In Matthew 22:13, what does it mean to be cast into the outer darkness?
Matthew 22:13 refers to a place called the "outer darkness" when Jesus taught, "Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness.'" What is this outer darkness?
Jesus' statement is in the context of the Parable of the Wedding Feast. The emphasis in the parable is clearly on how a person can enter the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom is compared to a king hosting a wedding feast for his son. Many guests were invited for the joyous celebration. Those first invited rejected the invitation, angering the king (verse Matthew 22:7). Therefore, the king invited other guests, both bad and good (Matthew 22:10). The result was a wedding celebration with many guests.
While the dilemma now appeared solved, one problem remained. One guest had entered without wedding garments or clothing (Matthew 22:12). His garment was "unclean." The man had no answer for his predicament and was bound and placed in the outer darkness. Jesus concluded the parable by stating in verse 14, "For many are called, but few are chosen."
The analogy is that many have been called to the kingdom of heaven. However, many of the initial guests (including the Pharisees and chief priests in this context; see Matthew 21:45) rejected the invitation. Therefore, the Lord invited others who would listen, both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 1:16). However, those who accept the invitation must come on God's terms rather than in their own unclean garments. Those who do not are rejected from the kingdom of heaven and are placed in hell, eternally separated from the Lord and His kingdom.
This parable is not the first time the Bible mentions the importance of being clothed in the proper garments to celebrate God's kingdom. Many believe the parable references the words of Isaiah 61:10 that prophesied, "I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." The Pharisees listening to this parable would have likely understood this Old Testament connection.
This parable also clearly angered the Pharisees. Matthew 22:15, shares, "Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words." Their plan was to trap Jesus in His words and have Him killed.
Still today, the offer of eternity in God's kingdom has been made to all who will believe in Jesus for eternal life (John 3:16). However, no one can enter heaven based on his or her own works. The only way to obtain eternal life is on the King's terms. This includes faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9) who is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:16). Only then can a person be assured that he or she will enter the kingdom and be accepted as one of the King's invited guests (1 John 5:13).
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