“OUTSIDE INTO THE DARKNESS”
BY WAY OF INTRODUCTION
“Again, it” - [i.e., ‘the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt. 25: 1)] – “will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one [servant] he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’
His master replied. ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’
His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth:’” (Matt. 25: 14-30, N. I. V.).
“The Church is the nursery for the Kingdom. The disciples’ exclusion of an offending brother from communion with the Church, and putting him into the world again, is a silent witness of the Lord’s future exclusion from the Kingdom. The sins which ought to exclude from the Church will exclude, as the Apostle tells us, from the [Millennial] Kingdom:1 Cor. 5. & 6. The two chapters touch each other; so close also is their real connection.
Does the disciple then, for even a mistaken opinion, thrust out his fellow believer from the Church into the world? Oh then, much more shall the Lord exclude from the [His]* Kingdom for open and flagrant sin, against which even natural conscience bears testimony! …
[* That is, Messiah’s Millennial
Many believers have died out of communion of Churches from which they have been justly excluded for sin. Will they be ‘accounted worthy’ of a place in the Kingdom,* who were put out as unworthy of a place in the Church? …
[* See, Luke 20: 35; 2 Tim. 4: 14; 2 Thess. 3: 6, 7; 1 Tim. 4: 1: cf. Heb. 10: 23-30.]
Lastly, you admit, friend, that here must then be punishment for their evil deeds, if the coming day be ‘the day of justice’ (‘Judgment’). Shall we give account only of our right expenditure as stewards? or of thriftless and extravagant expenditure also? We may wish it otherwise: but is it not written – that each will ‘receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be GOOD or BAD:’ 2 Cor. 5: 10. ‘He that doeth WRONG shall RECEIVE FOR THE WRONG WHICH HE HATH DONE, AND THERE IS NO RESPECT OF PERSONS:’ Col. 3: 25.
Those then who will be quit of this doctrine at all hazards will scarcely feel any position a safe one, but that which asserts: (1) That there is no precept given to the elect of God; (2) And, by consequence, that they never sin, nor ever receive chastisement.
This awful position of unbelief [in the Word of God] I shall not here assail. My only object is to show the main bearings of the controversy, and to urge [all regenerate] believers to look into the matter prayerfully, submitting themselves to the Word of God. …”*
[* Taken from: ‘Believers and their Judgment’ by R. GOVETT.]
“It is in the nature of a trust that a day must come for a report of the trust to be put in; and so, after a prolonged period during which His servants trade with the talents he had entrusted to them, Jesus says that ‘the lord of those servants cometh, and maketh a reckoning with them’ (Matt. 25: 19). The parable covers the entire period from the Nobleman’s departure to his return – that is, from our Lord’s Ascension to the Second Advent; and so embraces all who have conducted His business on earth for nearly two thousand years: it covers the period, and the only period, in which the Church of Christ exists, and so is a comprehensive history of the work and judgment of the Church. The goods entrusted are small, but the returns possible on the outlay are enormous. To the very highest servant, who turns one pound into ten, our Lord says, ‘Thou wast faithful in a very little” (Luke 19: 17); obscure, nameless, often landless, sometimes homeless, even friendless, without rank or power, nevertheless we hold in our hands a trust which, rightly used, can change into incalculable wealth and power in the day of Messiah’s Kingdom.”
“Both the faithful servants are remarkable examples of ‘boldness in the day of judgment’ (1 John 4: 17): both come joyfully forward, for they have facts in their hands – the talents doubled; and both are invited at once into the joy of their Lord – our Lord’s joy in His Kingdom, for which He endured the cross, despising the shame, “the authority God will confer on Him on His second coming from heaven in kingly power and glory to establish the Messianic Kingdom” (Goebel)*
* It must be the Millennial Kingdom, for our Lord’s everlasting Kingdom as the son of God – as distinct from the Kingdom the Nobleman goes away to obtain (Luke 19: 12) – is inherently His, without beginning or end, never conferred: ‘of the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, IS FOR EVER AND EVER’ (Heb. 1: 8).”
