God’s Word for You
Luke 13:28 weeping and gnashing of teeth
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, September 7, 2018
28 “Then there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrown out.
Jesus contrasts the state of the blessed in heaven with the state of the damned in hell. A quick search of the phrase “gnashing of teeth” (ὁ βρυγμὸς τῶν ὀδόντων) associates this act with the darkness of hell (Matthew 8:12, 22:13), the fiery furnace of hell (Matthew 13:42,50), and the sinful residents of hell such as the hypocrites (Matthew 24:51) and the worthless servants (Matthew 25:30). Gnashing the teeth was a sign of fury, uncontrolled rage. Job even imagined that in his rage against sinners, God gnashes his teeth (Job 16:9). The difference is that God does not suffer the agony of hell, except in the moment when Jesus endured hell in our place (Mark 15:34). Our sins have earned us a place in hell, a miserable rack of torment engulfed in the flames of God’s fury and surrounded by darkness and smoke. On account of our admitted guilt (Ezra 9:15), we should be made to endure the choking stench, the biting sting, the horrible loss, the grief, the terror, the feel of our flesh crisping and falling from our cracking bones in the heat of the furnace. We should know the thirsty dryness of bleeding when the bleeding cannot stop. We should know all of the agonies of man. We all deserve to experience the betrayal of love turning against us in abandonment or apathy. We all deserve the unspeakable horror the infant feels of a mother turning on her own helpless baby to abort its very existence in cruel murder. We all deserve to feel defeat the way Bonaparte felt it, imprisoned on the dripping wasteland of Elba until in the end even his own body turned against him.
Nothing in the lives or imaginations of any human being can ever find a way to turn aside the condemnation of hell. Anyone who rejects Christ is assigned a place there. Unbelief damns, as Jesus said: “Whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
Yet Jesus did the unimaginable. His purpose for coming into the world was to do one compassionate thing. “The Son of man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise” (Mark 10:33-34). The journey Jesus was on was to advance on Jerusalem so that all of this could take place. He went to storm the battlements of our sinfulness; to lay siege even to death. By suffering hell in our place, he secured for each one of us a place forever in heaven.
This is not the only place where those in hell can see those who are in heaven. When Jesus describes the judgment of the rich man and poor Lazarus, the damned rich man “looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side” (Luke 16:23). There as here, Abraham is emphasized as the epitome of the resident of heaven; the man of faith. “Those who believe are children of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7), and so the faithful who are taken to heaven “are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Galatians 3:9).
Jesus makes the difference clear. No one wants to go to hell. No one can get to heaven apart from faith in Jesus. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were united by their family relationship. For that matter, the prophets were related to them by the same relationship. But it isn’t your family that makes you a child of God. It’s faith alone that saves. Take your faith seriously and treat it the way Jesus described it, as the narrow door. It’s not a door for you to decide on, but for you to cherish. It’s a gift. The Formula of Concord describes faith as a pure doctrine of the church:
“We believe, teach, and confess that faith is not a mere knowledge of the stories about Christ, but the kind of gift of God by which in the Word of the Gospel we recognize Christ aright as our redeemer and trust in him, so that solely because of his obedience, by grace, we have the forgiveness of sins, are regarded as holy and righteous by God the Father, and shall be saved eternally.”
Pastor Timothy Smith
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