Return to Journal Index Menu | Go to Home Page


Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Autumn 1992—Volume 5:2


THE "OUTER DARKNESS"
IN MATTHEW AND
ITS RELATIONSHIP TO GRACE
MICHAEL G. HUBER
Christian Counselor
Sheboygan, WI

I. Introduction

"And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:22-24).

In this short but dynamic and emotional speech, Paul gives the Ephesian elders a concise summary of the nature and importance of what life is all about for him. It is the great task of testifying to "the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24).

But Paul doesn't stop there. In the last words of this farewell oration he gives his benediction to the elders: "I commend you to God and to the word of His grace" (Acts 20:32). Nothing was more important to Paul than this "gospel of the grace of God." He had even warned them "for three years... night and day with tears" (20:31) that some would speak "perverse things" (v 30) and, no doubt, distort this truth of God's grace, in order to draw away disciples1 for themselves (v 30).

Today there is a controversy over the Gospel that is being waged with great intensity. The core issue in the debate touches the very nature and being of God Himself and His eternal, glorious character. Eternal significance lies in the answer to such questions as, "Is God's love, expressed in His free gift to mankind, truly unconditional?" And, if so, "What does free, unconditional giving truly mean?"

I often think of a pastor friend of mine who one day offered to me quite freely, without my probing, his own view of the eternal security issue. He confessed that he did believe in "eternal security" but that it wasn't unconditional "eternal security." I inwardly gasped at the contradictory nature of this position. How could something be both "eternal" and "secure," in every sense of those terms, and yet be conditional? Can it truly be said to be "eternal" or "secure" if in fact it may not be? Such inconsistency is saddening.

There are a number of Scriptures whose interpretation highlights the importance of a clear understanding of grace and the unconditional nature of God's love. Three texts that are widely misunderstood (in reference to this issue) are the passages in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus instructs His disciples on the reality of the "outer darkness" (8:12; 22:13; 25:30). These texts create confusion because of the widespread (a priori) belief that there really is nothing in them to closely examine, consider, or re-evaluate.

II. Need for the Study

On the surface one is hardpressed to take seriously a textual study when commentators and writers time after time, in almost boring fashion, use such words as "stereotyped formula,"2 "stock phrases,"3 and generally accepted"4 to describe the phrase "outer darkness" and to support the traditionally held view that it always refers to eternal punishment.5

Yet it is precisely for this reason that an in-depth study needs to be undertaken. The passages have been taken for granted over so great a period of time that almost no new, creative, or critical thinking has been done with them in recent years. Teachers and commentators alike have "fallen asleep" solely on the basis of past assumptions. This casts doubt on the hermeneutical methods employed on these passages.

While space does not permit an in-depth study here, there will be enough probing to cast doubt on the traditional view. Perhaps some will be spurred on to new thinking in this area.

For the most part we will look at the phrase "outer darkness" as it is used in Matt 22:13. But before doing so, it would be helpful to address, at least in part, the issue of "stock phrases" and "stereotypical formulas."

III. Problems with the Traditional View

Matt 8:12—"The Sons of the Kingdom"

In the references to "outer darkness" in Matt 8:12 and 25:30, a sticky problem arises if we are to employ the argument of "stock phrases" consistently.

In 8:12 it is said that the "sons of the kingdom" (hoi huioi tes basileias)6 are thrown into this "outer darkness." The normative interpretation of these "sons" is that they are Israelites, i.e., those Jews who were part of the national entity we call Israel, but who eventually showed by their rejection of Jesus as Messiah,7 that they were "unsaved." Yet in the parable of the tares in Matt 13:38, the only other usage of this phrase is clearly defined as the "good seed." The traditional "stock phrases" hermeneutic must now be abandoned at this point, leaving us with no objective guidelines to determine when, or when not, to use it. With the inconsistent application of this in 8:12, we are left strictly with the whim of the individual interpreter.

25:3 —"Slaves"

A similar problem exists in 25:30, which concludes the parable of the talents in which the master has entrusted varying sums of money to his three servants (v 14; douloi, lit., "slaves") for investment while he is away. There is no problem with the traditional view assigning the first two industrious slaves to the realm of the "saved," but when it comes to the unwise third slave, who is said to be cast into the "outer darkness," the 'tune' changes. Because the "stock phrase" method is applied to the "outer darkness," this third slave must, by interpretive tradition, be designated as unsaved.

