The expression the outer darkness is found only three times in the Bible, all in Matthew’s Gospel (8:12; 22:13; and 25:30). In each case the Lord says that in the outer darkness there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The majority view among Evangelicals has been that the outer darkness is a reference to the lake of fire and eternal torment, and J. Paul Tanner adopts this position.2 In this article I will examine and respond to Tanner’s arguments. It is my contention that the loss of rewards understanding better fits the particulars of the three outer darkness passages.
II. TANNER’S THESIS: THE OUTER DARKNESS REFERS TO ETERNAL CONDEMNATION
In the Abstract, at the beginning of the article, Tanner does not mention eternal condemnation, Hades, or the lake of fire. Nor does he discuss eternal destiny directly or the outer darkness. Instead, he indicates “that the main persons in view in these passages are those among the Jews who were resisting Jesus as Messiah.”3 Implicitly he suggests at the outset that the outer darkness refers to eternal condemnation and that the people cast there are unbelievers.
Throughout the body of the article, Tanner generally avoids direct statements as to what the outer darkness is.
He starts with Matt 22:1-14 and the Parable of the Wedding Feast (which he calls “the Parable [of] the Improperly Dressed Wedding Guest at the Wedding Feast”).4 After suggesting that the improperly dressed man is unregenerate, he says that “the outer darkness imagery must have been a commonly understood way of speaking of eternal condemnation.”5 That is the only place in the body where he specifically says that the outer darkness refers to eternal condemnation.
His discussion of the healing of the centurion’s servant (Matt 8:5-13) does not explicitly identify what the outer darkness is. Tanner ends that brief section in his article by saying that “the expressions in Matthew 8 carry the same meaning as those in Matthew 22.”6
Tanner’s discussion of the Parable of the Talents (Matt 25:14-30) follows the pattern already set. He does not explicitly identify what the outer darkness is. Instead, he identifies the first two servants as believers and the third servant as an unbeliever (“a strong case can be made that the third slave does not represent a true believer”).7
In the conclusion he says that the outer darkness is “a place of eternal damnation.”8
Presumably Tanner believes that the outer darkness will be the lake of fire which is said in Rev 20:15 to be the eternal abode of all whose names are not found in the Book of Life. Possibly the reason he never says that is because he thinks that Jesus “was clearly drawing upon a commonly understood idiomatic expression that his audience would have understood.”9 He suggests that 1 Enoch 10:4-6 is “strikingly similar” to the Lord’s choice of words in Matt 22:1-14. Since that idiomatic expression was not identified as Sheol or the lake of fire in Jewish apocryphal works like 1 Enoch, Tanner does not specify either.
Possibly a second reason why Tanner does not identify the outer darkness is because he assumes that his readers are familiar with the three parables and with this issue.
III. TANNER’S EVIDENCE EVALUATED
A. References to the Outer Darkness and to Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth Outside the New Testament
The expression the outer darkness is not found in the OT. Nor is it found in Jewish apocryphal works. Tanner feels that the word darkness is close enough. He cites the use of darkness in 1 Enoch 10:4-6.10 He also cites Jubilees 7:29 and Psalms of Solomon 14:9. In all three places darkness is associated with judgment.
It should be noted that if Jesus were alluding to 1 Enoch 10:4-6, then this would be the only place in which He refers to non-canonical writings. It has long been a major apologetic point that Jesus affirms the authenticity of the OT canon by only citing from canonical writings, never from apocryphal ones. While that does not prove that Tanner is wrong in suggesting this is likely (the other option he considers is that binding hand and foot and being cast into darkness “was commonly understood in the first century AD as eternal punishment of the wicked”11), it should cause some reservations.
If we look at 1 Enoch 10, we find that the context is the Noahic flood and salvation from temporal judgment. Then the Lord commands that a fallen angel, Azazel—reported to be one of those in Gen 6:2-4 who married and fathered children—should be bound hand and foot and cast into a hole dug in the desert. This hole was to be covered with rocks, and Azazel was to remain there until the time of his ultimate judgment. Then he would be cast forever into fire.
