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

 

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--these are marked in red above).  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--these passages are highlighted above), 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, 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 (Vol. IV, page 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 [it means to] tear in pieces, devour--of a gnawing disease.

The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Volume 1, pages 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). However 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, page 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 Heaven--A 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 (compare 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 (those passages highlighted in yellow).

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" (1 Cor. 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):  1 Corinthians 5:12; 5:13; Col. 4:5; 1 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" (2 Pet. 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" (Col. 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" (Eph. 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" (1 Thess. 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" (1 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" (1 Thess. 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 Matt. 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, yet 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" (Matt. 8:11-12).

"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).

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
 

New Testament Usage (continued)

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).

This passage is very similar to the first passage we considered (Matthew 8:11-12).    Both passages speak of Jews who will be excluded or thrust out from the kingdom even though they had great privilege and opportunity.  Both passages speak of Gentiles coming from the east and west and sitting down in the kingdom (see Luke 13:29).  Both passages teach that Jews who should be in the kingdom are out and Gentiles who are "afar off" (Eph. 2:17) will be in!   And yet for some strange reason, Dillow says Matthew 8:11-12 refers to saved people gnashing their teeth and Luke 13:28 refers to lost people gnashing their teeth. But if the teaching of the two passages is so similar, what valid reason does Dilow have for reaching such opposite conclusions?  It is far more consistent to say that both passages refer to unsaved Jews who will be thrust out of the kingdom due to their unbelief.

These remarks were revolutionary to Jesus' hearers. Most of them assumed that because they were physically related to Abraham they would naturally enter into the promised kingdom. However, His next words were even more revolutionary--in fact devastating--to those who assumed that only the Jewish nation would be involved in the kingdom. Jesus explained that Gentiles would be added to the kingdom in place of Jewish people (Luke 13:29-30). --Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 241.

Gentiles will travel to the brightness of Christ's kingdom from all corners of the earth and enjoy its wonderful blessings.  Thus many Jews who were first in God's plan for blessing will be rejected, while the Gentiles who were looked down upon as dogs will enjoy the blessings of Christ's Millennial Reign.  --William MacDonald, Believer's Bible Commentary, p. 1424.

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).

Hodges, Wilkin and Dillow agree, as do we, that this passage is referring to hell.  When the passage says, "Cast into a furnace of fire" then these men consider it a reference to hell.  When the passage says, "Cast into outer darkness" then these men say that it refers to the deep remorse of those who are saved.    Are we really justified in making such a distinction, especially in light of the fact that hell is described elsewhere as both a furnace or lake of fire and also as a place of deep darkness (Jude 13)?

This Matthew 13 passage seems to contradict the theories of Hodges, Wilkin and Dillow.  Two and only two groups are mentioned in this passage:  1)  The righteous who will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father (v.43);  2)  The lawless ones who will be removed from the earth prior to the kingdom and cast into a furnace of fire (v.41-42).  No mention is made of a third group of unrighteous believers who fail to inherit the kingdom (which is what Hodges, Wilkin and Dillow teach based on 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21).  Why is there no mention made of the wicked, lawless saved people who enter the kingdom but who are not allowed to reign with Christ?   Again, only two groups are mentioned.

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).

This is another passage where we all agree that saved persons are not being cast into the furnace of fire and regenerate people are not wailing and gnashing their teeth.  But again, notice that only two groups are mentioned: 1) the wicked;  2) the righteous.  No third group made up of wicked saved people is mentioned.  The wicked are severed from among the just.  But in the theology of Hodges, Wilkin and Dillow, you have the just being severed from among the just.  You have saved people being severed from among saved people.  You have some saved people being cast into outer darkness, separated from other saved people who will reign with Christ. You have members of the body and bride of Christ severed from among other members of the body and bride of Christ.  But no such severing of the righteous is mentioned in this passage.

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).

Hodges, Wilkin and Dillow teach that the one being bound hand and foot and cast into outer darkness represents saved, regenerate people.  If the Son has made believers free indeed (John 8:36), how could they someday be bound hand and foot?  If they are partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light (Col. 1:12), how could they be cast into outer darkness? 

This parable is explained as follows:

Because absence of this garment excluded the man from the feast, we conclude that the garment represents an absolute requirement for entrance to the Kingdom.  Thus it represents the robe of imputed righteousness that God graciously provides to man through faith (Isa. 61:10). ---Homer Kent Jr., The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 968.