Yet the very method which is used to establish this conclusion is at the same time violated in the very same passage. The word slave (doulos) is used to describe all three individuals, not just the first two. The text offers no differentiation in their relation to their master. To consistently use the "stock phrase" method, we must apply the status of "saved" to all three individuals. Yet we cannot do this because that would violate the same method used for "outer darkness." What we wind up with is a hopeless situation involving inconsistent reasoning and arbitrary hermeneutical decisions.

The word doulos, used many times by Paul to describe himself, is pregnant with meaning and significance. We cannot arbitrarily dismiss the third slave as being "unsaved" simply because we do not understand the cryptic, hard-to-understand expression "outer darkness."

Hermeneutical Problems

This process of probing and digging uncovers a new problem for the traditional hermeneutical approach in these passages. Upon careful observation, thought, and reflection over a number of years on this issue, I have come to realize that traditional teachers and authors on these passages use what I shall call the "self-centered, emotional" method of interpretation. By "self-centered" I do not mean that these individuals are selfish people. By "emotional" I do not mean that these same individuals are overly emotional. Instead, the "self-centered, emotional" method goes like this: The reference to the "outer darkness," with its inclusion of "weeping and gnashing of teeth," cannot refer to Christians because we simply cannot envision this happening to a true believer. It is simply too emotionally disturbing and doesn't fit our own stereotypical view of heaven. It is "self-centered" in that it interprets the text on the basis of the perspective of the individual interpreter rather than the perspective of the biblical author.8 It is "emotional" in that psychological factors enter into the interpretation and bias its outcome.

This method, of course, must be rejected at once if we are to discover the truth in these passages.9 Also, it would be helpful if we looked briefly at some biblical evidence for rejecting the "emotional" side of this method. Let us digress here momentarily.

With respect to the point just made, 1 Cor 10:1-13 is truly an amazing passage of Scripture. Paul is relating to the "brethren" (v 1) in Corinth examples from the people of God in the OT, particularly the wilderness wanderings, as being directly applicable to all believers of the church age. Note that Paul even includes himself in this group ("for our admonition, vii).

Observe the four experiences Paul ascribes to these people ("our fathers," v 1) in the wilderness: (1) They were all under the cloud. (2) They all passed through the sea. The spiritual significance of these two happenings is enormous and too lengthy to cover here. Let it be said simply that there was not the distinction of some being "true wanderers" and some being "pseudo-wanderers." They all experienced these things. Even more amazing are the next two: (3) They all "ate the same spiritual food"10 and (4) They all "drank the same spiritual drink" (vv 3-4). To leave no doubt whatsoever in anyone's mind, Paul specifically defines the spiritual drink as being from the spiritual Rock of which they drank, which was none other than Christ! Paul could not have made it more plain. There are here no "pseudo-people of God"! They all had an authentic spiritual experience11 with God in the exodus.

The telling blow comes in v 5: "But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness" (emphasis mine). Paul goes on to mention the idolatry, sexual immorality, and mass death that occurred among those who partook of the spiritual drink from the Rock which was Christ.

Looking at the phrases "outer darkness" and "weeping and gnashing of teeth" honestly, by themselves, and apart from any theological grid (which we shall do later), it is difficult to see how these expressions can be seen as so much worse than what Paul ascribes to the wanderers who "experienced Christ.

It is, therefore, not these phrases themselves that tell us whether the individuals described are "saved" or "unsaved"; rather, both the immediate and broader contexts must determine this.

Let us move on, then, to a closer examination of Matt 22:13 where new problems arise with the traditional view, especially for those who are premillennial. We will then look at how this relates to grace and the issue of eternal security.

IV. The Parable of the Marriage Feast (Matt 22:1-13)

This is the parable in which Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a king whose invitations to his son's wedding feast are repeatedly ignored for varying reasons (22:1-5). The last wave of servants is severely mistreated by the rejecters (v 6) and the king takes vengeance (v 7). The story then takes a dramatic turn at midpoint, when the previous group of rejecters is no longer called, but rather, the invitation is given out to the public at large (vv 8-10). The second half of the story is more sharply contrasted to the first half with the strange inclusion of a man found (surprisingly, it would seem) without proper attire within the feast itself (vv 11-12). Having made this discovery, the king then orders this individual to be cast outside into the darkness (v 13).

