The Spiritual Condition of The Unborn, Infants, and Young Children
What is the spiritual condition of infants, young children and the unborn? Some believe that infants and very young children who die are granted salvation, because they could not possibly understand what sin is. Others suggest that before a certain age, children are not held accountable for sin and because the unborn have never sinned they will be granted salvation. The major problem with these beliefs and assumptions is there is no scriptural conformation to support them.
In an attempt to support their position on the salvation of infants, young children, and the unborn, some point to Matthew 18:3-6 and Mark 10:13-16, which say that one must become as a little child to enter the Kingdom of God. So, to these people, infants and young children must be granted salvation by virtue of their youth. Notice what Jesus really said:
"And he said, Truly I say to you, Unless you convert, and become as the little children, in no way can you enter into the Kingdom of God. Therefore, whosoever will humble himself as this little child, this one is the greater in the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matt.18:3-4 Para.).
Jesus neither said that little children will enter the Kingdom of God nor implied they are granted salvation. In this example, Jesus noted two things which are necessary in order to enter the Kingdom of God: first, a person must be converted; second, a person must become child-like in humility. It is very clear that Jesus was merely using young children as an example of the attitudes and attributes people must have if they expect to enter the Kingdom of God.
The Age of Accountability
The age a person must be before being spiritually accountable is impossible for humans to establish with certainty, because this is God the Father's decision and it is predicated on belief, understanding, and repentance. All three of these are mental conditions, which are prerequisites to conversion and baptism, and all three are dependent on each other. For a person to have belief, there must be some understanding of what is believed.
Jesus says to repent and believe the Gospel: "Now that after John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:14-15 Para.).
In order to repent, a person must have an understanding of what to repent of (re-think) and what the gospel (good news) of the Kingdom is. In both Acts 16:31-33 and Acts 8:27-38, the people spoken of understood the circumstances surrounding Jesus and what he preached. Therefore, they were able to make their decisions based on the facts presented.
A major prerequisite for baptism is repentance: "Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the holy spirit" (Acts 2:38 KJV). But, repent of what? Be sorry for what? Desire to change what? In order to repent, a person must first understand something about the plan of God.
It is quite evident that a person cannot have the kind of belief, understanding, and repentance necessary for baptism unless he or she is old enough to have developed the mental capacity to make intelligent decisions based on the information presented. It is also evident that infants and young children have not developed the life experience and emotional stability to make and stand behind decisions of the magnitude that must be made before and after baptism. All of the scriptural examples show only adults (including young adults) being baptized, but no examples of infants or young children being converted.
The setting of a minimum age requirement for conversion is an impossibility because of the differences in the speed with which each individual grows into mental and emotional maturity. The ability to make decisions concerning conversion depends entirely on a person's maturity level, understanding of the gospel, and desire to follow God's way of life (See Luke 3:8).
Common sense dictates that infants and young children have not had the time or the life experience necessary to understand the requirements of salvation. They are certainly not able to understand the awesome implications or responsibilities of making a covenant with God. Therefore, the spiritual condition of infants and young children is the same as any unconverted person who has never had the opportunity for salvation.
God will only grant immortality and eternal life after a person goes through the process of conversion. Infants and young children who die before Christ's return will be brought back to life during the resurrection of "The Rest of the Dead" (Rev.20:4-6). Those who remain alive on earth at Christ's coming will live into the first thousand years of Christ's reign and have their opportunity for salvation at that time.
For those who profess to believe in the God of the Bible and follow biblical concepts, precepts, and principles the question of whether or not a woman's fetus is a living person cannot be answered by science alone, because the question of human life concerns more than the physical body, it also concerns the human spirit. Therefore, the answer to the question of when human life begins is both scientific and theological, which makes it impossible to give a simple and concise answer without reviewing both the scientific and biblical definitions of what human life is and reviewing what the Bible and Judaism have to say about a woman's fetus.
There is no doubt that, according to the Bible, human life is sacred. The God of the Bible shows through many different concepts, principles, instructions, and laws that human life is sacred and that all life must be shown respect.
There is also no doubt that a woman's egg fertilized by a man's sperm, will result in a new and unique individual being born if this process is allowed to proceed uninterrupted. The question is not if the physical process which results in human life begins at the moment of conception, because it clearly does. The question is when does human life begin according to the Bible; at conception, at some point during gestation, or at the moment of birth when the breath of life enters the lungs?