The man without a wedding garment is one who professes to be ready for the kingdom but who has never been clothed in the righteousness of God through the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).  Actually there was (and is) no excuse for the man without the wedding garment. As Ryrie notes, it was the custom in those days to provide the guests with a garment if they had none.  The man obviously did not take advantage of the offered provision.  --William MacDonald, Believer's Bible Commentary, p. 1286. 

The ill-clad intruder is revealed as such by his lack of the proper attire. Like the tares of Matthew 13, he may appear to be the same as the true wheat, but upon proper examination by the king, he lacks the necessary robe.  Such workers of iniquity often talk like true believers and seem to act like true believers, yet, when faced up with the Lord, they will be found wanting the wedding garment of righteousness which comes only through faith in Christ.  --Thomas Figard, The King of the Kingdom of Heaven, pages 405-406.

   I can visualize this man coming in.  The king's servants were handing out robes to the guests as they entered the door.  But when this particular man came he said, "I do not think I need to bother with that robe.  I just bought a new outfit, and I do not think I need anything else; I am quite presentable just as I am."
   "But the king himself has provided this robe.  He wants all to wear one," the servant replied.
   The man insisted, "Oh, I do not think it will make any difference in my case; the king will be satisfied with me just as I am."  And the servant allowed him to pass in.
   The time came when the guests were gathered at the table. The king came in and looked over the guests.  He saw the man without a wedding garment, and asked, "Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?"  The man was speechless.  He had accepted the invitation to the feast, but had refused the wedding garment so graciously provided. --Harry Ironside, Matthew, p. 168.

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels (Isaiah 61:10).

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).

Dillow says that this hypocrite represents a regenerate person!  In almost every case where the word "hypocrite" is used in the New Testament it is used of unsaved people (mostly unsaved religious scribes and Pharisees)!   Why is this man appointed his portion with the unsaved hypocrites?  Because he is an unsaved hypocrite too!   Does the expression "cut him asunder," refer merely to regret and sorrow and remorse or was it meant to convey a more punitive sense?

The true character of this man is revealed in verse 49--"And shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards."   In contrast to this are those who are watching and waiting:  "Let us watch and be sober-minded. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that are drunk are drunk in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and, for an helmet, the hope of salvation" (1 Thess. 5:6-8).   Of course, Hodges, Dillow and Wilkin teach that a saved person can be an unrighteous drunkard, and although he will enter the kingdom, he will not inherit it and he will not reign with Christ.  They base this on a misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.  See our paper,  Those Who Do Not Inherit the Kingdom--Are They Saved or Unsaved?

In the parallel account (Luke 12:45-46) it is evident that this servant is an unbeliever.  His portion is with the unbelievers because he is one of them!   His unbelief disqualifies him for the kingdom.

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).

Hodges, Wilkin and Dillow all teach that the person cast into outer darkness in this parable represents unfaithful but truly regenerate people.  It is problematic to try to establish doctrine based on parables, but some of the key teachings of the so-called "free grace" movement are based primarily on certain parables.  

One of their main arguments, with respect to this parable of the talents, is that all three of these men are "servants" and therefore they must all represent saved individuals.  But caution needs to be exercised before arriving at such a conclusion.  For example, all of the Israelites were considered God's servants ("Ye are My witnesses, saith the LORD, and My servant whom I have chosen"--Isaiah 43:10), but not every individual Israelite was saved.

Are All Servants Saved?

Israel as a COVENANT people of God in the OT consisted of saved and unsaved alike, with NO distinction under the Law between the two. All alike had the same obligations under the law and as a covenant people of God. All were "servants". Israelite "servants" do not equal Israelite "saints". The same will be true during their 70th Week.

The problem here is trying to equate the nature and composition of earthly Israel with the heavenly Church which is His Body. In the Church which is His Body, there are no unsaved people, no unsaved "servants." And Christian ground most definitely distinguishes between saved and unsaved in the House of God on earth.

But Israel in the OT and in its future 70th Week is quite otherwise.

The high priests and Levitical priests, for example, did not have to be saved to "serve" as such (let alone the more ordinary servants of the LORD).

