Bible kevinroosecomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (here and here).

Matthew 13:50-53

50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

New and Old Treasures

51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

53 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there,

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Verse 50 concludes Jesus’s Parable of the Net (Matthew 13:47-49):

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous

That parable is read in the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time when Year A readings are used in the three-year Lectionary.

It is a pity that the compilers — Catholic and Protestant theologians — decided to omit verse 50.

Since the 19th century, the Christian idea of hell has been watered down to such a degree that many people joke, ‘So what? At least I can get a gin and tonic down there’.

However, as John MacArthur says, hell is no laughing matter (emphases mine):

Verse 50, “And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”  Now that is a fearful verse.  And I confess to you that it affects me just as it affects anybody.  It is a horrifying, fearful verse

And if there’s any doctrine in the Bible that you wish were not there it is the doctrine of hell, but that does not eliminate it.  It is there.  And this is the heart of the matter.  Cast into the furnace of fire.  Those are terrifying words from our Lord.  And yet He spoke more of hell than anybody else. 

And I think there’s a reason.  Do you know what I think?  I think that if Jesus hadn’t taught us about hell, we wouldn’t believe whoever did.  It had to be Him.  It is so inconceivable, it so causes us to be revulsed.  We cannot conceive of eternal damnation.  And it had to be our Lord who said this or we never would have been able to accept it.  It was His own special emphasis.  And He was a preacher of hell.  More than anything else, He threatened men with hell.  And if you don’t think He did then you haven’t been carefully noting His ministry.

MacArthur went on to detail the previous references in Matthew’s Gospel. MacArthur was using the KJV at this time in his ministry.

Matthew 5:22:

Whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Matthew 5:29-30:

If your right eye offend you, pluck it out and cast it from you for it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not your whole body should be cast into hell. If your right hand offend you, cut it off, throw it away, for it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish and not that your whole body should be cast into hell.

Matthew 8:12:

The sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Other verses which cite our Lord directly concern condemnation or damnation. And, as Bible readers know, it is not only in Matthew, including chapters 23 through 25, that we find such warnings but also:

Mark chapter 9, Luke chapter 6, Luke chapter 12, Luke chapter 16.  It just goes on and on.

If our Lord warned us so many times, why would we not believe Him?

Because theologians, even in the 16th century but more nowadays, have told us that this hell is a psychological one that causes us to long for God. I can understand why atheists respond with ‘So what? I don’t believe anyway.’

I’m going to go into MacArthur’s definition of hell — from the same sermon — in tomorrow’s post, but suffice it to say that it includes ‘impenetrable darkness’, ‘unrelieved fire’, physical pain and torment of the soul relative to the degree of sin committed in this life.

He says:

When a person dies, their soul goes out of the presence of God, into the torment of hell.  It may not be the full final lake of fire that comes after the judgment in the great white throne, for that needs a transcendent body to endure it

But it is a torment just as well as illustrated by the rich man who in hell was tormented.  When a person dies now, their soul descends into that torment.  In the future, there will be a resurrection of the bodies of the damned.  They will be given a transcendent body that will then go into a lake of fire.  It will be a body not like the body we have now.  It will be a very different one.  They will be resurrected just like we will, as Christians

We will be resurrected because this body could never live eternally in heaven, right?  We have to have a transcendent body, a glorified body, a different body, and so do the damned.  And they will be raised, John 5, they will be raised in new bodies for the single purpose of being punished forever in those bodies

That’s what the Bible says, tormented forever.  They have to have a body to fit that eternal torment.  And that’s why Jesus in Matthew 10:28 said, “Fear not them that can destroy the body, but fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  You see, hell is soul and body …

With the present body, man couldn’t endure hell … the body that we have now would be consumed in a moment.  So as God fits the redeemed with new bodies for heaven, He fits the damned with new bodies for hell … 

Since childhood, I have always been struck by the words ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth’, which seem to imply more than torment of the soul.

Above, MacArthur referred to our Lord’s story of Dives (‘rich man’) and Lazarus, which is a reading in the three-year Lectionary (Luke 16:19-31). Dives did nothing to help poor, sickly Lazarus who ate the scraps from his table. When Lazarus died, he went to heaven. When Dives died, he went to hell. There Dives suffered from everlasting thirst:

24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 

Abraham refused. The rich man then asked him to send someone who had died to his brothers, so they might be warned of the torment to come. Abraham replied that the rich man’s brothers had Moses and the prophets to warn them. Ultimately:

31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

And so it remains to this day. Our Lord has millions who mock Him daily around the world.

Jesus had finished relating the disciples not only the Parable of the Net, but also the Parables of the Sower, the Weeds, the Mustard Seed and the Leaven, the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Value.

