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Go to Bible: Matthew 8
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“Look!” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20.
“bowed down before.” See commentaries on Luke 5:12 and Matthew 2:2.
“want to.” The Greek is thelō (#2309 θέλω), which means to want or to desire, or to have a willingness. However, when it comes to healing and miracles, someone usually has to be more than just “willing,” he must really want it. Similarly, the one doing the miracle must be more than just “willing,” he must want the miracle to occur. The force of Jesus’ energy and desire comes out in the way he says “Be clean” in Matt. 8:3, which is in the imperative mood in Greek (the mood of command), and which we translate with an exclamation point to alert the reader to that fact.(top)
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This record about the centurion is also found in Luke 7:1-10.
“a centurion came to him.” This verse reflects the custom of “agency” in the biblical world, as well as the custom of using an intermediary to represent oneself to a person of “higher” position, power, or influence, instead of direct person to person negotiation. Although the text seems to say that the centurion came to Christ, that actually never happened, as we can see from the parallel record in Luke 7:1-10. Instead, the centurion sent intermediaries who acted as his agents to speak to Christ. The custom of agency is that a representative, intermediary, or “agent” can speak and act on full behalf of the one who sent him.
There were various reasons that a person would use an agent or intermediary, and although the functions often overlapped and an intermediary would also be an agent, there were differences between an intermediary and an agent. If a powerful person needed work done that he himself could not do, he used an agent who was empowered to speak and act on his behalf. If a person of less status or power needed something from someone of more status, he used an intermediary who often also acted as an agent. It often happened in the biblical world that a person of high rank or position simply would not bother to see someone who was considered somehow “lower,” especially since that lower individual almost always needed something. It therefore was incumbent on that lower person to find an intermediary who would be considered respectable enough to actually get an audience with the person of higher rank. That was the case here in Matthew 8. The centurion, who was a Roman soldier and Gentile, would likely have thought that a great healer and rabbi like Jesus would never see him, so he sent intermediaries as agents to make contact for him. Another example in the Gospels is when some Greeks wanted to see Jesus, they went to Philip and asked to see him rather than trying to go to Jesus himself (John 12:21).
Because of the very limited nature of communication in the biblical world, it was necessary, especially for people of status and power, to use agents to represent them and get their work done. The agent would speak and act with full authority of the one who sent him—as if he was in fact that person. In the Bible agents sometimes speak in third person, as when a prophet says, “The Lord says…,” but sometimes the agent can so fully represent the principal that the agent actually uses the word “I” or speaks as if he were the principal that he represents. In our modern world the concept of agency is commonly practiced in what is known as power of attorney. The person with the power of attorney speaks on full behalf of the person, the principal, who gave him the power or attorney.
In Roman custom, an agent of the Emperor was called the Imperial Legate, although today the word “legate” usually refers to a representative of the Pope. The Greeks used the word presbeuō (pronounced pres-booˈ-ō), which occurs in 2 Corinthians 5:20. The Jews had the same custom, where the agent was regarded as the principal person himself. This is well expressed in The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion:
One major difference between the biblical agent and an agent in our modern world is that today the agent makes it clear that he is an agent, and not the principal, but that was not always the case in biblical times, as we will see from the examples below. That means that in reading the biblical text we must often study the scope of Scripture to see if the principal or an agent is speaking.
The record of Jesus healing the Roman centurion’s servant is a clear example of agency (and the use of intermediaries). Reading only Matthew 8:5-13, it seems clear that a Roman centurion came to Jesus to ask him to heal his servant. Scripture records the scene as if the centurion and Jesus are having a conversation. However, when the same record is read in Luke 7:1-10, we find that the centurion never actually spoke with Jesus, but in fact had acted through agents, in this case, Jewish elders. The concept of principal and agent was so firmly cemented in the minds of the people of the first century culture, both Jews and Gentiles, that people had no problem harmonizing Matthew and Luke and seeing that when Matthew said, “a centurion came to him [Jesus]” it meant he came in the form of the agents he sent.
One reason that it is so important to understand the law of agency is that Christians are agents of Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:20, the Greek text says we are the presbeuō (#4243 πρεσβεύω) of Jesus Christ. Although presbeuō is usually translated “ambassador” in our English Bibles, in the Greco-Roman world it was used for elders, ambassadors, and legates. As was stated above, the Emperor of Rome used legates—people who spoke and acted in his place—to get his work done across the empire. Similarly, there are times when Christians speak and act for Jesus. There are clear places in the New Testament when people did healings or miracles and identified themselves as agents of Jesus Christ by using the formula, “in the name of Jesus Christ,” that is, “by the authority of Jesus Christ” (Acts 3:6; 16:18). However, there are times when believers simply represented Christ without using any kind of formula that identified them as agents of Christ (cp. Acts 9:34, 40; 13:10-11; 14:10). If we Christians are going to be fully effective in this world, we must recognize that we are agents of Jesus Christ and many times he will use us to do his work.