Clearly, the point at which the life of a human begins defines whether or not a fetus is a person with the spirit of man (i.e., a human spirit). Therefore, the following three questions which must be answered by those who profess to follow the God of the Hebrew Bible are:
- What does the God of the Bible consider human life?
- When does human life begin according to the Bible?
- What is the scientific definition of physical life?
Once these three questions are answered, whether or not a fetus is a person according to the Bible can be determined.
God Knows Us in the Womb
The biblical record is replete with the names of individuals, such as Samson, the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, kings David and Cyrus, John the Baptist, and Christ who were predestined to come into existence before their birth and to perform tasks to further the Sovereign God's plan for the salvation of humanity. Because these individuals were predestined to exist and because of the language used in describing them or their prophetic missions prior to their birth, some people believe this is proof that a fetus is a living individual with the spirit of man. The following are two such examples:
"Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?" (Job 31:15 KJV).
"For you have possessed my reins: you have covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise you; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works; and that my soul knows right well. My substance was not hid from you, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in your book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them" (Psa.139:13-16 KJV).
There are many other scriptures which set forth this same tone and show a personal identity of the fetus. On the surface these scriptures seem to indicate a fetus is a living individual within its mother's womb. Although the Bible clearly shows that God is involved in the creation of humans, this involvement and the ascribing of a personal identity to a fetus does not prove that a fetus is a living individual with the spirit of man as a part of its composition. Rather, these scriptures just show God's creative process, his control over it, and his ability to intervene in human affairs in order to produce a desired outcome.
Many quote the following text where the Creator God tells Jeremiah that he was predestined to become a prophet as a proof that life begins in the womb:
"Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet to the nations" (Jer.1: 4-5). See also Isa.49:1-5.
Although the Creator God predetermined that Jeremiah would be born and become a prophet before his physical conception, to say that this proves Jeremiah was considered a living entity before his birth is to apply a meaning that is not there. In saying that he knew Jeremiah before he was formed and before he was born only proves that the Creator had the ability to predetermine events and cause them to happen; it does not prove a fetus is a living individual with the spirit of man in the womb.
What this and other scriptures with the same tone prove is that some individuals are predetermined to come into existence to fulfill a specific function and responsibility for God as he guides the affairs of mankind in order to work out his plan and purpose for us.
John The Baptist
Some people believe that the angel's announcement to Zacharias telling him his son would possess the holy spirit from the womb, proves John the Baptist was alive with the spirit of man and the holy spirit in the womb. However, the Greek language of this text does not support this belief:
"But the angel said to him, Fear not, Zacharias: for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elisabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you shall have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the holy spirit, even from his mother's womb" (Lk.1:13-15 KJV Para.).
The English word from in verse 15 is translated from the Greek word ek; a primary preposition denoting a point of origin (i.e., the point from where action or motion proceeds), from or out of a place, a time, or a cause. If the writer had intended to mean that John possessed the holy spirit in the womb he would have used the Greek word en; a primary preposition denoting a fixed position in a place, a time or a state of existence.
The Greek language clearly reveals that John did not have the holy spirit in the womb, but received it at birth. Moreover, the apostle James tells us, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (Jms.2:26 KJV).
The English word spirit in verse 26 is translated from the Greek word pneuma, which means a current of air, a breath or a breeze; by analogy or figuratively, a spirit. Regardless of whether James was referring to the breath of life or the spirit of man, a human body without both is not alive.
The biblical fact is that human life as God created it does not exist without the breath of life and the spirit of man within the human body. It is also clear that the holy spirit does not dwell in a body devoid of the breath of life; therefore, a logical assumption is that the holy spirit entered John after his birth as a breathing, living person.
The Babe in Elizabeth's Womb
Many quote the following text as proof that a fetus is a sentient, cognitive individual in the womb:
"And Mary arose in those days, and went to the hill country with haste, to a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the holy spirit. And she spoke out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of your salutation sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy" (Lk.1:39-44 KJV).
In an attempt to show that this text proves the fetus in Elisabeth's womb was a sentient being with the spirit of man, some translations insert the words for joy after the word leaped in verse 44 to show that the fetus was able to perceive and understand what was taking place outside the womb and leaped for joy in response to Mary's salutation.
The English word leaped in this text is translated from the Greek word skirtao, which basically means to jump, i.e. to sympathetically move.
This scripture simply records the reaction of the fetus being stimulated by Elisabeth's emotional response to hearing Mary's greeting and Elisabeth being filled with the holy spirit. There is nothing in this event which indicates a fetus is a sentient being with cognitive ability.
