'Children: Pictures of Hope and Possessors of Heaven' - Romans chapter 5 - JS Gillespie

Part of our series from Romans chapter 5 on what the bible says on the destiny of the child who dies.

Why is it that over 2000 years and 40 authors the answer to the question appears not to be clearly answered? 


Why do we not have a book, a chapter, an epistle that answers the simple question how can a child be saved? After all we have  many passages of scripture that appear to deal in fine detail with every aspect of life: 


Vegetarianism (Rom14) 
Food sacrificed to idols – (1 Co 10) 
Head coverings – (1 Co 11) 
Gifts of tongues (1Co14) 
Personal qualifications of elders (1 Tim3) 
The order of resurrections at the rapture (1 Peter 4) 
Regulations on the manufacture of garments (Lev 19:19) 
Regulations on sewage (Deut 23:13) 


Yet when it comes to the question of what about the eternal destiny of children, a subject that affect about 1/3 of the worlds population, there scriptures seem, not so much to be silent but the problem does not seem to be addressed directly. 


Sometimes we fail to find the answer to the question we ask because we fail to find the question! 


I think that above all else there is no clear answer to the problem in the scriptures of how can a child be saved because it is never envisaged that they are lost. 


In the OT sin had a legal definition. 


The situation was simple: if you broke the law then you were a sinner, if you didn't break the law you weren't a sinner! 


There is the law written in scripture. 


That legal definition of sin, an objective definition rather than a subjective definition continues through the writings of Paul in Romans. 

Therefore Paul in Romans chps 1 to 3 has to answer the problem, how can God judge men for their sin if they have never had the law? Hence the testimony of creation, conscience and covenant. 

In particular: “Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another” (Ro 2:15) 

Therefore to the Jewish mind, and to the Pauline mind there was no problem with infant salvation – they were not guilty of any personal sins from which they must repent and flee to God for refuge! 

So far we have seen that: 


There is provision for the child in the doctrine of Romans 5 (5:18-20) 
There is purpose in all God does – no problem exists without God ultimately allowing and superintending that problem to resound ultimately for His Glory – we dare not ask is there a Divine response to this problem but we can rest in this that there would be no problem if God did not have a purpose for that problem: there is Reason for the problem, there must be the possibility for the believer to Rejoice in the problem (5:1-5); there are ample Resources in Christ to deal with the problem (Rom 5:18, 20); ultimately Grace must Reign (5:21) and every impediment as far as human inability is concerned has been removed (5:6). 

There is in all the teachings of the Lord Jesus – in particular in Matt 18, 19:3; Mark 9:36; Mark 10:13; Luke 18:16 a special place for the child. 

There are pictures of the child raised again from the dead 

But perhaps it would be good to be able to conclude our studies with something a little more concrete – with proof of God working in just that way? 

  • John the Baptist (Luke 1:76) – God raises up a child prophet 
  • Samuel (1 Kings chps 1-3) – God raises up a child priest 
  • Josiah – God raises up a child King 

Greatest and most glorious of all: 

Christ – God raises up a child Saviour (Lk 2:11-12; 2:27-30,34,38) 

John the Baptist (Luke 1:76) – God raises up a child prophet 

Samuel (1 Kings chps 1-3) – God raises up a child priest 

Josiah – God raises up a child King 

Few of the ages of the Kings of Israel are recorded as to when they began to reign but many of the ages of the kings of Judah are recorded, of those < 20 years we have: 

Jehoash – 2 Kings chp 11 + 12 (Joash), he began to reign at aged 7 years (2 Kings 11:21); so long as the child was under the influence of Jehoiadah the priestly figure all went well with the kingdom, once this influence was lost, decline set in! 

Azariah – 2 Kings 14:21; 15:1ff (Uzziah), little said about him but what is said is positive. He again was influenced heavily by his mother; Jecholiah of Jerusalem – Jecholiah: Jah will enable - “he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord.” 

