This Your Christian Journey:
Age of Accountability
By Dr. Walter D. Huyck Jr. D.Min.
2 Samuel 12:23
But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back
again? I shall go to him,
but he shall not return to me.
Many a sincere Christian has bulked at the idea of an “Age of
Accountability.” When Christians
refer to the Age of Accountability they are referring to the protection by
Almighty God of incent young children.
The thought is that, because of the just nature of God, He will protect
the souls of infants and innocents until they come to a point where they can
make a conscious decision to either accept or reject God and the Lord Jesus
It is hard to place a definite age for the Age of
Accountability. Some have suggest
that thirteen might be the appropriate age since this is the age when a Jewish
child is thought to become an adult as celebrated by the Jewish Bar mitzvah.
It is also when our Lord Jesus Christ asserted himself as an adult
without sinning as recorded in (Luke 2.41-52). Concerning Bar mitzvah one Jewish
web site records,
Under Jewish Law, children are not obligated to observe
the commandments, although they are encouraged to do so as much as possible to
learn the obligations they will have as adults. At the age of 13 (12 for girls),
children become obligated to observe the commandments. The bar mitzvah ceremony
formally marks the assumption of that obligation, along with the corresponding
right to take part in leading
religious services, to count in a
minyan (the minimum number
of people needed to perform certain parts of religious services), to form
binding contracts, to testify before religious courts and to marry.
A Jewish boy automatically becomes a bar mitzvah upon
reaching the age of 13 years, and a girl upon reaching the age of 12 years. No
ceremony is needed to confer these rights and obligations. The popular bar
mitzvah ceremony is not required, and does not fulfill any commandment.
Concerning the actual Age of Accountability J Vernon
24 This is it that
belongeth unto the Levites:
from twenty and five years old and upward they shall go in to wait upon the
service of the tabernacle of the congregation:
“This raises the question
of the age
of accountability. When we come to
we read, "Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were
numbered of you, according to your whole
number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me."
Apparently in this instance, twenty years was the
accountability. The boy who was nineteen years old would be permitted to enter
the land. The twenty-year-old boy who had murmured would die in the wilderness.
I would like to suggest that the
accountability may be older than we tend to
think it is. We think maybe a little child is responsible. I don't think so. A
little child can accept the Lord. In fact there are many on record as young as
four years old who have received Christ. But the
accountability must be somewhat later than that, and I'm
of the opinion it will be different for
different people. We see here that God made it different for the different forms
of service. A man could be a soldier at
twenty years; a Levite could work in the tabernacle at twenty-five years; a
priest began his priestly service at thirty years. The important thing is that
we should instruct boys and girls and encourage them to come to the Lord as soon
as possible. It is so important for our children to trust in the Lord Jesus.”
[J. Vernon McGee's Thru The Bible, Notes on
Number 8.24, Word Search Bible Software version 7.]
13 Then were there brought unto him
little children, that he should put
his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.
14 But Jesus said, Suffer little
children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of
heaven. 15 And he laid
his hands on them, and departed
“This passage is ample basis for the salvation
of children who die in infancy. It is a fact
that no child will reject Jesus if He is presented to the child on a Bible
basis. This is one reason why we should get the gospel message to them. Someone
might say, "Wait a minute -- then everyone could be saved if we reach them as
children." No, this is not true because they reach the
accountability later. The reason for trying
to get the gospel into the hearts of children
is so that when they reach the age
accountability they will make a decision for Christ. It is important that this
be followed through. Do not rest on the fact that your child made a decision
when he was two, three, four, five, six, seven or eight years old, etc. My
daughter made a decision for Christ when she was seven. Ever since that time I
have asked her many times if she has really trusted the Lord as Savior. One day
she said, "Daddy, why do you keep asking me that question?" I told her I just
wanted to make sure. Actually, the decision will be made at the
accountability. You say to me,"When is that
age?" I don't know. I just know that it is
important to get the gospel to our children. Instead
of standing on a street corner and arguing
about it, let's get it to them and then follow through when they reach the
accountability by doing everything in our
power to get them to trust Christ.” [—J. Vernon
McGee's Thru The Bible, Notes on Matt 19.13-15, Word Search Bible Software
The text Evangelism
and Church Growth when considering the Age of Accountability notes,
accountability is that point in the development
of children (physical, mental, social, psychological and spiritual) where
they realize their personal accountability for
sin and are able to respond to salvation based on their emerging personal
Most Christians are assured that babies who die will be
in heaven. This conviction is generally based on the belief of David, that he
would someday go to the place where his dead infant had gone (2 Samuel
12:23). How this is possible is completely open to speculation. Edgar
Mullins suggests, "Infants dying in infancy are changed in so far as they
inherit a natural bias toward sin. But how this change is wrought by the Spirit
is needless to inquire, since there is no light available on the subject beyond
our speculations." One possibility is suggested by Augustus Strong:
Since there is no evidence that children dying in
infancy are regenerated prior to death, either with or without the use of
external means, it seems most probable that the work of regeneration may be
performed by the Spirit in connection with the infant soul's first view of
Christ in the other world. As the remains of natural depravity in the Christian
are eradicated, not by death, but at death, through the sign of Christ and union
with Him, so the first moment of consciousness for the infant may be coincident
with a view of Christ the Saviour which accomplishes the entire sanctification
of its nature.
Christians generally have believed that those who die
before the age
of accountability are not saved in the same
sense of experiencing salvation as Christians
do, but they are safe, meaning God has protected and will protect them according
to His own nature. This means that God could not condemn, without an opportunity
to respond, an unborn baby or child who dies before the
accountability, because that would be
inconsistent with God's nature.