A literal translation of verse 44 is: "Lo, for, as soon as sounded the voice salutation of yours in ears mine, for joy leaped the babe in womb my."
In this verse, the English word joy is translated from the Greek word agalliasis, which basically means exultation and specially, welcome. However, agalliasis is a constructed word which is found only in the Bible and the early church writings with one other exception as noted in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Volume 1, page 19.
Although the Greek meaning of agalliasis can mean joy, the meaning of agalliasis is more metaphorical and idiomatic than literal and does not in any way ascribe cognitive thought to the fetus in Elisabeth's womb. Moreover, the Greek language in verse 44 can be interpreted to mean the joy (agalliasis) was possessed by either Elizabeth or the fetus. The context of Luke 1:39-44 seems to show that the joy being expressed was Elizabeth's, not the fetus'.
The question of whether or not the fetus in Elizabeth's womb, which was predetermined by the Creator God to become John the Baptist, was a living human with cognitive thought and the spirit of man can be answered from the biblical texts which explain what human life is and is not.
A Quality of Life Issue
Solomon who was given the gift of wisdom by the Creator God says the following:
"If a man fathers a hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years are many, and his soul is not filled with good, and also that he is not buried; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he. For he came in with vanity, and departs in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness. Moreover he that has not seen the sun, nor known any thing: has more rest than the other" (Eccl.6:3-5 KJV Para.). See also Eccl.4:1-3.
The English phrase untimely birth in verse 3 is translated from the Hebrew word nephel, which means something fallen, i.e., a miscarriage of a fetus in this text.
Solomon is not advocating abortion nor is he attributing sentient or cognitive ability to the unborn; he is just addressing a quality of life issue and a logical alternative by stating that it is better for some not to be born than to live an exceedingly miserable life.
While lamenting his current situation, Job voiced similar logic to that of Solomon about quality of life issues and life's difficulties. Notice what Job said at the end of a litany of curses he pronounced against the day of his birth:
"Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?" (Job 3:11 KJV).
Although poetic the King James translation of the Hebrew text does not accurately convey what Job said. A more accurate translation based on the Hebrew language of this text would be, "Why was I not dead in the womb or died at birth."
"Why then did you let me be born? Why did not you let me die at birth? It would have been as if I had not existed, I should have gone directly from the womb to the grave" (Job 10:18-19 Para). See also Job.3:2-4,11,19.
Rather than affirming that a fetus is a viable human life, Job indicates that human life begins at birth.
Although both Solomon and Job advance a strong argument for quality being more important that being alive under certain circumstances, neither advocated abortion, both just state a fact. Clearly, it seems better for some to never be born than to endure a life of misery.
Jesus said that there are two elements of the human existence and that we must fear God who can terminate both the physical and non-physical elements:
"And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt.10:28 KJV). See Gen.6:1-7; Lk.12:4-5.
The English word body in this text is translated from the Greek word soma, which means a physical human/animal body, or corps. The Greek word for soul is psuche, which means breath, life, or mind. Here, there are two distinct elements of physical and non-physical human life spoken of in the Bible and both elements can be completely destroyed by God.
Understanding that a human body is only a physical housing through which we can experience this physical dimension of time and space helps us to understand what human life is and the importance of knowing when life begins and our responsibility to respect life as God's creation.
The Physical Element
In order to determine what God considers human life and its life-force, we need to review what the Bible says about the creation of mankind and where this life-force resides within the physical body.
The Breath of Life
"And the Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the ground, and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul" (Gen.2:7 Para.). See also verse 8; Deut.32:18.
The English word breath in this text is a translation of the Hebrew word neshamah, which can mean wind, vital breath, divine inspiration, or intellect.
In verse 7, the English word soul is a translation of the Hebrew word nephesh, which means a breathing creature or animal, vitality, beast, body, or breath. The Hebrew word nephesh means a state of being alive.
The Creator formed the lifeless body of the first human out of the elements of the earth and brought it to life by blowing air into its lungs.
The Genesis account of the beginning of Adam's life clearly documents that, for a person to be alive, he or she must be breathing. This is clearly the case, because when a person stops breathing all bodily functions begin to shut down: the brain ceases to function and the body becomes immobile and begins to decay.
The Creator God said the following about the breath of life as he was about to destroy the earth in a flood:
"And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die" (Gen.6:17 KJV). See also Gen.7:15, 21-22.