The lack of knowledge of the custom of agency has caused a lot of confusion when it comes to properly understanding the Bible, especially in the area of the Trinity. Many Trinitarians see verses where angels refer to themselves as “God,” and instead of properly seeing that the angels are simply agents of God who can speak on His behalf, they try to prove the Trinity. The Bible has a number of records where an agent of God is referred to as “God” or “the LORD,” but those verses only show that God used angels as His agents to do His work. The prophets spoke for God, but it was God’s angel-agents who represented Him so powerfully that the biblical text and people sometimes referred to seeing them as having seen God. The following are examples of angels actually standing in the place of God such that afterwards the human beings involved said they had encountered God Himself. We must emphasize, however, that when angels acted as God’s agents, their identity as angels is unmistakably preserved in Scripture. The Bible says they were angels, and they were angels.
HAGAR AND THE ANGEL (Gen. 16:7-14). In Genesis 16:7-10, 13-14, the angel who appears to Hagar speaks as God, identifies himself with God, and claims to exercise the prerogatives of God. Many orthodox Bible commentators say Old Testament accounts of angelic manifestations such as this one are appearances of Jesus in his “pre-incarnate” state, but there are Trinitarian commentators who recognize that is an inference, and never directly stated. For example, Charles Ryrie calls this use of “the angel of the Lord” a “theophany, a self-manifestation of God.” However, Ryrie does recognize that the doctrine that this “angel” is the pre-incarnate Christ is an inference based on Trinitarian doctrine; it is never directly stated in the Bible (The Ryrie Study Bible, text note on Genesis 16:9).
We assert that when Ryrie and other theologians say that in these “theophanies,” God Himself is present and acting in the form of the pre-incarnate Christ, they are missing the point that the angel is an angel acting as an agent of God. Trinitarian theologians often say that Jesus is probably “the angel of the Lord” because the angel of the Lord never appears after Jesus’ birth, and it seems “reasonable” to Trinitarians that the angel of the Lord would appear in the Bible until the end. But the angel of the Lord does appear after Jesus’ conception, as we can see from Matthew 1:24. Since Jesus was already in Mary’s womb when the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph we can conclude that “the angel of the Lord” cannot be Jesus. Furthermore, once Jesus ascended, he took charge of God’s creation, so there would be no need to emphasize that it was an angel of God.
The NIV Study Bible acknowledges the principle of divine agents being identified with God Himself, and says:
“Since the angel of the Lord speaks for God in the first person and Hagar is said to name ‘the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,”’ the angel appears to be both distinguished from the Lord (in that he is called ‘messenger’—the Hebrew for ‘angel’ means ‘messenger’) and identified with him. Similar distinction and identification can be found in Gen. 19:1, 21; 31:11, 13; Exod. 3:2, 4; Judg. 2:1-5; 6:11-12, 14; 13:3, 6, 8-11, 13, 15-17, 20-23; Zech. 3:1-6; 12:8. Traditional Christian interpretation has held that this ‘angel’ was a pre-incarnate manifestation of Christ as God’s messenger-Servant. It may be, however, that, as the Lord’s personal messenger who represented him and bore his credentials, the angel could speak on behalf of (and so be identified with) the One who sent him. Whether this ‘angel’ was the second person of the Trinity remains therefore uncertain” (The NIV Study Bible (1984) text note on Genesis 16:7).
We are glad that scholars like Ryrie and the authors of the NIV Study Bible accept the possibility that it could have been an angel, not the “pre-incarnate Christ” who spoke to Hagar, but we strongly assert that the Bible says in black and white that the speaker was an angel. In order to make the jump from the speaker being an angel to the speaker being the pre-incarnate Christ, there would have to be some clear scriptural evidence, and that evidence does not exist. The biblical record makes it clear that Hagar was speaking to an angel of God acting as God’s agent.
SODOM AND GOMORRAH (Genesis 19:1-15,21). God is said to have destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah but actually He sent two angels to do the job. The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening (Gen. 19:1). They informed Lot that “we” are going to destroy this place. Lot called the angels “my lords” (Gen. 19:18), asking them if he could flee to Zoar. God spoke via the angels: “He” [God, singular, not “they,” the angels] said to Lot that his request was granted. Then Yahweh rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire, and He overthrew those cities (Gen. 19:24). These Scriptures combine to portray a beautiful picture of agency. Of course God is the One who supplied the power and authority, but the angels did the work. We use the same kind of language today. The owner of a construction company might be showing off some of the buildings his company had built. He might well say, “I built that building over there,” and everyone would understand that he did not actually do the physical work, but was the planner and the authority behind the job.
JACOB’S DREAM (Genesis 31:11-13). Jacob said to his wives, “The angel of God said to me in a dream…I am the God of Bethel…” Jacob’s statement shows that the concept of agency was not confusing to the people who knew the customs and the culture. Jacob was comfortable saying that an angel said, “I am the God of Bethel.”
JACOB WRESTLES WITH “GOD” (Genesis 32:24-30). In Genesis 32, Jacob wrestled with “a man” until daybreak (Gen. 32:24), but in verse 30, Jacob said he had “seen God face to face.” We might think this was one of the times that God took on the form of a man in order to better relate to mankind (for information on God appearing in human form, see commentary on Acts 7:55). However, the book of Hosea speaks of the same record and lets us know that the one who wrestled with Jacob was an angel (Hosea 12:3-4). Thus, the one who is called “God” in Genesis is identified as an angel in Hosea, a clear example of agency.
