Brief Notes

The Talents &
the Minas (4)

8 April 2023

The “outer darkness”
is not the same thing as
the Lake of Fire, and in
the next age some
believers may indeed
be sent there for a
temporary punishment

“You wicked and lazy servant!”….“Cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness! There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
— Matthew 25:26,30

According to some Bible teachers, the “wicked,” “lazy,” and “unprofitable” servant in Matthew 25 cannot be a genuine believer. This view is based entirely on the assumption that the outer darkness is the same thing as the Lake of Fire, and therefore to go there signifies eternal damnation. Because genuine believers in Christ cannot suffer such a fate, they conclude that this servant must not be a real believer.

However, is there any basis in the Scripture for such an assumption? Very simply, no; there is absolutely no basis whatsoever for believing that. And so there is no reason for believing, either, that the unprofitable servant in this parable signifies anything other than a genuine believer in Christ, though one who is being punished by the Lord in the next age.

As for the outer darkness, if that actually were the same thing as the Lake of Fire, then the Bible should give us a direct word explaining that, but it does not. Again, it is simply an assumption that has no basis in the Scripture.

Moreover, as we saw in the previous Note, we can compare this parable with a very similar one, the Parable of the Minas in the Gospel of Luke, which also deals with the case of an unfaithful servant. In that case the servant also has his gift taken away, while the enemies of the Lord are slain before Him (Luke 19:27; see “The Talents & the Minas” • 3). So that is the fate of the unbelievers—to be slain, not to be cast into the outer darkness.

As for the servant, the gift of a talent that he received from his master was exactly the same in nature as that which the other servants received (Matt. 25:15), and beyond question they signify genuine believers.

Also, even after taking his gift away, the master never refers to him as anything other than a servant. He calls him an “unprofitable” servant, not a “false” one.

Finally, there is a very important point to note regarding the judgment in the Parable of the Talents: it does not relate to the question of sin, but of service. It has nothing whatever to do with sin; the master only wants to know whether the servant gained a return for Him.

The judgment spoken of here, then, can only be that of the judgment seat of Christ, which will be for the believers (2 Cor. 5:10), whose sins have already been taken away by the death of Christ on the cross. It cannot be referring to the great white throne judgment of the unbelievers who are still in their sins (Rev. 20:11-15).

So the Parable of the Talents clearly shows us that a genuine believer in Christ may be cast into the outer darkness when he stands before the judgment seat of Christ. Because he is saved, however, this cannot be an eternal judgment; at most, it can only be for the 1,000 year reign of Christ on the earth—which, obviously, is still quiet serious.

But if a believer can suffer such a discipline in the next age, then we need to ask ourselves, Just what is the outer darkness? That is what we will do in the next Note. (As I mentioned at the end of the previous Note, I had expected to do that in this one, but later I realized that I needed to add a few more words before that.)

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— 8 April 2023 —