Here is the text in question, 1 Enoch 10:4-6, according to Tanner:
The Lord said to Raphael, “Bind Azaz’el hand and foot (and) throw him into the darkness! And he made a hole in the desert which is in Duda’el and cast him there;…in order that he may be sent into the fire on the great day of judgment.”12
So the darkness of 1 Enoch 10:6 refers not to Sheol or the lake of fire, but to temporal judgment of some fallen angels prior to the lake of fire.13 When the author of 1 Enoch wishes to speak of the final destiny of fallen angels (and fallen humans) he calls it “the fire on the great day of judgment.” Compare 1 Enoch 16:1ff. which refers to the final judgment of the fallen angels (called “the Watchers”).
When reading Tanner, who cites a slightly different translation of 1 Enoch 10:4-6, I had the impression that 1 Enoch 10:6 said that one bound hand and foot was cast into eternal torment. But that is not what it says. It is hard to see how 1 Enoch 10:4-6 supports Tanner’s point.14
In addition, Tanner does not discuss how the word darkness was used in the OT or in other Jewish apocryphal works. The truth is that darkness (Heb. hasak; Greek skotos) is a very common word and that it never refers to eternal condemnation in the OT and rarely in Jewish apocalyptic literature.15
Tanner was unable to come up with any evidence concerning the expression “the outer darkness” prior to the time of Jesus. It would probably be best to suggest that Jesus coined this expression.
The expression “weeping and gnashing of teeth” is doubly new. In the first place, that expression is not found in the OT or Jewish apocalyptic literature. In the second place, Tanner shows that Jesus uses the limited expression the gnashing of teeth in a way different from how it was used in the OT.16 In the five OT uses, it refers to an expression of anger.17 In Jesus’ usage it seems to refer to an expression of grief.18
Since there is no use of either the outer darkness or weeping and gnashing of teeth in the OT, this first line of evidence is flimsy. Of course, context determines meaning, and that is mostly what Tanner cites.
B. The Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14)
Tanner does not start with the first reference to the outer darkness in Matthew. He says, “the parable in Matthew 22:1-14 is perhaps the clearest passage [of the three] and the key to interpretation.”19 While I disagree that this is the clearest of the three, I think he is wise to start here since this one probably is the best of the three to use to support his contention that eternal condemnation is in view.
Tanner thinks the improperly dressed man represents an unbeliever who will be sent to the lake of fire. Since Tanner already sees in the outer darkness imagery reference to eternal condemnation, he would need to find something in this parable to move him away from his lexical conclusion in order to change his view. He does not. Hence he argues that the Lord is talking about an unbeliever who ends up being eternally condemned.
As far as he goes, this discussion is somewhat persuasive. For the person who agrees with Tanner, no more needs to be said. However, for a person such as myself who disagrees, more is needed.
A problem with Tanner’s discussions of the key passages is that he fails to explain what judgment is in view. If the wedding banquet represents the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:11-15) and that is clearly what he is suggesting—though he never says so directly, why are there people present at the banquet who are properly dressed? Will OT believers or Church Age believers be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment? No. The Lord promised that we “shall not come into judgment” regarding everlasting life (John 5:24). Church Age believers will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ, which occurs a thousand years before the Great White Throne Judgment, that is, before the Millennium (2 Cor 5:9-10). We know that millennial Gentile believers will be judged before the Millennium as well (Matt 25:31-46). While we are not told directly, it seems clear that OT saints and Jewish believers from the Tribulation will also be judged before the Millennium so that they have their rewards in it.
Are we to see this parable as merging two disparate judgments into one—the Judgment Seat of Christ for believers and the Great White Throne Judgment for unbelievers? Evidently. But Tanner never discusses this key question. And if so, why would the Lord do that? Why would the Lord lead us to think that believers will be judged to determine our eternal destiny if He promises elsewhere that we will not (John 5:24)?