MOSES AND THE BURNING BUSH (Exodus 3:2, 4, 6, 16). Exodus 3:2 says, “The angel of Yahweh appeared to him [Moses] in flames of fire from within a bush.” Yet the record then goes on to say that “God” and “Yahweh” spoke to Moses. The reader has to pay attention in this record because, although the angel is said to be in the fire, the record never actually says the angel speaks. It is possible that this is an example of agency and the angel spoke for God, or it could be that the angel was involved with the fire and when Moses drew near the bush, then Yahweh Himself spoke.
TRAVEL IN THE WILDERNESS (Exodus – Deuteronomy). Understanding the concept of agency allows us to better understand the records of the Lord accompanying the Israelites in the wilderness. Some records indicate an angel was in the pillar of fire, while others indicate that it was God in the pillar of fire (cp. Exodus 13:21; 14:19; 23:20-23). Exodus 23:21 gives us more evidence of the custom of agency because God said that His “name” was “in” the angel. A study of the culture and language shows that the word “name” stood for “authority.” Examples are very numerous, but space allows only a small selection. Deuteronomy 18:5 and 18:7 speak of serving in the “name” (authority) of the Lord. Deuteronomy 18:22 speaks of prophesying in the “name” (authority) of the Lord. In 1 Samuel 17:45, David attacked Goliath in the “name” (authority) of the Lord, and he blessed the people in the “name” (authority) of the Lord. In 2 Kings 2:24, Elisha cursed troublemakers in the “name” (authority) of the Lord. These scriptures are only a small sample, but they are very clear. God told the Israelites to obey the angel because God’s name, i.e., His authority, was in him, and thus the angel represented God. Today we use “the name of Jesus Christ,” meaning the authority of Jesus Christ.
THE ISRAELITES AND THE ANGEL (Judges 2:1-5). Judges 2:1 identifies the speaker as “An angel of the LORD” (many English versions say “The angel,” but the Hebrew text is “an angel”), and verse 4 also says the speaker was an angel. But then the angel says “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land…,” speaking in the first person as if he were God.
GIDEON AND THE ANGEL (Judges 6:11,12,14,16,22). Judges 6:11, 12, say that an angel spoke to Gideon. However, in verses 14 and 16, “the LORD” spoke. This may be confusing to English readers, but Gideon was not confused. In Judges 6:22 he said, “I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” Gideon knew the custom of agency, and had no trouble understanding that the angel could represent God.
MANOAH AND THE ANGEL (Judges 13). The record in Judges 13 is very interesting because when the angel first showed up, Manoah and his wife did not recognize him as an angel, they thought he was a man of God (Judges 13:3, 6, 21). Finally, they realized it was an angel (Judges 13:21). However, immediately after Manoah realized that, he exclaimed, “We are doomed to die, we have seen God” (Judges 13:22). So Manoah knew he had seen an angel, but he also knew the angel was God’s agent and representative, so he said he had seen God.
BEFORE GOD OR BEFORE THE JUDGE? The concept of agency can cause translators some real difficulties. The Hebrew word elohim can refer to “God” (which is how it is used most often), “a god,” “gods” (because elohim is plural), “angels,” “heavenly beings,” or human beings who represent God, such as judges. So in verses like Exodus 21: 6, different translators think differently: “Then his master shall bring him unto the judges” (KJV and NIV); “Then his master shall bring him to God” (NASB and RSV).
Exodus 21:6 is about a slave who did not want to be released. In those cases the master was to bring him to “the elohim” to become a slave forever. But does elohim mean “God” or “judges?” Because the judges represented God as his agents on earth, they are called by His name, “elohim.” There is a sense in which both of the above translations are correct. The judges did in fact represent God, elohim, and so were called elohim. But also, in bringing the slave to the judges, he was being brought to God, elohim. In this case, because the actual representatives of God were the judges, and it was the judges who actually witnessed the slave’s vow, “judges” seems to be the better contextual translation of elohim in Exodus 21:6 and 22:8, 11.
It is important to understand the custom of agency and the use of intermediaries to properly understand the Bible, and the Bible contains examples of men being agents of other men, men being agents of God, and angels being agents of God. It also helps to remember that the custom of agency was much more prevalent in biblical times than it is today. Our swift and reliable means of direct communication, such as by telephone or email, or swift travel by car, train, and airplane, have made the actual practice of agency much less necessary. [For more on the use of intermediaries, see commentary on John 12:21].(top)
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“many will come from the east and the west.” Jesus taught this truth again at a different time in his ministry (see Luke 13:22-30, esp. Luke 13:29). These people who come from the east and west are Gentiles, not Jews, as we see from Matthew 8:12 which refers to the Jews as the “sons of the Kingdom” because as God’s chosen people they were the rightful heirs of the land and kingdom, but they rejected God and so were rejected by him. In contrast, many non-Jews throughout history kept the heart of the Law by being loving, giving, and kind, and they are granted everlasting life and so get to eat at the feast in the Kingdom of Christ. The Old Testament foretold that people would come from the east and west and be in the Kingdom (cp. Isa. 59:19). [For more on Gentiles being saved, see commentary on Rom. 2:14].
