Where Have All the Children Gone?

While the title of this blog may seem like a rerun of a Joseph Kerschbaum song, I assure you, it only seems that way.  In Kerschbaum’s song. the chorus is the same as the song title, and it’s sung between each verse where some of the lyrics say,

 ‘All of the children once running around have evacuated or maybe they’ve just disappeared.

‘Just yesterday they were tying ribbons in the trees and swinging from the branches.’ 

‘Those of us who remain, wander around like abandoned children in shopping malls.’ 

 ‘Maybe this is just a dream, maybe they are sleeping in rooms filled with metal shelves.’ (inferring a morgue)

The song is prophetic, even through the artist who wrote it may not be.  It speaks to a biblical truth that one day very soon, this earth, the entire planet, is going to be void of all children, toddlers, infants, and even the unborn.  While this statement may sound like a tragic horror sci-fi flick, I assure you, it’s true and it will happen.  This snatching away of all believers and all small children, including the unborn, will occur at the Rapture and will  prove the truth of this statement; even if you don’t believe it, or teach a different doctrine.

In this blog, which is necessarily longer than most of those that I post, I wish to address a question that was asked a fellow brother in Christ who hosts a podcast that focuses on Eschatology.  While I won’t mention his name or channel out of respect for him and his ministry; I will, however, address the question that he was asked in the Q & A portion of the live stream he did just last week by one of his listeners that needs a better answer than the one that he gave. I say this because when he gave the answer, my spirit was checked and I felt the Lord prompt me to write this blog.  Again, out of respect for this brother, my brother in Christ, and the journey of faith that he is on, I will answer the question with a biblical truth in hopes that he, and his listeners, will read this blog and be hope-filled about how God really feels about all the little children of the world. We are all learning; I am learning, you are learning, this brother is learning.  We’re all learning and we will continue to learn until the day the Master calls us home. 

This being said, if what we believe to be true about something is challenged, then we need to consider what is presented in light of the Bible.  We must reason well together so that perhaps we might reconsider a former position on a matter in light of new revelation or hidden truth.  The key word here is truth, not opinion, which is what this brother gave; his opinion.  When he was challenged by more of his listeners in the live chat, he stammered to answer and basically said, ‘I don’t know.’  This tells me that it struck a chord and needs to be addressed appropriately.   

The question that was asked, “What happens to all of the children of the unsaved when the Rapture occurs?’

This brother’s answer, ‘They are left behind to suffer in the seven-year tribulation.’ His reasoning had more to do with all of the children who had to suffer under God’s judgments in the OT. This is a bad eisegete of God’s Word and a very bad interpretation of this doctrine. I believe that this brother may have had good intentions in his statement, but it’s just NOT true. The true and right answer to the question is that all of the children are taken to heaven with the rest of the Church; which includes all of the children of the unsaved, and even the unborn!  Suffice it to say that there will be no small children, or infants, on the planet after the Rapture occurs and for at least nine months.

Let’s break this truth down.  If this brother believes that at the moment of the Rapture, an infant of an unsaved person is left behind, then what happens to this same infant, if one minute before the Rapture, it dies?  Where does it go?  To heaven or to hell?  Most would say to heaven and they would be correct. The infant has not yet reached the age of accountability and therefore cannot be held accountable for their sinful state or the sinful state of their unsaved parents. It will be no different in the Rapture scenario. The doctrine of the age of accountability comes from Paul’s description of it in 1 Corinthians 13 where he says,

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.                  – 1 Corinthians 13:11

  • In this passage Paul uses a series of childish behaviors in his illustration; that is, speaking, understanding, and thinking (reasoning).  This is an illustration of the diverse areas of childish thought and action as compared to an adult paradigm.

Many scholars believe that Paul used this passage in reference to his own bar mitzvah.  This is where we get the ‘age of accountability’ doctrine from; that is, when a Jewish boy became a man (at age 13), he was responsible for his life and actions.  A better understanding of this doctrine speaks to the diversity of ages that define an individual’s ability to claim responsibility for their own spiritual life formation. Truth be told, many children much younger than the age of 13 have already reached the age of accountability, and they will suffer in hell forever if they die in their sin, even from a younger age.

