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Volume 45, Number 2
May - July 2014

The Adventures of Squirrelock Holmes (TM)

Planting and Building Healthy Churches

Off the Cuff!

Just For Ladies...

Sermons

On the Home Front

Guest Editorial

Answers in Genesis

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Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth (Part 1)
George Zeller

Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth:
Will This Be The Fate of True Christians?

 

by George Zeller, Middleton Bible Church

349 East Street, Middleton, CT 06457

 

There are seven passages in the New Testament which speak of "weeping and gnashing of teeth." Six are found in the Gospel of Matthew, one in Luke:

“And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:11-12).

“The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41-42).

“So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:49-50).

“And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:12-13).

“The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:50-51).

“For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:29-30).

“But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out” (Luke 13:27-28).

Bible students have generally understood these passages as referring to the doom of sinners in Hell, but this traditional understanding of these texts has been questioned in some circles. Joseph Dillow, in his book The Reign of the Servant Kings, writes the following:

The phrase "wailing and gnashing of teeth" is found seven times in the New Testament. Even though it is used on three occasions of the experience of the unregenerate in Hell (Matthew 13:42, 50; Luke 13:28), it is also used on four occasions of the regenerate in the kingdom (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30). The fact that the nonbeliever can experience profound regret in Hell in no way implies that the true Christian cannot experience profound regret in the kingdom (there will be no remorse in heaven...It seems that these verses adequately explain the experience of profound regret for the unfaithful Christian which Matthew calls "wailing and gnashing of teeth (p. 351).

Zane Hodges, in his book Grace in Eclipse, writes as follows:

Most Christian readers identify the "outer darkness" as a description of Hell. They would be surprised to learn that the Greek phrase employed here is used only three times, all in Matthew (8:12; 22:13; 25:30), and nowhere else in the New Testament....There is no suggestion here of punishment or torment. The presence of remorse, in the form of weeping and gnashing of teeth, does not in any way require this inference (p.89).

Robert Wilkin is the Executive Director of the Grace Evangelical Society (GES), a society which promotes the teachings of Zane Hodges and Joseph Dillow and others. Wilkin teaches that the "weeping and gnashing of teeth" represents the sorrow and remorse and regret that unfaithful believers will experience at the judgment seat of Christ. He says that this severe remorse and regret will not last for too long, perhaps for only a few moments. Hodges apparently holds to the same view.

 

What Does Gnashing of Teeth

Really Signify? The English Term

 

In Webster's original dictionary, Webster defined the verb "gnash" as "to grind the teeth, to rage even to collision with the teeth, to growl.” Webster defined the noun "gnashing" in this way: "striking the teeth together, as in anger, rage or pain. A grinding or striking of the teeth in rage or anguish."

It should be noted that Webster says nothing of sorrow or remorse or regret. To him the term signified anger, rage, pain or anguish.

A modern English dictionary, Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, defines the term as follows: "to grind or strike the teeth together, a grinding or grating together of the teeth in rage or anguish."

The Oxford English Dictionary (Volume IV, p. 244) defines "gnash" as follows:  "to strike together or 'grind' the teeth, esp. from rage or anguish, to strike the teeth together, as in rage or anguish."

The Encarta World English Dictionary (1999) defines "gnash" as "to grind your teeth together, especially in pain, anger or frustration."

None of these English Dictionaries indicate that the word carries the idea of sorrow or regret or remorse or grief.

A friend of mine tried to test these definitions.  Here's his report:  "Have you ever seen anyone gnash their teeth out of sorrow, grief, regret, remorse? I just tried to make some facial expressions as if I were experiencing some of those emotions, and grinding my teeth just doesn't fit. But anger, rage, pain, hatred fit perfectly."

 

The Greek Term
Verb
: brucw Noun: brugmos

 

How do the Greek Lexicons define the Greek term?

A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament by Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich defines gnashing as "a sign of violent rage." It also mentions that it was a term to describe the chattering of the teeth in chills and fevers.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines it in this way: "Primarily to bite or eat greedily (akin to bruko, to chew), denotes to grind or gnash with the teeth."

Greek English Lexicon by Liddell and Scott mention that is it used of the roaring of a lion (Proverbs 19:12, a usage which we will discuss later). It is also used of a horse champing (chewing, biting) at the bit. Metaphorically tear in pieces, devour – of a gnawing disease.