The English words breath and life are translated from the Hebrew words ruwach and chay, which respectively mean wind, life, and a living thing.
The Psalmist said the following concerning the breath of life and the death of a human:
"His breath goes forth, he returns to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish" (Psa.146:4 KJV).
"You hid your face, they are troubled: you take away their breath, they die, and return to their dust" (Psa.104:29 KJV).
The book of Jeremiah contains God's condemnation of men who make, worship, and trust in lifeless man-made idols:
"Every man is brutish in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the carved image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. They are vanity, and the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish" (Jer.10:14-15). See also Hab.2:18-19; Jer.51:17-18.
Notice that these idols are lifeless because they do not have the breath of life in them.
Clearly, it is a biblical and a scientific fact that the breath (i.e., oxygen in the lungs) begins and sustains the physical life function of an individual after birth. It is also a fact that a lack of oxygen terminates the human life function.
Life Is in the Blood
In the Book of Leviticus, chapter 17, we are told that life is in the blood:
"And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eats any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul [nephesh] that eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood; Therefore I said to the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood,. For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof:. . ." (Lev.17:10-14 KJV).
In this age, we can understand the biological implications of this prohibition. The heart circulates the blood throughout the body, which in turn performs its life sustaining functions. However, circulating blood is of no value unless it is saturated with oxygen in a specific ratio with the blood—no oxygen, no life—no breath of life, no life.
What is it that activates life and that is the most essential sustaining force of life from a biblical perspective? It is the breath of life—the oxygen, which is in the blood. Without oxygen to saturate the blood, physical human life cannot exist.
Since life is in the blood, it follows that the sperm and egg are not a human life as there is no blood within them. It also follows that, until the fertilized egg matures to the point to where it has its own independent blood and oxygen supply it has no independent life as defined by the Bible. Moreover, the blood and oxygen within a fetus originates from the mother and it is sustained by her life-force.
A fetus apart for its mother's sustaining blood and oxygen cannot survive, unless it begins to breathe on its own after leaving its mother's womb. Therefore, logic tells us that, until a fetus is separated from its mother's womb and is functioning with oxygenated blood separate from its mother's womb, it is not physically a viable individual life.
If God had not activated Adam's life functions by blowing air into his lungs, Adam would not have lived. But, is human life no more than a chemical-electric reaction of a well designed structure of gas, fluid, and solid matter reacting to internal and external stimuli? Is this the sum of what God created as physical mankind? If so, humans would be no different from any other animal. But humans are different from animals and the rest of creation in many obvious ways. Humans are on a higher plane of life existence than the rest of creation. But, what is it that makes mankind different? According to the Bible, it is the unseen physical and spirit elements of the human creation which makes us different from the rest of creation.
The Spiritual Element of the Human Creation
There is another element to human life besides the physical body. This element is the spirit in man which separates us from the rest of creation:
Job said, "But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty gives them understanding" (Job 32:8 KJV).
The English word spirit is a translation of the Hebrew word ruwach, which can mean wind or mind. Ruwach does not mean a physical being or a being at all. Rather, it denotes something that is not physical, which in the context of this text, has to do with God's ability to impart understanding to the human mind.
The prophet Zechariah said this about the creation of the spirit in man:
"The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, says the Lord, which stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him" (Zech.12:1 KJV). See also Ecc.12:5-7.
The human spirit is a non-physical element of the human body which truly separates humans from the rest of the physical creation. God calls this non-physical element the spirit in man and he has designed it to be a part of the human body. It is this spirit that gives mankind the ability to be on a higher thought-plane than all other physical creatures on earth.
The spirit in man is only one of the two elements of human life which the scientific community does not understand or ascribe to the human life function. Nevertheless, the spirit in man is of major importance to human life before and after death.
At the moment the fetus is removed from its mother's womb and inhales the breath of life it becomes a living spirit housed in a physical body:
"And the Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the ground, and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul" (Gen.2:7 Para.). See also Gen.1:26-27.
THE GOD OF SPIRITS
The scriptures show that God formed the spirit which lives within the human body. Animals do not have the potential for immortality and they do not relate to God in the same way as humans. Furthermore, they do not have the ability to worship or interface with God like humans do (Rom.8:14-16).
As Moses and Aaron were beseeching God for the lives of the Israelites: "They fell on their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and will you be angry with all the congregation?" (Num.16:22 Para.). See also Num.27:16.
