A long-standing question tossed around by theologians, scholars and the merely curious is this: What is the earliest age at which someone becomes accountable to God in acknowledging the Messiah and being responsible for his or her sins? However, there is another aspect of the accountability question that is not discussed: When, if ever, does the age of accountability end?
Quite frequently, when I’m talking with someone about the need to acknowledge Yeshua as Messiah and Savior, a person responds by saying, I am too old to change. Maybe if I had heard this many years ago, I would have considered it, but not now.” Such a statement implies that when people reach a certain age they are no longer accountable to God. Because the Scriptures are silent on the first question, some of its aspects will continue to be discussed and wrestled with by those with the skill and time to consider such weighty matters. On the more practical side, however, I think we can easily surmise that we never stop being accountable to God as long as we live.
An ongoing contact I have had with an elderly Jewish gentleman showed me just how true this is. Mr. Kaplan (not his real name) had contact with a Jewish believer who had passed on his name to our Jews for Jesus office. When I called Mr. Kaplan to see if he would be interested in speaking further about the Messiah, he seemed very open and willing to meet with me. He quickly explained that he was 84 years old and had lived a rich and full life. Recently his wife of 50 years had passed away, and he was grieving.
In my initial contact with this gentleman I found him to be quite genial, bright and one to whom 84 years of experience had brought much knowledge and insight. Yet, as I broached the issue of the messiahship of Jesus, in the back of my mind I was ready for him to offer that timeworn statement, “I am too old to change.”
As we conversed, Mr. Kaplan revealed much of his life to me. Most important was the information that his wife had been a believer in Jesus, and he had attended church services with her for a number of years for the sake of family unity. However, he had not believed what he had been taught.
It was almost ironic that now, years later, Mr. Kaplan was sitting at home alone, contemplating the good life he had once had and the rich love he had shared with his wife, and finding himself with a spiritual void that yearned to be filled. With tears welling up in his eyes he looked at me with a look that went far beyond me, and asked a piercing question: “Why did the Lord take my wife and leave me? What purpose am I to achieve with these few years left in my life?”
I tried to answer this elderly gentleman whose eyes still burned brightly with the flame of life. I told him that perhaps one of the first things the Lord intended for him was that he should come to peace with God as his wife had done so many years ago. I could see that my words did not strike him harshly, but rather moved him. He knew that he was not too old to change, and that his life was not yet finished.
Later, as we continued to meet and then became friends, Mr. Kaplan confided that one day while sitting alone contemplating things, he had realized that Jesus is the Messiah. He had accepted this truth, as his wife had done years earlier, because he had seen that it was the truth concerning Jesus that had given her strength and peace during her times of greatest need. He wanted it for his life, too. Even at the ripe old age of 84, he knew that he was responsible before God for his life. In his spare time, this elderly man had begun to go out and volunteer to help others because he now felt a concern and a responsibility to give something back after so much had been given to him. Looking into his eyes as he told me all this, I knew that here was a man who did believe that you are never too old to change.