Paul isn’t saying that he was mature or complete in his understanding; on the contrary, he uses this statement to illustrate the difference between a child’s understanding and a mature man’s understanding. Paul was a student and an instructor; always learning and always teaching.  He never claimed to have attained a complete knowledge of everything there was to know about God or that he was a perfect man.

This being the case, Paul was identifying the age of accountability as the age of 13, the same age a young Jewish boy or girl would experience their bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah.  In reality, this age is not the same for everyone; some children are much more accountable for their actions at a younger age than others.  The mentally infirmed are a different issue completely; but that’s a topic for another blog.

For this brother to say that the children of the unsaved will not make the Rapture and base it on God judging the unrighteous and their children in the OT is not consistent with a NT reality or context.  First of all, those young children, even infants, that perished in the various judgments of God were NOT subjected to His wrath in hell because they were too young to understand the sins of their parents.  This statement is supported by the very words of the Prophet Ezekiel who, in chapter 18 of his book, presents a very powerful argument regarding the age of accountability among the saved (righteous) and the unsaved (unrighteous), in an OT context.

Ezekiel 18 is a close up on how God refutes and forgives a person’s sin if they repent.  Each person is accountable to God for their actions; they can’t blame their sinful ways on another person, including their parents.  In this passage, the Lord makes it clear how each person is responsible for their own sin.

“The word of the Lord came to me again, saying, “What do you mean when you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live,” says the Lord God, “you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel. “Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die.”               – (vs.1-4)

  • Here we see this familiar phrase, ‘the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’  It means that the fathers have committed iniquity and their children get the sour taste of it and, as a result, they repeat the sins of their fathers.  It’s sort of a generational sin thing.   

This phrase references how the children of the unrighteous suffered because of what their fathers did. The feeling was that the problems the children faced were not their fault and they were not to blame. In context to the time Ezekiel wrote this, the Jews were in exile because of what their fathers did. The law says that the sins of the fathers will affect the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate God. (Exodus 20:5) This means that the sins of a father would affect his grandchildren’s children. This principle refers to only those who hate God, which is what happens when children copy their parents’ wicked behaviour.

In Ezekiel’s day we saw that many exiles were referring to this rule for a different reason. They were using it to avoid blame; however, each person is responsible their own sins. A child could choose to not copy their father’s behaviour; but even if they did, God still declares that each person belongs to Him, the father is His just as much as the child is also His.  Each of God’s children are responsible to God for their own sin. If a sinful person dies in their sin, it’s because of their own sin and not because of the sins of another person.

Jeremiah was living in Jerusalem when Ezekiel received this message from the Lord and coincidently enough, those people in Jerusalem were also saying the same thing (Jeremiah 31:29); ‘it’s not fair.’

“But if a man is just and does what is lawful and right; If he has not eaten on the mountains, nor lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, nor defiled his neighbor’s wife, nor approached a woman during her impurity; If he has not oppressed anyone, but has restored to the debtor his pledge; has robbed no one by violence, but has given his bread to the hungry and covered the naked with clothing; If he has not exacted usury nor taken any increase, but has withdrawn his hand from iniquity and executed true judgment between man and man; If he has walked in My statutes and kept My judgments faithfully— he is just; he shall surely live!” Says the Lord God.”              – (vs.5-9)

  • Here Ezekiel is writing about a good father.  In verses 10-13 he writes about a bad son and in verses 14-18 he writes about a good grandson.  Some scholars believe that Ezekiel may have been associating these three passages with the three kings of Judah: Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Josiah.

Hezekiah was a good man who loved the Lord. His son Manasseh was a wicked man who did not trust in the Lord. His grandson, Josiah, did what was right in God’s sight, and he served the Lord faithfully.

In contrast to our lives today, here is the picture of the OT man that God considers to be good.

  • This man does not pray to other gods. He does not serve them or eat at their altars. He serves and worships only the Lord.
  • He does not have sex with any woman, apart from his own wife (Deuteronomy 5:18). He does not have sex with his wife during her menstrual cycle (Leviticus 18:19).
  • He always does good things for other people and does not cheat or rob them. He gives to those who need his help, and he does not try to make unfair profits from people who are weak or poor.
  • He is always kind and fair. He will lend money to other people, and he will not take any profit from them (usury). This was a rule in Israel (Exodus 22:25) but the law allowed Israelites to profit from foreigners.
  • This man lives by the laws of Moses, and he trusts in God. No person is perfect, but this man has a right attitude to God and to other people.