“recline at the feast.” Jesus is referring to the great feast or banquet that God will hold in the future Messianic Kingdom on earth. Many Jews thought of everlasting life in the Messianic Kingdom as a giant banquet, where they would get to recline and dine with other saved people and biblical greats like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and a huge banquet is certainly part of the biblical picture of the Messianic Kingdom. The banquet referred to in Isaiah 25:6, called the marriage banquet (or, “wedding supper”) of the Lamb in Revelation 19:9, is most likely near the beginning of the Messianic Kingdom, and thus would be a giant inaugural banquet at the start of the Kingdom. But the abundance of food that will be present in the Millennial Kingdom, along with the peace, prosperity, and joy in the Kingdom will make life there seem like it is a continual feast.
Although there are not a lot of verses in the Bible that refer to the great feast in the Messianic Kingdom, clear verses like Isaiah 25:6 caught the imagination of the Jews and so the feast was well known, which was why Jesus could mention it in his teachings without many explanatory remarks. Culturally, this is similar to the way that most Christians know about the shepherds in the fields on the night of Christ’s birth even though there is only one small passage 11 verses long about them in the entire Bible.
The Greek word translated “recline” in Matthew 8:11 is anaklinō (#347 ἀνακλίνω), and it means “to recline, lie down, lean against or lean on, or to ask (or make) someone to recline or lie down.” It was the standard word used when reclining to eat, so “recline to eat,” or a similar English translation catches the meaning well. Eating in the biblical world was done by reclining on the left side, usually on pillows or rolled-up blankets (or couches in the Roman world), and then eating with the right hand. The feet were behind the person, away from the food, and no one ate with the left hand, which was used for washing oneself after going to the bathroom. The “table” with the food was usually just a rug or blanket spread out on the ground, but may have been an actual very low table, a few inches off the ground.
Our Western way of eating with a table about 30 inches off the ground with chairs around it was not used for eating in the biblical world, so using the translation “sit” or “sit down” in Matthew 8:11 and other verses that speak of sitting to eat is misleading to the modern reader. In most contexts, we would simply translate this verse as “recline to eat” or “recline at the table” (NASB), but in this context, Jesus is talking about eating at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven, so the translation “recline at the feast” is contextually acceptable (cp. CJB, NAB, NIV).
Isaiah 25:6 speaks specifically about the feast in the future Messianic Kingdom. It says: “On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines” (NIV). The mountain Isaiah refers to is Mount Zion where the rebuilt Jerusalem and the Millennial Temple described in Ezekiel 40-47 will be. Proverbs 9:1-5 also speaks of a feast and portrays “Wisdom,” personified as a woman, throwing a huge feast and inviting people to it. Many verses in the Old Testament refer to the large amounts of food for both people and animals that will be in the Kingdom (Isa. 25:6; 30:23-26; 32:15; 35:1-7; 41:18-20; 44:3; 51:3; Jer. 31:5, 11-14; Ezek. 47:1, 2, 7-12; Hos. 2:21-22; Joel 2:18-26; 3:18; Amos 9:13).
The New Testament also speaks of a feast in the Messianic Kingdom. Jesus mentioned it on a number of occasions, and an unnamed man who was eating with Jesus mentioned it (Luke 14:15). The Book of Revelation calls this great feast, “the marriage banquet of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9). Jesus taught that this wonderful future feast was not just for the Jews, in fact, many of the Jews would be excluded because of their unbelief (Heb. 4:6-11). The feast will be for the righteous—those people who trust God. Jesus made this clear in his teachings. For example, after healing the servant of a Roman centurion who trusted in God and loved the Jewish nation enough to build a synagogue for the Jews (Luke 7:5), Jesus said, “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be sobbing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:11-12; cp. Luke 13:28-29).
The people who come from “the east and the west”—places outside Israel—are Gentiles, while the “subjects of the kingdom” (the Greek literally reads, “the sons of the kingdom”) are the Jews. The salvation and everlasting life given by the Messiah was not just for the Jews. The first prophecy of the Messiah is the one God made to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:15, and that was thousands of years before the Jews existed. About 2,000 years after that first prophecy of the Messiah, God promised Abraham that all the people of earth, not just the Jews, would be blessed through him (Gen. 12:3; 18:18). Then God repeated that promise to Isaac (Gen. 26:4); and to Jacob (Gen. 28:14). Besides those promises, the Old Testament has a number of verses that speak of Gentiles being included in the Messianic Kingdom (Ps. 102:15; Isa. 2:2-4; 19:23-25; 42:6; 49:6; 51:4-5; 56:3-7; 60:3; 66:18-21; Ezek. 39:21, 27; Micah 4:2; Hag. 2:7; Zech. 2:11; 8:22).
In spite of all the verses about the nations being blessed in connection with the Messiah, the Jews seemed to ignore them and think that the Messianic Kingdom was just for them. Yet many Gentiles will be included in the feast, while many Jews will be left outside in the “darkness”—and since the Messianic Kingdom fills the whole earth (Dan. 2:35, 44), a person is either in the Kingdom or cast into the Lake of Fire (Matt. 25:34, 41; Rev. 20:12-15), and in terms of the well-lighted banquet in the Kingdom, the Lake of Fire is the “darkness” outside the feast.
