In this article, we are going to cover some very controversial issues—issues that probably will go against some of your “traditional views”—so we encourage you, first of all, to be open and receive the Word with a readiness of mind, but then, check everything out in Scripture. As Acts 17:11 teaches us: “They received the Word with all readiness of mind, [but] then they searched the Scriptures to see if these things be so.”
The Millennial Kingdom that we will be talking about is not heaven; it’s that literal, physical kingdom on earth where Jesus Christ will reign in person for a thousand years. It’s a time where we will have intimacy with the King of Kings and a realm where many will rule and reign with Christ.
Now, when we say “rule and reign” with Christ, we simply mean holding positions of authority (or levels of responsibility) that Christ will entrust to us. It might be authority over a country, over a state, a city, a town or simply a housing complex. It all depends upon our faithfulness here in this life. This is the training ground. Most Christians acknowledge the Millennial Kingdom to some degree or another, but many have absolutely no idea as to what criteria is required (if any) to en-joy a significant role there. We don’t realize that not only our rewards but also our place of responsibility in this future kingdom will either be won or lost according to our fruitfulness, obedience and perseverance here and now.
At the Judgment Seat of Christ every Christian’s position in the coming thousand-year reign will be determined. Christ is the One who knows us intimately and He will be the Judge who will evaluate us by our fruits, our faithfulness and our obedience. 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 speaks about this time and tells us that: “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. But if any man’s “work” shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (The ones that suffer loss here are believers who made it to heaven—they were saved—but, they lost their “reward of inheritance.” Colossians 3:24) What this is saying is that all believers will be with Christ in the coming Millennium, but only those whose work “abides” will inherit blessings (levels of responsibility) in that kingdom.
Paul takes this even further and in 1 Corinthians 9:24 he says: “Know ye not that all run in a race, but [only] one receiveth the prize. He explains in Philippians 3:14 what the prize is—“the high calling of God”—co-reigning with Christ. This is the “reward of inheritance” that Colossians refers to. It’s enjoying the blessings, the intimacy and the “rest” that God has planned all along for us.1 A “gift” and a “prize” are two different things. A gift is something that is bestowed freely upon someone, like our justification before the Lord;2 whereas, a prize is something that is gained through some performance. Paul says this prize comes only by straining, working and pressing in for it.
The book of Hebrews speaks extensively about the possibility of believers losing not their sonship, but their “reward of inheritance” from God. (See Hebrews 3:7-14; 4:1, 11; 10:26-39; 12:25-29.)
“Sons of the Kingdom” (Matthew 8:11-12)
There are several other Biblical passages that speak about forfeiting or losing our reward of inheritance. One is the narrative in Matthew 8:11-12: “And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the Kingdom of Heaven [the Millennial Kingdom]. But the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
This is a very disturbing verse. So we need a little back-ground here. First of all, Jesus is the One talking and He’s talking to His own followers: Jewish and Gentile believers. He is talking about an event that will happen in the future—in the “kingdom of heaven”—where Abraham, Issac and Jacob will be present. This is very important because, as you will see, the “kingdom of heaven” refers to the Millennial Kingdom where resurrected saints like Abraham, Issac and Jacob will be present.
Jesus directs His comments to a believing Centurian (a Gentile) who had displayed tremendous faith. Jesus mentions this man’s faith and contrasts him to “the sons of the kingdom” who will be cast out because of a lack of faith. Who are these “children (or sons) of the kingdom”? The common interpretation is that they are Israelites, non-believing Jews. But, in fact, they are Jewish believers! Scripture makes it very clear that they are “the good seed”; i.e., the believers. Listen to Matthew 13:38: “The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one.” Thus, it is not to the unregenerate that this fate occurs, but to the sons of the Kingdom, to whom the calling naturally belongs.3
This Scripture then is speaking about truly saved Jewish believers who, of all people, should have demonstrated great faith like the Gentile Centurian. But, like so many of us, they showed only marginal and nominal faith. These are the ones who are found to be disqualified to inherit the kingdom, so they are cast into the darkness outside where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
What is Meant by “Outer Darkness”?
This term “darkness” which so many of us have usually associated with “hell,” is used extensively throughout Scripture, not always as a reference to hell, but simply as a reference to being outside of the Lord’s will.
