When Israel left the land of Egypt, the whole family came out. They crossed the Red Sea and they were all sustained by God in the wilderness. What will happen to families when Jesus comes back?

Responsible members will be taken to the judgement seat of Christ. What about the others? We can be sure that there will be compassionate arrangements for the children. No one can care for children better than God, and He will ensure this through His angels. We need have no fears. It is reasonable to think that our children will be brought up as mortals in the kingdom of God.

But what will happen to our young people?

Let us assume that by young people we mean those who are no longer children but know what life is about and can more or less take intelligent care of themselves. What about them? Will they appear at the judgement seat? Or will they be ‘ignored’ or somehow left to fend for themselves?

How will God regard them? After all, they are our children. If they are baptized, they will obviously have hope of eternal life and will stand before the Lord at his coming. Will any other young people appear before the Lord?

Privilege and responsibility are developed by an understanding of the gospel and by an awareness of conscience which comes about at different times for different people. Hence the different ages at which young people are baptized. Those who know what the gospel teaches, and know in their hearts that they are suffciently mature to be baptized will by judged by the Lord. In other words they are old enough and responsible enough to be baptized or knowingly to decide not to.

Others will not have matured that far and will be treated as ‘children’ members of the family and looked after accordingly.

But what if they die?

Looking through someone’s family Bible the other day, a few of us noticed that out of seven children born in one family three or four had died in childhood.

Infant mortality is far less in this age. Even so, children die or are killed in accidents. We are caused brutally to think of such possibilities when there are mass murders in schools such as have occurred in Scotland and in various places in the United States. What happens to them? They are our children but through no fault of their own have not become God’s true children.

It is easier to bring our Bible understanding to bear in such cases when we are not closely related to the one who has died or been killed. All of us are children of Adam and none of Adam’s natural children has any ‘right’ to an opportunity for eternal life. Eternal life is by grace.

The Bible is silent about children beyond death.

But surely …

But surely God does not want little children to die! Of course not. He does not take delight in the death of anyone. God did not want Adam to sin. Nor did He want Adam to be sinless simply by taking away his free will. Always God has wanted willing obedience, not dragooned disciples.

Adam’s children are subject to evil but in due time they may choose to serve God. God has dropped the life-line of Jesus into the troubled and uncertain waters of our lives. God wants to save us, but He has left the critical choice to us.

Jesus, too, was mortal and therefore subject to evil, even though he was sinless. Indeed, it was through the evil of suffering and death that the lifeline was made secure. The love of God in Christ was perfected through suffering. Our own salvation too has to be worked out amidst the evil.

But, what about the children?

What about our own little children? They are the children of sinful parents and are subject to the vagaries of the evil about us. We bring them into the world knowing what life in an evil world is like. God has not promised that they will be immune from congenital disabilities, disease or even death. In our hearts we know these things but seek to hide ourselves from them because in the majority of cases these evils do not prove to be serious in childhood, and certainly infant mortality is low, at least in the developed world. Most of our children come through childhood unimpaired, but some do not.

We do our best to shield the little ones from as much evil as possible, and we protect them against childhood diseases by immunisation and other means.

These things apart, our children should be very different from those around them. We know the truth about life and death and salvation. From the very earliest times they should learn about God by word and by example. Jesus should be honoured in our households. The coming kingdom when, finally, all evil will be abolished, should be talked about as a real hope. God’s word should be more precious than any other word and should be constantly read in our homes. The family should regularly attend meetings together. The children can then see us at worship and be influenced by it.

As we practise daily hygiene for our physical well-being, so we should teach our children to practise hygiene of the mind: clean, wholesome speech, clean living, clean leisure pursuits, good company, and the cleansing stream of God’s word.

Our responsibilities

Most of our children grow up in health and vigour to reach the age of responsibility. Let us make absolutely sure that they reach maturity knowing that God and His ways and promises matter more than anything else on earth. Don’t let them be beguiled into thinking that academic success, a fine career or material things are what life is all about. Don’t let evil prosper in your home by polluting it with the witch doctors of the sordid media. There are no excuses in these things. We must be lovingly committed to bringing up our children for God. One day God might well ask us as parents:

“But what about the children—your children?”