Jesus taught about the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven on a number of different occasions, although, since the feast was so well known to his audience, he often did not describe it fully enough that the modern Bible reader picks up on what he was saying. This is the case with Matthew 8:11-12. Jesus taught about the feast and his Messianic Kingdom in a parable that compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a king who prepared a wedding feast for his son (Matt. 22:1-13, esp. v. 2). God is the king who throws a wedding feast for His Son—a great feast that includes oxen and fattened cattle (Matt. 22:4; cp. Isa. 25:6 NIV, “the best of meats”). But the people the king had originally invited, referring to the Jews, refused to come, so the king sent his servants out to bring anyone who would come, including both the bad and the good (Matt. 22:10); and that would mean the Gentiles would be included. Those people who did not come to the feast were killed (Matt. 22:7), and the unsaved will be destroyed in the Lake of Fire (Matt. 10:28; Rev. 20:13-15). Jesus taught a different parable about a man putting on a great banquet in Luke 14:16-24.
In a different parable, Jesus taught about wise virgins who got to go into a wedding feast while foolish virgins were shut out (Matt. 25:1-12, esp. v. 10). Then, at the Last Supper, Jesus held up the wine and said, “And I say to you, I will absolutely not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26:29; cp. Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18). Jesus knew from the Old Testament that there would be wine at the feast in the Kingdom, and he promised his apostles he would wait until the Kingdom to drink wine again.
The Bible does not tell us when, in Christ’s future Messianic Kingdom on earth, the wedding banquet will occur. We surmise that it will be quite close to the start of the Kingdom itself since it was customary for a king to start his reign with a feast to celebrate his inauguration (1 Sam. 11:15; 1 Kings 1:9, 25). However, it would have to be after the Sheep and Goat Judgment (Matt. 25:31-46) and the First Resurrection (Rev. 20:4; Ezek. 37:11-14) so the righteous people like Abraham would be there as Matthew 8:11 says. Also, it seems that it would be after the Temple was built in Jerusalem so that God could be properly honored (Ezek. 40-43). In Haggai 1:1-11, God rebuked His people for taking care of themselves and building nice houses before they took care of Him and built the Temple. So too, it would seem that in the Millennial Kingdom, Jesus Christ would want to make sure that the Temple was built so God could be worshiped before anyone sat down to a wedding banquet.
We should notice that when Jesus spoke of this future feast in the Kingdom, no one in his audience said, “What feast? What are you talking about?” They all had been told about the great feast in the future Messianic Kingdom even if they did not believe it themselves. Today very few people understand anything about the magnificent feast that will occur at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom—in fact, most people have no idea about the Millennial Kingdom on earth at all. The proper understanding of the feast, the marriage banquet of the Lamb, has been obscured by many false doctrines. Most Jews today do not believe, or have only a very vague belief, in an afterlife, so a Messianic Kingdom on earth with a large feast is not part of their thinking. In a similar vein, most Christians believe that people die and go to heaven or “hell” forever, and so they think the verses in the Bible about Christ reigning on earth are figurative and refer to some kind of spiritual reign. That belief does not leave room for a magnificent feast in Christ’s future kingdom on earth. With the loss of understanding about the Kingdom of Heaven and Jesus’ rule on a restored earth, there is no proper understanding of the wonderful feast at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom.
The stark reality about the future feast in the Kingdom is that you will either be part of it or you will be excluded from it. There will be no “visitors” or “bystanders.” Every person will either be in the feast or out in the darkness. This great banquet, and everlasting life, will be a blessing that words cannot express, and every person should make sure they will be included by accepting the salvation that is in Christ (Rom. 10:9).
[For more on the attributes of the Messianic Kingdom on earth and the names by which it is called, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth.” For more information on the people who are not included in the feast, see commentary on Matthew 8:12, “cast out into the darkness outside.” For more information about Isaiah’s prophecy of the feast, see commentary on Isaiah 25:6. For more about the unsaved being annihilated in the Lake of Fire and not burning forever, see Appendix 5: “Annihilation in the Lake of Fire”].
“Kingdom of Heaven.” This is one of the many names for the future Messianic Kingdom on earth, the Millennial Kingdom. There is only one future kingdom, and it has many names. Luke 13:28-29 uses “Kingdom of God” instead of “Kingdom of Heaven” when speaking of the same subject. [For more on the many names of the Millennial Kingdom,” see Appendix 3: “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].
“the sons of the Kingdom.” This is a designation for the Jews, who were called “the sons of the Kingdom” because so many of the Kingdom promises pertained directly to them. The Jews should have all been in the Kingdom, but many (perhaps most of them) rejected God and His Messiah, and they will be excluded from the Messianic Kingdom (Isa. 50:1; Jer. 3:8; Hos. 1:9; Rom. 10:1-3, 21; 11:1-8).
“cast out into the darkness outside.” The “darkness outside” is the darkness that is outside the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven (Jesus spoke of the feast in the Kingdom in Matthew 8:11). The “darkness outside” the feast is the darkness of the Lake of Fire, where the unsaved will be destroyed.
