Do Some Christians “Not Quite Make It” to Heaven?
Question: Jesus warned that many who thought they were God’s children would be “cast into outer darkness” (Matthew:8:12; 22:13, 25:30). In fact, Matthew:24:50-51 says that “the lord of that [evil] servant . . . shall cut him asunder and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Are these “servants” carnal Christians who must be in an outer courtyard of heaven for a time while the more spiritual Christians go directly into God’s presence? How can I have assurance of being taken immediately upon death (or the Rapture) into God’s presence?
Response: Assurance of salvation does not depend upon the believer’s good works
but upon Christ’s finished work upon the Cross. One is either a Christian or not a Christian, saved or lost. There are not two levels of Christians, the lower of which must spend some time in an intermediary state of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth (like the Catholic purgatory) before they are allowed into heaven. Such an idea cannot be found in the Bible. Luke:12:46 uses “unbelievers” in place of the “hypocrites” of Matthew:24:51.
It is apparent that Christ’s words here have a double meaning that can be applied both to Jew and Gentiles. Abraham’s physical descendants are by birth potentially children of the Davidic kingdom and can thus be called “servants” in a way not true for Gentiles. But unless they have the same relationship with God through faith in Christ that Abraham had, they will be lost forever.
The weeping and gnashing of teeth Christ warns of is the weeping and agony of the damned. We have an example of this weeping on the part of the rich man in Luke 16, who sees Lazarus afar off with Abraham in bliss while he is in torment. That those who are cast into “outer darkness” are not, and never were, true believers (though they may have posed even as Christian leaders) is clear from these words of Christ:
“Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew:7:22-23)