In addition, Tanner points out that the people at the banquet were people who had been called, or invited, to the wedding banquet and who accepted the invitation. But the improperly dressed man was one of those very people. He was invited, and he accepted the invitation. The problem is not that he rejected the invitation, as most did. Tanner says, “most despised the opportunity and refused the invitation.”20 But that man did not. Instead, the problem is that he was not dressed properly at the wedding which he is attending.
While Tanner attempts to use the final statement, “many are called, but few are chosen” to support his view, it actually contradicts it. In his own discussion, Tanner shows that the improperly dressed man was invited and that he accepted the invitation and was present at the banquet.
C. The Healing of the Centurion’s Servant (Matthew 8:5-13)
According to the Lord Jesus, the ones who are cast into the outer darkness in this account are “the sons of the kingdom.” This creates a problem for Tanner’s view. There is only one other use of that expression in Matthew, and those are the only two NT uses. In the other use in Matt 13:38, the sons of the kingdom are the wheat in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. Believers. Born-again people.
Tanner says, “The only way these passages can be harmonized is to conclude that in 8:12, Jesus was speaking figuratively with sarcasm… Jesus was pointing out that they were not ‘sons of the kingdom’ at all but only thought of themselves as such.”21 I have not read this view before. Tanner does not cite anyone as holding it. I appreciate the creativity. However, I have to wonder. They do not call themselves sons of the kingdom; Jesus calls them that. While it is possible that Jesus said this with sarcasm in His voice, there is no hint of that in the narrative. Why would the Holy Spirit allow this expression sons of the kingdom to occur twice in Scripture, and yet in one it refers to born-again people and in the other it refers to people who are not? That seems unlikely. Tanner’s view requires us to understand that when Jesus says “sons of the kingdom” He means “not sons of the kingdom.” This view seems like special pleading.
The suggestion that “the only way these passages can be harmonized” is by recognizing that sarcasm is in play is not true. There other ways to harmonize, one of which is much simpler.
Another way is to see both texts as referring to regenerate people. In Matt 8:12 the Lord is saying that there will be born-again people who miss out on the joys associated with ruling with Christ. Michael Huber argued that very point in his Th.M. thesis at Dallas Theological Seminary. Unfortunately, Tanner does not discuss Huber’s arguments for this or the other passages, though he does mention in a footnote an article that Huber wrote in JOTGES about the outer darkness.
What Tanner does is reject the obvious meaning of “the sons of the kingdom” because that meaning does not fit his understanding of the expressions the outer darkness and weeping and gnashing of teeth.
D. The Outer Darkness in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 25:14-30)
Missing from Tanner’s discussion of Matt 25:14-30 is the judgment of the first two servants. That is odd. Since three servants are being judged, all three servants should be considered.
Tanner evidently understands the first two servants to be believers, though he does not discuss them. Why then are believers being judged at the Great White Throne Judgment with an unbeliever? Are not all believers, OT, Church Age, and Tribulation Age, judged before the Millennium? If so, how could they be judged with unbelievers at the Great White Throne Judgment after the Millennium?
Or are we to understand that the Lord is blending two different judgments, one for believers before the Millennium, and one for unbelievers after the Millennium, into one hypothetical, but not actual, judgment? That does not make sense.
In addition, Tanner fails to discuss the parallel parable in Luke 19:11-27. Both parables are related. Both follow three servants of Christ who are given money to invest. In both of the parables the first two servants are rewarded, and the third servant is rebuked and stripped of reward. The third servant in each parable represents the same sort of person: either both of the third servants represent believers or both unbelievers.
One thing simpler about Luke 19:11-27 than Matt 25:14-30 is that the three servants are contrasted with the enemies of Jesus who did not want Him to reign over them. Indeed, the judgment of the three servants ends before the enemies are brought in and judged (Luke 19:27, “But bring here those enemies of mine…”). The enemies are slain (Luke 19:27). The third servant is not.
Comparing the two parables, which Tanner does not do, shows that the third servant in each parable represents believers. Besides, would it not be odd to consider an unbeliever as one who is entrusted with a stewardship by Christ? Is it not odd for the Lord Jesus to refer to an unbeliever as one of His own servants who knows that He will return soon and who is awaiting His return?
