They were not able to enter because of unbelief.
In the Bible, unbelief is more than simply failing to believe God’s promises. Unbelief is the deliberate decision to reject God’s revelation.
The writer of Hebrews offered this commentary on the Israelites’ sin in the wilderness. In Hebrews 3:18-19, he wrote, “To whom did [God] swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.” And he made this application in Hebrews 3:12: “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.” The adult Israelites chose to reject the revelation that God had given to them. The writer also quoted Psalm 95: “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, and saw My works for forty years” (Hebrews 3:7-9). For forty years the Israelites had seen God’s miraculous care for them. The adult Israelites had seen God send the plagues that changed Pharaoh’s heart and caused him to let the people go. They had witnessed the miraculous parting of the Red Sea. They had experienced God’s supernatural provision of manna and water. Yet they deliberately rejected the knowledge of God they had received and His promise of deliverance. Therefore, they were without excuse. But the children were so young they couldn’t understand what was happening. They had not made the deliberate decision to reject what God had revealed to them.
The same thing is true today. There is no one who is without excuse because everyone who has ever lived has received a revelation of God. In Romans 1:20, Paul wrote, “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” The Bible says God has revealed to everyone the fact that there is a God, and while that knowledge isn’t enough to save a person, it’s enough if rejected to condemn a person. Whenever anyone responds to that natural revelation of God, God will send the further information that person needs in order to know Christ as Savior. Adults today have all received a revelation of God, and the majority have chosen to reject that revelation, and because of that they are without excuse. Contrast that to young children. They’ve received that revelation as well. They can look around, but they can’t put it together. Therefore, God views them differently. Children have not rejected God’s revelation; they just haven’t accepted it yet. They’re incapable of understanding it.
Now, I believe children reach the age of accountability at a much younger age than we imagine. I think children have an understanding of right and wrong, and an understanding of God, far earlier than people would lead you to believe. And the most important job parents have is leading their child to faith in Christ and then seeing that their child grows in his or her faith.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Are Children Who Die in Heaven?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.