The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Volume 1, pp. 641-642) says that the root of this term was used "of the cry of pain of a stag mortally wounded by snake-bite." The article goes on to say that the term "gnash" was used 5 times in the LXX "always as an expression of hate" and in one place (Job 16:9) "it is linked with a desire to destroy the opponent" (p. 641). A similar usage is found in Acts 7:54 where the Jews gnashed their teeth at Stephen: "This attests their hatred and desire to destroy him" (p. 641).

Yet contrary to this clear usage in the LXX and in Acts 7:54, the author of this article (Rengstorf) says that the "weeping and gnashing of teeth" passages "simply denote despairing remorse" (p. 642), but he gives no reasons for such a conclusion except that the term is linked with "weeping." But remorse is not the only reason people weep and wail. People also weep and wail due to pain and anguish and for many other reasons.

The Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Volume 2, p. 421) gives a solid discussion of the usage of the terms "gnash" and "gnashing" in Acts 7:54 and in the LXX. "The noun brygmos (gnashing) always describes the condition of the wicked in the future life....While it is true that in many instances the usage of brycho (gnash) in the expression "to gnash the teeth" connotes anger, the association of the word with klauthmos (weeping) and the figure of torment that accompanies the term in Matthew 13:42, 50 seems to indicate that the gnashing of the teeth is not an indication of rage but of extreme suffering and remorse."

 

New Testament Usage

 

“And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:11-12).

Both Dillow and Hodges teach that these children of the kingdom are saved people (regenerate people) who will be excluded from the kingdom banquet halls and will not be permitted to reign with Christ. Instead they will experience sorrow and remorse and great regret for their unfaithfulness which was the cause of their exclusion.

But the passage actually teaches that they will be excluded from the kingdom entirely. The Lord Jesus marveled at the faith of a Gentile centurion. His point was simply that there will be Gentile participation in the future kingdom and there will be Jewish exclusion in the future kingdom. Many Jews who should be there won't be and many Gentiles who might not be expected to be there will participate fully. The "children of the kingdom" are Jews, those who by every right and privilege should be the participants of the kingdom. It was promised to them. But being a Jew, by itself, does not qualify a person for the kingdom. There must be personal faith. And being a Gentile does not disqualify a person. If the Gentile has faith he too may enter the kingdom.

"But here the unbelieving sons of the kingdom, who are the Jews and the natural heirs, are prophesied as being cast out, while believing Gentiles take part in it. The Lord indicates that as a result of their faith Gentiles will have a definite part in the coming kingdom. Entrance into the kingdom for Jew and Gentile is contingent upon the spiritual basis of faith in Jesus the Messiah." – Stanley D. Toussaint. (Behold the King: A Study of Matthew, p. 124).

"Sons of the kingdom" refers to the covenant earthly people of Israel – who include both believers and unbelievers – to whom, as a nation (not as individuals), the promised glorious earthly kingdom has been covenanted, unconditionally and everlastingly. And in this verse in particular, those who are cast out into outer darkness (and thus never to enter that kingdom) are the unbelieving "[Jewish] sons of the kingdom." – James Ventilato.

Faith such as this Gentile had demonstrated would be duplicated many times by other Gentiles, for Christ added, "Many will come from the east and west, and will take their places at the feast" (v.11). By this He was referring to Gentiles who would join with "Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven." But apart from faith in Christ none of Abraham's physical descendants could have a part in the kingdom. Those who heard the kingdom offer and then rejected the person of the King thereby excluded themselves from the kingdom. They will be consigned to darkness forever (v.12). – J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (p. 191).

Christ predicts that the "sons of the kingdom shall be cast into outer darkness." This is not the first time in Matthew that a warning of judgment is leveled against the unbelieving Israelites. In 3:11-12 Christ prophesied of a purging of the chaff from the wheat by "unquenchable fire," and He will repeat this in Matthew 22:24-25. It is not surprising then, that He uses this occasion of healing the centurion's servant as a reminder that Israel must turn to Him as Messiah/King or face this severe judgment with its eternal punishment. – Dr. Thomas O. Figart, The King of the Kingdom of HeavenA Commentary of Matthew (p. 162).

He was vainly looking for faith in Israel. Faith such as this made entrance into His kingdom possible, regardless of national, racial, or geographical residence (the East and the West). Eating at a banquet often pictured being in the kingdom; cf. Isa. 25:6; Matt. 22:1-14; Luke 14:15-24). But those who thought they would automatically gain entrance because of their religious backgrounds (they considered themselves subjects [lit, "sons"] of the kingdom) would not find entrance (Matt. 8:12). Instead they would be cast into judgment (thrown outside, into the darkness; cf. 22:13).Bible Knowledge Commentary (p. 37).