Some traditions practice infant baptism. In these
traditions, the emphasis in baptism is not on what the believer does, but what
God does. This, in their view, parallels the initiation rite reflected in Israel:
circumcision. Traditions that practice infant baptism often have a response
mechanism. Sometimes it is called "confirmation." This serves as a rite
of entry into adult membership
of the church in most
of these traditions and reflects an
accountability among them.
[—Evangelism and Church Growth, search phrase
“Age of Accountability”, Word Search Bible Software version 7]
Therefore, one might argue that the whole idea of an age of
accountability is not scripturally accurate.
That would wholly depend on how one presents their understanding of the
issue. It appears in scripture that
David believed that his innocent infant child was secure with our Lord after his
death. David said,
2 Samuel 12:23
23 But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him
back again? I shall go
to him, but he shall not return to me.
Without a doubt David expressed and evidenced, in his conduct,
his firm assurance that his infant child was in God’s eternal presence, not in
God’s eternal condemnation. King David comforted himself with the thought that
he would one day be in the presence of his child again.
This is considered by many Bible scholars to be the strongest biblical
evidence for the protection of the innocent by God.
As far as the actual age of accountability, this author
personally agrees with J. Vernon McGee’s thinking, in that the age of
accountability is probably not a fixed age applied to each and every person.
Instead, it probably varies from person to person and is likely dependent
upon ones cognitive ability rather than upon ones physical age.
Hence, when an individual reaches an age whereby they are able to reckon
that there is a God and chooses to either to seek the one true God or to elevate
something else as their God (idols, themselves, or any other thing) then they
have reached the age of accountability.
Most likely this occurs in early adolescence.
This author also agrees with J. Vernon McGee’s assessment that
young children can understand the gospel message and accept Christ, as the Bible
and history have evidenced salvation in children as young as four years old.
However, it is more likely that a young child merely understands what his
parents have told him and will, at the age of accountability, either choose or
reject the Lord Jesus Christ. This
is likely the reason that so many young adults have rejected the religious
principles of their parents after professing to accept Christ at a young age;
their religion has never developed into the spiritual relationship with the Lord
Jesus Christ that evidence spiritual life through the new birth.
This author believes that the biblical text indeed supports an
Age of Accountability and the divine protection of innocent children and perhaps
even the divine protection of older mentally handicapped individuals who may
never be able to reckon with the reality of God.
However, this cognitive reckoning with God will never release those who
once made a choice against God and may have lost their ability to make their
spiritual choice after their rejection. Hence
do not toy around with the grace God offers you through our Lord Jesus Christ.
You do not know if God will extend your ability to choose Christ beyond
this moment. You must accept the
Lord Jesus Christ to be saved, when once you are given the ability to make that
Published July 16, 2008
Questions resulting from this article:
I have a question
for you Pastor Walt. Speaking of Children and the age of accountability,
what do you believe happens to babies in a Mother's womb at the time of the
Rapture, if the Mother isn't Born again? Are these babies taken from the
womb and taken to Heaven, or will they be left here to suffer along with the
Mother during the Tribulation? This is just a question I have always
I also have always wondered if there will be any more Children in the New
Heaven and New Earth after the 1,000 year Millennial reign, or will we all be
about the same age (grown ups), and Children no longer cease to exist? Just
questions I have had for awhile............Thanks...........
All good questions.
In answer I will draw your attention to,
And woe unto them
that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
20 But pray ye that your flight be not in
the winter, neither on the sabbath day: 21
For then shall be
great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this
time, no, nor ever shall be. 22
And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved:
but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
23 Then if any man shall say unto you,
Lo, here is Christ, or there;
believe it not.
24 For there shall arise false Christs,
and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if
it were possible, they shall
deceive the very elect. 25 Behold, I
have told you before.
For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say,
are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which
never gave suck. 30 Then
shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover
Mark 13:14-20 14 But when ye
shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet,
standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them
that be in Judaea flee to the mountains: 15
And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house,
neither enter therein, to take
any thing out of his house: 16 And
let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment.
But woe to them that are
with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
18 And pray ye that your flight be not in
the winter. 19 For
in those days shall be
affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created
unto this time, neither shall be. 20
And except that
the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's
sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.
While I believe that
Matt 24 is pointing directly to the second advent of Christ rather than the
rapture I believe that the discourse gives us clues about what happens to build
and bring this lost world to the second physical return of Christ and His
millennial reign. I find in
scripture, like that highlighted above, that there will be great distress for
the children in those days, which according to the text seem to immediately
precede or probably coincide with what I believe is a scriptural reference to
the rapture of God’s people (Matt 24.21; Mark 13.20).
What will this distress be? I
must be none other than the innocents being raptured with God’s elect.
Hence, I believe that all children and innocents, including those in the
womb, considering Mark 13.17, will be taken in the rapture.
This will cause a
great outcry among those that remain for the tribulation period and will set the
stage for the anti Christ to present himself as a friend of the people, who will
come claiming to have the answer of protection from such losses in the future.
I believe that the removal and disappearance of the children will give
the anti Christ just cause to introduce that mark of the beast, which I believe
will be technological in nature, which he will claim will resolve all of our
worlds problems with crime, commerce, and citizenship.
With the implantation of his device he will claim that all people will be
traceable and that such disappearances will be rendered impossible.
However, the anti Christ’s real motives of control and dictatorship will
not be revealed until after three and a half years when he will use the
technology to control all buying and sending in his cash less society.
Concerning your second question the following comes to mind,
For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in
marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
Honestly, I do not
know whether there will be procreation on the New Heaven and New Earth or not.
I do understand from scripture that there will be children during the
millennial reign, but I find nothing other than the above reference that would
give us any indication either way about children in eternity.
We know that there won’t be the God given institution of marriage, and
that mortal marriages in this life do not carry over into God’s eternal kingdom.
I suppose we will just have to wait until we get there to find out.
That is the best I can do for now.
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