[* From: ‘Christian Responsibility, by D. M. Panton.]
Mr. N-------- has informed me of your wishes regarding what I said at your annual meeting upon the unfaithful servant of our Lord’s parables in Luke 19 and Matthew 25, that you desire such subjects to be omitted from ministry I may give in future.
In various of my writings I have emphasized the duty of local elders to restrain in their midst what they regard as unscriptural or unprofitable ministry, and that this, not the resort to a controlled platform, is the scriptural way of dealing with such ministry. It follows that I shall, of course, be ready to have respect to your desires, should the Lord again send me to gatherings for the ordering of which you are responsible to Him, even though personally I may think that in this particular case you, with every desire to do what is right, are acting partially and not to the true welfare of the people of God or in real interests of the truth.
It is the easier to accept your suggestion because of the gracious and brotherly way in which it has been expressed. I cannot but contrast this with the very different manner in which I was treated many years ago by responsible brethren then in your city, and I rejoice and thank God that a happier and more godly spirit now prevails, for this will command His approval.
It is not necessary to say more, save to thank you heartily for the kind things said as to other elements of my ministry among you. I am writing to Mr. N------ personally upon some aspects of these matters, and you will be welcome to read what I am saying, if you wish.
Commending you to the grace of the Lord Jesus for your holy and responsible service in His house,
Yours affectionately in Him, G. H. LANG.”*
[*Taken from G. H. Lang’s pamphlet: ‘The Rights of the Holy Spirit in the House of God.’]
“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust MUST PROVE FAITHFUL:” (1 Cor. 4: 2, N. I. V.).
* * *
And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: and there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 25: 30).
The nature of the treatment awaiting the unfaithful servant at the hands of his Lord in the parable of the talents has been completely misunderstood by numerous Christians, leading them to conclude that the Lord was dealing with the unsaved person at this point in the parable. The Lord sharply rebuked the unfaithful servant, commanded that the talent be removed from his possession, and then commanded that he be cast into outer darkness.
The main problem which most Christians have with this part of the parable is the ultimate outcome of the Lord’s dealings with His unfaithful servant – the fact that he was cast into outer darkness. “Outer darkness,” within their way of thinking, is to be equated with Hell ([now understood by multitudes of regenerate believers to be equivalent to*] the final abode of the unsaved in the lake of fire); and knowing that a Christian can never be cast into Hell – for “no condemnation [‘a rendering of the judgment against’] can await the ones who are “in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8: 1) – those equating “outer darkness” with Hell are left with no recourse other than to look upon the Lord’s dealings with the unfaithful servant and the Lord’s dealings with the unsaved as synonymous.
It probably goes without saying that had the Lord treated the unfaithful servant in a somewhat different fashion, very few Christians reading this passage would even think about questioning his salvation, for the response of the unfaithful servant would be perfectly in line with such verses as (1 Cor. 3: 13, 15 and present no indication of an unsaved condition. But the Lord’s sharp rebuke, the removal of the talent from his possession, and his being cast into outer darkness constitute what many view as a sequence of events which could not possibly befall a Christian.
Such an outlook on this passage though completely ignores the context, resulting in an interpretation which is not taught in the text at all. And by forcing a non-contextual interpretation of this nature, one is left, after some fashion with (1) an erroneous view of salvation by grace through faith, (2) an erroneous view of the purpose of the present dispensation, (3) an erroneous view of the coming judgment of Christians, and (4) an erroneous view of the perfect justice and righteousness of God (ref. Chapters 17, 19, 20 where thoughts along these lines are discussed at length).