The Bible has different ways of portraying that some people will be saved and the rest will be destroyed in the Lake of Fire, but what we must keep in mind is that there is only one fate for the saved, which is life in the Messianic Kingdom on earth followed by everlasting life in the New Heaven and New Earth. Also, there is only one fate for the unsaved, which is to be destroyed in the Lake of Fire. Once we understand that, we can see that Jesus was teaching that when people are not allowed into the brightly lit Kingdom and feast, the only alternative they have is to be “cast out into the darkness;” into the Lake of Fire.
God describes the fate of the unsaved in different ways to emphasize different aspects of their experience. For example, Jesus taught that the unsaved would be thrown into “Gehenna.” “Gehenna” was the garbage dump south of Jerusalem where much of the garbage of Jerusalem was dumped and then either burned or consumed by maggots (worms). By saying the unsaved would be thrown into Gehenna, Jesus was emphasizing that at the Judgment, the unsaved would be thrown out and destroyed. Historically, the word “Gehenna” came to be used of the Lake of Fire itself, but at the time of Christ it still retained the image of being the garbage dump south of Jerusalem (Matt. 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33, etc.).
In one of his parables, Jesus compared the unsaved “children of the wicked one” to the “darnel” (“tares” in KJV), that are gathered up and thrown into the fire (Matt. 13:36-43). In that parable, Jesus was emphasizing that the darnel were poisonous and harmful, and were gathered and burned up. In another parable, Jesus compared the unsaved to foolish virgins who were denied entrance to the wedding banquet (Matt. 25:1-13). Besides the obvious lesson about making foolish decisions, in that parable Jesus emphasized that salvation would not always be available—there will be a time when the door will be shut and the Day of Judgment will begin. In another place, Jesus compared the unsaved to “bad fish” that are thrown away in contrast to good fish that are kept (Matt. 13:47-50). One of the things Jesus emphasized by that teaching was that not every person will be kept—some people are wicked (unsaved) and they will be thrown out.
When Jesus taught about the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven and compared it to the “darkness outside,” he was pulling together a number of scriptures and biblical images. Of course, there is the feast itself with “the best of meats and the finest of wines” (Isa. 25:6 NIV). Then there is the fact that the feast, and the Kingdom itself, is brightly lit, more brightly lit than any feast on earth has ever been. Isaiah 30:26 says that in the Messianic Kingdom the light of the moon will be as bright as the sun is now, and the light of the sun will be 7 times brighter than it is now. Even if that is a hyperbole, exaggerating the situation somewhat, the fact is that that Kingdom and the feast will be very brightly lit, while those not in the feast, in the Lake of Fire, will be in the “darkness” outside the feast. So when Jesus speaks of the feast in the Kingdom, he is bringing to mind and emphasizing a sumptuous, brightly lit banquet with all the food, fun, and fellowship with all the biblical “greats” like Abraham and David, and at the same time contrasting that wonderful experience with the unsaved who are in the darkness—the darkness of burning sulfur, sadness, crying, pain, anger, and eventually death.
Matthew 8:12 can be difficult to understand because the Greek is an idiom, and idioms can be hard to translate. The Greek text reads ekblēthēsontai eis to skotos to exōteron (ἐκβληθήσονται εἰς τὸ σκότος τὸ ἐξώτερον), which literally means “they will be cast out (or “thrown out” or “driven out”) into the outer darkness.” In their Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains, the authors Johannes Louw and Eugene Nida point out that this expression is “an idiom.” Translating idioms is very challenging, and the only way to do it correctly is to understand the meaning of the idiom and then bring that meaning into the receptor language with a comparable expression. Louw and Nida say this idiom is referring to “a place or region which is both dark and removed (presumably from the abode of the righteous)…‘outer darkness, darkness outside.’ …In a number of languages, this expression in Matt 8:12 must be rendered as ‘they will be thrown outside where it is dark.’”
Many English versions translate the Greek idiom literally and read that the unsaved will be cast out into “outer darkness,” but translating the idiom literally causes problems. For one thing, what the verse means becomes unclear, and that has led to some false teachings, such as there is an “inner darkness” that is not very dark, and an “outer darkness” that is very dark. Thankfully, many English versions have brought the Greek idiom into English in a way that makes the verse more clear:
Many commentators understand that Matthew 8:11-12 is a reference to the banquet in the Kingdom and the darkness is referring to being excluded from it. Robert Gundry writes about the “outermost darkness,” and says it “refers to the darkness outside the brightly lit hall where the festivities are taking place” (Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art). Newman and Stine write that “The outer darkness is also used elsewhere by Matthew as a description of the doom that awaits people who reject God” (A Translators Handbook on the Gospel of Matthew).
Matthew 8:11-12 is a graphic portrayal of the future. There will be a huge and wonderful feast in Christ’s future Messianic Kingdom on earth, and many people, both Jews and Gentiles, will be included. Sadly, while the righteous are enjoying the feast, the unsaved, including the Jews who rejected God and His Messiah, will be outside in the darkness; the darkness of the grim flames of the Lake of Fire.
The darkness outside the feast is not well understood by Jews or Christians, and this is usually due to misconceptions that obscure what the Bible is really saying. For example, people who believe that when a person dies they go immediately to heaven or hell think that a person’s judgment happens right when they die, and thus, the “Day of Judgment” is not a “day” at all, but a continuous event. So those people never understand the impact of the resurrection and what it will mean when millions of people all come to life from the dead at the same time, experience the Day of Judgment, and then enter the Messianic Kingdom en masse as a large group.