Certainly the Jewish religious leaders did not think of themselves as servants of Christ. They saw themselves as His enemies. They did not believe He was coming again. They were not awaiting His return. They did not believe that they would be judged by Him. None of the particulars fit Tanner’s view.
E. Tanner Does Not Consider Binding Hand and Foot in the OT
There is no specific reference to binding hand and foot in the OT. However, there is one famous passage in Daniel in which three men were bound, presumably hand and foot, and cast into a fire.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were bound before they were cast into the fiery furnace (Dan 3:22, 23). At the very least, their hands were bound. However, since they fell down when cast into the furnace, this strongly suggests that they were bound hand and foot. Afterwards they were seen walking in the fire and not bound (Dan 3:24-25).
This incident is not discussed by Tanner, though it is the only actual Biblical example of binding hand and foot. It shows that what men bind, God can unbind. But what God binds, men cannot unbind.
If we applied Daniel 3 to Matt 22:1-13, we would understand that the servants bound hand and foot are believers who will not be given authority to rule with Christ in His kingdom. They will be in it, for they are believers. But they will not rule, since rulership requires perseverance in good works.
Binding is very common in the OT, occurring 59 times. Sheaves of grain are bound (e.g., Gen 37:7). A donkey is bound to a vine (Gen 49:11). Boards of the tabernacle were bound together (Exod 26:17). The high priest’s breastplate was bound with rings (Exod 28:28). People would bind themselves with oaths (Num 30:2-14).
Binding in the OT often refers to God’s sovereign control over man and beast and nature. God binds the stars in place (Job 38:31). He binds the wild ox (Job 39:10). God also binds princes at His pleasure (Ps 105:22). He has bound kings with chains (Ps 149:8).
Would not the binding of the unfaithful servant suggest that he had displeased His Master, that His Master is in control, and that the servant’s activities in the kingdom will be restricted over what he would have been if he had pleased his Lord?
It is telling that the bound servant is not cast into everlasting fire. If that were the case, Tanner’s argument would be strong. Instead this bound servant is cast into outer darkness, or, more literally the darkness outside, an expression we will next discuss.
Tanner does not consider binding in the OT. His only point in this regard is that binding hand and foot is linked with temporal judgment in an apocryphal work.
F. Tanner Does Not Discuss Why Jesus Spoke of the Darkness Outside
The Greek of Matt 22:13 says, “ekbalete eis to skotos to exōteron.” A literal translation of that would be, “cast [him] into the darkness which is outside” (author’s own translation). Tanner does not discuss why Matt 22:13 does not say what 1 Enoch 10:6 does, cast him into a hole in the desert. Why did the Lord say “the darkness which is outside”? There must be a reason to add that detail. Outside of what? There are three different contexts.
In Matt 8:12, the darkness is outside the feast where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are eating in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 8:11).
In Matt 22:13, the darkness is outside the wedding banquet (Matt 22:4-13).
And in Matt 25:30, the darkness is outside the place where the two honored servants are rejoicing. While a feast is not specifically mentioned, the word for joy, chara, may imply a feast. BDAG says, “of a festive dinner or banquet…so perhaps Mt 25:21, 23 (but would this have been ineligible to Greeks? S. 1b).”22
When one is discussing the darkness outside, it is requisite that he discuss both darkness and outside. To leave off the latter discussion is to miss the point.
G. Tanner’s Understanding of “Many Are Called, But Few Are Chosen” (Matthew 22:14)
Tanner says, “In this context, ‘called’ (klētoi) is used of being invited to the wedding feast, not in the Pauline sense of ‘called’ of God (Rom. 1:6)…Many were ‘called,’ that is, invited; but most despised the opportunity and refused the invitation.”23 He goes on to say that the man cast into the outer darkness “was not one of God’s ‘elect’ (his covenant people).”24
Tanner is evidently arguing for the Calvinist view of election here. He understands the Lord to be saying that many are invited to spend eternity in the kingdom, but few are actually chosen to be in the kingdom.
