Outer Darkness

By Ernie and Mary Kroeger

In Matthew 8:12 Jesus said, “…but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness.” Since Jesusreferred to outer darkness, it must differ from ordinary darkness - the darkness of ignorance.  When the light of Jesus Christ shines into that darkness it causes that darkness to disappear, and all becomes light.   So outer darkness must differ from ordinary darkness.  What type of darkness goes beyond natural darkness?

In order to explain outer darkness I’d like to use an illustration from my own experience.  As many of you know, my eyesight is deteriorating due to a condition known as macular degeneration.  The other day I thought I would test the vision in my left eye – the weaker one.  So I closed my right eye and looked to see what I could see. I saw a large area that looked so black!  It looked like a wall of darkness!   It differed from ordinary darkness - the darkness that we normally see when we switch off the light.  It looked opaque - like a wall that would never permit light to enter its domain.  As I was reflecting on the blackness of what I was seeing, I noticed the light that shone around it.  This darkness did not change or disappear even though the light was switched on; it did not flee when light shone on it. 

As I mused on this, not thinking of anything spiritual, the Lord suddenly spoke to my heart.  He said that this is what outer darkness is like.  It is surrounded by a substance that does not allow light to penetrate.  This substance consists of religion - laws, traditions, creeds, doctrines, rituals, philosophies of men, and things like these. The slavish adherence to these rules and regulations does not allow for change. They form an impenetrable wall around the darkness in the hearts of people, and shut out the truth and light of Jesus Christ.  This keeps people from seeing their need of repentance and change. 

Jesus Christ was keenly aware of the impenetrable darkness of the law together with its religiosity, creeds and rituals that kept His people from receiving the light that Jesus Christ is. He is the truth and the light.  We cannot have truth without the light of understanding, and we cannot have understanding without the light of truth.  Jesus spoke the truth, but the traditions of men and the law kept the light out and the people remained in their darkness.  They would not receive Him.  He said, “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-49)   Instead of coming to Him, they crucified Him.

In the gospel of Matthew Jesus spoke of this condition three times.  The first reference is found in chapter 8:11-12.  A centurion (a Gentile), came to Jesus and asked Him to heal his servant.  This centurion compared the spiritual authority of Jesus with his own authority in the army.  Jesus marveled at the great faith of the centurion, and then contrasted it with the lack of faith in everyone in Israel.  Then He said, “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 

In this passage Jesus is telling the Jews (the sons of God’s earthly kingdom), that they were missing the kingdom of heaven because they were not believing in Him.  Their faith in the law and their traditions kept them from receiving the light that Jesus Christ is!  They could not enter the kingdom of heaven because they mistakenly believed that their heredity and their own righteousness were their admission ticket into the kingdom.  Their rejection of great available light caused their darkness to become even greater.

The second reference to outer darkness is found in Matt. 22: 11-13 in the parable of the wedding feast.  When the king came to check the wedding guests, he saw a man who was not dressed in a wedding garment.  In the custom of that day, each guest was given a special wedding garment to wear before entering the place of feasting. 

“But when the king came in to look over the wedding guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, `Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless.  Then the king said to the servants, `Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

This man was wearing his own clothes; they were not given to him.  “His own clothes” symbolized his own righteousness.  He thought he could enter the kingdom of heaven on his own merits or by his own works.  Our salvation is entirely the work of Christ; our clothes of righteousness are given to us by Christ.  Those who reject truth because they are trusting in their own works, doctrines, creeds, etc., will experience even greater darkness.

The third mention of outer darkness is found in the parable of the talents. (Matt. 25: 14-30)  The servant who had a wrong opinion of his master, and therefore refused to obey his master’s commands, was thrown into outer darkness.  He did not make use of the talents that were assigned to him.  Disobedience is unbelief, and therefore it disqualified him for entrance into the kingdom.  Disobedience has its roots in the dictates of the carnal mind.  Disobedience declares that there is another route available for us to follow that is better than the prescribed one.  It declares that our own reasoning is superior to our Lord’s directives.  Christ’s verdict: “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (v. 30)

Entrance to this place comes through a stubborn refusal to believe that the law and the adherence to creeds, doctrines and rituals cannot bring them salvation.  Like Adam and Eve, they falsely think that in the religiosity of self-effort they can attain salvation.   Although we may not realize it, every act of disobedience has its source in the polluted carnal mind that thinks its own reasoned opinion is superior and easier to follow than God’s directive.  This deception brings them into sadness, guilt, condemnation and anguish - is a place of weeping and anguish!   This is not a pleasant place to be in.  It is not a literal hell, and the weeping and wailing does not have its source in physical pain, but in its inability to provide forgiveness, love, peace righteousness and joy! 

Notice that Jesus spoke about outer darkness to the sons of the kingdom.  This message is not for those who have never heard the truth, but for those who will not disown their own importance, intelligence, and preconceived ideas.  They think they can remain in charge of their own destiny by believing the doctrines of their church or organization, and by keeping its laws and regulations, creeds and rituals, doing good deeds and making right decisions.  Acceptance of truth would require them to admit that they had been believing lies, and that these lies had become their truth.  Their religious pride will not allow them to repent.  Religiosity forms a barrier to the entrance of light! 

Only in Christ can we have peace and joy!  “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  (Rom. 14:17)  Only in Christ can we enter the kingdom!  He is the way, the truth and the light.  Only His light can take away our darkness.  Only in union with Christ and in submission to His will can we function in light!

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