Explain Matthew 22:13 and 25:30, where a person is said to be cast “into outer darkness.” Was the person a Christian? In Heaven, will there be a Hell for some?
A.The answer to both questions is no. The phrase “into outer darkness” must be understood by the context, or setting, for each appearance. The book of Matthew bridges the Old Testament (with its concentration on God’s Chosen People, the Jews) and the New Testament, because Matthew was a Jew who believed on Christ and became a disciple and apostle. His Gospel especially focuses on the events and words of Christ that highlight Him as the Jewish Messiah, Whom His people rejected when He was on earth. In chapters 21—23 we find the Jews’ final rejection of their King before Jesus’ suffering and death. In chapters 24 and 25 we find the King (Jesus) teaching what is commonly called the Olivet Discourse, in which Jesus prophesied the Tribulation and His subsequent second coming as King. At that time, the Jews will accept their Messiah.
In 22:13 we read of the culmination of a parable about a wedding dinner. The final verses of the previous chapter show angry Jewish chief priests and Pharisees already trying to seize Jesus and kill Him. Jesus then aimed this parable at them. Three groups had been invited to the wedding dinner. The first two constituted Jews, and probably referred first to the people invited through John the Baptist’s ministry, which pointed the nation to the Lamb of God (John 1:29) and later to those invited through the proclamation to Jews by Peter in Acts 2. Despite both witnesses, the Jews rejected their King. The king in the parable was justifiably angry with their rejection of the invitation and “sent out his armies” (Matthew 22:7). Israel fell under divine discipline with the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and the nation to this day during the present Church Age has been temporarily set aside in God’s program.
The third invitation broadly included everyone who would come. In other words, all people may come to Christ, Gentiles specifically. It has come to pass that the Gentiles are primarily both the recipients and carriers of the gospel in this Church Age. However, “many are called, but few are chosen” (v. 14), meaning that only some will actually trust Christ as Savior. In the parable, the man who didn’t wear a proper wedding garment represents those who pretend to be saved but who are trusting in their own goodness for salvation. Only those who have experienced the new birth are clothed with the righteousness of Christ (Romans 10:3). Interestingly, the custom back then was that the person who issued the invitation would provide the proper garments for the wedding feast. This custom pictures the fact that all can take advantage of Christ’s garment of righteousness. He provides it. Therefore, no one will have an excuse when standing before Him at the Great White Throne Judgment, and every nonbeliever will be sentenced to eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11–15).
The context of the second passage in your question refers to events still to come, yet it also has meaning for the whole time span from Christ’s first coming as a baby to His second coming as King. Jesus also used a parable, the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14–30). This parable is the final one of a number of pictures on being prepared. In this parable, several servants are given varying weights of money (“talents”). One of them buried his talent because he had only one. Since he didn’t use the one talent he did have, he was considered unprofitable and was cast out, or excluded, from the kingdom. The man certainly failed to act, but the real point was that his inaction was actually an evidence of his lack of faith. Therefore, he was cast “into the outer darkness” (sent to Hell) because of his unbelief.
While these passages in Matthew relate specifically to the messianic Kingdom of God, in which people have issues such as unbelief and lack of readiness, the verses you mentioned also have principles that apply in all centuries, including today. In other words, elements that are true for those who await the Second Coming during the Tribulation are also true for those who are waiting for the Rapture. First, we must be ready to meet God so as not to be ashamed when we stand before Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Peter 3:10–14; 1 John 2:28). Second, we must be faithful in using what we have been given (1 Corinthians 4:2). Third, degrees of service exist in Heaven, and our level of participation there will be based on our degree of diligence here (Matthew 25:21). Fourth, Hell is real; it is a literal Lake of Fire where the unbeliever will spend eternity (Revelation 20:15; 21:8).
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