Last month we read Jesus’ Parable of the Ten Talents (Mat-thew 25:14-30) with its emphasis on “the outer darkness” and “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Before we begin to dissect these terms, we need to understand what exactly a parable is.
A parable is simply a truth told in story form in order to help explain a previously taught truth. Para actually means “to come alongside.” The previous truths in Matthew 24 and 25 are all about the Rapture, how we are to watch for Christ’s re-turn at any moment, and the coming Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 24:32—25:30). The reason Jesus chose to speak in parables is so that His disciples and followers could understand, but His detractors could not (Matthew 13:10–11).
Parables are prophetic in nature. The particular parables we will be studying in the coming articles—Matthew 8:11-12; 22:1-13; 24:45-51; 25:1-13 and 25:14-30—are prophetic in nature. They describe all of the events between the rejection of the Kingdom of Heaven by Israel and the fulfilling of the destiny of the Church—including the Rapture, the Bema Seat, the Wed-ding, and the Marriage Feast.
In Matthew 24, it’s important we notice Jesus’ change of focus—from the Jewish nation to His own disciples, the first members of His church. Towards the end of Matthew 24, He stopped speaking to the Jewish people and began to talk to His body of believers (notice especially verses 36–44). The doctrine that Jesus then taught to His disciples became the foundation upon which the church would be built (Matthew 28:19–20). Consequently, what Jesus spoke to His disciples, He was also speaking to His church: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”
Therefore, it’s Scriptural for us to apply to our own lives what Jesus spoke to His disciples through these parables.
The servants that Jesus was talking about in the Parable of the Ten Talents are His own servants—those who belong to Him. In other words, they’re believers. (You can’t say that only two of the servants were saved and the third one was not. They were all “servants” and they were all “saved”—because they were all waiting for His return.) In fact, the word servant (Strong’s #1401, doulos) in this Scripture is used to describe all three of these individuals. We cannot arbitrarily dismiss the third servant as being unsaved, simply because we don’t understand the terms “cast out,” “outer darkness,” and “weeping and gnashing of teeth” in regards to a Christian.
The talents (or the money) in this parable were not gifts, but represented a special privilege or stewardship that was given to each of these servants in accordance with their own capacity for business. It was a loan, so they could decide for themselves what they wanted to do with it, just as God gives us the free choice to decide our own course of action. The number ten sug-gests “a measure of human responsibility.”
The first servant doubled his master’s investment, proving that he was merciful and honest in exercising trust for another’s benefit. He was also faithful to his master’s interests.1 The second servant did the same, only not to the same degree. The last servant, however, thought there would be no consequences to what was done with his master’s talent. Thus, he made no effort to improve what was given to him. He never exercised the grace that his master gave him.
This parable, then, is really concerned with the actions of the servants of God. It was not the possession of the talents that determined their reward or punishment; it was the servants’ use of them. It was their faithfulness—what they did with the blessings the Lord gave them. The first two faithful servants wisely used the privilege that was afforded them. And the Lord was pleased and said, “Well done, good and faithful servant, you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of the Lord” (Matthew 25:21).2 These servants were then ushered into God’s presence and His fellowship.3
Cast into the Outer Darkness
But the third “unprofitable servant” wasted the talents the Lord gave him, so he was then cast into the outer darkness where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Now the word unprofitable (Strong’s #888) simply means “not worthy of” (in the sense of not being fit or prepared). It’s again the Greek word axios. This man was not worthy of entering the joy of the Lord’s presence because he had not been faithful, obedient, or persevering. Thus he wasn’t qualified to enter the joy of the Lord.
The phrase cast out has two definitions: Ekballo (Strong’s #1544) which means he was grudgingly cast forth from his original position, a position he was once a part of but was now ejected, sent forth, and sent away. This Greek word is always used in connection with the outer darkness or the “darkness outside” and is the one used in the before mentioned Parable of the Ten Talents. Whereas ballo (Strong’s #906) is always used for casting away violently, throwing out, not caring where it falls. This Greek word is always used in connection with being cast into hell or fire.