The problem is, that view does not fit the context.
The improperly dressed man not only was invited, he accepted the invitation. In Tanner’s way of viewing things, the acceptance of the invitation is saving faith. And Tanner sees the wedding banquet as representing “the banquet to inaugurate the messianic kingdom.”25 The man without a tuxedo attends the wedding banquet to inaugurate the Messianic kingdom!
According to Tanner’s own interpretation, the man in question was in the kingdom, at the wedding banquet, at the start of the Millennium. How does this relate to the Great White Throne Judgment?
Tanner specifically rejects the suggestion by Sapaugh and others that the Judgment Seat of Christ is in view in this parable.26 According to Tanner, the man in question is present during the inauguration of the Messianic kingdom. If the Judgment Seat of Christ is not in view, then this refers to the Great White Throne Judgment. If so, how does this parable line up with the details of the Great White Throne Judgment as found in Rev 20:11-15?
Tanner is implying the Great White Throne Judgment will occur at the start of the Millennial kingdom. At the judgment, the Jewish leaders who rejected Christ will be raised and judged and sent to the lake of fire.
There are multiple problems with this view.
First, the Jewish religious leaders did not accept the Lord’s invitation to come to the banquet. They clearly rejected Him and whatever He was offering. By contrast, the improperly dressed man in the parable did accept the invitation. How can the improperly dressed man represent those who rejected Christ and even had Him crucified, if he accepted the invitation?
Second, the only judgment at which people are cast into the lake of fire is the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:11-15). Yet the Great White Throne Judgment does not occur at the inauguration of the Millennium, which is when Tanner says this judgment occurs.27 The Great White Throne Judgment occurs after the Millennium (i.e., after Rev 20:1-10).
Third, the basis for being sent to the lake of fire, according to Rev 20:15, is not having one’s name in the Book of Life. But this man is excluded for having improper clothing. Tanner does not clearly explain what he thinks the improper clothing represents, though he does deny it represents insufficient good works.28 He seems to think it points to something in his appearance that shows that he was not chosen to be in the kingdom.29 That does not find any corresponding details in Rev 20:11-15.
Zane Hodges suggests a different interpretation. He sees it as a metaphor for missing out on the joys associated with ruling with Christ forever. Those at the Judgment Seat of Christ who are not chosen to rule with Christ will experience shame and grief (1 John 2:28). They will miss out on the superlative joys that the brightly lit wedding hall presages.
Hodges suggests that “many are called, but few are chosen” is linked with 2 Pet 1:10, “make your calling and election sure.”30 In Matt 22:1-13 the Lord is judging the wedding guests, and one was
not ready for the evaluation: “the man in the parable of the wedding feast has not prepared himself for the host’s review and represents a believer unprepared for the Judgment Seat of Christ.”31
The interpretation by Hodges fits the context. The Judgment Seat of Christ occurs just before the Millennium begins, as does the setting of this parable. The invitation is to rule with Christ, not merely to be in the kingdom. The man without the tux accepted the invitation and was present at the Bema. But he was not chosen to rule, because his garments were lacking (cf. Rev 19:8).
IV. EVALUATING THE THREE PASSAGES IN LIGHT OF JOHN’S GOSPEL
Tanner does not discuss how his conclusion relates to the Lord’s evangelistic teaching in John’s Gospel. I believe that discussion also tips the scales to the view that the outer darkness refers to missing out on the joys associated with being chosen to co-reign with Christ.
John’s Gospel has been called the Gospel of Belief. Because of its strong emphasis on everlasting life, it might also be called the Gospel of Life. Repeatedly the Lord says that whoever believes in Him has everlasting life, shall not come into judgment, shall never perish, shall never hunger, shall never thirst, shall never die, and so on (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:35; 11:26).
Certainly in the Parable of the Talents (and the related Parable of the Minas) the issue is works, not faith. The same can be seen in the Matthew 8 and Matthew 22 references to the outer darkness. But the Lord specifically said in John 6:28-29 that the eternal destiny issue is not one of works, but of believing in Him.