"The law addressed man, in the persons of the favored people [Israel], in their Adamic responsibility. The law did not treat man as lost, though it proves him so, but takes up the two principles [of responsibility obedience and life] and makes [physical] life dependent upon obedience." - J.N. Darby

There is no doubt in my mind that "professing" Israel of the future 70th Week is in view in Matt. 25:1-30. (However, I don't think it encompasses those Jews who will not be making any profession during the Tribulation -- those who will be converted by "seeing and believing," like Thomas, at the very end when the Lord returns.)

And keep in mind Matt. 7:21-23. When you call someone "Lord," you acknowledge the place you occupy as a "servant." And our Lord says "I NEVER knew you" to this servant -- not ever for the least moment in the past. This clearly indicates a false servant.

Throughout Matt. 24-25, it is the Lord's POST-Tribulational coming to the EARTH that is in view, not His PRE-Tribulational Rapture of the Church to HEAVEN, where the BEMA takes place. (There's no "Bema" mentioned in Matt. 24-25.)

Even so, if any application be made to the mystery dispensation in which we live, such can be done, so long as it is properly applied to Christendom and not the Church which is His Body. There are millions of false/unsaved professing "servants" of Christ in Christendom; and the Lord in Matt. 24-25 would be taking up these false professors on the very ground on which they have chosen to occupy and take their stand.

Remember, too, that, the Olivet Discourse was addressed to all the disciples, regardless of whether only four of them came to Him with their questions. And Judas was still among the disciples at the time.

                                                         ---James Ventilato

Who does the wicked and slothful servant represent?

He represents those who, while professing to be Christ's servants, do not really know Him at all and so do not seek to obey His Word....The slothful servant lost everything; even his profession was taken from him.   --Harry Ironside, Matthew (p. 194).

In this parable Christ was teaching that those who see the signs forewarning of Messiah's approach will have an opportunity to prepare themselves and to prove themselves faithful servants of His; however, if such persons do not do so, they will be barred from the kingdom that Christ will establish at His second coming.  The parable, then, shows both the rewards for faithfulness and the judgment for unfaithfulness that await those who are anticipating Messiah's coming.  --J.Dwight Pentecost, The Parables of Jesus, p. 156.

The unprofitable servant was cast out--excluded from the kingdom.  He shared the anguished fate of the wicked.  It was not his failure to invest the talent that condemned him; rather his lack of good works showed that he lacked saving faith.  --William MacDonald, The Believer's Bible Commentary, p. 1299.

The fruit of faithfulness and preparedness would indicate the character of those living in the days before His coming.  In each parable, character is manifested by works.  This thought forms the key to the following passage which deals with the judgment of the nations (Matthew 25:31-46).  --Stanley Toussaint, Behold the King, p. 288.

There are two kinds of individuals, the "good and faithful" in contrast to the "wicked and slothful."  Their works prove their character, but it is their character which determines destiny.  The wicked and slothful servant was proven to be "unprofitable" (25:30) at the return of his lord.  --Thomas O. Figart, The King of the Kingdom of Heaven, p. 461.

The third servant, having received the one talent, reasoned that his master might not be coming back at all....His reasoning indicated he lacked faith in the master; he proved to be a worthless servant.  As a result, he lost what he had and was cast into judgment.  Like the unworthy servant in 24:48-51, he too would be eternally separated from God.  --Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 80.

When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth (Acts 7:54).

This is the only passage in the New Testament where the term "gnash" (verb) is used apart from the common formula, "weeping (noun) and gnashing of teeth."    It is a highly significant passage because it sheds much light on the meaning of the term "gnashing of teeth." 

These Jews were furious with Stephen.  They hated the message from God which he so faithfully delivered to them.  They were full of anger and hatred which very soon led to their violent crime of stoning God's messenger.  Stephen's message to them actually caused them great mental anguish and pain and conviction.

Please note that "to gnash the teeth" as it is used in this passage has nothing to do with sorrow or regret or grief or remorse.  These ideas are foreign to the context.  It has everything to do with anger and hatred.  They were like angry growling animals about to devour their prey. 

Hodges, Wilkin and Dillow all teach that "gnashing of teeth" refers to deep remorse and regret and sorrow, but that meaning is not supported by Acts 7:54.   Rather this passage supports the definition given by MacDonald:  "The 'gnashing of teeth' speaks of violent hatred of God"  --William MacDonald, Believer's Bible Commentary, p. 1424.

Note:  "And wherever he taketh him, he teareth him; and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth" (Mark 9:18).  This is speaking of the violent rage of a demon possessed boy.   But this is not the same verb that we have been considering.  It is a synonym which also means to grind or gnash the teeth.  The idea of sorrow and regret and remorse is not found in this passage.