Similarly, those people who believe that “heaven” is where the saved live and will live forever can never really understand all the hundreds of verses about the restored earth (which is restored to an almost Eden-like state and called “Paradise”), the rebuilt Temple (Ezek. 40-47), Jesus reigning from Jerusalem, the new boundaries of Israel (Ezek. 47:13-48:29), the prophecies of the nations in the future and Christians administering the world to come (1 Cor. 6:2), and much more.
Once we understand that Jesus will come back from heaven and conquer the earth, we get a whole new understanding of the Bible. Jesus will come back from heaven and fight the Battle of Armageddon (Rev. 19:11-21), and conquer the earth. Christians, who were Raptured into heaven will come back down from heaven with him and continue to be with him, as 1 Thess. 4:17 promises. Then, Jesus will set up his Kingdom on earth. There will be the Resurrection of the Righteous, when millions of righteous people from the Old Testament, Gospels, and Tribulation come to life and live in the Kingdom (Ezek. 37:12-14). Also, the people in the Kingdom include the “sheep” (believers) of Matthew 25:31-46. Once all the believers are gathered and the Kingdom is set up, there will be a great, brightly lit feast for everyone. Meanwhile, the unsaved who are alive, such as the “goats” of Matthew 25 and the Antichrist and False Prophet (Rev. 19:20), are not allowed in the feast but are thrown into the darkness of the Lake of Fire (Matt. 25:41, 46; Rev. 19:20; 20:13-15).
[For more on the attributes of the Messianic Kingdom on earth and the names by which it is called, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth.” For more about the feast in the Kingdom, see commentary on Matt. 8:11, “recline at the feast.” For more about the unsaved being annihilated in the Lake of Fire and not being tortured forever, see Appendix 5: “Annihilation in the Lake of Fire.” For more about the different resurrections—the Resurrection of the Righteous and the Resurrection of the Unrighteous, see commentary on Acts 24:15. For more about the “sheep” and the Sheep and Goat Judgment, see commentary on Matt. 25:32].
“sobbing and gnashing of teeth.” This phrase expresses some of the horror and sadness that the unsaved will feel on Judgment Day and afterward as they face annihilation in the Lake of Fire. The Greek text reads, “the” sobbing and “the” gnashing of teeth, and one purpose the double article serves is to emphasize both things: sobbing and gnashing. The word “gnashing” can also be translated “grinding.” People will gnash or grind their teeth because Judgment Day and the time following it will be a terrible time for the unsaved.
There is no reference in the Old Testament associating sobbing and gnashing of teeth with the Day of Judgment, but it is certainly implied. Daniel 12:2 says some people will be resurrected and experience “shame” and “contempt.” Furthermore, a large number of verses speak of the wicked being destroyed, which they will obviously be unhappy about, especially when they see so many people who are going to live forever with God and the Lord Jesus (cp. Job. 20:7; Ps. 1:6; 37:10, 20; 73:17-19; 92:7; 145:20; Prov. 10:25; Isa. 41:11; Ezek. 18:4; 33:13-16).
The Bible says in many places in very straightforward language that the wicked will be destroyed by being burned up. They will be consumed like dry stubble (Nah. 1:10, cp. Isa. 29:20), and will vanish like smoke (Ps. 37:20). God’s fire will consume them (Ps. 21:9). Malachi 4:1 says there is a day coming that will burn like a furnace and all the evil people will be like stubble and will be set on fire. Then they will be ashes under the feet of the righteous (Mal. 4:3). John the Baptist and Jesus both spoke of the wicked being burned up, as do many verses in the New Testament (cp. Matt. 3:12; 10:28; 13:40; 18:8; 25:41; Mark 9:43; Luke 3:9; John 15:6; Heb. 10:27; Rev. 19:20; 20:14-15).
While it is possible, even likely, that some people will burn up immediately in the Lake of Fire, the Bible implies that many will suffer for a period of time before being consumed by the fire. The Bible says in many different places that people will be repaid for what they have done on earth (cp. Job 34:11; Ps. 62:12; Prov. 24:12; Jer. 17:10; 32:19; Ezek. 33:20; Matt. 16:27; Rom. 2:5-6; 1 Cor. 3:8), and during that suffering there will be sobbing and gnashing of teeth.
Like many words and phrases in the Bible, the phrase, “sobbing and gnashing of teeth,” has a wide range of meanings. But it is used to describe the disgruntled and inflamed emotions of the unsaved at that time. Sobbing and gnashing of teeth implies a feeling of great loss as well as great pain, and those things will certainly be present. But the gnashing of teeth also implies anger and indignation (Job 16:9; Ps. 37:12; Lam. 2:16; Acts 7:54).
No doubt some of the unsaved will be very sad and sorry, but many others will be angry at God, thinking they are being treated unfairly, and will gnash their teeth at God. Also, it seems certain that some people will be angry and disappointed in themselves—people who “knew” to do better on earth but were too weak-willed to stand up for God against the peer-pressure around them. On earth they went along with the crowd even though God said not to do that: “You must not follow a crowd to do evil” (Exod. 23:2), and so after the Judgment they will again “go along with the crowd” and be part of those who suffer until death consumes them.
