M. P. asks for a comment on this important issue:
Several teachers I highly respect, like Chuck Missler, Charles Stanley, and Zane Hodges, say that the outer darkness in Matthew 22 is for believers who really wasted their lives. In my opinion it is Protestant Purgatory. Would appreciate your comments.
Zane Hodges and I recorded a series of discussions on the outer darkness (TOD) that became a book (see here). You can also read a blog on TOD I wrote in 2019 here. Shawn and I recorded a 3-minute video on TOD as well. See here.
Here is a very brief summary of the issues:
First, the expression “the outer darkness” is only found in three places in the Bible, all in Matthew (chapters 8, 22, and 25). Whatever this is, it is not a crucial subject that every believer must understand. It is an esoteric subject that only serious Bible students are aware of.
Second, TOD is not a place. There will be no place during the Millennium where unfaithful believers will be quarantined, let alone punished. TOD is not a Protestant Purgatory.
Third, TOD is figurative, not literal. The Lord was talking about a brightly lit hall in which people will be celebrating (Matthew 22). The improperly dressed wedding guest represents a believer who will not be chosen to reign with Christ (e.g., Luke 19:16-26; Matt 25:14-30). He will be in the kingdom, but he will not have the added joy of being one of Christ’s partners/co-rulers.
Fourth, all believers will have joy forever. While there will be some shame and sadness at the Bema for believers who were not overcomers in this life (e.g., 1 John 2:28), they will have glorified bodies, and they will get over that grief even before the Millennium starts. Shame and sadness at the Bema will be but momentary, though the failure to be able to rule with Christ will be real and ongoing. Keep in mind, however, that with glorified bodies there will be no jealousy and no discontent.
Fifth, consider the alternate understanding of TOD. Most Evangelicals say that TOD refers to hell. In their view, unfaithful believers will be tormented forever. Most Evangelicals amazingly believe that only if we persevere in faith and good works will we make it into Christ’s kingdom and avoid eternal torment. Yikes. Talk about a cause for insecurity and despair. God wants His children to be sure that we are secure forever in Christ (John 3:16; 5:24; 1 John 5:9-13). In fact, knowing for sure that I am secure is crucial to me persevering in faith and good works. Strip a believer of his assurance and you have someone who is likely to fall away sooner or later.
The Free Grace understanding of TOD is a breath of fresh air.i
i It should be noted that some who identify themselves as Free Grace teach that the outer darkness is hell and that all believers are overcomers. That view, however, is inconsistent with the three passages in Matthew, the passages in the NT that deal with overcomers, and the Free Grace perspective.