The topic of the eternal security of the believer is an interesting topic indeed. In this short article I examine the teaching of Charles Stanley (Atlanta, GA) and compare it with the simple teaching of Jesus Christ regarding those who are cast into the furnace of fire.
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. (1 Timothy 4:1)
This is a very interesting passage of scripture. The Jewish apostle Paul, the same one who was converted on the road to Damascus, and a former murderer of Christians, wrote those words. Paul knew what it was like to be deceived. Paul was a Jewish Pharisee, and if one were to examine his life they would probably find an extremely moral man. One might even call him “holy”, but in the sight of God he was religious but lost! He did not know the true and living God until he met Him that day on the road to Damascus.
Keep that in mind whenever you read the letters of Paul, because you are hearing from a man who was ever so grateful for the mercy shown to him on that day. His desire was that others would come out of deception and come to know Jesus Christ. In the passage above, which is from the first letter that Paul wrote to Timothy, Paul tells us that the Spirit had spoken, that in the latter times [the latter days] there would be some who would depart from the faith, and give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines [teachings] of devils.
The Greek word for DEPART in that passage is the word APHISTEMI and it is defined as follows: To remove, instigate to revolt, to desist, desert, depart, draw [fall] away, refrain, withdraw self.
Now is this talking about people who truly knew the Lord at one time, or is it talking about those who merely professed to be saved, but in reality they were lost.
The passage above is talking about GENUINE believers in Jesus Christ, who get seduced by false teachers, and their doctrines, and depart from the faith.
An unsaved man cannot depart from the faith, because they never had faith to begin with.
Why on earth would the Holy Spirit [of truth] come forth with a warning about the unsaved departing from the faith?
How can the unsaved be seduced away from a place of faith that they were never at to begin with?
Why would the devil come with his doctrines to seduce the unsaved, who he already holds captive at his will? [2 Timothy 2:26]
Taking The Warnings Seriously
It is spiritually dangerous to attempt to make the scriptures say something that they are not saying. An example of what can happen, when you try to make the scriptures fit your own preconceived theology, can be found here:
In the book of Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus spoke about the parable of the talents. He was speaking on the subject of the ”Kingdom of Heaven”, and he ministering about being ready for his coming. Jesus shows us the fate of the “unprofitable servant” in the following verse from that passage:
And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25:30)
When I was born again of the Spirit in 1989, whenever I would read a passage of scripture like this, I immediately understood that the Lord Jesus Christ was referring to Hell. That is why I find it absolutely incredible when I read the interpretation given by Pastor Charles Stanley regarding this “outer darkness.”
INTERPRETATION: CHARLES STANLEY
Charles Stanley, the well known Pastor and media minister from Atlanta, Georgia, who is listened to by MILLIONS of people throughout the world, said this concerning that very same passage of scripture:
“Where is this place represented by the ‘outer darkness’ in Jesus’ parables? To be in the ‘outer darkness’ is to be in the kingdom of God but outside the circle of men and women whose faithfulness on this earth earned them a special rank or position of authority. The ‘outer darkness’ represents not so much an actual place as it does a sphere of influence and privilege.”
Concerning the “gnashing of teeth” Charles Stanley goes on to say that these people were “extremely frustrated with themselves” and “As some are celebrated for their faithfulness, others will gnash their teeth in frustration…” And ”we do not know how long this time of rejoicing and sorrow will last. Those whose works are burned up will not weep and gnash their teeth for eternity.” [Charles Stanley: Eternal Security, Can You Be Sure? Pages 126-127]
Earlier in that same book Pastor Charles Stanley said this:
“The final verse of this parable (Matthew 25:30) is so severe that many commentators assume it is a description of hell. It is not.” [Charles Stanley: Eternal Security, Can You Be Sure? Pages 124]
Here is that same verse once again that pastor Charles Stanley is referring to:
And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25:30)
Folks, I am telling you, by the authority of the Word of God, that the “outer darkness” that Jesus Christ was referring to (in Matthew 25:30) is most definitely a reference to HELL, and it is a place of everlasting punishment! Keep in mind that the Lord Jesus Christ is the creator of all things, and the Saviour of our souls. He wants his listeners to be aware of the pitfalls, trials and circumstances which would surely come their way, and attempt to turn them from the faith.