The Wedding Feast

The major interpretive problems of the commentators in regard to the feast are (1) the nature and (2) the time of the feast, especially in relation to the entrance of the king into the wedding hall and his exchange with the maldressed12 man (vv 11-12). McCarthy, an amillennialist, targets the issue squarely and rightly challenges both amillennialist and premillennialist alike when he says concerning the maldressed man of verse 11:

It is hard to explain this clause in the view of those comm. who suppose the banquet to be celebrated in heaven [or the millennium for the premillennialist], where no one enters without the wedding garment, and whence no one is cast out. But if we understand the guests to be gathered together in the Church, there is no difficulty. In the Church are found "good and bad" members, when the Great King comes to examine His household.13

In making this statement, McCarthy is assuming the traditional view that the "outer darkness" is hell. His challenge is legitimate and has not been answered. If this maldressed man is being consigned to hell, and if this feast in which the man is found is either in heaven or in the Millennial Kingdom, we must conclude that the man, having once been saved, goes to heaven or enters the Millennial Kingdom. Yet, while being in heaven or in this kingdom, he totally loses his salvation and is immediately cast into hell. It is very doubtful whether any of the generality of commentators, regardless of their view on eternal security, actually believe this. Yet many, if not all of them, are guilty of this inconsistency.14

For example, one amillennial writer says that Matthew is describing the messianic kingdom in its final phase, that is, the new heavens and the new earth, which are often pictured under the symbolism of guests reclining at a marriage feast.15 On the other hand, a well-respected premillennial writer states that this banquet refers to participation in the Millennial Kingdom.16 Both inconsistently hold their position along with the traditional view of the "outer darkness."

The same problem arises when considering the entrance of the king to observe the guests in the wedding hall (v 11). The major question is: "When does this entrance take place?" Some say it is at the time of Christ's Second Advent, when He will judge the unbelieving world prior to the state of glory. This causes considerable problems for any premillennialist who views the feast as a millennial event. If the feast is a millennial event, how can the king be entering the hall with the purpose of judging and casting men into hell when this has already taken place at the judgment of the sheep and goats (Matt 25:31-46), as a result of which it appears that no unbeliever enters the Millennium?

In order to hold to both the traditional view of the "outer darkness" and the millennial significance of the feast, it must be concluded that some who enter the Millennium are not saved and will be judged during the Millennium and cast into hell prior to the Great White Throne Judgment at the end of the Millennium.

This problem is closely connected to the king's conscious intention to observe the guests in the wedding hall when he enters (v 11). The king addresses the man as "friend" (hetaire).17 Regarding the observation by the king, Bruce writes, "We are not to suppose that the king came in to look out for offenders, but rather to show his countenance to his guests and make them welcome."18 This idea is much more consistent with the premillennial view that the feast is a millennial concept. The king does not come in to cast anyone into hell, since the feast is in the Millennium and follows the judgments of the Second Advent. The king comes in to welcome and greet all the saved people who have entered into the Millennial Kingdom. This seriously endangers the traditional view of the "outer darkness."

In this light, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the "outer darkness" in Matt 22:13 does not refer to everlasting punishment of hell.

Instead, the feast in this passage, as well as in 8:11-12, is related to the cultural background of the Jewish wedding feast. Woodard relates the great joy of this occasion when he writes, "Commentators agree too that the processional was a march of pomp and gaiety which was only excelled by the joys of the marriage feast itself. "19 Gaebelein says, "The marriage feast which the king makes for his son and to which he invites guests typifies the gracious offer of God to give joy, comfort, blessings to those who [sic] he wishes to partake of it. "20

This background, namely, the great joy of the Jewish wedding feast, forms the foundation for a correct interpretation of the "outer darkness." It is necessary to realize that Matthew is speaking in terms of culture and personal experience. Against this background alone can Matthew's meaning be understood.

The Wedding Garment

Andrew Paris provides the common denominator of most of the existing views of what the wedding garment is:

This garment must at least symbolize the necessary "qualifications" for "admission" into the Bridal Banquet. So the garment must at least portray the conditions of salvation such as trusting in Jesus' meritorious blood, repentance, and immersion unto the forgiveness of sins.21

This idea fits in with the traditional view of the "outer darkness." Both amillennialist and premillennialist alike hold to this general conception of the garment. However, this view may only be consistently held by the amillennialist who sees the feast as symbolic solely of the present church age.22

The premillennialist, however, cannot be consistent and hold to this traditional view of the garment. If entrance into the Millennium is obtained by accepting the invitation and acquiring the wedding garment of righteousness, then the question must be answered as to how the maldressed man got into the Millennium without this garment of righteousness. For the premillennialist, this robe cannot be symbolic of righteousness imputed through saving faith. For there will be no unbelievers entering the Millennial Kingdom, yet this maldressed man does so!