Then, if introducing the preceding erroneous views in areas of Biblical doctrine through a forced, non-contextual interpretation is not enough in and of itself, it should also be noted that such an outlook on this passage also closes the door to the correct interpretation, the one which the Lord had in mind when He related this parable in the presence of His disciples. Error will have fostered error and closed a door, leaving the student of Scripture, adhering to this erroneous system of thought, in a position where he cannot possibly understand aright the Lord’s present and future dealings with His household servants.
A DARKNESS ON THE OUTSIDE
The expression “outer darkness” only appears three times in Scripture, and all three are found in Matthew’s Gospel (8: 12; 22: 13; 25: 30). Luke in his gospel alludes to outer darkness in a parallel reference to Matt. 8: 11, 12 (Luke 13: 28, 29) but does not use the words. He simply reduces the expression to “without” (ASV).
Both Matthew and Luke use the Greek word ekballo, which means to “cast out”. Following the use of this word, the place into which individuals in these passages are cast is given in both gospels. In Matthew’s gospel the place is “into outer darkness [lit. from the Greek text, ‘into the darkness, the outer,’ or as we would normally say in an English translation, ‘into the outer darkness’ (in the Greek text there are definite articles before both the noun anf adjective, pointing to a particular place of darkness outside a particular place of light)]” In Luke’s gospel the place is described as “without,” or “on the outside.” The expressed thoughts by both Matthew and Luke locate this place immediately outside and contiguous to the region from which those in view are cast out. Both passages refer to the same place – a place of darkness on the outside.
The place from which individuals are cast out is one of light. This can possibly be illustrated best from Matthew, chapter twenty-two. In this chapter “outer darkness” is used to describe conditions in an area immediately outside the festivities attendant [to] a royal wedding. Such festivities in the East would normally be held at night inside a lighted banqueting hall. On the outside there would be a darkened courtyard; and the proximity of this darkened courtyard to the lighted banqueting hall would correspond perfectly to the expression, “the outer darkness,” or “the darkness on the outside.” A person cast therein would be cast out of the light into the darkness. And it is the same in relation to [an entrance, (Matt. 5: 20) into] the kingdom itself and positions of rulership therein as set forth in Matt. 8: 11, 12; 25: 14-30.
“Outer darkness” is simply one realm immediately outside of another realm, called “outer darkness” by way of contrast to the “inner light.” Those cast out are removed from the sphere associated with light and placed outside in a sphere associated with darkness.
Following events of the judgment seat of Christ, servants having been shown faithful and servants having been shown unfaithful will find themselves in two entirely different realms. Servants having been shown faithful will find themselves being privileged to participate in activities surrounding the marriage supper of the Lamb and will subsequently be positioned on the throne as co-heirs with Christ. Servants having been shown unfaithful though will not only be denied the privilege of attending the marriage festivities and participating in the subsequent reign of Christ but they will be consigned to a place outside the realm where these activities occur. They will be “cast” on the outside, from the inner light (a place associated with events surrounding the marriage supper of the Lamb and the reign of Christ) into the outer darkness (a place separated from events surrounding the marriage supper of the Lamb and the [millennial] reign of Christ).
This is the way “outer darkness” is used in Scripture; and this is the only way the expression is used. Any teaching concerning “outer darkness,” remaining true to the text, must approach the subject only from a contextual fashion of this nature, recognizing the subject matter at hand.
Gospel of Matthew outlines a sequence of events pertaining to
presents God’s dealings with the house of
1. Matthew 8: 11, 12
The first appearance of “outer darkness” in Matthew’s gospel is in Matt. 8: 11, 12, and the text and context both have to do with the message of the kingdom. Jesus had just finished a lengthy discourse to His disciples, commonly called the “Sermon on the Mount” (chapters 5-7), which is a connected discourse dealing with entrance into or exclusion from the kingdom of the heavens. Then in chapter eight the subject matter continues with the message concerning the kingdom, as the subject matter immediately prior to the Sermon on the Mount. The message at this point actually picks up where chapter four left off – with physical healings. These physical healings appear before, in conjunction with, and after the text concerning the kingdom of the heavens and outer darkness in chapter eight. These miraculous works of Christ among the Jewish people were signs having to do with the kingdom (cf. Isa. 35: 1ff; Matt 4: 23-25; 10: 5-8; 11: 2-5). They constituted the credentials of the messengers of the gospel of the kingdom.
