By Leon Odom
All Bible students familiar with the life of our Lord are cognizant of the fact that much of his personal teachings were involved in a confrontation with the Jews. The Jews always demonstrated that they had a real problem with their faith -both objectively and subjectively. In the times of the apostles they did not consider the gospel as a message directed to any Gentile, for to them the Gentile was despicable. However, Paul made the matter clear in Romans 1:16, declaring, “the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Hence the Jews often received rebukes, from both the Lord and the apostles, for their supercilious attitude toward those who were not the descendants of Abraham. The Jews not only had a faith problem relative to the gospel, but also with regards to their “belief” (or maybe we should say with their unbelief). Much of our Lord’s teachings on Hell emanated from conflict with the Pharisees.
This will serve to lead us into the text of this study. Matthew 8:5-13 is the record of the healing of the centurion’s servant. Here it is:
And when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, pleading with him, saying, Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, terribly tormented. And Jesus said unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof. But only speak a word and my servant will be healed. For 1 also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, go, and he goes; and to another, come, and he comes; and to my servant, do this and he does it. When Jesus heard this he marveled, and said to those who followed, Assuredly, I say unto you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you, that many will come from the east and the west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Jesus marvels at the faith of the Gentile centurion. The only other reference where it is said that “Jesus marveled” is in Mark 6:6, where he marveled over the “unbelief” (lack of faith) of the Jews. “Sons of the kingdom” refers to the Jews, to whom the kingdom belonged by heritage, according to their thinking. The Gentiles are represented as those from the east and the west who come to him by faith.
The Lord is using a simile to get his message across. To the Jewish mind was always the association of the kingdom to a gala festivity. Picture such an event as in a great hall: being conducted at night the hall is ablaze with torches giving off a brilliant light. Those inside are in fellowship with the king and other loyal servants. The felicity of the occasion is indescribable. On the other hand, picture those on the outside looking in. They are in the absence of light. They are cast away into darkness.
This scribe finds it interesting to note that there are two darknesses contemplated in the Scriptures. We would simply put it, outside of the kingdom in the world of deluded, ignorant, lying and rebellious souls. From this darkness men can be saved and finally enjoy the bliss of eternal light (Rom. 1:16). The second darkness, which we would explore, is the “utterly outside” darkness from whence there is no escape and which will last throughout eternity; that is, never ending. This “outside darkness” is not to be viewed as merely the absence of light, life, and joy. We need to realize that it is a dreaded power that drags souls away from the light and holds them forever in its control.
When we begin to think of this “outer darkness” as a place, even as heaven is viewed as a place prepared for the faithful, it becomes more realistic. When the student of the Bible thinks of heaven, his heart should leap with joy and his expectation should run high. Heaven! A place prepared for those in fellowship with the Father. A place where we shall forever be in the benedictive presence of God. There we can walk through the Elysian fields of glory and live in the perpetual springtime of eternity with the redeemed of all the ages past. In that land that is fairer than day, we will eat of the fruit of the evergreen tree, and drink the waters of everlasting life. We will bask in the sunlight of God’s love and mingle our voices with the angels as they sing the song of Moses and the Lamb with the volume of a “mighty water-fall. ” There we shall gaze on the towering walls of jasper and the beautiful gates of pearl. And more importantly, we shall see our Savior as he is. No wonder John said, “Come Lord Jesus, come quickly.” What a day that will be when all of the faithful get home!
Hence when we contemplate such a gathering as that, then we can view the eternal punishment of the workers of iniquity with more appreciation for what Jesus said in our text. In the outer darkness we are shut out of the portals of heaven forever. Out of the presence of Deity! In the outer darkness of eternal night the misery is pictured as “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” In hell there is fire but no light; it is utter darkness,- darkness in extremity; the highest degree of darkness, without any remainder of semblance of hope for light. In hell there will be great grief and deep rivers of tears shed to no purpose. All of the anguish of spirit will be the order throughout ceaseless ages. The castaways will be conscious of the joys and delights of the heavenly host, and will be aware that there is between the two places a “great gulf fixed.” To emphasize it all, that misery will last forever and forever without end! Perish the thought of ever being cast into hell.
Neighbor friend, we can let that be only a place we read about and avoid. We need to strive to “walk in the light” of his word while here on earth so that we can revel in the “light of heaven’s eternity” when this pilgrim journey is ended.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 19, pp. 584-585
October 3, 1991