Unless You Become Like a Child
By David Miller
January 1, 2021
“And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:13).
These words, spoken by the eternal Son of God, the Creator of the universe, the One who holds the keys to God’s Kingdom as well as to death and Hades, and before whom everyone must one day stand in judgment to give an account, would seem worthy of our consideration (Mark 1:1; Col. 1:16; Matt. 6:19; Rev. 1:8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Acts 10:42). The only people who will enter heaven are those who were converted, and in their conversion, became like children (in some way).
It is these words found in Matthew 18:3, and similar words found in other places Scripture, that lead us to believe that children who die enter the kingdom of heaven (see, for example, 2 Sam. 12:23; Matt. 18:10; 19:14). If we must become like children in order to enter heaven (Matt. 18:3), and if the kingdom of heaven belongs to children (Matt. 19:14), it stands to reason that any and all children who die enter heaven. If you’ve ever lost a child or suffered a miscarriage, you’ve got a child in heaven.
It is also from Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:3 that we deduce that there must be a time when children reach an age when God no longer considers them to be children, but rather to be adults, at which time they must—if they hope to enter heaven—be converted and become, in some way, like the children whom they previously were. Theologians refer to that age of passage from childhood to adulthood as the “age of accountability,” a phrase that acknowledges the fact that children are sinful, but that they are not held accountable for their sin by God until they reach adulthood.
Scripture does not reveal an exact age when that transition takes place, and it seems reasonable to think that it could be different for every child. Some like to point to the ages of 12 and 13, when Jewish girls and boys celebrate their bat and bar mitzvahs. Personally, however, I would not want to stake my theology on Jewish tradition.
In any case, a most important question we should all ask ourselves is this: Have I been genuinely converted? Tragically, multitudes of people around the world who identify on some level as being Christians have never experienced authentic Christian conversion.
Authentic conversion is so dramatic that Scripture describes it as a resurrection. Unconverted people are characterized in the Bible as being dead. When they are converted, however, they become alive. That is one reason converted people are expected to immediately be baptized. When done biblically, baptism is done by total immersion, representing the new convert’s death, burial and resurrection. That is a picture of authentic Christian conversion. So every professing Christian should ask himself or herself: Have I been resurrected? Or am I just religious?
The Religious Chain
Although it is right and proper to spiritually train our children, there is an inherent danger in it: Our children might carry on our spiritual practices and traditions but never actually be converted. And their children and grandchildren might follow the same path, creating a chain of religious, but unconverted, descendants.
The human links in such chains never experience conversion simply because they don’t see their need to convert. They are convinced that their veneer of
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