Manasseh (2Kings 21) – reigns at 12 years old; his mother was 'Hephzi-bah' – 'my delight is in her' and Manasseh “did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.” Note the influence of a mother, although ineterstingly he is a king who repents later on in life (2 Chron 33:10ff). 

Josiah (2 Kings 22) – he began to reign at 8 years, his mothers name was Jedidah : 'beloved.' Josiah “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord.”  “And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.” (2Ki 23:25) – remarkable words considering especially the fact that he was 'only' a child! 

Aged 16 “he began to seek after the God of David” (2 Chron 24:3) 
Aged 20 years “he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem” 
Aged 26 years – he began to repair the house of the Lord. 

The child Kings on the whole seem to have fared far better than the adult Kings! 

Christ – God raises up a child Saviour (Lk 2:11-12; 2:27-30,34,38) 

Their Pictures of Hope: 

Of those children whose death is recorded in the scriptures but whose resurrection is not recorded, as the 3 are above we have a consistent and interesting association of hope: 

Abijah the son of Jeroboam (1 Kings 14): “And all Israel shall mourn for him, and bury him: for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing toward the LORD God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.” (1Ki 14:13). 

Gods reward or response to finding “some good thing toward the Lord God” in Abijah was both a natural and dignified death “...shall come to the grave” but also a premature death. 
Why? We can see the 'reward' or moral appropriateness in one in whom some good thing was found in not having to suffer the indignities prophesied against the rest of Jeroboam's family: “Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat: for the LORD hath spoken it.” (1Ki 14:11). That is 'good' for 'good', but why the premature death? 

In the OT old age and long years are seen consistently as evidence of Divine blessing; eg Abraham (Gen25:8). 
Did he die young to prevent him committing evil? Yet if this was the case surely the rest of the family ought to have gone before Abijah, since his discerning feature was that in contrast the rest of the bunch “in him there is found some good thing toward the LORD God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.” He was the best of the lot of them! 
How come the name of this dead child, who played no significant part in the politics, social history, nor in the spiritual and religious life of Israel is recorded in the word of God? 
Not only that how come half of a whole chapter of the word of God is given over to one dead child? If the Lord was to give half a chapter to me in His Word, I would think that my life had been mightily worthwhile! 
What does name mean? 'Father of Jehovah'! What a lovely name! 

Does the answer lie in these verses of scripture? 

“Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” (Luk 10:20) 

“But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” (Isa 43:1) 

“The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.” (Isa 57:1) 

The slaughter of the innocents under Herod in Matthew chp2, for which prophetic reference is drawn by Matthew from Jeremiah, but note the next verse in Jeremiah 31, not quoted by Matthew: 

“Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not. Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.”(Jer 31:15-16) 

Davids son born to Bathsheba: “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.” (2Sa 12:23) 

Consider too the strange statement made by the Shunammite woman following the death of her son: “Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well.” (2Ki 4:26). Was it indeed well with the child? 

Their Place in the Kingdom: 

Note the promise of the Lord: “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 19:14) 

Their Prominence in the Kingdom: 

It is interesting to notice the prominence given to children in the millenial kingdom: 

So many children they could hardly imagine where they all came from: “Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.” (Isa 66:8) 
Children brought forth without birth? “Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child.” (Isa 66:7) 
Children restored who once were lost: “Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.” (Jer 31:15) 
Children restored: “The children which thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the other, shall say again in thine ears, The place is too strait for me: give place to me that I may dwell. Then shalt thou say in thine heart, Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro? and who hath brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where had they been?” (Isa 49:20-21) 
“He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.” (Psa 72:4) 

Are these lost children of previous generations to repopulate the millennial Kingdom of Revelation 20?


Notes from our bible study teaching series of messages preached systematically, verse by verse, through Paul's letter to the Romans. Free to download audio mp3 recordings of this sermon and other sermons are available at the end of this blog and on the website page.    

Yours by Grace in Christ    

Dr J Stewart Gillespie