Thus Jesus announces that his Messianic kingdom shall be enjoyed by many who are not Jews....The sons (or children) of the kingdom, Jews, who were the recipients of the prophecies and thus the original heirs, are here told that without true faith mere race is no sufficient qualification for Christ's kingdom. – Homer Kent Jr., The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, (p. 942).

 

Outer Darkness or

The Darkness Outside

 

At this point it might be helpful to consider the expression "outer darkness." It is found only three places in the New Testament, all in Matthew's Gospel. These three passages can be found listed at the beginning of this paper.

All three passages speak of being "cast" into outer darkness. It is a word that is commonly used of being cast or thrown into Hell or into the lake of fire (see Matthew 5:29; 5:30; 13:42; 13:50; 18:8; 18:9; Mark 9:45; 9:47; Revelation 19:20; 20:10; 20:14; 20:15).

All three passages associate outer darkness with "weeping and gnashing of teeth." One of the purposes of this paper is to determine if the weeping and gnashing of teeth involves anger/rage/pain/anguish (which would signify a place of torment or punishment), or whether it refers to sorrow/grief/regret/remorse which is the position of Hodges, Dillow and Wilkin. We will discuss this more in detail later.

Hodges, Dillow and Wilkin teach that all three of these "outer darkness" passages refer to saved people who are excluded from kingdom joys and who are not allowed to reign with Christ due to their unfaithfulness. Hodges and Wilkin teach that this sorrow and remorse will take place at the Judgment Seat of Christ and will not last very long. Wilkin, in correspondence with this writer, said, "neither Hodges nor I believe that believers will be grieved beyond the bema."

Dillow seems to teach that the weeping and gnashing of teeth will take place in the kingdom: "The phrase 'wailing and gnashing of teeth' is found seven times in the N.T. Even though it is used on three occasions of the experience of the unregenerate in Hell, it is also used on four occasions of the regenerate in the kingdom...The fact that the nonbeliever can experience profound regret in Hell in no way implies that the true Christian cannot experience profound regret in the kingdom" (emphasis mine, Joseph Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, p. 351). Dillow elsewhere teaches that the duration of remorse in the kingdom will not be for long: "The experience of remorse need not last that long. We suspect that the duration of this period of self-examination is equal to the duration of the [millennial] banquet" (p. 532).

Hodges and Wilkin teach that the "weeping and gnashing of teeth" takes place at the judgment seat of Christ and that the remorse does not last very long. There are two reasons why this view of Hodges and Wilkin does not fit the Biblical data: 1) The Bible never speaks of believers being "cast" to the judgment seat of Christ. Church saints will arrive there apparently by means of rapture/resurrection and we will appear before Christ, but it never says we will be cast there. 2) The Bible never associates the judgment seat with outer darkness. Indeed, quite the opposite! It will be a time when everything will be manifested and brought to LIGHT: "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God" (I Corinthians 4:5).

Contrary to the teaching of Hodges, Wilkin and Dillow, there are many reasons why the "outer darkness" does not refer to the fate of true Christians.

The word "outer" occurs only in the three passages under discussion. Hodges likes to translate it, "the darkness outside." This is an acceptable translation. The term "outside" indicates exclusion. The question is whether it refers to exclusion from a millennial banquet (as Dillow suggests) or whether it refers to total exclusion from the kingdom (excluded from the kingdom due to the person's unsaved condition).

The word "outer" (εξωτερος) is closely related to another term "outside" (εξω) which is often translated "without" by the KJV. It is used several times as a description of unsaved people (those who are without, those who are outside): I Corinthians 5:12; 5:13; Colossians 4:5; I Thessalonians 4:12. It is never used as a description of saved people. It is used with respect to the location of those in Hell: "For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie" (Revelation 22:15). The Lord Jesus promised His believers that they would never be cast out (John 6:37, same word). Yet, in spite of this promise from our Lord, Hodges and Dillow and Wilkin believe that saved people will be cast into outer darkness.

Although the term "outer darkness" is only found in the three passages under discussion, the Bible does describe Hell elsewhere in terms of terrible darkness: "These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever" (II Peter 2:17). "Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever" (Jude 13).

Will true Christians be cast into outer darkness? Other passages describe the saved of this age in such a way that it makes such a fate impossible. Consider the following:

"Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Colossians 1:12-13). This statement is true of every born again believer. How could anyone possibly think that those who are partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light will be consigned to outer darkness? We have been delivered from the power of darkness and from the realm of the prince of darkness. Outer darkness is a realm that we could never enter.