“If he begets a son who is a robber or a shedder of blood, who does any of these things 11 And does none of those duties,
but has eaten on the mountains or defiled his neighbor’s wife; 12 If he has oppressed the poor and needy, robbed by violence, not restored the pledge, lifted his eyes to the idols, or committed abomination; 13 If he has exacted usury or taken increase—shall he then live? He shall not live! If he has done any of these abominations, he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.”                                                                  – (vs.10-13)

  • Here Ezekiel is writing about the bad son of a good father. The son does things that his father didn’t do; that is, he uses people who are weak and poor in order to make himself rich. He robs people, is guilty of murder, and of wrongful sexual activity. He eats at the altars of the false gods, he turns to them, and he turns away from God. This son will not live, and even the good deeds of his father will not save him. He will surely die for his own sins.

If, however, he begets a son who sees all the sins which his father has done, and considers but does not do likewise; 15 Who has not eaten on the mountains, nor lifted his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, nor defiled his neighbor’s wife; 16 Has not oppressed anyone, nor withheld a pledge, nor robbed by violence, but has given his bread to the hungry
and covered the naked with clothing; 17 Who has withdrawn his hand from the poor and not received usury or increase, but has executed My judgments and walked in My statutes—he shall not die for the iniquity of his father; he shall surely live! 18 As for his father, because he cruelly oppressed, robbed his brother by violence, and did what is not good among his people, behold, he shall die for his iniquity.”                            – (vs.14-18)

  • This doesn’t mean that bad men will always have bad sons. King Manasseh was a bad person, but Josiah, his son, was a good person. The good son sees the bad things that his father does, but he does not imitate his father because he knows what is right (and wrong). He chooses to do what is right of his own volition because a good son does not worship false gods.

He does not fornicate, he cares about other people, and is kind to them. His father will die and be judged for his own sins, but the son will not be judged for the father’s sins when he dies; this good son will live.  By good and bad, I am referring to righteous and unrighteous in God’s sight in accordance with the OT law. In the NT, good and bad are conditional with a right standing before God through Jesus.  Our actions will reflect our love for the Lord in both the OT and NT.

“Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?’ Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live. 20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”                     – (vs.19,20)

  • Here we see how God commands that His people behave in a manner that pleases Him. The person who does so will live; but the person who rebels and does not live righteously will die in their sin. Each person is responsible for their own life. The person who sins will die in their sin, but they will not die for the sin of their parents or their children. 

Remember: It’s not how you die that determines whether or not you go to heaven or hell; but how you lived when you die.

“But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. 23 Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?”           – (vs.21-23)

  • Sometimes people change the way that they live. A bad person may turn from their sins and do what is right in the sight of God. If this act of repentance occurs, then God will not count those past sins against them because now they’ve repented and live according to the God’s Word.

God does not take pleasure in the death of the unrighteous. His desire is that they should all repent and turn to him for life (2 Peter 3:9). People can change; their past sin need not rule their future; they can be saved.

“But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die.”                                                                                                                     – (vs.24)

  • In this one verse we see that a person can change their good behaviour and choose to do what is wrong. The good things that they have done will not save him because they have not been loyal to the Lord. That person will die because of their sin.  This OT truth refutes eternal security for a wayward soul.

“Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair? 26 When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies. 27 Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive. 28 Because he considers and turns away from all the transgressions which he committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ O house of Israel, is it not My ways which are fair, and your ways which are not fair?”                                                                                                                        – (vs.25-29)

  • Many Israelites thought that they were good people based on the covenant that God made with Abraham, their ancestor, therefore God would show His kindness to them (John 8:33-41). They supposed that their behaviour didn’t matter because of the covenant that God made with Abraham.

Many of these Jews felt that God was not fair when He punished them, but they were wrong. God will be the final judge of what we have done. Each of us is responsible for what we do. Those who do bad things will die because of it. That is fair. Those who do good things will live because of it. That is fair. People can change or not change. If the wicked man becomes a good man, he will save his life. If a good man becomes a wicked man, he will lose his life. God is fair in what he does.