Old Testament Usage

There are several passages in the Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament) which use the same Greek term (gnash, gnashing) which we have been studying.  As we consider these passages, the question we want to answer is this:  Does the term signify sorrow, grief, regret and remorse (the meaning that Hodges, Dillow and Wilkin have given to the term) or does it signify anger, rage, pain and anguish?

"The king's wrath is like the roaring of a lion, but his favor is like dew upon the grass" (Proverbs 18:12).

The word "roaring" is the word "gnashing."  It is comparing a king's wrath and anger to the roaring or gnashing of a lion.  If you should meet a lion in the jungle and the lion begins to roar and gnash his teeth at you, this is not a sign or sorrow or grief or remorse.  Rather, it is a sign that the lion is about to tear you to pieces!   The solution is not to go up to the lion and try to comfort him in his sorrow.  No, the solution is to run and get as far away from him as possible before he devours you.

"He teareth me in his wrath, who hateth me; he gnasheth upon me with his teeth; mine enemy sharpeneth his eyes upon me" (Job 16:9). 

Unger explains Job's words as follows:  "Job's fear of being forsaken by God, as the result of the pressure that the false comfort of his friends had imposed upon him, was like a frightful nightmare in which he envisioned an angry God, who was his enemy and tormenter....He conjured up a phantom deity whose anger tore him and raged against him like a wild beast (Hos. 6:1), gnashing at him with his teeth.  --Unger's Commentary on the Old Testament, p. 700.

Here again we see that the gnashing of teeth represents anger and rage, not remorse and regret.

"They tempted me, they sneered at me most contemptuously, they gnashed their teeth upon me" (LXX-Psalm 34:16; see Psalm 35:16 KJV).

There is no hint of sorrow or remorse here.  Rather it is a description of the rage and anger of David's enemies against him.  Their feelings towards David were similar to the feelings that the Jewish crowd had for Stephen in Acts 7. 

"The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth" (Psalm 37:12). 

Again we see the hostility of the wicked against God's people.  You can almost imagine their angry faces, with teeth grinding!  Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich accurately define the expression "gnashing of teeth" as a  sign of violent rage." 

"The sinner shall see and be angry, he shall gnash his teeth and consume away" (LXX-Psalm 111:10; compare Psalm 112:10 KJV).

Again we find that the main emotion is that of anger, not sorrow or regret.

"All thine enemies have opened their mouth against thee. They hiss and gnash the teeth; they say, We have swallowed her up; certainly this is the day that we looked for; we have found, we have seen it (Lamentations 2:16).

There is no sorrow or remorse here at all.  Once again it is a description of enraged enemies.  Here they are rejoicing over Jerusalem's destruction. They had no sorrow or remorse.  Instead they were delighting in Israel's fall!

Conclusion

There are seven "weeping and gnashing of teeth" passages (six in Matthew and one in Luke).  We have discussed each of these in some detail.  In all of the other passages where the Greek term (gnash, gnashing) is used in the New Testament or in the Septuagint, it is always used of anger, rage, pain or anguish. It is never used of sorrow, grief, remorse or regret.

When we see Christ we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:3).  True saints will be glorified at that time, and there will be no place for sinful anger or rage.  Pain and anguish are words that do not describe the eternal state of God's elect.  The only alternative is that the anger, rage, pain and anguish must describe the unsaved in a state of punitive punishment.   "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still" (Rev. 22:11). He that is angry, let him be angry still! 

We are not saying that there is no sorrow or grief or remorse connected with the eternal suffering of the lost.  Some of this may be implied in the term "weeping."  But the term "gnashing of teeth," based upon its clear usage in the Bible, signifies anger, rage, pain or anguish and it is totally inappropriate to use this term as a description of regenerate people.  While there may be some elements of remorse, there are definitely elements of pain and anguish, and it is unthinkable to have glorified saints suffering pain and anguish.

Wherever you find the expression "weeping and gnashing of teeth" in the New Testament, know of a certainty that it is a description of the judgment and doom of lost, unsaved men who will not inherit and not even enter the kingdom.  It is never used to describe the fate of saved people.