The spirit in man is not an undefinable essence nor is it mysteriously apart from man. The spirit of man is man. The physical body is the habitation of the spirit, which is the sentient and conscious element of the human creation.
Where Does the Body Go at Death?
Science defines death as the cessation of the life function (i.e., all systems cease to operate—the heart stops circulating blood, the brain stops sending orders to the organs, all thought processes cease, the body becomes immobile, all regeneration processes stop, and the body starts to decay).
The Bible defines physical death in the same way as science:
"By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground. For you have been taken out of it; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Gen.3:19 Para.).
God says that our bodies were made from the elements of the earth and they will return to these same elements after death.
King Solomon wrote the following about what happens to the physical body after death:
"For that which happens to the sons of men, and that which happens to beasts; even one event is to them. As this one dies, so that one dies; yes, one breath is to all; so that there is to the man no advantage over the beast; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are of the dust, and return to the dust" (Ecc.3:19-20 Para.).
Solomon says that both man and beast have the same death process; they both die and return to the elements from which they were made. There is no quarrel between what Solomon said and the scientific definition of death. At death, the physical body in which God placed the spirit of man ceases to function. However, there is more to the physical body than the visible elements from which it is made.
Where Does the Spirit Go at Death?
Solomon asked the same question many have asked over the centuries about the destination of the spirit in man:
"Who knows the spirit of the sons of man, whether it goes upward, and the spirit of the beast whether it goes downward to the earth?" (Ecc.3:21 Para.).
The great difference between Solomon and most people who ask this question is he knew the answer:
"Then the dust shall return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return to God who gave it" (Ecc.12:7 Para.).
The spirit of man returns to God who is the one who gives the human spirit to each individual who survives the birth process and takes their first breath. Jesus also understood this when he said just before he died: "Father into your hands I commit my spirit. And saying this, his breath left him" (Lk.23:46 Para.).
Jesus' exhaled his last breath and died. His spirit, which was composed of material from the spirit dimension of existence, returned to God the Father who inhabits the spirit-realm.
THE RESURRECTION OF ISRAEL
Another key to understanding when human life begins is found in Ezekiel, chapter 37. This chapter contains the prophecy of the valley of dry bones, which are Israelites who have died throughout the ages.
This prophecy clearly shows these Israelites will not be given a spirit body like those who participate in the first resurrection, but they will be brought back to a physical life as human beings after Christ returns, in order to receive an opportunity for salvation under the New Covenant with national Israel.
Ezekiel says the following about the bones of these Israelites:
"And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he to me, Prophesy to the wind, prophesy son of man, and say to the wind, Thus says the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood upon their feet, an exceeding great army" (Ezk.37:8-10 KJV).
There are similarities between this resurrection and the creation of Adam and Eve. God made Adam's body from the elements of the earth, and then he took a bone from Adam's body and made Eve. In this resurrection, God takes the bones (an allegory of the dead Israelites) to use as the foundational substance with which to reconstruct each individual Israelite. Adam, Eve, and these resurrected Israelites are constructed from the elements of the earth. And like Adam, these Israelites have no life-force until air is placed into their lungs and they begin to breathe.
In order for these reconstructed bodies to function as sentient beings, the spirit of man must be put back into them, because the body without the spirit of man is lifeless (See James 2:26). At death, the body dies and becomes useless to the spirit of man which inhabited it.
The Records of the Dead
The Father has promised to not only resurrect all of the Israelites who have ever lived and died without an opportunity for salvation but also the rest of humanity who have not had this opportunity. In order to accomplish this task, in addition to the spirit of each deceased individual, he has a record of each person's intellect (mind) stored in heaven.
Humanly, we can understand that everything in the physical universe operates under a system of immutable laws, which control and sustain the physical creation. The physical record of man does not exist in some mysterious magical non-physical dimension of time and space; it exists as a physical thing, which was created as a part of the human being and exists under the specific laws which regulate its physical existence.
The scriptures tell us that the rephaim or the record of a dead human body, which occupies a place noted in the Bible as sheol, is not spirit or human, does not have conscious thought, and is not animated or alive. However, it is real and made of physical substance which occupies physical time and space within this dimension of existence.
Because of the abundance of allegorical and factual references about sheol and the rephaim which occupy it, the rephaim must be the physical record and pattern of each human body. For details about the rephaim, see chapter 12, The State of the Dead.
