What is Outer Darkness?

by Mike Ratliff

12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood (Revelation 22:12-15 ESV)

Spiritual blindness is a wonder to behold. Those false prophets who profess to be Christian while loving and teaching the doctrines of demons have been given over to their sin by God. Their consciences have been seared and no matter how adamantly we tell them the truth and prove it by showing them what the Word of God teaches, they cling to their false doctrines while stopping up their ears like a rebellious child. The proponents of what has come to be called “Christian Universalism” love their false doctrine, which teaches that the Lake of Fire is not real or it is only temporary regardless of the Word of God clearly saying the opposite.

Let us look at some passages that teach the eternal separation of what is sacred from that which is evil.

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment? ’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. ’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:11-14 ESV)

This passage is part of the parable of the wedding feast which begins in Matthew 22:1 and runs through v14. There is a man found at the feast who does not belong. The king has his servants bind the man and cast him into outer darkness. This place, outer darkness, must be dreadful because in there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Those in it were called, but they were not chosen. What does this mean? Our Lord used the term “outer darkness” several times.  “Outer darkness” describes the darkness farthest from the light. The weeping and gnashing of teeth describes inconsolable grief and continual torment.

40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law- breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:40-43 ESV)

This passage is part of our Lord’s explanation of the parable of the Weeds. It describes what will take place at the end of this age before the age to come. The weeds in the parable represent evil people in the world. At the close of this age He will send His angels to gather these evil people together for judgment. They will then be thrown into the fiery furnace. In this fiery furnace there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth just as there was in “outer darkness.”

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:47-50 ESV)

The net in this parable is a drag net. One end is fixed on shore while the other end is carried out into the water by boat. Then at the right time, the fishermen pull the net to shore at a 90° angle from the pivot point. This will pull all sorts of fish onto shore. Some are good while others are not. This is an analogy of our Lord saying, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” In any case, those not chosen, the non-elect, are separated from the righteous by angels. They will cast these evil people into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:45-51 ESV)

This passage is part of our Lord’s teaching that no one knows the day or hour of His return. He is saying that those who are genuine Christians will be found doing His will when He returns, but no one else will. These are the wicked. What happens to them? They are cut in pieces and placed with the other hypocrites in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

We have already seen that this place is called “outer darkness” and a fiery furnace. All in it are in torment and they gnash their teeth in pain and sorrow because there is no end to it. Is it eternal? We know that the fiery furnace here is the lake of fire from Revelation 20:11-15.

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15 ESV)

Who is thrown into the lake of fire? Those whose names were not found in the book of life are judged according to their works and cast into this placed prepared for Satan and His angels. This place is the second death. Is it eternal?

47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ (Mark 9:47-48 ESV)

The Greek word used here for “hell” was a name for the Valley of Hinnom, which was the Jerusalem garbage dump where fires constantly burned. The lake of fire is eternal. The way the statement, “the fire is not quenched” is structured in Greek is saying that the fires of judgment are eternal. We also learn here that worms, which do not die, will eat those in the lake of fire. What a dreadful place this outer darkness must be.

Soli Deo Gloria!

5 thoughts on “What is Outer Darkness?

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  2. Thank you for this truth Mike! We are witnessing all around us those who seem to be walking in their own outer darkness. I pray the Lord returns soon. Preach the gospel so everyone can hear.


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