Some commentators offer different variations of the traditional view which are very helpful, even though they maintain the traditional view. One states that the garment is the symbol of everything that renders a man fit to share in the joys of the kingdom. This idea captures the significance of the great joy of the feast.23 The maldressed man thus suffers a loss of joy by being evicted from the wedding feast.

Filson compares the maldressed man to Judas Iscariot having every privilege but lacking the wedding garment of obedient discipleship.24 >From this idea it may be concluded that the maldressed man, though saved, was not a committed disciple. While Allen also holds the traditional view, he has the right idea when he says that the garment is the condition of readiness and equipment.25

There is good evidence that the garment should not be taken as merely symbolic or allegorical in the parable,26 but should first be interpreted literally based on the Jewish cultural background. Matthew's own usage of the word endyma supports this idea. This noun is only found eight times in the NT. Seven of these are found in Matthew. Four of the five instances outside of 22:11-12 refer to a physical piece of cloth/clothing which covers a man's skin (3:4; 6:25, 28; 28:3). In 7:15 it refers to the sheep's clothing as worn by the wolves. To be sure, this is a figurative use, but not an allegorical one. Matthew also uses the verb form literally for the physical act of putting on clothes (6:25; 27:28, 31). In Matthew 22 the interpretation of the wedding garment, as well as the "outer darkness," should have a literal foundation. That is, in the culture of the day the wedding garment was a piece of physical clothing to be worn to a wedding feast, while the "outer darkness" refers to the darkness of night outside the brilliantly-lit, joy-filled banquet hall.

The Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth

As mentioned previously, the general view regarding this phrase is that it is a "stereotyped formula" descriptive in all instances of the anguish of hell. Russell writes, "The Gr. noun occurs repeatedly in the sayings of Jesus… concerning the remorseful gnashing of teeth by those excluded from heaven."27

However, Schweizer expresses doubt as to this confident conclusion:

It is impossible to determine whether "crying and gnashing of teeth" merely represent oriental gestures of remorse, rage and horror, or go back to the idea that the place of damnation is "hot as fire and cold as snow" (Eth. Enoch 14:13).28

Rengstorf strongly implies that this phrase is not a stereotyped formula:

The NT usage is thus independent of the general Gk. and also of the OT attestation. It cannot be understood directly in the light of the phrase brycho tous odontas but takes its meaning from its context. The solid place of the formula in Mt: suggests that it is really peculiar to him though there can be no certainty of this point.29

The usage of both of these descriptive terms in the OT and the NT verifies that they should be interpreted at face value as simply cultural and emotional terms with no theological significance inherently attached. What is crucial is whether or not believers are said to be the subjects of these terms. In Acts 20:37 (mentioned at the outset of this article) the term for weeping (klauthmos) is used to describe the sorrow of the Ephesian elders because of Paul's imminent departure from them. The Septuagint has a host of similar uses. This word is used in reference to Joseph in Gen 45:2; 46:29; it is used of the Israelites who wept over Moses' death (Deut 34:8); Hezekiah (2 Kgs 20:3); of Job (16:1; 30:31); of David in Psalm 6:8 (appropriated by Jesus Himself in Matt 7:23 and Luke 13:27).

Examples of the phrase "gnashing of teeth" are considerably more rare. However, Job does use it as a description of God's anger toward him in 16:10. It is clear again that this term is not used strictly for those suffering in hell. By using the deductive method commentators have assumed this phrase to refer to hell and have gone on from there to interpret the passage. This should not be done. This phrase should be interpreted from the context. In Matt 22:1-14 it has been determined from the details of the context that, for the premillennialist in particular, the "outer darkness" is not symbolic of hell. Neither, therefore, is the phrase "weeping and gnashing of teeth" descriptive in this passage of one suffering in hell. This phrase again fits into the cultural background.

A Comparison with Luke 14:15-24

Outside of Matthew's Gospel, the parable of the wedding feast is found only in the parallel in Luke 14:15-24. Characteristic of the Lucan passage are its notable omission of the severe mistreatment of the king's servant, of his subsequent destruction of the perpetrators' city, and of the incident involving the maldressed man. Because of these omissions, some have suggested that the two stories are entirely different. But there are no adequate grounds for this conclusion, and it must be rejected. A look at the context in Luke's Gospel reveals some valuable insights into Matthew's usage.