is within a contextual setting such as this that “outer darkness” first appears in Matthew’s gospel. Actually, the subject arose after a Roman centurion
expressed faith that Christ could heal his servant (who was sick at home) by
just speaking the word. Christ used the
faith exhibited by this Gentile to illustrate a contrasting lack of faith
exhibited by those in
[*Note. Let all anti-millennial Christians take this unpopular scriptural truth to heart: “All” of the accountable generation of Israel under the leadership of Moses, (with the exception of Caleb and Joshua), who refused to believe that God was able to lead them into their inheritance in the Promised Land, were, because of their lack of faith and disobedience, refused entrance. God swore in His wrath that “not one of the men … who disobeyed … will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers” (Num. 14: 23, N.I.V.): and Paul the apostle, uses this Scriptural account to threaten the disobedient and immoral Christians inside the Church at Corinth lest they also, because of their lack of faith and disobedience to the precepts of Christ, will be refused an inheritance in the coming “kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6: 9; 9: 24-10: 12. cf. Gal. 5: 21; Eph. 5: 5, 6.).
And let it be understood and never forgotten, that, according to the Word of God, the earthly millennial inheritance promised by God to Abraham has not yet been fulfilled, nor can it be until God resurrects faithful and obedient Abraham from the place of the dead in the underworld of “Hades” / “Sheol” (Acts 7: 5. cf. Matt. 16: 18; Gen. 37: 35; Phil 3: 11; Rev. 20: 4, 5, etc.).]
entire scene anticipated Matt.
21: 43 where the heavenly portion of the
kingdom was taken from
[* That is, those regenerate believers “considered worthy of taking part in that age” – [the kingdom age] – “and in the resurrection [out] from the dead” along with faithful and obedient Abraham, will be “like the angels” - able to ascend into the heavenly sphere of the kingdom, or descend to its earthly sphere, as Christ has already demonstrated after His resurrection out from the dead, (John 20: 17, 19; 21: 1-14.).]
2. Matt. 22: 1-14
second appearance of “outer darkness”
in Matthew’s gospel is in the parable of the marriage festival in chapter
twenty-two. The contextual usage in this
passage is in association with the kingdom of the heavens and the
activities attendant a royal wedding.
Contextually, the “King” and His “Son” (v. 2) can
only be identified as God the Father and God the Son. The “servants” and “other servants” (vv. 3, 4) sent
“to call them that were bidden [
rejection of God’s Son was the final blow.
This signalled the conclusion of God’s dealings with
this point there is a difference in the two passages. Outer darkness in Matt. 8: 12 is reserved for “the sons of the kingdom [a
[* That is, without the required standard of personal righteous for entrance: “Unless your righteousness surpasses … you will certainly not enter the kingdom of the heavens,” (Matt. 5: 20. cf. Rev. 19: 7, 8).]
reconcile what is taught in these two passages, bear in mind that at the time
of Matt. 8: 11, 12 the kingdom of the heavens
had not yet been taken from
3. Matthew 25: 14-30
The third appearance of “outer darkness” in Matthew’s gospel is in a tripartite, connected discourse which deals with the Jews, the Christians, and the Gentiles – the Olivet Discourse. The inception of Christianity awaited a future date at this time; but the discourse, given following Christ’s statement that He would build His church and following the removal of the kingdom of the heavens from Israel, anticipated the one new man “in Christ” being brought into existence (Matt. 16: 18, 19; 21: 33-43; cf. Eph. 2: 12-15).