"Weeping and gnashing of teeth."   The tears of which Jesus speaks here in Matthew 8:12 are those of inconsolable, never-ending wretchedness, and utter, everlasting hopelessness.  The accompanying grinding or gnashing of teeth (cf. 13:42,50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28) denotes excruciating pain and frenzied anger. This grinding of teeth, too, will never come to an end or cease"  --William Hendricksen, Matthew, p. 398.

The Punitive View of J.D. Faust

J.D. Faust published a book in 2002 entitled The Rod--Will God Spare It?  It is published by Schoettle Publishing Company, the same company that published Joseph Dillow's book, The Reign of the Servant Kings.  It is a publishing house which specializes in authors (such as Govett, Lang, Panton, Pember, etc.) who teach that unfaithful saved people will be excluded from the kingdom (or in Dillow's case, excluded from reigning with Christ).  Many of these men (though not Dillow) also believe in a partial rapture.

Hodges, Dillow and Wilkin share much in common with Faust. They all hold to the same theological framework in that they divide all saved people into two distinct groups:  those who are overcomers and those who are not; those who inherit the kingdom and those who do not, those who are partakers of Christ and those who are not, those who will reign with Christ and those who will not, etc.  But Hodges, Dillow and Wilkin strongly reject Faust's extreme views on millennial punishment, and for good reasons.

Faust teaches that unfaithful Christians will be hurt of the second death (Rev. 2:11) and then will be cast into Hades where they will suffer for a thousand years.  He believes in degrees of suffering--some saved people will only suffer "few stripes" and other very wicked saved people will suffer "many stripes."  Faust defines outer darkness as follows:

OUTER DARKNESS:  This is the same as the underworld or hell. To be cast out of heaven is to be cast down to earth (Rev. 12:7-10).  Therefore, to be cast out of God's kingdom on earth is to be cast down into the underworld (Matthew 5:30, 18:9, Mark 9:47).  Unfaithful Christians will be temporarily banished to the underworld until after the millennium.  There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in this outer darkness (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30).  The unfaithful Christian goes to the same place as the unbeliever and hypocrite until after the millennium (p. 408).

Faust is correct in his understanding that "weeping and gnashing of teeth" involves severe punishment.  Faust also insists that the ones described by this expression are totally excluded from Christ's kingdom.  In this he is correct also (Hodges and Dillow teach that they are in the kingdom as citizens but they do not inherit the kingdom as joint-heirs, a position which Faust shows to be fraught with problems).  Faust is correct in saying that those cast into outer darkness are not in the kingdom at all!

Faust's great error is that he believes that those who are cast into outer darkness will include members of Christ's beloved body.   Paul told the Corinthians (yes, even the carnal Corinthians), that "when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord [in this life], that we should not be condemned with the world [in the next life]--1 Corinthians 11:32.   Faust teaches that members of the body of Christ are condemned with the world and have their portion with unbelievers and hypocrites for 1000 years in the fires of Hades!  God's loving rod, which He does not spare, is for His beloved children in this life (Hebrews 12:5-11).  It is a matter of loving discipline, not punitive punishment. 

To require that Christians be punished for their sins is a wicked insult to the perfect finished work of Christ on the cross.  We must never doubt the sufficiency and the adequacy of the cross-work of Christ and the Father's total satisfaction of that work.  And if we were to be punished for our sins, even for the least of our sins, 1000 years would never be sufficient to satisfy the justice of God.  It would require the lake of fire forever.

Note:  Faust would probably deny that saved people in Hades are being punished for their sins, but if you study his book it is hard to deny this.  He has saved people experiencing "condemnation," the "wrath of God," "perdition," "Hell," "Outer Darkness," "the Lake of Fire," the "second Death," etc, etc. Anything and everything that applies to unbelievers he applies to believers -- just not for all eternity. His reasoning is that if the torment is anything short of being everlasting -- whether it be for 1,000 years or 1,000,000 years -- then it is discipline and not any sort of payment or partial payment for sins.  On page 42 he even says that Christians will experience "punitive judgments" and will experience "severe punitive consequences."  The only difference he makes between the unsaved and the unfaithful Christians, is that the punishment of the unsaved is eternal and the punishment of the saved is temporary.  But Faust admits that it is "punitive" and Christians will be severely punished, though not eternally.

                           --George Zeller

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We have other documents which evaluate the teachings of these men in light of the Bible.  Please consider the following:

 

The Theology of Zane Hodges, Joseph Dillow, Robert Wilkin (the Grace Evangelical Society) and the more extreme view of J.D.Faust

 


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