Article of the Month
This peculiar and
distressing-sounding phrase occurs seven times in the
New Testament Scriptures. Of course,
sensationalists and advocates of eternal torment apply
it to their mistaken concepts of a place of post-death
torture that doesn’t exist.
Nevertheless, the phrase is
frightening and ominous and needs to be interpreted in
its contexts. In three of its uses, it is joined
by another term: “outer darkness.”
Before looking at the seven
uses, it might be helpful to explain the meaning of the
terms. The Bible, much like everyday language,
uses expressions to convey thoughts that have no
relationship to the literal meaning of the words.
Someone, for instance, might say, “He’s a pain in the
neck.” Or, you might have heard something like,
“She’s a bull in a china shop.” We all
instinctively interpret those expressions quickly.
The person isn’t a pain — in the neck or elsewhere!
What we mean is that she is an irritant in the way she
does things. Likewise, she is not a bull!
Neither is she in a china shop. What we mean is
that she has a tendency to be oblivious to things around
her as she rushes into a situation; and, consequently,
she might seriously disrupt things to the detriment of
anyone or anything in her vicinity.
For some reason, many of us are
hesitant to give the Bible the same latitude of
expression. But we shouldn’t be. When God
prepared the Bible, He purposely used words and
expressions that would help us to understand things.
God’s spiritual realm has no resemblance to our
terrestrial existence. But He knows how to convey
ideas to us in expressions that we can understand.
Unfortunately, we tend to miss the point and to mystify
An example of this happened when
World War I broke out. President Wilson exclaimed
that “the whole world is on fire!” Everyone knew
what he meant. But the Apostle Peter said, “The
elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the
earth and its works will be burned up.” (II Peter
3:10) Almost nobody seems to know what Peter
“Weeping and Wailing” are just
about universally signs of great sadness, regret, or
loss. That is exactly what is meant in the
Scriptures. Those weeping and wailing are
expressing their intense sadness in losing something of
great value to them.
“Gnashing of Teeth” — that tight
clenching of the teeth together with open lips and a
grimacing face — is very much the world-wide response of
people who suddenly realize great disappointment or
chagrin. Frequently it is accompanied by a
vocal-chord sound we can’t quite spell — something like
The third expression, found
three times, is “outer darkness.” We even have a
worldly equivalent: “In the dark.” It means
that we have no answer, no explanation, no comprehension
regarding how this result came about. In all of
the Biblical uses, it is applied to people who
thought they were
pre-eminently in favor — only to discover rather
suddenly that they were hardly in the running!
Thus “cast him into outer darkness” may mean something
like “let him know that he is clueless.”
Six of the seven occurrences are
in Matthew (8:12; 13:42; 13:50; 22:13; 24:51; and
25:30). One occurrence is in Luke (13:28).
The expressions are used to
describe FOUR different groups (actually, three groups
as an individual). The phrases are applied to:
The Scribes and Pharisees during the Peaceable
Kingdom’s opening. (Matthew
People who are “Christians” in name only — even
if they are exemplary people.
Jesus calls them “tares.”
(Matthew 13:42; 22:13; Luke
An evil servant (and possibly a group of
The Great Multitude (of Revelation). (Matthew
25:30) Please see Article
of the Month for August, 2008.
These uses are in parables
(except for #1, #3, and the Luke citation).
The point of the Biblical uses
of these expressions is that, once the Kingdom is
people who lived during the millennia of human
experience will realize they were taught lies and were
living lies. It is not
necessarily that they were intentionally fraudulent; it
may just be that they were never introduced to what is
factual about God and what He has been doing.
Thus these instances of the use
of these hard-sounding words are not God’s condemning
them to something eternally awful. It is, rather,
His introducing them to the hard truth that they were
wrong, and that what they sought they will not obtain.
BUT IT DOESN’T MEAN that they
won’t obtain something wonderful!
The Scribes and Pharisees
will learn that their religious practice was very
faulty; but they also will learn the
new way to life and
joy. The “tare” class
(Christians who never knew what Christianity was all
about) will not find themselves (as they expected) in
heaven; but they will
find the indescribable joys of God’s Kingdom on earth.
The Great Multitude
(spirit-begotten Christians who
were in the running to
be a part of the “bride of Christ”) will find themselves
only to be bridesmaids. But their eternal joys
will be beyond verbal description.
The fellow in Matthew 24:5
is yet to be clearly defined. But his lot with
“hypocrites” makes it sound as though he may well have
actually been a “tare.”
Dark Age theology has cast a
pall of ugliness over Biblical interpretation.
Careful and unbiased examination of the Scriptures
removes our fear of God —not
our REVERENCE for Him, but our FRIGHT of Him.
There is nothing desireable nor
pleasant about the time when the REVEALING of our errors
will make us weep, wail, gnash our teeth, or find
ourselves silent without an explanation. But that
time must come and
Without the removal of false pretensions and
expectations, the new Kingdom of our Lord can never
function. The wailing will be turned to laughter;
the weeping, to joy; the gnashing of teeth, melting into
the smile of gratitude; and the darkness, filled with
light. “Thy Kingdom Come” is a prayer
to vivacious life.
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