture, we can know that He will make every effort and take every opportunity to see that these, our unborn or infant children, will be able to come into a loving and eternal relationship with Him. Let us rest in that, for, even if it does not guarantee eternal life for these children as ours is guaranteed, it nevertheless places those children in the hand of our loving God. What safer place could there be than that?