4-31) of the discourse deals
exclusively with events pertaining to
section of this discourse, God’s dealings with
section of this discourse, unlike the Jewish section, God does deal
with a people during the present time – a time preceding the [Great] Tribulation. And those with whom God is presently dealing
the recipients of the offer of the kingdom of the heavens following
is a widespread interpretation which associates Matt. 24: 32-25: 30
Gentile section of this discourse, only the Gentiles are in view. God, at that time in the future when these
events occur, will have completed His dealings with
[* Note. There must be a judgment of household servants to determine who (from amongst the dead), will be resurrected and have “the right to” reign with Christ during the millennium, (Rev. 3: 21; Phil. 3: 11; Luke 22: 28-30.).]
The preceding groundwork has been laid in order to place the third mention of “outer darkness” in Matthew’s gospel in its proper perspective. The third and last mention lies at the end of the parable of the talents, which concludes the Christian section of the Olivet Discourse. However, “outer darkness” is not restricted to the parable of the talents in this section. The parable of the Householder and His servant (24: 45-51), the parable of the ten virgins (25: 1-13), and the parable of the talents (25: 14-30) are interrelated after such a fashion that the expression “outer darkness” must be looked upon as applicable in parallel passages in all three.
The parable of the Householder and His servant follows the parable of the fig tree and comments concerning the “days of Noah” and a house being “broken up.” The main thoughts throughout this section (vv. 32-44) centre around the due season, watchfulness, and readiness for the Lord’s return. Then in the parable of the Householder and His servant, the thought drawn from what has preceded centers around faithfulness in dispensing “meat [not ‘milk’] in due season.” If the servant remains faithful, he will be made ruler over the Lord’s goods; but if the servant becomes unfaithful, he will be “cut asunder” and appointed “his portion with the hypocrites.” (Note that by comparing Matthew 24: 45-51 with the parallel section in Luke 12: 42-46 it is clear that only one servant is in view throughout. The servant either remains faithful or becomes unfaithful.)
The parable of the ten virgins immediately following begins with the word “Then,” pointing back to the parable of the Householder and His servant. The parable of the ten virgins covers the same subject matter, providing additional information from a different perspective; and the parable concludes in a similar fashion by showing what awaits both those who are ready and those who are not ready at the time of the Lord’s return.
The parable of the talents immediately following the parable of the ten virgins is introduced by the Greek words Hosper gar, which tell the reader that what is about to follow is like what has preceded. Verse fourteen, introducing this parable, should literally read. “For it [the parable of the ten virgins, and consequently the parable of the Householder and His servant as well] is just as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.” The parable of the Householder and His servant, the parable of the ten virgins, and the parable of the talents ALL concern the same basic issues.
In the parable of the Householder and His servant, unfaithfulness resulted in an apportion with the hypocrites; in the parable of the ten virgins, the unfaithful servants (foolish virgins) were excluded from the marriage festivities; and the parable of the talents, the unfaithful servant was cast into outer darkness. Understanding the interrelationship between these parables and comparing them with the parable of the marriage festival in chapter twenty-two, it becomes clear that “outer darkness” is associated with all three. This is the place where the unfaithful servants found themselves in all the parables, even though the expression is used only in the parable of the talents. One parable describes the place, and all three describe conditions in the place.
Comparing the parable of the Householder and His servant with the parable of the talents, note that positions of rulership are in view in both parables. Only the faithful will be apportioned these positions. The unfaithful will not only be denied positions in the kingdom but they will be apportioned their place “with the hypocrites” where there will be “the weeping and gnashing of teeth [an Oriental expression of deep grief]” (Matt. 24: 51; 25: 30, ASV), called “outer darkness” in the latter parable. Note the same expression in Matthew 22: 13 in connection with “outer darkness” (cf. also Matt. 8: 12). Also note that the unfaithful among the ten virgins were excluded from the marriage festivities (25: 10-12), as the man without a wedding garment (who was bound and cast into “outer darkness”) in Matt. 22: 11-13.