“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord God. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!”           – (vs.30-32)

  • In this passage we see that God will be the judge of all people, but God does not want the unrighteous to die in their sin. He appeals to these exiles (and also to us today), to repent of our sin, or we will die in them. There must be a change in the attitude of sinful people, they must have a complete heart change.

Ezekiel does not teach that we can achieve eternal life by our own efforts; no person can earn their salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). God gives eternal life to those who trust in Jesus if they repent of their sin and ask God to forgive them.  The idea of a once saved, always saved position is a dangerous doctrine.

When I was in college I had close friends. We all walked with Jesus and worshipped Him.  However, as time went on, some of these brothers strayed away from their faith and embraced a lifestyle of sin.  One of them, when I later challenged his lifestyle, said that he was going through a ‘religious phase’ at that time in his life.  Another friend of mine (now deceased), who once walked with Jesus, but who succumbed to his own emotional tirades of anger and rage due to unresolved issues from his past, embraced a lifestyle of sin and died in his sin at the hands of his wife who killed him.  He loved the Lord in his younger years, but strayed away.  I had a close relative who once walked with the Lord, but who fell away and embraced a lifestyle of sin.  Some would say that they were never saved; however, I beg to differ; all these brothers were saved in every sense of the word; they just chose to walk away from the faith that they so desperately needed.  This is why I have such a strong opposition to the doctrine of eternal security.  If people think that they can walk away from God and live how they want, even after walking with God, and still be saved; it conflicts with the doctrine of the Bible.

In all of this, Ezekiel is speaking to individuals who have reached an age of accountability, NOT to children who have not yet come to understand the sins of their fathers.   It will be no different when the Rapture occurs.  When the Lord, the King of glory comes for His bride, it will be the first time in human history when a King goes to war with a kingdom (this world) and no children will be subjected to the consequence of that conflict. 

I am reminded of the horrific pictures of the Ukraine invasion by Russia and the many children whose bodies were strewn about as a result of that invasion.  I am hopeful that when Jesus, the King of glory, comes for His Church, that those children who have not reached the age of accountability will also be taken from the earth, regardless of what religion their parents embrace.     

This truth will be a soon reality on this planet.  Jesus inferred this when He warned the Jewish people of the coming apocalypse and the aftermath it will bring. 

“But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!”     . – Matthew 24:19

The phrase, ‘in those days’ refers to the mid-point of the tribulation as the context will confirm. Jesus addressed two groups of women; those who are pregnant and those who are nursing babies in those days.   

  • Women who are pregnant, because at the Rapture, all babies, toddlers, small children, and even unborn embryos will be taken along with the rest of the Church, even those younglings of the unsaved.
  • Women who are nursing, because the time Jesus is referencing in this passage, we are 3½ years into the tribulation, and many women will have had babies from a post-Rapture conception.

For a brother in Christ to make the strong statement that babies, toddlers, and small children of the unsaved will NOT go in the Rapture based on the OT example of the children of the unrighteous dying in the judgements of God flies in the face of the very words of Jesus who said,

“Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.”                      – Matthew 19:13-15

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble (to fall into sin), it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.”                                 – Mark 9:42

“Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”             – Matthew 18:2-4

Something that we need to consider in all of this; right now we are living under a special dispensation of grace in the NT that has been afforded to us by the cross of Christ.  This same grace was not available in the OT, only a prototype of it. For example, when the flood of Noah came on the earth, everyone, except Noah, his wife, their three sons, and their wives were spared.  The rest of the earth perished in the flood, which included children, toddlers, infants, and even the unborn.  While this is true, it cannot be used to establish a doctrine that is translated into the NT in reference to the Rapture of the Church.  The NT era is a different dispensation of time. We are now living in the age of grace; this is a totally different arrangement and positioning of the saved and the lost.

Let’s prove that point.  When the children, toddlers, infants and even the unborn died in the flood, did they go to hell?  Most would say no and they would be correct. Why?  Because they were too young to know the difference, yet they perished anyway.  Fast forward to today, the age of grace, where there are millions and millions of small children, toddlers, infants, and even the unborn of the unsaved who, because of God’s mercy and grace, especially for children, will be taken in the Rapture, regardless of what their parents believe.

