Outer Darkness: ("exooteron skotos")(October 21, 2008) updated 7/13/10
An overlook at a controversial topic
In Christianity, the outer darkness (often capitalized as Outer Darkness) is a place referred to three times in the Gospel of Matthew (8:12, 22:13, and 25:30) into which a person may be "cast out", and where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth". Generally, the outer darkness is thought to be hell; however, many Christians associate the outer darkness more generally as a place of separation from God or from the metaphorical "wedding banquet" that Jesus is expected to have upon his Second Coming. Translated literally, the Greek text of Matthew reads "into the darkness, the outer", with a definite article before both the noun and the adjective. For this reason, the New International Version translates this text as "outside, into the darkness".
The most detailed of the Biblical passages regarding the outer darkness is in Jesus' parable of the wedding feast (also known as the parable of the marriage of the king's son). In this parable, a king arranged a wedding for his son, but the normal guests did not come; therefore, the king sent his servants to gather guests from off the street. One of these guests, however, appeared without the proper wedding attire; therefore, the king said: "Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen." (Matt. 22:13-14, NASB.)
While many Christians equate the outer darkness to hell, some have controversially suggested that it represents a place for those who make it to heaven based on their faith, but have failed to perform good works during their time on the earth. See, e.g., Zane Hodges* (1987, p. 87).
* Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse: A Study on Eternal Rewards (2d ed. 1987) (ISBN 0-9607576-7-8)
above definition's source: http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Outer-Darkness
Since the '70's, not long after my born-again experience with Jesus, the teaching about the Rapture of the Church was pumped into my head relentlessly and how Jesus was going to zap all Christians off the planet in the blink of an eye. Our crashed cars, trains, airplanes, and other unmanned & unwomanned devices would run off the road, crash, come to a halt and so forth. Millions would suffer calamity and shock when we Christians disappeared, leaving only our empty clothing and earthly goods here. Theories of alien abduction, new age vibrational evolution, quantum physics, parallel worlds and the like would be proffered as an explanation. The dead-spirited, Godless, even very religious but deceived ones would continue as usual. But soon would come the Great Tribulation after Jesus removed His people and all hell would break loose down here for a world of unsaved, unprepared humans. "Too bad for them," I heard, "They had their chance."
Then after seven years of woe, came Jesus again, with His saints and angels and we would mop up the mess, so to speak, and get on with the Millennial Reign of King Jesus, see another blip of revolt against the Holy City, then another battle, God wins, then the Great White Throne judgment of unsaved, Satan, devils, etc, etc, Lake of Fire filled to capacity, then comes New Jerusalem and streets of gold and we reign with Jesus for rest of eternity. Cool.
Yet, with all that great solid dispensational teaching locking it all up into one nice flow chart -- the Spirit of the Lord kept nagging at my spirit. Deep inside, I knew this was somehow bogus, incorrectly discerned, and the Lord would keep telling me another thing, "If you are not ready, you will not be a chosen one." That bugged me no end. Every time a believing friend of mine would stop to tie his shoe or check a tire size as we walked through a parking lot to college classes, I would freak out when looking around and not seeing that brother. When I had walked far enough away and he wouldn't answer to my calling his name, my soul would sink. The Rapture has happened! I am left! Oh no! I would literally run back the way I came looking for clothes on the ground that would confirm my worst nightmare. Then as always, my friend would reappear and laugh at my unwarranted panic. He kept telling me that my feelings were crazy as I was a Christian and had nothing to worry about. The worst that could happen is if I had unconfessed sin or an attitude of rebellion, then I would suffer loss of some rewards and a shame session at the Judgment Seat, (Bema Seat), of Christ. His words comforted me some but that still small voice of the Lord kept saying, "Watch, be ready . . ."
Fast forward ten years or so ago and then for the very first time in my life, I hear teachings about a partial and conditional rapture of Christians! What!? I began listening & reading more carefully about "the overcomers", "the Bride of Christ" as being only a portion of the Body of Christ! Uh-oh! That still small voice was His Spirit, all this time, warning me, preparing me, to receive His revelation of a new set of truths that has completely changed my Christian walk and testimony.
I will speak more on these things later but for now, I offer links to sources where further information on these teachings and related are available:
Christian Testimony Ministry where many teachings and sermons are online by Watchman Nee, Stephen Kaung, Lance Lambert and many others!
Online Library of T. Austin-Sparks A key player in early Brethren Movement in England
School of Christ was Watchman.net by Chip Brogden
Read another interesting book on the overcomers concept. It seems Chuck and Nancy Missler ministries have had similar revelation as others about the Kingdom . . .
Dillow's The Reign of the Servant Kings, a Study of Eternal Security and the Final Significance of Man is huge undertaking is a MUST-HAVE book for anyone wanting to see how the overcomer teaching dovetails so nicely with never losing one's salvation but the scriptures teaching a "conditional" Christian life. The Reign of the Servant Kings, a Study of Eternal Security and the Final Significance of Man by Th. D. JOSEPH C. DILLOW
Grace Evangelical Society Blog where you can listen to wonderfully informative messages and in-depth discussions by the late Zane C. Hodges! Highly recommended!!
Living Walk Blog by W. E. Smith A superb resource!!
Christus Victor Ministries Greg Boyd's site with info on his refreshingly, radical views on real Christianity
E-mail me if you have comments or questions.