V. EVALUATING THE THREE PASSAGE IN LIGHT OF PAUL’S TEACHINGS
The Apostle Paul does not mention the outer darkness. Nor does he ever equate darkness with eternal condemnation. However, there are aspects of Paul’s writings that call into question Tanner’s conclusion that the outer darkness refers to the lake of fire.
First, Paul said that we must endure to reign with Christ and that if we deny Him, He will deny us the privilege of ruling with Him (2 Tim 2:12). That fits with the view that the outer darkness refers to missing out on ruling with Christ.
Second, Paul indicates that the carnal believers in Corinth were nonetheless brothers in Christ and recipients of the Spirit. He clearly shows that most of them were not faithful servants of Christ. Some even died for abusing the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:30). They do not sound anything like the first two servants in the Parable of the Talents or in the Parable of the Minas. They sound a lot like the third servant in both parables.
Third, the Apostle Paul says that salvation is by grace through faith and apart from works (e.g., Eph 2:8-9). This apart-from-works salvation suggests that Tanner’s understanding of the three outer darkness passages is suspect. Tanner does not discuss Lordship Salvation and how it handles these passages. Those who hold to Lordship Salvation take the passages as he does, but go further and draw the conclusion that perseverance in good works is necessary in order to win what they call final salvation.32
Fourth, the Judgment Seat [Bema] of Christ is prevalent in Paul’s epistles (e.g., Rom 14:10-12; 1 Cor 3:10-15; 9:24-27; 2 Cor 5:9-10; 2 Tim 2:12, 15; 4:6-10). The Parable of the Talents sounds exactly like what Paul envisions at the Bema, where believers’ works done in the body are evaluated, “whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10).
I appreciate Tanner’s discussion of the three outer darkness texts, his creativity in coming up with new interpretive options, and his commitment to faithfully handle the Word of God. However, there are a number of compelling reasons why I find his arguments to be inadequate.
The expression “the sons of the kingdom” only occurs one other time in Matthew (or the NT), and there it clearly refers to those who get into the kingdom, i.e., the wheat (Matt 13:38). Tanner’s suggestion that in Matt 8:12 when Jesus speaks of “the sons of the kingdom,” He means those who are not the sons of the kingdom, while creative, is literally turning the text upside down. It seems to be special pleading.
The Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matt 22:1-14) concerns a man who, unlike unbelieving Israel, accepts the king’s invitation to the wedding of his son. He is a believer, but he is improperly dressed. Tanner’s view is that the man represents an unbeliever, despite the fact that he accepted the invitation and is at the banquet that inaugurates Jesus’ kingdom. Tanner has no explanation for what the improper wedding garments represent. His understanding of the second of the three outer darkness passages fails to deal adequately with the context.
The Parable of the Talents, the third outer darkness passage, and its parallel, the Parable of the Minas, are clearly dealing with evaluation of works. Neither is trying to ascertain who believes in Jesus and who does not. That Tanner suggests that the Parable of the Talents is actually about determining who has faith in Jesus is inconsistent with both the Parable of the Talents and the Parable of the Minas.
All three outer darkness passages are calling the listeners and readers to be watchful since the Lord will return soon and will then judge His servants. This is clear in the two parables that precede the Parable of the Talents (cf. Matt 24:45-51; 25:1-13). The issue is being found faithful (1 Cor 4:1-5). The issue is not who is a believer and who is not.
Comparing these three passages with John’s Gospel and Paul’s writings shows that Tanner’s view is questionable at best.
A consideration of why the Lord spoke of the darkness which is outside, something not done by Tanner, strongly suggests that the Judgment Seat of Christ and eternal rewards are in view.
We should certainly be open to new views on the meaning of passages. However, unless the evidence for a view successfully handles all of the particulars, the view should be shelved. Tanner’s view relies heavily upon an apocryphal work and on taking Jesus as meaning exactly the opposite of what He actually says. Therefore, it should be rejected
1 J. Paul Tanner, “The ‘Outer Darkness’ in Matthew’s Gospel: Shedding Light on an Ominous Warning,” Bibliotheca Sacra, October-December 2017: 445-59.
