“For whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives. It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons. For what son is there whom the father does not discipline?” Hebrews 12:6-7
I ended my last post with little exhaustion to the details concerning the reward and qualifications for entering into that reward of believers. I’m now going to move on to the part that has no discussion or place in mainstream protestant theology: punishment of believers. I will mention once again that without the backdrop of parts I-III of this series, this will seem abrupt and too quick at drawing conclusions, so please go back and read those if you haven’t already.
“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne” Psalm 89:14a
If God were to deal with all believers equally, then He would not be righteous or just. Yes, we are saved by grace through faith in regards to our eternal salvation and regeneration, for we were all sinners, fallen short, and deserving of death and damnation, but as believers entrusted with the gospel and the Spirit, we have a definite responsibility and God will deal with us accordingly.
Consider the scheme of the enemy: to make all Christians believe that after regeneration there is nothing left needed, and to believe that no matter how their life is lived, there are no consequences. This, though not spoken outright, is the silver lining implied in most protestant systems of theology, and it cripples the Lord’s saints and the accomplishment of His purpose.
We do have a responsibility, and we most definitely will be judged accordingly. Satan will soon be crushed under our feet, but we must wage the warfare and build the house (Rm. 16:20; Eph. 6:12; 1 Cor. 3:10).
Sons of the Kingdom
“And the field is the world; and the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one” Matthew 13:38
I want to make note here, beyond a shadow of a doubt that the “sons of the kingdom” are believers. They are the good seed that were sown by the Lord in verse 24 of chapter 13, among whom many “tares” were sowed in the midst of. If there is any objection to this, I can’t help you. Read the parable.
“But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness. In that place there will be the weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 8:12
Before becoming frantic and agitated, let’s look at a few similar passages before explaining what this “outer darkness” is.
“For the slave who has been called in the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; likewise the free man who has been called is Christ’s slave. You were bought with a price; do not be slaves of men.” 1 Corinthians 7:22-23 (c.f. 2 Pet. 1:1; Jm. 1:1; Rm. 1:1)
“For the kingdom of the heavens is just like a man about to go abroad, who called his own slaves and delivered to them his possessions. To one he gave five talents, and to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability. And he went abroad.” Matthew 25:14-15
There is no objection among any biblical scholars about the “man” in Matthew 25 being Christ. Question: who does Christ give His possessions to? His saints (Eph. 1:18, 14)! And who are Christ’s slaves? His saints! If there is any objection to this, once again I can’t help you.
“And cast out the useless slave into the outer darkness. In that place there will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 25:30
Let’s do one more. Don’t freak out yet.
Those Laboring in the Lord’s Name
“In Your name … we prophesied, and in Your name [we] cast out demons, and in Your name [we] did works of power” Matthew 7:22
Question: Have you ever prophesied? Have you ever cast out demons? Have you ever done works of power? Do you doubt your salvation? I hope the answer is no to the last question, but I think it’s safe to say that those who have done the things mentioned in the first three questions, in the name of the Lord Jesus, must be believers. In fact, they must be believers who are well acquainted with the Holy Spirit’s power and working. Is it possible to prophesy, cast out demons, and do works of power in the Lord’s name without having the Holy Spirit? These must be saints. If there is any objection to this, for the last time I can’t help you.
“And then I will declare to them: I never knew (i.e. approved; c.f. Rm. 7:15 translated ‘acknowledge’) you. Depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.” Matthew 7:23 c.f. Luke 13:27 which adds, “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth there when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you being cast outside.”
I lied. Let’s do one more before giving an explanation, just so we are all clear.
“But when the king came in to look at those reclining at table, he saw there a man who was not clothed with a wedding garment, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind his feet and hands, and cast him out into the outer darkness. In that place there will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. For many are called but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:11-14
Who is this guest? Surely he is a believer, since he is attempting to attend the wedding feast of the Lord and is “called.” For who is called other than saints (1 Cor. 1:2, 9, 24; Rm. 1:7; 2 Tim. 1:9)? Yet he is lacking the proper wedding garment. This garment is not the righteousness that all believers have from God at regeneration, but rather that which is gained during the process of sanctification:
“And it was given to her that she should be clothed in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of the saints.” Revelation 19:8 c.f. Matt. 5:20
Notice the plural “righteousnesses.” This is not the objective righteousness of Christ bestowed to us at our believing (1 Cor. 1:30; Rm. 3:26), but is that which a saint gains throughout life by denying the self and living Christ as our subjective righteousness (Pp. 3:9; 1:21).
Brief Word on Outer Darkness
I hope all are convinced by these simple yet deep and troubling verses. Deep because they describe a severe chastising of saints who are unfaithful and open our eyes to the Lord’s righteous dealing. Troubling because of the utter negligence concerning such verses in protestantism.
Outer darkness is not the lake of fire. To use 1st grade logic, I don’t think the eternal fire will be a very dark place. It is to be cast out from the Lord’s glorious, radiant, shining presence. “Weeping and gnashing of teeth” simply refers to regret. Regret for how one lives one’s life. This will be the response by those who are cast out of the kingdom reward or wedding feast and who watch the faithful saints dining as revealed in Luke 13:27.
God disciplines his children. He does this, as all fathers know, because He loves us and knows what is best for us. For the faithful believers in this age, they are being disciplined and proved now:
“Beloved, do not think that the fiery ordeal among you, coming to you for a trial, is strange, as if it were a strange thing happening to you” 1 Peter 4:12
“Count it all joy, my brothers, whenever you fall into various trials, knowing that the proving of your faith works out endurance. And let endurance have its perfect work that you may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
To those who lack such dealings with the Lord, who squander and quench the Spirit entrusted to them, who live according to the world, the self, and the enemy, there will be a punishment. Yet this punishment is a grace from the Lord, a time where He who began a good work will remain faithful to complete the work (Pp. 1:6).
The Lord is righteous and merciful. We need not compromise one for the other. He rewards those who do His will, and punishes those who don’t, yet He has begotten His children of His own life, and they shall by no means perish forever. He is faithful to complete the work which He began in each one of us, but we must make the choice to cooperate with Him in this age that we might be those who overcome and reign with Him in His kingdom.