For example, 1 John 2:9-11 in the New Testament says: “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light and there is no occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not where he goeth, because darkness hath blinded his eyes.” This is a believer that John is talking about because he refers to him as “a brethren.” God is still in this believer’s heart, but because he has quenched the Spirit by poor choices, he is seen as “walking in darkness.” The darkness in this Scripture is the same Greek word used in the above Matthew narrative.
Also note Isaiah 50:10 in the Old Testament which says, “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” This, again, is obviously a believer that is being referenced here.
So, the word “darkness” gets its meaning from the context of the Scripture. Therefore, when you hear the term “outer darkness” don’t jump to the conclusion it’s always talking about “hell.” It is not.
Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, one of the most respected scholars of our time, comments on “the outer darkness” in his commentary, The Complete Word Study New Testament (with Parallel Greek). He says: “This term may be applied to believers who have failed the Lord in their service...the ‘outer darkness’ may be a reference to a place or a position of far less rewards for the servants who proved themselves less diligent than those who used and exercised their talents to the fullest. The expression would then refer to the degrees of the enjoyment of heaven rather than referring to hell.”
Kenneth Wuest commenting about Matthew 8:12 in his Greek New Testament says, “this darkness is simply the darkness that is outside the King’s banqueting house. It is not hell.” Also, Charles Stanley in his book Eternal Security says, “The outer darkness here simply refers to being thrown outside a building into the dark. It is not a description of hell.”4
Therefore, it’s important to understand right up front that the concept of “outer darkness” is not the non-Biblical Catholic doctrine of “purgatory.” It’s not a place of suffering and torture. It’s not a place of purging!
God does not punish us. He loves us back to health, wholeness and renewal. So, don’t let the enemy put fear and condemnation on you at this point because of any Catholic back-ground. God is not a harsh judge who is interested only in our “perfect” behavior. He is a loving Father who accepts sinners as His children and then, in His compassion and love renews them back to wholeness.
Therefore, His chastening is not punitive. Hebrews 12:5-6 validates this: “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou are rebuked of Him; For who the Lord loveth He chasteneth...” (1 Corinthians 11:31-32) God’s discipline begins in this life and possibly may extend on into the next.
The basic difference between the Catholic doctrine of purga-tory and what we are sharing here is that, first of all, there is going to be a literal Messianic Kingdom here on earth for a thousand years. All believers will be raptured and after the Judgment Seat of Christ, all believers will enter that kingdom. However, only the overcomers (those who recognize their sin and self and choose to repent and follow Christ) will be able to inherit kingdom positions.
This “outer darkness” then is not a place of dark suffering like hell, but a place where God in His Love will “retrain” these unfaithful believers back to His way of holiness. It’s a place of renewal, new beginnings, fresh starts. Remember Psalm 94:15, “God’s judgment shall return unto righteousness.” Just as the Lord cleanses, refines, purifies and separates the vine for the purpose of producing more “fruit,” He does the very same thing with us. And, apparently, He will do this in the Millennial Kingdom also.
Over the next several months as we continue our study of The Kingdom, Power and Glory, we will be looking at several passages in Matthew which speak about “the Kingdom of Heaven,” “being cast out,” “the outer darkness,” and “weeping and gnashing of teeth” all in the same verse. (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 24:51 and 25:30) In fact, the term “outer darkness” is used nowhere else in Scripture but in these specific Matthew parables.
The reason Matthew seems to focus on the “Kingdom of Heaven” is because his is the only Gospel that records Christ’s announcement to turn His attention from the Jews to the Gen-tiles and build “His church.”
Matthew 21:43 validates this: “the kingdom of God shall be taken from you (meaning the Jews) and given to a nation (meaning the “body” of Christ) bringing forth the fruits thereof...” In other words, Matthew’s Gospel highlights the change to whom His message is being proclaimed (from the Jews to “the Body of Christ”).
So, all of the parables that we will be looking at are told by Jesus Christ Himself and directed to the whole body of believers (Jewish believers, Gentile believers, His own servants, the church and any believer waiting for His return). This is why it’s so crucial for us to take note of exactly what is going on here.
“…the disciples came and said unto Him, Why speakest Thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given…because seeing they see not; and hearing, they hear not, neither do they understand….But, blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear.” (Matthew 13:9-16)
To be continued next month: “Who Will Inherit & What Are the Requirements?” These articles have been excerpted from Chuck and Nan’s new book, The Kingdom, Power and Glory. Other products of The King’s High Way can be found on our online store.