Finally, the phrase outer darkness (Strong’s #1857, exoteros, and Strong’s #4655, skotos), which we talked about in our last article, means the “darkness outside” and is so rendered in the new International Standard Version of the Bible. It’s simply the darkness outside the light of God’s presence. It’s another region or another area outside of where the joy of the Lord was being experienced by the first two faithful and obedient servants. It’s a place outside the room where the obedient servants are enjoying God’s presence, but evidently contiguous to it. The unprofitable servant can see what is going on in the other region, but he cannot enter in. He is a castaway—he was cast out of fellowship. Now we might be able to understand a little more clearly why Paul was so apprehensive about being a “castaway.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)
In this darkness outside, the unfaithful servant will experience weeping and gnashing of teeth, which simply means “pro-found regret.” Keep in mind that God does not wipe away our tears until the end of the Millennium. Revelation 21:4 says, “I will wipe away all tears from their eyes,” speaking of heaven, not the Millennium. (Revelation 7:17 refers only to the Tribulation saints; verse 14.)
Many of us have been so influenced by our preconceived ideas about certain terms in the Bible that it’s often very difficult for us to be open to new ideas and new interpretations. That’s why Acts 17:11 is so important to apply here. “They received the word with all readiness of mind, [but they] searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”
Sounds a Little Like “Purgatory”
When we first began to write the Kingdom, Power and Glory book and were sharing a little about these principles with others, especially the part about the “outer darkness” and the “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” many who had Catholic backgrounds quickly said: “This place sounds a little like purgatory!”
Since neither of us have a Catholic background, we were surprised by this response. So we want to make a clear distinction between “purgatory” and the “outer darkness.” The Catholic Encyclopedia says: “Purgatory is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.” In other words, it is a place where men and women go to be temporarily purged by fire for their sin. This Catholic doctrine comes from 2 Maccabees 12:41-46.
Contrary to this, Romans 5:8 clearly states that Jesus paid the penalty for all of our sins. The idea that we have to suffer for our sins after death is contrary to everything the Bible says about salvation. Neither Jesus, nor Paul, nor any modern Protestant churches teach the existence of a place of purgatory. Paul, throughout his epistles, made it very clear that God’s judgment of believers is not punitive!4 (We’ve tried to make this point over and over again.) Revelation 3:19 tells us that those God loves, He rebukes and chastens, but He does not punish. And Hebrews 12:10 says the only reason He chastens us is so that we might be “partakers of His holiness” and thus, be able to inherit the kingdom.
The sins of a believer have already been paid for at the Cross. It’s a finished work. He does not have to go through a period of purging before he goes to heaven (Titus 2:14; He-brews 1:3). The outer darkness is not a place of punishment!
The basic difference between the Catholic doctrine of purgatory 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 all believers will enter that Kingdom. However, only the true overcomers (those who recognize their continual choices and choose to follow Christ) will be able to inherit regal positions. Christians who are overcome (or overtaken) by the world, the flesh, and the devil will have their works burned, but they themselves will be saved. First Corinthians 3:13 and 15 confirm this: “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 test every man’s work of what sort shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall test every man’s work of what sort it is...If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved.” Thus, it’s not the person who is burned but simply his fleshly works—works motivated by the believer himself and then performed in his own strength and for his own self-glorification. These are things he did in his own power and through his own love. The burning of these fleshly works is done at the Judgment Seat of Christ, not in the outer darkness.
The issue at stake in this parable is not the unfaithful servant himself (since he is a believer, his sins have already been judged and forgiven at the Cross). The issue is his works and his deeds here on earth. The issue is that he didn’t use the talents that God gave him to produce godly “fruit.”
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. As Psalm 94:15 says, “God’s judgment shall return unto righteousness.” Just as the Lord cleanses, refines, purifies, and separates the vine for the purpose of making more fruit, He does the very same thing with us. And, apparently, He will do this in the Millennial Kingdom also.
To be continued: “No Fear in God’s Love.” This article has been excerpted in part from Chuck and Nan’s new book The Kingdom, Power and Glory.