HE WENT OUT …
“But Peter followed him afar off into the high priest’s palace … Now Peter sat without the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, ‘Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.’ But Peter denied before them all, saying, ‘I know not what thou sayest’ … And again he denied with an oath, ‘I do not know the man’ … Then immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, ‘Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” (Matt. 26: 58, 69-75).
“And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully … If we suffer [‘patiently endure’] we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (2 Tim. 2: 5, 12).
Possibly the best illustration given in Scripture showing the downward path which it is possible for a Christian to take, ultimately leading into the place of darkness outside the light, is the recorded actions of the Apostle Peter immediately preceding Christ’s crucifixion. Christ had informed His disciples that they would all “be offended” during the next few hours because of Him; and from that time until the time Peter is seen weeping bitterly because of his offence, there are seven steps recorded in Scripture showing how he was brought into this condition (Matt. 26: 31-75.).
(The word “offended [Gk. skandalizo]” has to do with something causing opposition which can result in a fall. This is the same word used in Matt. 13: 21, which, according to Luke 8: 13, can result in a falling away, apostasy. The words “fall away” in Luke 8: 13 are the translation of aphistemi in the Greek text. This is the verb form of the noun apostasia, from which we derive our English word “apostasy.”)
Step One: Peter would not accept Christ’s statement concerning what the disciples were about to do, as he had not previously accepted Christ’s statement on another occasion and had to be rebuked by the Lord (Matt. 16: 21-23). Peter then made his boast that he would never allow opposition to bring about a falling away (cf. James 4: 13-15); and in response to Christ’s subsequent statement that he would deny Him three times that very night, Peter responded, “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee”; and the other disciples responded likewise. But during the next few hours, “all the disciples” would forsake him and flee (Matt. 16: 33-35, 56).
two: Following the disciples’
boast that they would never allow opposition to bring about a falling away or
never deny Him, Christ took Peter, James, and John into the
Three: Judas had betrayed Christ
to the religious leaders of
Step Four: The previous actions of Peter and the other disciples – boasting of that which they would do (though the Lord had told them otherwise), sleeping when they should have been watching and praying, and Peter resorting to the arm of flesh as he sought to carry out his previous boast – led the disciples into doing exactly what they had previously stated would not occur. When Jesus was taken by the multitude. “Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled” (Matt. 26: 56).
Step Five: Peter then began to follow Christ “afar off” (Matt. 26: 58). He had taken the sword; and it was about to result in his ruin. He had resorted to the man of flesh and was in the process of reaping what he had sown (cf. Matt. 26: 52; Gal. 6: 7, 8). Because of his previous actions, the closeness which had been his in the inner circle with James and John was now gone (cf. Matt. 17: 1; 26: 37).
Step Six: When Jesus was taken into the high priest’s palace for questioning by the religious leaders, Peter, following Him “afar off,” remained outside in the courtyard. Rather than identifying himself with Christ on the inside, he sat down with the enemy on the outside (Matt. 26: 69; Luke 22: 54).
Step Seven: Peter’s past actions had now led him to the final point in his fall. When accused of being one of Christ’s disciples, Peter denied his Lord on three separate occasions, followed by the cock crowing a second time just as Christ had foretold. And the Lord, being led at that moment past Peter into “the hall of judgment” (John 18: 28), turned and looked upon Peter, awakening him to the stark reality of what he had done (Matt. 26: 34, 69-74; Mark 14: 72; Luke 22: 61).
The Lord’s look in this passage was far more than a brief glance. The word used in the Greek text (embelpo) points to Christ fixing His eyes upon Peter in an intently searching sense. Peter came under scrutiny for his actions, causing him to remember that which had previously occurred. Peter then “went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22: 62).
Peter, because of his past actions, found himself outside in the place where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” He was in “outer darkness” (cf. Matt. 8: 12; 22: 13; 24: 51; 25: 30).