Matthew 8:5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.”
7 Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.”
8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
10 When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
By “the subjects of the kingdom” Jesus was referring directly to the Jews who would refuse to put their faith in him. In contrast, the gentile Roman centurion had great faith in Jesus to heal his servant. As a consequence of the rejection of the gospel by the Jews, it would later be taken to the gentiles through the ministry of the apostle Paul. Approximately two thousand years have since elapsed since Jesus spoke these words. Do they have any relevance for God’s people today?
Could it be that in the 21st century “the subjects of the kingdom” refer to people who call themselves “Christians,” and that today the “gentiles” refer to those many non-Christian pagan peoples who are outside the kingdom of God—that is, outside of Christendom? Is there any possibility that some who call themselves “Christians” will be thrown outside where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth as happened to the Jews in New Testament times? Let’s examine this question.
The Parable of the Weeds
Matthew 13:36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
It is highly significant that in verse 41 Christ’s angels “will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” This obviously means that in his kingdom there are in fact weeds—sons of the evil one sowed by the devil—to be weeded out. These weeds are certain “Christians” in the Church. There are roughly one billion or more people in the world today who might identify themselves as “Christians.” But many of these are in fact sons of the evil one who cause sin and do evil. The angels will throw these particular “subjects of the kingdom” into the fiery furnace.
The Parable of the Net
Matthew 13:47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This parable, taught in the same chapter and breath as the parable of the weeds above, should be interpreted in the same way. The net obviously does not catch all the fish in the lake, but only a fraction of them. These caught in the net are “the subjects of the kingdom”—those in the Church. But in the net there are both good fish and bad fish. The angels will separate them. The wicked in the kingdom of heaven will be thrown into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
Matthew 22:1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.
13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
In this parable “those who had been invited to the banquet” likely refer to the Jews who as a nation rejected Jesus as the Messiah and had him crucified. (However, there were and are today blessed Jewish brethren who do acknowledge Jesus.) Therefore the gospel was taken to the “street corners” to invite the gentiles into the kingdom of heaven. Many gentile guests, both good and bad, came to fill the wedding hall. This is indicative of the millions upon millions of mostly gentile Christians who fill churches around the world every Sunday or Sabbath Day.
But not all Christians are wearing “wedding clothes.” Not all Christians have clothed themselves with Jesus Christ and living holy lives and producing good fruit for him. Those Christians who have not done this will be tied up and thrown outside into the darkness. The parable above tells us that many people were invited to the wedding banquet of the king’s son and many in fact took the time to show up. Many people, in the same way, show up at Christian meetings and attend church. But Jesus teaches us that few of these are actually chosen.
The wicked servant
Luke 12:42 The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. 44 I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
45 But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. (Matthew 24:51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.)
Those who are given a trust to lead and teach God’s people will be similarly judged, but perhaps even more strictly. Some are wise and fear God, obeying what the Lord commands them to do. But others are wicked. They beat other servants and eat and drink with drunkards. They rule over other servants and mistreat them as people in authority on earth often do. They love their lives in the world and do the things that unbelievers in the world do. Figuratively, they are eating and drinking and getting drunk. They will be cut to pieces and assigned a place with unbelievers and hypocrites where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Luke 12:47 “That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
Much higher standards and expectations will placed on those who have been entrusted with stewardship over God’s people and God’s work. Obedient and faithful ones will be rewarded. But the disobedient will not only lose their reward, they will be punished with blows. Below are more sobering Scriptures about what is expected of leaders.
The Parable of the Talents
Matthew 25:24 “Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
… 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
There were actually three servants to whom the master had entrusted talents, each according to his ability. According to this parable, the first two servants were faithful and fruitful and received rewards from their master. But the third servant was afraid of taking any risks with what the master had entrusted to him and so did nothing with it. It is not mentioned that this servant was engaged in eating and drinking and getting drunk like the servant in the preceding parable. He was not necessarily engaged in worldly or sinful behavior. He simply failed to produce profit for his master; he was fruitless. But he was judged to be worthless and was thrown outside into the darkness where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Those who consider themselves “servants” should take heed to these sobering warnings. God is just. He loves and rewards those who are faithful and fruitful. But to those who are disobedient and fruitless, His disapproval and wrath are revealed.
“Are only a few people going to be saved?”
Luke 13:22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
“ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.
Again, the immediate context has Jesus warning the Jews that many of them would try but fail to enter through the narrow door. Instead, gentiles “from east and west and north and south” would come and “take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.” But does this warning also apply to the multitudes of “Christians” in the Church today, many of whom will try to enter through the narrow door who is Jesus Christ? Based on the Scriptures we have already examined in this article, the answer is in the affirmative.
These Christians in the above Scriptures believe that they should be allowed inside the door. That is why they stand outside knocking on the door and explaining to the Lord that he should open the door for them—they knew him and ate and drank with him in his presence. They tell the Lord that they often heard his word taught, perhaps on Sundays in church. But apparently they were never taught that Jesus also said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)
Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation.The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”
We conclude that many “Christians” and “subjects of the kingdom” and even “servants” will be thrown outside into the darkness and fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. They have not obeyed the Lord’s words and put them into practice.
1 Peter 4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
We can of course find Scriptures which speak of God’s love and grace and which appear to paint a rosier picture for Christians. But the Scriptures cited here cannot be denied. Balance must be restored between the teaching on the love of God on the one hand, and on the fear of God on the other.