The emphasis of Luke's account is on sacrificing worldly interests and pleasures for the sake of discipleship to Christ. The distinction thus is not between unbeliever and believer, but between the committed and the uncommitted believer. This is a major theme of Luke, and the preceding context, as far back as chap 12, deals with this very subject. The parable of the rich man in Luke 12:13-21 is a good example. So, too, the parable of 12:35-40 deals with readiness and preparation for the master when he returns from the wedding feast. Jesus is giving these teachings, including the warnings, to His twelve disciples, not to unbelievers (see, e.g., 12:32-34).

Most significant for the parallel to Matthew found in Luke 14:15-24 is the passage that immediately follows (i.e., 14:25-35), where Jesus gives one of His most famous sayings: "And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" (v 27; emphasis mine). Where the parable in Matthew is essentially the same as Luke's (cf. Matt 22:5 with Luke 14:18-19), the basic idea in Matthew is also the same as Luke's. Though Matthew's special details shift his emphasis a little, Matt 22:5 deals with the priority of discipleship just as does Luke 14:18-19, read in the light of 14:27 (see 14:33). This is where Matt 22:11-14 fits into the scheme.

Some feel that Matt 22:11-14 is hardly suitable as a conclusion to Matthew's parable. However, once it is seen that the traditional view of the "outer darkness" must be rejected here, and once the connection with Luke's parable is made, there is no problem seeing how vv 11-14 fit into Matthew's parable. These verses could easily follow v 24 of Luke's parable. In fact, Luke 14:24 is a summary statement for which Matt 22:11-13 is an example. That is, the maldressed man in Matthew's parable is one of those of the group that gave priority to worldly interests and as a result was not adequately prepared for the wedding feast.

The invitation originally went out for the noon meal (ariston in Matthew), but due to the difficulty in getting people to attend, the afternoon wore on. It was not until the evening meal (deipnon in Luke) that enough people were gathered in for the feast finally to take place.

When the maldressed man quite unexpectedly showed up at the evening feast, it was apparent that he had spent his afternoon concentrating on his worldly interests rather than preparing for the meal. Because he placed his own interests above those of the king, he was cast out of the feast into the night where he felt deep remorse and anguish. Thus it seems that he really did want to attend the feast, but he made no personal sacrifice to be prepared for it.

Summary

What has just been discussed places the parable within the cultural background that underlies our interpretation of the "outer darkness." The feast is the Jewish wedding feast, often celebrated in the evening. On the occasion in question, the celebration was originally scheduled to begin at midday, but was delayed by the refusal of the guests to come.

For most premillennialists, this image signifies an event in the Millennial Kingdom. The wedding garment is the appropriate piece of clothing to be worn to the wedding feast. The significance of the lack of the garment is a lack of preparation and readiness due to the priority of worldly self-interest. The "outer darkness" is that darkness which is outside the banquet hall within which the evening feast is taking place. As it would in the literal setting, exclusion from the feast signifies a loss of the joy and the closeness of fellowship that occurs inside the feast. As a result of not being able to take part, due to giving priority to self-interest rather than to commitment to discipleship, these privileges are lost. But this loss is not due to a lack of "saving" faith.

The enigmatic V 14 also becomes clearer now. The "elect" are those who obtain the inheritance of joy characterized by the feast in the Millennium. The "called" are all those, both unbeliever and believer,30 who were invited to the feast but did not respond to the invitation. They either overtly rejected it or allowed worldly interests and pleasures to interfere with their preparation and readiness. The unbeliever loses joy totally in hell. But the "poorly dressed" believer, represented here, enters the Millennium but loses that fullness of joy portrayed by the wedding feast. For the believer this is no special judgment after the Millennium starts, but simply the execution of the judgment already given at Christ's bema.

V. Grace and the "Outer Darkness"

Matthew's inclusion of our Lord's instruction concerning the "outer darkness" clearly raises the issue of what grace really means and how unconditional God's love really is.

What, then, is grace? Have we now so lost sight of the true meaning of this precious word that we must go to great lengths to define it in terms of its unconditionality? It appears that this is the case, and that the maldressed man of Matthew 22 is a nagging example.

