This Your Christian Journey:


Age of Accountability

2 Samuel 12.23

By Dr. Walter D. Huyck Jr. D.Min.

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.

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 Christ.   

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 McGee’s Comments, 

Numbers 8:24 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 Numbers 14:29 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 age of 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 age of 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 age of 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.] 

Matthew 19:13-15 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 thence.

“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 age of accountability later. The reason for trying to get the gospel into the hearts of children is so that when they reach the age of 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 age of 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 age of 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 version 7] 

The text Evangelism and Church Growth when considering the Age of Accountability notes,

The age of 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 responsibility.

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 age of 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 age of 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 choice.

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 wondered about.  

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,

Matthew 24:19-25 19 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.

Luke 23:29-30 29 For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed 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 us.

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. 17 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,

Matthew 22:30 30 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.