Jude 13 …and also Jesus’ references to “outer darkness” in Matthew
Jude 13 (Speaking of false teachers and those who blaspheme the things of God that they don’t understand) “[They are] raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.”
I’m not going to say much about this because I don’t think there is much to say. Traditionalist writer Robert Peterson spends a lot of time creating “meaning” for this verse, but to me, if you had to describe the nothingness of non-existence that false teachers, blasphemers (and other non-believers) are ultimately destined for, the “blackness of darkness forever” seems like as good a description as anything. And it certainly doesn’t line up with the literal traditionalist teaching that the lost will be forever floating and gurgling in a Lake of Fire. Now, traditionalists who believe that all of the fire language is just figurative for an eternal separation from God could claim that this “description of hell” is accurate and lines up with the “separation theory”, but they would first have to prove that the Bible teaches the separation theory – that the lost will be immortal, always in existence, but merely without the presence of God; but I believe this will never be found in Scripture. So I think that the “blackness of darkness forever” simply means nothingness, and non-existence, the same thing that we looked at in the Jude 7 summary above this one in the list.
Peterson tries to legitimize the concept of a figuratively dark hell by pointing out that Jesus too warned of coming darkness. Here are a couple of those passages:
Mat 8:8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
Mat 8:9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
Mat 8:10 When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
Mat 8:11 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.
Mat 8:12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Mat 22:12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.
Mat 22:13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
From the commentaries I’ve read, Matthew contains certain portions that are directly tied to Jewish custom, and are written from that perspective, plain and simple. Not that there isn’t a lot of information there for the church as well, but certain parts of Matthew need to be considered in the context of being written specifically to the Jews, or at least considered with the flavor of Jewish tradition, in order to catch the fuller meaning. I was reminded of this as I listened to an old MP3 of prophecy expert Jimmy DeYoung the other day where he commented on a few places in Matthew that have nothing to do with Gentiles at all, according to his study. And it is interesting that there is no other reference in the other three gospels, or actually in the whole Bible to “outer darkness” besides the ones that Jesus makes in the book of Matthew. So that’s the first thing to keep in mind regarding these passages.
18th Century theologian John Gill, even though he actually held a traditional view of eternal hell, didn’t believe these verses were a literal description of hell either, but rather a picture of the rejection of the Jews who wouldn’t accept Christ, and I think he makes a lot of sense. Here is what he wrote:
“The allusion in the text is, to the customs of the ancients at their feasts and entertainments; which were commonly made in the evening, when the hall or dining room, in which they sat down, was very much illuminated with lamps and torches; but without in the streets, were entire darkness: and where were heard nothing but the cries of the poor, for something to be given them, and of the persons that were turned out as unworthy guests;”
If you look at the context of the verses, it seems that Jesus is letting these Jews know that while they very much believe themselves to be justified and right before God, and to be worthy guests, they are actually the very ones who will be rejected and will not enter the kingdom because they are rejecting the Messiah who they’ve been expecting. He even says in 8:12 that it is the children of the kingdom(the Jews) that will be cast out into outer darkness, whereas, in 8:11, He told them that others (Gentiles) from all over would be the ones who actually enter the kingdom of heaven. And Matthew 22:15 confirms that Jesus was speaking this against the unbelieving Jews, and in their presence. As far as the weeping and gnashing of teeth, I used the KJV above because it is one of the few versions that actually leaves the “where” out of the phrase. Most versions read something like, “…will be cast into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”, but the “where” is not in the original Greek, and separating this into two separate statements like the KJV does is probably most accurate. It’s not totally out of place to phrase it in the way other versions do, but if we’re going to insert something that isn’t really there, I think that it is more of a “when” than a “where”. When the unbelieving Jews(and I suppose all others who have rejected God) realize that they have been wrong, that they have rejected their Messiah, and that they’ve been rejected from the kingdom of God, they will weep and gnash their teeth. This may happen at that initial moment of realization, or go on constantly or sporadically during the entire time that the lost are in Hades awaiting judgment, or it may happen at final judgment too (or only), but there is no reason, based on these verses, to teach that the lost will spend eternity weeping and gnashing their teeth. These verses do nothing in the way of supporting the idea of eternal suffering, even though they are used for such all the time. I need to note that the Jewish people are still God’s people. And any Jew that turns to Christ will be saved. These passages do not indicate a sweeping rejection of all Jews…just those who reject their own Jewish Messiah as most of the Jews of Jesus’ time were, and that’s why Jesus contrasted “all Israel” with this Gentile who demonstrated great faith.
Whether the darkness in these verses is figurative of rejection from the Kingdom, or a description of loss of being and existence (or both), none of these passages add weight to the eternal torment of the lost doctrine. And it’s my hope and prayer that the doctrine will be abandoned by the Church and we’ll begin teaching the merciful God of Scripture.