As we have seen, there is widespread agreement among conservative premillennialists that the clothing of the maldressed man symbolizes his "unsaved" condition and that the "outer darkness" represents eternal punishment. Normally we would rejoice at such unanimity. However, in this case, there is reason for calling this view to task and for a renewed look at grace itself and at God's own character.

The traditional view suggests a disquieting—and even disturbing—lack of authentic grace in God's character. God, having "saved" the maldressed man "enough" so that he is, in fact, in heaven (amillennial view) or in the Millennial Kingdom (premillennial view), now evidently reneges on what was originally presented as a free and everlasting gift! (See John 1:12-13; 3:16; 5:24; 20:31; Rom 5:15; 10:10; Eph 2:8-9). God is thus portrayed as One who cannot (or will not) keep His promises and is, in fact, a liar! Nothing is more demeaning to the trustworthiness of the character of the Divine Parent than this.

But it will be objected by the traditional proponent: "The maldressed man was not really a true believer but simply a 'pseudo-Christian' who was eventually found out for what he really was." To this same critic these questions must be addressed: How then did this "unsaved" individual get into heaven under the eye of the perfectly omniscient God? And if God lets him in "by mistake," how can I put my trust in a God who either errs or changes His mind and reneges on His promises?

Grace, by definition, is unconditional and thus unmerited. What does this mean? It means that God "risked" everything on our behalf including allowing for the possibility of our choosing to turn from Him after having taken His free gift. But that gift is so free that it cannot be taken back (Rom 11:29). It is pure and unadulterated grace. It means, therefore, that God's grace allows for "maldressed" Christians. It allows for those who have been "born again" and may have once been excited and active in their new spiritual life, but the "everydayness" of life and the priority of seemingly more important endeavors have slowly and quietly, over time, eroded their deep intimacy with their Heavenly Father.31

Grace is so free that it gives unconditionally, with full knowledge and without the expectation of return, that is, without the subtle threat that unless certain conditions are met (e.g., moral living, participation in "Christian" activities, commitment) this "free" gift will be nullified or withdrawn.

It is this "conditional eternal security" that is ravaging the Church today by robbing the believer (and unbeliever, of course) of the only transforming power available to him or her for breaking the shackles of emotional and spiritual bondage. Many Christians, frustrated by years of attempting to be a "good Christian," are flocking to counselors' offices with burned-out lives. Regrettably, their church has only offered them a form of grace without "the power thereof," that is, without the power of unconditional love and grace.

As a pastor I saw these devastating effects firsthand. I have seen how many Christians, out of fear, are imprisoned by the lie of self-empowerment conveyed under the subtle guise of so-called "grace."

Now, as a therapist, I have seen, in the quiet miracle of the choices my clients make, how the only hope for real transformation to Christlikeness is the power of God's unconditional love and grace. Those who enter a Christian counselor's office are often some of the most likely to see Christlike change. They have come to the point of admitting that the heavily-traveled road of performance-related assurance leads to a dead-end.

Return to Journal Index Menu | Go to Main Menu

Footnotes:

1 Note that Luke specifically uses the Greek word mathetes and avoids the word "believer" in Acts 20:30. This is a crucial distinction that Luke makes, since our discussion of the "outer darkness" is directly related to, and even mentioned by, Luke (12:15-24).

2 Alan Hugh M'Neile, The Gospel According to St. Matthew (London: Macmillan & Co., 1915), 106.

3 A. B. Bruce, "The Synoptic Gospels," in The Expositor's Greek Testament, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll, 5 vols. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1900-10), 1 (1900):140.

4 The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, s.v., "Punishment, Everlasting," by Harry Buis, 4:955.

5 See also, R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel (n.p.: Wartburg Press, 1943; reprint ed., Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1964), 333; Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, 2 vols. (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1883; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), 1:550; Daniel McCarthy, The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, according to Saint Matthew (n.p., n.d.), 177; David Hill, The Gospel of Matthew, The New Century Bible (London: Butler & Tanner, Ltd., 1972), 159.

6 This is mistranslated as "subjects of the kingdom" in the NIV.

7 McCarthy, Matthew, 177.

8 For a discussion of interpretation based on the intended meaning of the author, from the author's perspective, see E. D. Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967).

9 It is ironic that many of the commentators and teachers who use this method here will also boast of how their theology is God-centered, holding strictly to a "high" view of God's sovereignty.