He asked His disciples if they understood them (verse 51). They replied, ‘Yes’. Matthew Henry says that Jesus asked because:

he was ready to explain what they did not understand. Note, It is the will of Christ, that all those who read and hear the word should understand it for otherwise how should they get good by it? It is therefore good for us, when we have read or heard the word, to examine ourselves, or to be examined, whether we have understood it or not. It is no disparagement to the disciples of Christ to be catechised. Christ invites us to seek to him for instruction, and ministers should proffer their service to those who have any good question to ask concerning what they have heard.

We can be sure that the disciples did understand the parables because when they did not, as with those of the Sower and also the Weeds, they asked for an explanation.

Jesus then paid them a compliment (verse 52) by comparing them to scribes trained for the kingdom of heaven and masters of a house. Henry explains:

They were now learning that they might teach, and the teachers among the Jews were the scribes. Ezra, who prepared his heart to teach in Israel, is called a ready scribe, Ezra 7:6,10. Now a skilful, faithful minister of the gospel is a scribe too but for distinction, he is called a scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, well versed in the things of the gospel, and well able to teach those things

He compares them to a good householder, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old fruits of last year’s growth and this year’s gathering, abundance and variety, for the entertainment of his friends, Song of Song of Solomon 7:13. See here, [1.] What should be a minister’s furniture, a treasure of things new and old. Those who have so many and various occasions, have need to stock themselves well in their gathering days with truths new and old, out of the Old Testament and out of the new with ancient and modern improvements, that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished, 2 Timothy 3:16,17. Old experiences, and new observations, all have their use and we must not content ourselves with old discoveries, but must be adding new. Live and learn.

Verse 53 refers to our Lord’s departure from Capernaum to his hometown of Nazareth. Luke 4:16-30 tells us what happened there, and I wrote about it, albeit briefly as it is in the Lectionary, in 2013.

In short, the people of Nazareth thought Jesus was an upstart, got angry with Him and tried to throw Him off a cliff:

30 But passing through their midst, he went away.

Given that, it seems strange that Mary and His step-brothers wanted to bring Him back to Nazareth.

MacArthur tells us that Jesus was leaving Capernaum for good, as the residents did not accept Him, even though He had been teaching and healing the people there for a year.

Remember His dire warning to them in Matthew 11:20-24, which some of you might remember from my entry of October 2015.

MacArthur explains:

back in Matthew 11:23, Jesus said, “And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”

In other words, Jesus had pronounced a curse on Capernaum, and when it says that very simple little statement at the end of verse 53, “He departed from there,” Capernaum’s history ended and God’s damning judgment began. It was the beginning of the end. He never went back, except in passing, and never reestablished a base there. Capernaum had its opportunity. He had come into that city, demonstrated power that could only be interpreted as from God, and now it was over. It marked a crisis in the town’s history from which it never recovered. If you go today to Capernaum, no one lives there; it is utter ruin. It is one of the most beautiful places on the earth, but no one is there. It has felt the hot breath of the curse of Jesus Christ for its unbelief.

At this point, He made a second visit to Nazareth. This took place one year after the synagogue congregation tried to kill Him:

He went right back into the teeth of the storm, right back into the synagogue, and taught them.

Matthew 13:57-58 relates that this return visit went no better than the first:

57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” 58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

It is amazing that between these two towns the most perfect teaching and healing the residents could ever experience escaped them. Who could have done that except the Messiah?

MacArthur explains:

Nazareth’s problem was that they loved their sin, and didn’t want Christ at all. That is why, when they came to Jesus, they said, “We want a sign,” and He said, “I will give no sign to this evil, adulterous generation. Your problem isn’t that you need proof, but that you love sin.” That is the issue. Unbelief blurs the obvious.

And so it remains and will remain until the end of time as we understand it.

In closing, two brief observations.

First, it is appalling to think how little our clergy explain the unbelief and rejection in both Nazareth and Capernaum. Until I started carefully reading the Bible, using Matthew Henry and John MacArthur as guides, I had no idea. If you have known this since childhood, say a prayer of thanks for the blessing of faithful teachers at home and in church.

Secondly, the compilers of the three-year Lectionary have done us all a disservice. The omission of one of Jesus’s dire warnings about hell (Matthew 13:50) is deplorable. We need to know this. We should not have to go digging around at home to find the missing verse. I say that because Catholics have their Missalettes which have the readings in the booklet. They generally do not have Bibles in their pews. A number of them have probably never read verse 50 — and many others which are omitted: Forbidden, yet Essential, Bible Verses. Don’t our clergy want us to know the truth?

Next time: Matthew 14:1-12

 

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