Before we take time this morning to answer some questions, and I wish we could get to every question that was asked, I wanted to take a moment and orient our attention toward the Good Shepherd. As a body of elders, Scripture teaches that we are under-shepherds of God’s church. That simply means that we are to teach people the words of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.
Christ is the one who is our atonement. Our objective is to know and follow Him, not to know and follow any elder of the church. The elders of the church are here only to speak what Christ has spoken and make proper application. Christ’s sheep hear what Christ has said as it is proclaimed and they follow Christ.
In Scripture, this primarily takes the form of preaching (Acts 2:14-36) and secondarily takes the form of answering questions rightly according to the teaching and calling of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:37-38). Even then, we receive this admonishment in the Scriptures: the proclamation of God’s word takes priority and questions are to be reserved for appropriate times (1 Corinthians 14:29-36). This is because, according to Paul in 1 Corinthians, too many questions have a tendency to cause greater confusion rather than edify the church.
2 Corinthians 5:8, 1 Thessalonians 4:16- Will we meet Jesus immediately or be called up into the air later?
In 2 Corinthians, Paul is not teaching eschatology. He is saying that while we are still in the body, we are absent from the Lord (v. 6). This means that we are unable to see the Lord with our eyes (v. 7). Because Christians prefer to be absent from the body and present with the Lord (v. 8), they live while in the body to glorify the Lord (v. 9-21). Paul does not write that if one is absent from the body he or she is immediately with the Lord. He writes that we would rather be with the Lord than in these bodies unable to see Him. Paul’s exhortation is encouragement for the saints who are walking by faith and not by sight, and we don’t want to read into what Paul is writing that isn’t there.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul is also encouraging the saints so that they will have hope when things seem hopeless (v. 13). In verse 14, he writes that that if we truly believe that Christ has died and risen again, then we can trust that God will bring with Him those who hav died in Jesus. So, people who have died before us, if they are truly in Christ, are with Christ. This is meant as a comfort to the people of God, so that they do not have to grieve as do the rest who have no hope (v. 13). In verse 15, Paul writes that those who are still alive and those who will remain until the future coming of the Lord will not precede those who have already died. Those who have already died are with Christ. We will be with Christ when we die or when Christ returns. In verse 16, Paul describes a future occurrence much like what began to be fulfilled in Jesus death, burial, and resurrection (comp. Matthew 24-28). He states that the dead in Christ will rise first. Since Paul has alluded to what Jesus taught concerning His death, burial, and resurrection and the signs that accompanied that event, he is probably alluding to Matthew 27:52-52, where Jesus’ teaching on this subject was actually fulfilled. Even though Paul is alluding to a past event and prophecy that has already been fulfilled, he speaks in the future-tense. The way in which Christ returns will be similar to the way that He departed. This, like the 2 Corinthians passage, is not meant to reveal some kind of eschatological truth. It is meant to remind the saints of the Gospel promise. It is why, in verse 18, Paul instructs believers to comfort one another with these words. Christ has made atonement for the sins of His people. His people will be with Him forever whether they die here or remain until His return.
It is important for us to be able to recognize the purpose a passage has and not to read our own purpose or agenda into that passage. It is also important for us to try, as best we can, not to read into a passage what is not there. So, we cannot apply these two passages accurately to talk about theories relating to soul-sleep or direct departure. Neither of these passages gives an eschatological timeline. A better reference point may be Luke 23:39-43, in which Jesus is recorded as telling one thief on the cross beside Him, “…today you shall be with Me in paradise.”
What is the age of accountability?
The age of accountability might be defined as the age at which someone becomes accountable for his or her actions. It is usually defined as a maturity level and is usually seen as being attained when a child shows him or herself to understand the difference between moral good and evil and his or her need for a savior. Most people tend to think that the age of accountability is about 12 or 13 years. However, the Bible does not say anything about an age of accountability.
Sixteen years ago, John MacArthur wrote a book, Safe in the Arms of God, in which he expressed his belief that every single infant or child who dies before reaching the “age of accountability” enters into Heaven. To make this application of the Scriptures, one has to assume that God saves different people by different means and that there is some inherent goodness present within the person from birth that merits grace which is somehow ruined during the aging process.
While the Bible doesn’t say anything about an age of accountability, it does explain to us the Gospel:
- No one understands and no one seeks for God (Romans 3:11, Psalm 14:1-3, 53:1-3).
- All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).
- The wage of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23).
- God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
This is the first part of what is commonly referred to as the Romans Road, and already we see some desperate truths. If we define the age of accountability as the point at which a person becomes able to understand right from wrong and his or her need for a savior, Scripture is clear that no one reaches that point. Furthermore, Scripture states clearly that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. There is no reference anywhere of God working differently with anyone. Salvation is always by grace. We also see that the wages of sin, and all have sinned, is death. Christ has died for His beloved, and they receive the free gift of eternal life in Him.
So, the only biblical way we can answer is that there is no age of accountability. All people have sinned. All people will die in their sin unless God has elected to save them by Grace in Christ Jesus. Historically, this is what Christians have believed the Bible to say, and I’m not sure why we every got away from it. The 1689 Baptist London Confession, the confession upon which even the Southern Baptist Conventions was built, says this,
Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who works when and where and how He pleases. The same is true of every elect person who is incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word (10:3).
Historically, infants and children are believed to be saved the same way that adults are- by God’s election according to His grace. Not only is this the biblical answer, it is really the only logically sound answer considering the fact that even adults are unable to understand because of their unrighteous nature and considering God’s righteous nature and salvation as His free gift to His people.
This is good news and good comfort for us if we believe that God is the good, good Father and that His will is good.
Can you explain 1 Peter 3:19?
The traditional interpretation of Jesus making “proclamation to the spirits now in prison,” has been that, between His death and resurrection, Jesus announced salvation to God’s elect who lived and died prior to Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross (e.g. Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31), even during the days of Noah (v. 20). The word for prison, φυλακη, was a word used to refer to those awaiting some judicial process- in this case the atoning work of Christ and their being finally justified before God. So, the Old Testament people were also saved in Christ by grace through faith. Their salvation was also realized at the cross.
We will be answering the following questions in the coming weeks, please subscribe to the blog to follow the answers.
Why is the Apocrypha still only regarded by the Catholic Faith as relevant to our Bibles? Please address this in each of the Apocryphal Books.
Why have none of the Dead Sea Scrolls been added to the Old/New Testaments as of yet? Has there been a viable transcription?
What is the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism? Which one are we as Southern Baptists, or are Southern Baptists a little of both?
Do we believe in Limited or Unlimited Atonement and why (in reference to Chuck Swindoll)?
1 Timothy 2:11-12- I’ve never been in a church where the women are silent! What is the correct interpretation?
What is polygamy and when did it start? Why?