Although this record or pattern is invisible, it is still physical; therefore, it must be composed of pure energy in one form or another. This invisible, physical element is the physical record/pattern which God will use to reconstruct each individual's unique physical body at the proper time in his plan for the salvation of humanity.
The physical body decays and returns to its basic elements, but the the physical record/pattern of the individual remains intact and is stored on earth.
The rephaim, which is the record/pattern of the physical human form, remains on earth because it is a part of this physical dimension of time and space and cannot enter the spirit realm.
The Resurrection Process
The spirit record of a human is kept in heaven, the physical record is stored on earth, and each is being held ready for the resurrection process. The scriptures show that there will be two kinds of resurrections: one is to spirit life as a spirit-being, and the other is to physical life as a human being.
The resurrection to a physical life, like the one shown in the prophecy of dry bones, first requires the construction of a physical body, then oxygen being placed in the lungs to bring the body to life, and finally the placing of the spirit of man back into the body in order for it to function as a sentient human. Again, it is the breath of life which allows human life to begin.
YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN
While explaining the change which must take place in order for a human to become a spirit-being, Jesus used the analogy of the human birth process. Within this analogy, we can determine when human life begins and when the spirit of man enters into an individual.
Notice what Jesus says to the Pharisee Nicodemus about being born of the spirit:
John 3:1-10 Paraphrased
"But there was a man from the Pharisees, Nicodemus his name, a ruler of the Jews. This one came to Jesus by night, and said to him, Rabbi, we know that you have come as a teacher from God. For no one is able to do these miracles which you do, except God be with him" (vs.1-2).
As most Jews of his day, Nicodemus was looking for the Messiah to come for the purpose of delivering the Jews from captivity, establishing the Kingdom of God, and restoring Israel as a nation. However, he did not expect to hear what Jesus told him in reference to being a participant in the Kingdom of God:
"Jesus said to him, Truly, truly I say to you, if one does not receive birth from above, he is not able to see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus said to him, How is a man able to be born, being old? He is not able to enter into his mother's womb a second time and be born?" (vs.3-4).
From the language Christ used, Nicodemus understood Jesus was talking about a literal birth, in which the fetus comes out of the womb and becomes a living, breathing individual. However, in his mind, he could only picture a physical birth. But, Jesus was not speaking of a physical rebirth; he was speaking of a completely different kind of birth process:
"Jesus answered, Truly, truly I say to you, If one does not receive birth out of water and spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of God. That receiving birth from the flesh is flesh; and that receiving birth from the spirit is spirit" (vs.5-6).
Jesus clearly explains to Nicodemus that he is speaking of a birth into the spirit-realm and not a rebirth into the physical world:
"Do not wonder because I told you, You must receive birth from above. The spirit breathes where he desires, and you hear his voice; but you do not know from where he comes, and where he goes—so is everyone having received birth from the spirit. Nicodemus answered and said to him, How can these things come about? Jesus answered and said to him, You are a teacher of Israel, and you do not know these things" (vs.7-10).
According to what is written in the New Testament, a person receives birth from above when the spirit of adoption enters into them after they have come out of the baptismal water, which is symbolic of the death of the old person.
In a physical birth, life apart from the womb begins at the moment the breath of life enters the newborn's lungs. If this never happens, there is no live human body which the spirit of man can inhabit. It is exactly the same in being born as a spiritual son in the Sovereign Father's family and Kingdom. If the Father's spirit of adoption never enters into a person, that person is not born of the spirit as a new creation in the Father's earthly family of king-priests. See Rom.8:14-16; Eph.4-24; Rev.1:5, 5:10.
Miscarriage or Manslaughter
Exodus 21:22-25 is often quoted as proof that a human life begins in the womb:
"If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart [from her], and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges [determine]. And if [any] mischief follow, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe:" (Ex.21:22-25 KJV).
Verse 22 of this instruction shows the miscarriage of the fetus is due to injury inflicted on the woman during a fight between men. However, the injury does not rise to the level of a capital offence for which the penalty would be death. Instead, the injury is determined to be a civil matter for which the penalty is compensation for the miscarriage to be determined by the husband and the court.
The fact that the husband must be compensated for the miscarriage of the fetus tells us the husband suffers a loss of one of his possessions (i.e., a live child). Because a potential child has been lost, restitution for this loss must follow the guidelines for a loss of property or livestock noted in Exodus 22:1-15.
What seems clear from verse 22 is that the miscarriage results in a fetus which does not become a live infant, otherwise, no monetary payment would be due to the woman's husband.
