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God Views the Inherited Sin of Children Differently Than the Willful Sin of Adults

Your little ones . . . who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there.
–Deuteronomy 1:39

What happens to children who die before trusting in Christ? The Bible reveals that God not only has a special love for children, but God views the inherited sin of children differently than He views the willful sin of adults.

When Adam and Eve sinned because of Adam’s willing disobedience, all people inherited Adam’s sin. In Romans 5:12, Paul explained it this way: “Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” When Adam sinned, we inherited Adam’s guilt–the responsibility for his sin–and Adam’s corruption–the propensity to sin against God. We’ve all contracted the sin virus. Paul says the proof of that is the fact that we die. Death is the proof that we have inherited Adam’s sin.

Do children die? Yes. Do babies die? Yes. The fact that anyone dies is proof that he is guilty before God. Nevertheless, God distinguishes between the inherited sin children have received and the willful disobedience of adults. In Ezekiel 18:20, God said, “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.” We are guilty for what we do before God.

At what age are people responsible for their own sins? The phrase “age of accountability” is not in the Bible, but there is the truth that God holds people responsible for their sin when they are able to distinguish between good and evil. The moment of accountability before God is when we have the ability to distinguish between good and evil. Until then, God views sin differently.

A great illustration of that truth is found in the Old Testament. After the Israelites left Egypt, they finally made it to the Promised Land, and they sent twelve spies to see what obstacles they might have to overcome. The spies came back, and ten of them said, “The land is as full of blessing as God promised, but there are giants, and we’ll never overtake them.” Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, said, “Yes, there are challenges, but God will be faithful to give us the land just as He promised.” The Israelites chose to believe the majority report. God was filled with anger because of their unbelief. He said, “No one of you except Joshua and Caleb is going to enter into this Promised Land. Instead you’re going to wander in the wilderness without ever entering into My rest, and you will die because of your unbelief.” But there is one group God exempted from that horrible judgment. In Deuteronomy 1:39, God said, “Your little ones . . . who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it.” Even though these children had contracted the sin virus, God viewed the children’s sin differently than He viewed the sins of their parents who willfully rejected God.


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.


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