In studying the Bible, I sometimes use a New King James version of the Bible called the “New Spirit Filled Life Bible”. It has a lot of helpful commentaries, original language word definitions and reference notes. However, like all commentaries, it is not inspired, and it is not perfect. And occasionally, the notes really seem to do violence to the passage. I fear it is because sometimes the Scripture seems to explicitly teach something that is very uncomfortable to us.
I will give an example. In this Bible, Matthew 25:30, which is part of the Parable of the Talents, says, “And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Who was this Unprofitable Servant? Well, according to the parable, he was one of the master’s servants, just like the other two, who were rewarded richly for their faithful administration of what they were given. The Master in the parable clearly refers to the LORD God. This “unprofitable servant” was entrusted with less than the other servants, but that wasn’t the main problem. The main problem was that he didn’t use the talent he was given. He buried it.
So in the parable Jesus says that the master says, “And cast the unprofitable servant into the Outer Darkness. There will be weeping an gnashing of teeth.” I personally can’t interpret this as being anything but a region of HELL. Hell is the place for weeping and gnashing of teeth in the teaching of Jesus. For example Luke 13:28
“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.” (Luke 13:28)
In Matthew 13:40-42 it says, “Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. ” There is therefore a clear association between the furnace of hellfire, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Let Scripture interpret Scripture, as they say.
But what does the commentator say about this in the footnotes for Matthew 25:30. Here it is:
“This need not be concluded as referring to the loss of one’s justification, but may instead portray the forfeiting of one’s reward for committed service in the kingdom, a loss of joy, with weeping and gnashing one’s teeth, reflecting the remorse for lost opportunity.“
I see in this commentary a deliberate softening of the words of Jesus to accommodate our pre-conceived notions of salvation by grace. In evangelical and charismatic circles there has been a lot of emphasis on the idea that we are not saved by works, that what we do has nothing to do with our eternal destiny, that all that matters if we want to be sure of heaven is that we believe that we are “saved by grace” and identify ourselves with Jesus. Note that it is possible to believe you are “saved by grace” while deliberately sinning and to credit all this salvation to Jesus Christ and his cross without actually believing in Jesus. In this case we are believing our theology about salvation, rather than believing in Jesus Himself. You can’t believe in someone while rejecting what they teach. If Jesus teaches that real saving faith implies a submission to His kingly authority and using what God gave you, rather than burying it, then there is no way around this. You either believe it or you don’t. But if you don’t, please don’t say you believe in Jesus. You only believe that you believe. You only believe what suits you.
There is no darkness in heaven. Revelation 22:5 says, “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” Now would this be an accurate description of the Outer Darkness. Is the Outer Darkness a place where the Lord God will be the light?
Also, the word “CAST” doesn’t suggest something nice. “Cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness!” There are quite a few parallel passages to this, and they all suggest being rejected and forcefully removed from the presence and favor of the Lord. It doesn’t sound like this person is JUSTIFIED in Christ, “just as if they never sinned”. They are being punished because they did sin, for crying out loud!
We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:13) because although it has all been provided through the death and resurrection of Christ, to walk in it, we have to actually commit our lives to the Lord and take up our cross DAILY. God will work in us if we are willing. But we have the tendency to reject the authority of Christ and this is why even now Christians are disagreeing about so many things. All of us face the temptation daily to seek after personal comfort as a chief end, rather than the will of God. This is dangerous. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The right fear of the Lord will cause us to utilize what God gave us, and spread the gospel, rather than burying the talents.
I pray that we will return to the kind of faith where we believe what Jesus said. Because this in the end will be the only authentic faith. Everything contrary will be the traditions of men, religious confusion, compromise and false teaching.
Don’t soften the words of Jesus for public consumption. If Jesus said there is a danger, then there is a danger. And its dangerous for you to teach that there is no danger when there is a danger.