Although nothing in the language of verses 23-25 clearly tells us it is the woman who sustains a lingering physical disability or dies due to her injuries, this instruction does speak to the laws delineating punishment where no compensation can be made for a physical injury or a loss of life.
Under the laws of restitution and retribution which the Creator God gave to govern ancient Israel, a person who wronged another person was to make restitution and just compensation for the damage caused. However, in certain situations, such as murder, no restitution could be made, because a human life cannot be restored or compensated for by the perpetrator nor could an eye or a hand lost due to the initial actions of another person be restored. Therefore, a punishment fitting the severity of the loss was required—a life for a life, an eye for an eye. See Lev.24: 19-20; Deut.19:16-21.
We are many centuries removed from the fountain of knowledge which flowed within ancient Israel and there is no consensus of opinion among Hebrew scholars (past or present) as to whom is referred to in verse 23. Additionally, verse 23 does not say someone dies as a result of the injury. The only thing we can know for sure is that, as a result of either a death or a disability, a severe punishment was to be administered.
Exodus 21:22-25 cannot honestly be used to prove or disprove whether or not human life begins within the womb.
The most common argument that human life begins in the womb and that abortion is murder comes from the belief that abortion is the termination of an innocent human life. The following scriptures clearly say that the shedding of innocent blood is a capital crime in God's eyes:
"Cursed is he that takes a reward to kill an innocent person" (Deut.27:25 Para.).
"Yes, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters to devils, And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood" (Psa.106:37-38 KJV).
"These six things does the Lord hate: yes, seven are an abomination to him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, . . ." (Prov.6:16-17 KJV). See also Jer.7:6; Psa.106:37-38; Prov.6:16-17.
These is no doubt that a fetus has the potential to become a living individual; however, the assumption that abortion is shedding innocent blood begs the question of whether or not a fetus in the womb is a living individual according to the biblical definition of a living individual who has the spirit of man.
JUDAISM AND ABORTION
In Judaism, the biblical perspective concerning abortion is reasonably unambiguous in that biblical concepts and principles and rabbinical writings show a consensus of opinion concerning the status of a fetus. It is generally agreed that, although the fetus has the potential of human life, it is not an individual, but is considered a part of the woman's body. Virtually all Jewish authorities would agree that abortion is not defined as murder under biblical law.
There are many deferring opinions expressed in rabbinical writings, such as the Mishnah and the Talmud, as to the circumstances when a woman has a legitimate reason to have a therapeutic or a non-therapeutic abortion. However, the consensus of opinion is that, just as one is constrained by biblical law from mutilating one's own body, so too a woman is not permitted to capriciously abort her fetus as a matter of convenience or as a means of birth control in order to avoid the responsibility of bearing and caring for a child.
Orthodox Judaism's view of the abortion issue is not easy for most people to understand, because it is rooted in both tradition and biblical law and there is no consensus among Jewish scholars and rabbis to establish a single principle by which to determine the morality of abortion. However, much of what is taught by Orthodox Judaism concerning abortion is based in biblical concepts and logic.
Jewish tradition divides the issue of abortion into four basic categories:
- The legal status of the fetus
- The exact moment when the spirit of man is imparted
- The criteria for a therapeutic abortion
- The criteria a non-therapeutic abortion
The Legal Status of the Fetus
While recognizing that a fetus in its mother's womb has the potential of human life, Jewish opinion does not consider a fetus to be alive with the spirit of man; therefore, the fetus does not have legal standing of its own.
Rashi, a well known 12th century commentator on the Bible and Talmud, says regarding the fetus: "lay nefesh hu-it is not a person." (Responsa Koah Schorr, no. 20). The Talmud contains the expression "ubar yerech imo-the fetus is as the thigh of its mother", which shows that a fetus is deemed to be part and parcel of the pregnant woman's body. This assessment is correct because the mother's body sustains the fetus.
The Exact Moment When the Spirit of Man Is Imparted
Because of the many opinions, speculation, and disagreement among the various rabbis and Jewish scholars throughout history, the exact moment in time when the spirit of man is imparted and a human body becomes a sentient being cannot be determined from Jewish literature. The only part of this issue that there seems to be some agreement on, is that it is a secret of God which will be revealed when the Messiah comes.
Therefore, this issue has little or no bearing in Jewish decisions concerning abortion.