"For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord" (Ephesians 5:8). "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness" (I Thessalonians 5:4-5; compare also Romans 13:11-12). How could children of the light be cast into outer darkness?

"To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me" (Acts 26:18). This is an inheritance shared by all true Christians! Would the God who turned them from darkness to light then cast them into outer darkness? Perish the thought!

"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" (I Peter 2:9). Would the God who called us out of darkness later cast us into outer darkness, even after we have been glorified? Such a theory makes no biblical sense.

"Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). Please note that in John 10:27 we learn that those who FOLLOW Christ are His true sheep. Christ promised His true sheep that they will not walk in darkness but they would have the light of life. Would He then turn around and cast them into outer darkness?

"Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (I Thessalonians 4:17). If Christ's beloved body and bride are going to be forever with the Lord, then how can some of them be cast into outer darkness? Christ would have to be in outer darkness with them, and such a thought is abhorrent. Outer darkness is not the destiny (not even the temporary destiny) of any member of Christ's body. 

 

"Children [sons] of the Kingdom"

 

This phrase is found in two places in Matthew (8:12 and 13:38). In the first it refers to unsaved Jews who will be cast into outer darkness; in the second it refers to saved people who will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father (13:43).

The fact that Matthew 8:12 refers to the unsaved can in no way be invalidated by appealing to Matthew 13:38 – for several reasons:

(1) Every single one of "the sons of the kingdom" in Matthew 13 is said to "shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father"; whereas it is "the sons of the evil one" who are all "cast" into the furnace of fire with weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The reverse is true in Matthew 8:12 – there it is "the sons of the kingdom" who are excluded from the kingdom, being "cast" out into outer darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth.

These two passages simply cannot be harmonized apart from understanding the different meanings of "sons of the kingdom" in each passage. (Note, by the way, that there is no middle ground here in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares; it's either "shining forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" or being "cast into the furnace of fire" – no middle ground of a supposed "outer darkness" separate from the "furnace of fire".)

(2) The "kingdom" referred to in Matthew 8:12 is NOT the same as the "kingdom" referred to in Matthew 13:38 (and 41). Thus this too shows that "sons of the kingdom" in each passage means two different things.

The kingdom spoken of in Matthew 8:12 is the prophesied, covenanted, glorious earthly kingdom of the heavens. The kingdom spoken of in Matthew 13:38 (and 41) was not even revealed at the time of Matthew 8:12. For Matthew 13:38 (and 41) refers to a hitherto unrevealed mystery-kingdom (Christendom) intervening from the rejection of the King by Israel until He returns in glory to this earth to establish that prophesied, covenanted, glorious earthly kingdom of the heavens of Matthew 8:12.

The "sons of the kingdom" in Matthew 13, therefore, speaks of those who are real/genuine ones in this mystery-kingdom; as the "sons of the evil one" speaks of those who are not real/genuine ones in the mystery-kingdom – but false professors.

This mystery-"kingdom" is a peculiar sphere of profession (Christendom), consisting of both the genuine ("the sons of the kingdom") and the non-genuine ("the sons of the evil one"); i.e., the true and the false, the good and the bad; though it started out with only the genuine, but into which certain men crept in unawares by the operations of the devil.

In Matthew 13 "the sons of the kingdom" are such (genuine ones) because they are the real believers, the good seed, properly belonging to and put ("sown") by the Lord into that peculiar sphere of profession/witness/testimony on earth, during the course of His national rejection and period of absence, until He returns in glory to establish His prophesied, covenanted, glorious earthly kingdom of the heavens (into which only the real will enter at its initial establishment, 8:12).

(3) In addition to all this, Matthew 8:11-12 is elucidated by Luke 13:27-29, which thus defines for us who "the sons of the kingdom" are which are spoken of in Matthew 8:12.

"But I say unto you, that many shall come from the rising and setting sun, and shall lie down at table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens; but THE SONS OF THE KINGDOM shall be cast out into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 8:11-12, emphasis added).

"I tell you, I DO NOT KNOW YOU WHENCE YE ARE; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves cast out. And they shall come from east and west, and from north and south, and shall lie down at table in the kingdom of God" (Luke 13:27-29, emphasis added).

It is a strange objection coming from men such as Hodges & Dillow to argue the illegitimacy of "the sons of the kingdom" applying in two different senses in two different passages, especially when they themselves admit the validity of making such distinctions when they (albeit wrongly) apply "weeping and gnashing of teeth" to saved people in one set of passages and to unsaved people in another set of passages.  – James Ventilato

 

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