10 I am convinced that when the traditional interpreter's eyes reach the word "spiritual" here his mind either sees nothing or it deletes the word "spiritual" and re-inserts the word "physical."

11 A great deal of confusion and misunderstanding is found in evangelical circles concerning this matter of "salvation" in the OT. In these circles, "saved" is a cliche' and is too narrowly interpreted in the NT. But when this faulty framework is used as a grid for looking at the OT people of God, the result is major confusion. The topic is a big one and cannot be covered here. Suffice it to say that the exodus wanderers had an authentic spiritual experience of some kind with God and, more importantly, that their experiences are used by Paul as being directly applicable to believers today. Many traditional thinkers go on to say that the "brethren" of v 1 make up both "true believers" and "pseudo believers." However, not only can this not be substantiated, it is again another example of the "self-centered, emotional" method of interpretation.

12 Huber has coined a term that is not in any of my dictionaries; it nevertheless seems fitting to convey being inappropriately, incorrectly, or unsuitably attired. For another discussion of this parable see Gregory P. Sapaugh, "A Call to the Wedding Celebration," Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 5 (Spring 1992):11-34. Ed.

13 McCarthy, Matthew, 432.

14 It was recently suggested to me by a well-respected theologian who is a former professor at an evangelical seminary that I explore the aspects of the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory with respect to this idea. While I was intrigued with his inquiry, this topic cannot be taken up here.

15 William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel according to Matthew (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1973), 792.

16 Stanley D. Toussaint, Behold the King: A Study of Matthew (Portland: Multnomah Press, 1980), 254.

17 This originally meant "comrade" or "companion." See James Morison, Commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew (London: Hamilton, Adams, & Co., 1870), 442. See also James Hope Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (1930; reprinted., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960), 256-57. See also, Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 314.

18 Bruce, "Synoptic Gospels," 1:272.

19 Thomas W. Woodard, Jr., "Neglected Millennial Terminology in the Synoptics" (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1966), 7.

20 A. C. Gaebelein, The Gospel of Matthew, 2 vols. (Wheaton: Van Kampen Press, 1910), 2:141

21 Andrew Paris, "The Bride of Christ," Seminary Review 20 (Fall 1973): 10-11.

22 This, then, would logically force the individual holding this position to believe in the potential loss of salvation, since the guest is escorted from the feast.

23 M'Neile, St. Matthew, 316.

24 Floyd V. Filson, A Commentary on the Gospel according to St. Matthew (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1960), 234. Care should be taken by the reader not to enter into a debate here as to whether or not Judas was saved. This issue is not under examination here.

25 Willoughby C. Allen, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to S. Matthew, 5th ed., The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1910), 236. This suggestion is supported by the context of chaps 24 and 25, where the main emphasis is on the preparation and readiness of the disciple.

26 See Johannes Bapt. Bauer, "De veste nuptiali: (Matth. 22,11-13)," Verbum domini43:1 (1965):15-18.

27 The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, s.v. "Gnash, Gnashing of Teeth," by Emmet Russell, 2:735.

28 Eduard Schweizer, The Good News according to Matthew, trans. by David E. Green (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975), 215.

29 Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, eds. Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, s.v. "brycho, brygmos," by Karl Heinrich Rengstorf, 1 (1964):642.

30 Matthew is concerned in his Gospel with whether or not his Christian readers are willing to commit themselves to following the Lord Jesus no matter what the cost. Interestingly enough, the preponderance of conservative, premillennial teachers, though inconsistently holding to the traditional view of the "outer darkness," maintain that Matthew wrote his Gospel primarily with believing Jews in mind.

31 Oddly enough, there Is a reasonable amount of agreement among conservative evangelicals that the Bible teaches there will be rewards and loss of rewards in heaven (or the Millennial Kingdom). A clear passage often used by eternal security proponents is 1 Cor 3:10-15, where Paul states that a person, once having laid the foundation of Christ (clearly indicating a saved individual), may then go on to build on that foundation a layer of "wood, hay, and stubble." These materials represent a lack of Christian integrity, and they are said to he "burned up." "He will suffer loss," Paul emphatically states, "but he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." Here is a saved individual who actually goes through "fire" but clearly is not in hell. I sometimes find it incongruous how certain evangelicals can hold to this idea of loss of rewards, but are emotionally scandalized when it is suggested that the "outer darkness" is simply an example of what they (and we) already believe!

Return to Journal Index Menu | Go to Main Menu