2 Paul Tanner wrote the commentary on Hebrews for Grace Evangelical Society’s two-volume The Grace New Testament Commentary. He has also written several excellent articles for our journal and magazine. He is a friend and colleague. I welcome the opportunity for friendly interaction.
3 Ibid., 445.
4 Ibid., 451.
5 Ibid., 452-53.
6 Ibid., 455.
7 Ibid., 457.
8 Ibid., 458.
10 Ibid., 448.
11 Ibid., 449.
12 Ibid., 448. For a slightly different translation see The Book of Enoch. Translated by R.H. Charles  at sacred-texts.com: http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/boe/boe013.htm. Other versions of 1 Enoch find the words in question in verses 6-9 of chapter 10.
13 Actually, if 1 Enoch 10:6 is related to a NT text, I would say that text would be 2 Pet 2:4 which speaks of the angels who sinned (Genesis 6?) being “cast down to hell and delivered into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.”
14 His argument, though not laid out like this, is as follows. First, a fallen angel—not a human—is bound hand and foot and cast into a hole in the desert. He is not cast into the outer darkness. Second, because the hole is covered by rocks, the angel is then in darkness. Third, at the end of the age, the angel will be finally judged and sent “into fire,” a reference to the lake of fire. Fourth, since the initial binding and putting into a hole eventually leads to being sent to the lake of fire, the binding and casting into a hole are connected with eternal condemnation. Thus Jesus does not need to mention being cast into fire or even cast into a hole in the desert. By Jesus’ reference to being bound hand and foot and cast into the darkness which is outside, His listeners and Matthew’s readers would understand that He was talking about Azazel and they would have inferred that the humans in question would ultimately be sent to the lake of fire. That seems like a stretch to me.
15 It is true that in 2 Pet 2:17 and Jude 13, “blackness of darkness” refers to the lake of fire. So there is some potential NT support for his view. Surprisingly, however, Tanner never mentions either of those texts. Of course, even in the NT darkness normally refers to literal darkness or figuratively to unrighteousness. Only in these two texts does it clearly refer to eternal condemnation.
16 Tanner, “The ‘Outer Darkness’,” 449.
18 Of course, if the OT background is in view, then weeping and gnashing of teeth might refer to grief and to anger. Maybe those cast into the darkness outside are grieved and angry. If so, the question would be, are they angry at the Lord Jesus, or are they angry with themselves for failing to endure in their walk with Christ? If the darkness outside refers to believers who miss out on ruling with Christ, then possibly they experience grief and anger with themselves at the Bema.
19 Tanner, “The ‘Outer Darkness’,” 449.
20 Ibid., 453.
21 Ibid., 454-55.
22 BDAG, 1077 C.
23 Ibid., 453.
25 Ibid., 451.
26 Ibid., 452.
27 Tanner is writing in BibSac, a Dispensational journal. Thus when he refers to “the banquet to inaugurate the messianic kingdom,” it is reasonable to understand him to mean the banquet which inaugurates the millennial kingdom. Possibly Tanner is no longer a Dispensationalist and no longer believes that there is a Millennium. If so, he should have made that clear in this article to avoid this confusion. But even if that is so, according to Rev 20:11-15 the Great White Throne Judgment is not part of the inauguration of the kingdom.
28 Ibid., 452, n. 15.
30 Zane C. Hodges, “Make Your Calling and Election Sure: An Exposition of 2 Peter 1:5-11” (JOTGES, Spring 1998: 21-33.
31 Ibid., 31.
32 See, for example, Wayne Grudem, “Free Grace” Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 138-140; John F. MacArthur, Jr., The Gospel According to Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 142; John Piper, “What Is God’s Relationship to People Who Are in Hell,” June 24, 2009 blog at desiringgod.org; James Montgomery Boice, Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2001), 119.