Put another way, when the pagan people of yesteryear sacrificed their own children to Baal and other pagan gods, when those children died, did they go to hell because of the paganism of their parents?  The right answer is no, they didn’t go to hell because they had not yet reached the age of accountability.  Do the children of today who are aborted by their mothers go to hell?  The answer, absolutely not!  They are innocent even though they are born into sin by unsaved parents.  The litmus test for being saved at the Rapture is if you are raptured or not.  If you are left behind, you were NOT saved and should be thankful to God that you didn’t die five minutes before.  If you had died, you would have gone to hell for all eternity.  This is a stark truth for all who are left behind to remember and why so many who die, thinking that they are saved, but are not, are shocked beyond measure when they are taken to hell. 

Jesus said it this way, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’                      – Matthew 7:21-23

  • In context, this passage occurs at the Great White Throne Judgment when all non-believers who have been suffering in Gehenna Hell, up until that point in time, are brought out of Gehenna Hell to stand before the Lord, one by one, at this judgment, and will plead their case pointlessly

From there they will be cast into the Lake of Fire, the second death, where they will consciously suffer for all of eternity, along with the rest of spiritually lost humanity, including the devil himself, and all of his demonic hordes.  This is by far the most scariest verse in the Bible. I thank God the Holy Spirit has conformed our salvation and sealed us unto the day of redemption.  That same God would not allow an innocent child, toddler, infant or even an unborn baby to be cast into hell nor more than He would leave them behind at the Rapture because their parents were not saved.

I think that the reason that I was so taken by the answer this brother gave was that, among other things, I drive a school bus to help supplement my income. I have come to love and pray for all the students on the bus.  While I can’t preach to them per say, I can pray for them and I do. The group of kids that are elementary (K-5th grade) are the cutest darlings, particularly the K-1 group.  I have grandkids that age and I am confident that God would not leave these little duffers behind because of their parent’s lack of faith.  The little ones are completely unaware of the gospel, the consequence of sin, and of faith; but they are learning. I have a difficult time believing that a loving God who loves children would leave them behind at the Rapture, knowing they are still too young to understand, on the basis of their parent’s paganism.

A lot of the visions and dreams that we have been hearing about on the various social media platforms have shown glimpses of what is occurring just after the Rapture where irate parents who have been left behind are franticly looking for their children who have been taken in the Rapture.  Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, in their Left Behind series, portray unsaved mothers who are pregnant, all of a sudden are not pregnant because the Lord took their unborn baby, still in the womb, in the Rapture.  This is the greater truth; it reveals God’s grace and mercy in a NT context and it speaks volumes for His love for the little children who have not yet reached the age of accountably.  

For this brother to say otherwise is in direct conflict with God’s plan of redemption for the world. The seven-year tribulation is a time of judgment like none other.  God, in His mercy and grace, will receive all of the world’s little children who have not yet reached the age of accountability in the Rapture in the same way when a small child dies or an unborn baby is aborted, their spirit is immediately ushered into heaven, regardless of what their parents believe (or don’t believe) about God. 

My final argument, if people really believe that God Almighty, the Creator and Author of all life, will subject the small children and even the unborn of unsaved parents to the seven-year tribulation; how then can you justify God’s mercy and grace in context to their being cast into hell based on their parent’s unbelief in Christ?  It just doesn’t make any kind of sense, biblically or otherwise.  You would be making God out to be some sort of cosmic killer who doesn’t consider the fate of the unborn or unaccountable.  It’s a bad eisegete. It is my hope that my brother in Christ would reconsider his position on this matter. I enjoy his channel which has a rather large audience. Either way, no hard feelings. 

May you all find comfort in knowing that the small children of your unsaved friends will not be subject to the seven-year tribulation that their parents will have to endure based on their own choice to reject Jesus.  The greater prayer is that they would come to faith in Jesus in a post-Rapture world and be reunited with their small children in heaven when they die in Christ.  This is the heart and desire of the Christ that we serve.


Encouragemen is a blog written by Pastor Rob Lee, recently relocated to Northwest Missouri.  He lives with his wife of 33-years, near their three adult children, their spouses, and children (their grandchildren).  Pastor Rob is an Ordained Assemblies of God minister, a former Lead Pastor (25 years), police chaplain, and community advocate.  He continues to serve, consult, and disciple men of God, including those who are in the ministry. 

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