The Criteria for a Therapeutic Abortion
There are two principles which determine if abortion is justified. The first is that a fetus is only a potential life until it leaves the woman's body. Therefore, it is justified to sacrifice a potential life in order to save an existing life. The second is that of self-defense. In Jewish law, one is permitted to defend oneself, even to the extent of taking the attacker's life should one's own life be in jeopardy. Therefore, if the woman's life is in danger from the pregnancy, it is permissible to remove the fetus to save the woman's life.
The Criteria a Non-therapeutic Abortion
There are many opinions and much relevant information to be considered which lead to different conclusions concerning non-therapeutic abortions in the Jewish community. Some of these are as follows:
- A pregnancy which impairs the mother's ability to provide milk to nurse an existing infant who could not survive without this milk for various reasons. This situation becomes an issue of saving and existing child.
- Long-term effects of pregnancy to the woman, such as her mental health, or a permanent physical disability.
- Adultery, Rape, and Incest.
The majority of Jewish legal opinion is that abortion is permissible at any stage of the pregnancy if the well-being of the woman is jeopardized. However, the well-being of the unborn child's future after birth is not grounds for abortion. The determining factor to prohibit or permit a non-therapeutic abortion is for the health of the mother, not the fate or condition of the fetus.
Although biblical law is silent concerning abortion, Judaism, seems to have a reasonably clear and balanced biblical perspective concerning the subject of abortion.
The Pursuer and the Perused
R. Huna said, "A minor in pursuit may be slain to save the pursued. Thus he maintains that a pursuer, whether an adult or a minor, need not be formally warned. R. Hisda asked R. Huna: we learnt [learned]: Once his head has come forth, he may not be harmed, because one life may not be taken to save another. But why so? Is he not a pursuer? — There it is different, for she is pursued by heaven." See Talmud Mas. Sanhedrin 72b.
"This refers to a woman giving birth, whose life is endangered. Now, if the fetus put forth any limb but the head, it may be cut off, so as to facilitate delivery, and save the mother. But if his head issued, it is regarded as alive, and the mother may not be saved at his expense. I.e., in seeking to be born, he is as a pursuer endangering his mother's life. There it is different [a difference], for she is pursued by heaven." See Talmud Mas. Sanhedrin 72b.
There is no doubt that murder of another human violates God's law (Ex.20:13) and there is no doubt that God considers the malicious premeditated taking of a human life to be murder and a capital crime worthy of the death of the perpetrator (Gen.9:6; Ex.20:5). However, the scriptures clearly indicate that human life begins at birth when the breath of life animates the body and the spirit of man is placed into the body.
One simply cannot prove from the Bible that therapeutic or nontherapeutic abortion is a violation of God's law. What one can prove is that human life is precious and that God does not look favorably on those who treat human life with callous indifference.
Because no direct or indirect law can be cited from the Bible concerning therapeutic or non-therapeutic abortion, the decision to abort or not to abort should be weighed carefully considering all of the biblical concepts and principles dealing with the sacredness of life and the long term well-being of the woman clearly in mind.
Although abortion is an extremely complex issue, the decision to abort or not to abort for an adult woman who has the indwelling of the holy spirit and the ability to make the decision, it is within her authority to decide and is a matter of conscience.
Both biblical and scientific evidence clearly show that, in order for a person to be considered alive, that person must be breathing. Moreover, the Bible clearly shows that the spirit of man cannot inhabit a body which is not enlivened with the breath of life. Therefore, a logical conclusion is that a woman's fetus is not a living person with the spirit of man until it breathes the breath of life.
Infants And Young Children
The question of whether or not infants and very young children who die are granted salvation is answered by the apostle Peter when he explained the prerequisites for receiving the holy spirit, which transforms a person into a child of God:
"Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the holy spirit" (Acts 2:38 KJV).
Infants and very young children who die are in the same spiritual condition as any unconverted person who has never had the opportunity for salvation.
Infants and young children who die before the return of Christ will be resurrected in the resurrection of the rest of the dead. Those who remain alive at his coming will live into the first thousand years of Christ's reign and have their opportunity for salvation at that time.
Although a human fetus has the potential for human life outside the womb, human life as defined by the biblical record does not exist without the breath of life and the spirit of man within the human body. Additionally, the holy spirit does not dwell in a body devoid of the breath of life, therefore, the logical conclusion is that the unborn fetus it does not qualify for participation in God's plan of salvation became it never became fully human with the breath of life and the spirit of man.
By B.L. Cocherell b7w15