Brannon Howse on his July 16th radio program had pretribulationist teacher John Whitcomb on his show.
Someone called in asking,
“What happens to small children in the rapture?”
Whitcomb replied with,
I think that’s an easy question. Because remember Matthew 18, these little children don’t keep them away from me Jesus said because such is the kingdom of heaven and they have guardian angels watching over them. So yes, at the rapture all the children will go to heaven. And here is my opinion. Unborn children will be raptured all over the world. Abortions, 55 million babies have been murdered in America haven’t they by abortion. Where are they? In heaven.
I want to comment on Whitcomb’s answer.
i. Why is the rapture so special to deliver babies and small children from the day of the Lord’s wrath? How is it more special than babies and small children who perished by God’s wrath during the flood (Gen 7:21–23)?
ii. The Bible does not state that it makes these exceptions for God’s eschatological wrath: “I will destroy everything from the face of the earth,” says the LORD. ‘I will destroy people and animals; I will destroy the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea. I will remove humanity from the face of the earth,” says the LORD.’” (Zeph 1:2–3)
Whitcomb is reading into Scripture something that he wants to be there.
iii. He cites Matthew 18:10, “See that you do not disdain one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” Some people, including Whitcomb, are tempted to make too much of this verse, in this case, making the incredible leap to universal salvation of children. They are not called guardian angels as if they are present with children. All of God’s creation, especially children—who represent the most vulnerable in society—are significant to God. However, it would be an erroneous inference that they will all receive God’s grace of salvation at the rapture.
iv. What disturbs me most about Whitcomb’s answer is his complete silence of how the doctrine of original sin informs his answer, leading me to wonder if he even affirms it in the first place. I would hope that he agrees that all babies and children are deserving of wrath, otherwise he commits the heresy of Pelagianism, making his problematic theology more systemic. Original sin (i.e. our inherited sinful corruption from Adam) is not applied to us when we magically reach the age of, for example, thirteen. We are all conceived and born sinful, deserving of wrath before we have done any deeds. Whitcomb seems to suggest that we are not born sinful and only become sinful after we sin. This would commit a tenet of the heresy of Pelagianism. It is unfortunate that he gives a facile answer that has huge theological implications.
What is the most pastoral—and at the same time biblical—answer we should give parents? Instead of facile answers that contort Scripture’s meaning to say what we want it to say, the best response is to have parents trust God’s good purposes and his perfect attributes. We can have peace in knowing that God is all-good, all-wise, all-loving, all-free, and all-powerful, without presuming upon God’s purposes in the mercy of his chosen people and the vindication of his holiness toward the wicked.
If God gave us all the answers on these questions, then where would the room be for trusting God?