Charles Stanley then goes on to mention in his book, another instance where the same term “outer darkness” was used in Matthew 22:13, and he does this to show his readers that Jesus was not talking about hell.
“This phrase appears in a similar parable in chapter 22. In that parable an unwanted guest is bound and thrown out of a banquet hall into the “outer darkness” (see Matt. 22:13); it clearly refers to being thrown out outside a building into the dark.” [Charles Stanley: Eternal Security, Can You Be Sure? Pages 125]
Once again I find the interpretation of Charles Stanley to be absolutely unbelievable. Why, because the Lord Jesus Christ was using this parable to get the point across that those people who did not belong to him, would be cast out in the end. Yes, of course the man was thrown outside the building, but the point being made was that the man was not clothed with the wedding garment of the “righteousness of Christ!” Jesus used this parable as another warning for people to get right with God.
The Lord Jesus Christ was referring to those who reject his gospel in that parable, especially the unbelieving Jews, and that they would be cast into the outer darkness of hell for eternity! Please notice that the Lord was talking about the “kingdom of heaven” in this parable, as well as the parable regarding the “unprofitable servant.” We are talking about who is going to enter HEAVEN and those who would be cast into the outer darkness of HELL! That is exactly the point that the Lord Jesus Christ wanted to make!
You can find the Lord Jesus Christ using that very same term “outer darkness” after he witnessed the great faith of a Gentile centurion.
The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 8:8-12)
The Lord was not speaking in a parable there, and yet it is in full agreement with the point, that the Lord was trying to make in those other parables. The Lord Jesus Christ contrasted the great faith of this Gentile centurion, against the unbelief of the Jewish people. “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” The Lord was simply telling the unbelieving Jews, that there would be believing Gentiles (with faith in Jesus Christ) coming from all over the world, from the east and the west, who were going to eat at the marriage supper of the lamb, while they were cast into the “outer darkness” of an eternal Hell!
In fact if you take a look at Matthew chapter 25 you will find the Lord Jesus Christ preaching about his second coming and the importance of being ready. In Matthew 25:1-13 the Lord preaches about the wise and the foolish virgins. He specifically referred to the “kingdom of Heaven” once again. The foolish virgins allowed their lamps to be snuffed out, which tells us that they were previously lit! In Matthew 25:14-30 the Lord is still talking about the “unprofitable servant” who did not use his talent! In Matthew 25:31-46 the Lord is once again talking about his second coming in glory with his angels! The Lord preaches about the sheep (believers) and the goats (unbelievers). The entire chapter is about being prepared for his second coming.
As you take another look at Charles Stanley’s interpretation of Matthew 25:14-30, it is simply unbelievable, and incredible that someone could even write something like that! With all the modern day talk about a so called “works gospel” it is amazing that more of his own followers do not see through this false interpretation of scripture. Can you imagine a person in the Kingdom of Heaven gnashing their teeth for a temporary period of time, before being let back inside to be with those who “earned” themselves a “special rank” or “position of authority”? WHAT? It is only by GRACE through FAITH in the Lord that any BELIEVER will gain entrance into Heaven and nothing else. (Ephesians 2:8-9) It is the BLOOD of Jesus Christ, and nothing but HIS BLOOD that will get us into Heaven! The man with the one talent was clearly a BELIEVER at one point in time, because the talent was TAKEN AWAY from him! He TURNED away from the Lord and the false “eternal security” teachers simply cannot deal with that. The Lord Jesus Christ gave that parable as a WARNING to ALL believers!
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the UNGODLY. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now JUSTIFIED by his BLOOD, we shall be SAVED from wrath through him. (Romans 5:6-9)
According to the scriptures it is NOT by any works that we have done that will gain us entrance into Heaven!
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (Titus 3:5)
Whenever the Lord spoke about outer darkness, he was always referring to eternal punishment! The man with the one talent did not simply “lose some rewards” BUT he lost his very SOUL! The very purpose of this parable was to warn his followers to be ready, and he was NOT telling them that they might simply lose out on some “rewards.” The Lord was talking about the kingdom of Heaven in the parable and those outside in the outer darkness were not inside the kingdom of heaven. The people who were in outer darkness, were in Hell, and they were gnashing their teeth because they knew they would never get out of that place! The whole point of this parable from the Lord was that all believers need to be careful lest their soul be cast into Hell!
