Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth

I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. – Matthew 8:11-12

It’s intriguing to me that so many think of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” as a reference to physical torture. If you told me your friend was “crying and grinding his teeth” I wouldn’t think, “Well he’s clearly being tortured.” More importantly, if we look in Acts 7 we see another reference to teeth gnashing.

You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”

When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.

What’s most intriguing to me about this passage is that this particular language is used in reference to the religious elite and their response to the Gospel.

Why is this interesting?

Because virtually every time Jesus mentions “gnashing of teeth”, he is talking to or about the religious elite.

In Matthew 8, Jesus sees the faith of the centurion and says many will come to sit at the table with Israel’s revered fathers in the kingdom of heaven, but the “sons of the kingdom” will be cast into darkness, where they will weep and gnash their teeth.

Who are the “sons of the kingdom”? The descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And more specifically, Jesus seems to be focusing on those who would identify themselves as “sons of the kingdom” while rejecting His ministry. We know from John 8 that Pharisees often boasted in their status as children of Abraham while rejecting Jesus’ words.

It’s fascinating that Jesus’ figurative warnings, in a similar manner to his mentions of Gehenna, are NOT made towards the criminals or other types we would typically think of as sinners.

By Jacob McMillen. Read the complete article here