For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. (Matthew 25:14)
According to Charles Stanley there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in the outer darkness of Heaven! I must tell you straight out that Charles Stanley has taken something that Jesus Christ spoke and completely twisted the meaning of it. The outer darkness that the REAL Jesus Christ spoke about is an outer darkness that will NEVER end, and those that are WITHIN that outer darkness will NEVER escape. Jesus Christ made it very clear whenever he spoke about these things and to give such an absurd interpretation as Charles Stanley has done is simply mind boggling. Here is the correct interpretation of the outer darkness that Jesus Christ was referring to.
INTERPRETATION: JESUS CHRIST
If you read the full parable in Matthew 25:14-30 you will see that the Lord Jesus Christ referred to the ‘unprofitable servant’ as “WICKED” in Matthew 25:26
Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou WICKED and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: (Matthew 25:24-26)
The Lord Jesus Christ judged the man with one talent, and referred to him as WICKED, and thus consigned him to the outer darkness where the UNSAVED will weep and wail and gnash their teeth for eternity. The man with the one talent simply hardened his own heart, and turned away from the Lord! His faith was shipwrecked, and he never tuned back! (1 Timothy 1:19)
Take heed, BRETHREN, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in DEPARTING from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made PARTAKERS of CHRIST, IF we hold the beginning of our confidence STEDFAST UNTO THE END; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. (Hebrews 3:12-15)
The Greek word for “departing” that I have capitalized there is the EXACT same word “APHISTEMI” that I spoke of earlier in this article. The man with the one talent simply deserted the Lord Jesus Christ and that was the very purpose of the parable! The Lord gave us the parable as a warning!
The WICKED go to the “Furnace of Fire” FOREVER!
Are the WICKED going to enter the kingdom of Heaven along with the faithful? Not according to Jesus Christ, the creator of all things.
So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the WICKED from among the just, And shall cast them into the FURNACE OF FIRE: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:49-50)
Jesus said that the WICKED were going to be cast into the “furnace of fire” and that is where there is going to be “wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Does that sound like a temporary place of punishment to you? Jesus Christ spoke very clearly there about the finality of this “furnace of fire” (Hell), and it takes place at the end of the world. The term “outer darkness” is not used there, but it does not make any difference, because it is hell, where the “wicked” are tormented for eternity. It is absolutely ludicrous to say that people whom the Lord Jesus Christ described as “wicked” would be weeping and gnashing their teeth for just a temporary period of time. That would destroy the unity of the scriptures, and especially the message that the Lord Jesus Christ was trying to get across. To make it a little easier for you to understand take a look at the Greek words that were used to translate certain English words:
The Greek word for WICKED in Matthew 25:26 is the word PONEROS and it is the very same Greek word used in Matthew 13:49 describing those people whom Jesus said would be cast into the “furnace of fire”.
The Greek word for WEEPING in Matthew 25:30 is the word KLAUTHMOS and it is the very same Greek word used for WAILING in Matthew 13:50 describing those people who Jesus said would be cast into the “furnace of fire”.
The Greek word for GNASHING in Matthew 25:30 is the word BRUGMOS and it is the very same Greek word that is used in Matthew 13:50 describing those whom Jesus said would be cast into the “furnace of fire”.
Are there people weeping and gnashing their teeth in Heaven?
When a Christian shares the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the unsaved, should they tell them that they have a choice between Heaven or Hell, as to where they can wail and gnash their teeth?
The answer to the questions above are obviously an emphatic NO!
In fact the whole idea of wailing and gnashing of teeth in Heaven is ludicrous.
The apostle Paul was truly speaking in the Spirit, all those years ago, when he told us that some “shall depart from the faith”, but the question is this: Is anybody listening??
You can continue to believe the teaching of Charles Stanley or you can fully accept the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and the common sense interpretation.
On the back cover of the classic book on this subject, “Life In The Son” by Robert Shank, the following is written:
“Are the proof passages used to support eternal security possibly misconstrued? Dr. Shank convincingly argues that the question confronting us is not, Is the believer secure? but rather, What does it mean to be a believer? If apostasy is an actual peril for every Christian, the Scriptural warning passages must be frankly accepted rather than interpreted into irrelevance or circumvented by theological hypothesis.
“Life In The Son” by Robert Shank was also endorsed by Dr. William Adams of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.