The mention of sobbing and gnashing of teeth occurs seven times in the Bible (Matt. 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28). All of these occurrences are in the Gospels, and they are set in three different contexts: two are in the context of the unsaved being thrown into the Fire, and these are more straightforward because of all the clear verses that say the unsaved will be destroyed by fire.
Three of the seven occurrences of sobbing and gnashing of teeth are in the context of the Kingdom being like a great, well-lit banquet where the saved enjoy the blessings of food, fun, and the favor of the Lord (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; Luke 13:28). Many Jews rightly believed that there would be a huge banquet in the Messianic Kingdom, and they would get to recline and eat with all the other saved people and the biblical greats like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David—and that banquet is certainly part of the biblical picture of the Messianic Kingdom. Isaiah 25:6 shows us that God will have a great feast for the saved in the future Messianic Kingdom on earth: “On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine-- the best of meats and the finest of wines” (Isa. 25:6 NIV). However, the unsaved are excluded from this great and wonderful banquet, and are left outside in the darkness—actually the darkness of the Lake of Fire—and they will sob and gnash their teeth.
The last two occurrences of sobbing and gnashing of teeth are in the general context of not being pleasing to the Lord and ready for him when he comes (Matt. 24:51; 25:30). In Matthew 24:51, the evil person is given a place with the hypocrites where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, and the scope of Scripture shows us that place is the Lake of Fire. In the parable of Matthew 25:14-30, the master of the house leaves on a trip and entrusts his household and money to his servants. When one of his servants turns out to be “worthless,” the master has him “cast” into the darkness outside, meaning the darkness outside the master’s household. Thus, in the cultural context of the Bible, we can understand that the master’s household is put for the Messiah and his kingdom, and the good servants are the faithful one’s who will be included in the Kingdom, while the worthless servants, the unsaved, are excluded and left in the darkness outside to be destroyed in the Lake of Fire, where there will be sobbing and gnashing of teeth.
[For more on the attributes of the Messianic Kingdom on earth and the names by which it is called, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth.” For more about the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven, see commentary on Matt. 8:11, “recline at the feast.” For more about the unsaved being annihilated in the Lake of Fire and not burning forever, see Appendix 5: “Annihilation in the Lake of Fire.” For more about the different resurrections—the Resurrection of the Righteous and the Resurrection of the Unrighteous, see commentary on Acts 24:15].(top)
|Mat 8:13||- (top)|
“his mother-in-law.” Peter was married (cp. 1 Cor. 9:5), but typical of the biblical culture we know little about Peter’s family. Clement of Alexandria said Peter had children (Stromata; book 3, chap. 6). They are protected by the silence from personal intrusion. This record is in Matthew 8:14-15; Mark 1:29-31, and Luke 4:38-39.(top)
|Mat 8:15||- (top)|
“by his word.” For people who have been involved in deliverance ministry, this seems so natural that it can escape our notice. We think, “Of course he cast out demons by his word, how else would he do it?” We have to remember that in the cultures of the biblical world, if there was deliverance from demons at all it usually involved complicated exorcism ceremonies. In stark contrast to those involved ceremonies, all Jesus did was command the demon to go and it left the person.(top)
|Mat 8:17||- (top)|
|Mat 8:18||- (top)|
“an expert in the law came.” This incident is also recorded in Luke 9:57-58. See commentary on Luke 9:58.(top)
“the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” See commentary on Luke 9:58.(top)
“another of the disciples.” The expert in the Law, who said he would follow Jesus wherever he went, was a disciple, and now another disciple and Jesus are speaking together. We learn from Luke 9:59 that Jesus requested this next disciple to follow him, but this second disciple wanted to stay home until his father died. See commentary on Luke 9:59.(top)
“leave the dead to bury their own dead.” This incident also occurs in Luke 9:59-60. See commentary on Luke 9:60.(top)
“And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him.” The record of Jesus calming a storm—which is immediately followed by the record of Jesus healing a man afflicted by demons—occurs in Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41, and Luke 8:22-25. The most detail occurs in Mark (see commentary on Mark 4:35).(top)
“Look!” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20.(top)
|Mat 8:25||- (top)|
“subdued.” The Greek word translated “subdued” is epitimaō (#2008 ἐπιτιμάω). Usually epitimaō means to express strong disapproval of someone: rebuke, reprove, censure; or to speak seriously, and thus warn in order to prevent or end an action. It can also mean “punish” (cp. BDAG Lexicon).
In this context, epitimaō has a technical meaning: it is used in Greek religion of gaining control over a spirit, a demon. Robert Guelich (Word Biblical Commentary: Mark) epitimaō can mean “a commanding word uttered by God or by his spokesman, by which evil powers are brought into submission.” Jesus subdued the storm, which was no doubt caused by a demon, by the power of God that he wielded, which he expressed in words. The power came from God and was used by Jesus. Jesus did not gain control over the storm by some “magic words” or formula that he used. “It is not a magical incantation...it is powerful Word of the Son” (Gerhard Kittle, Theological Dictionary, ἐπιτιμάω Vol. 2, p. 626). This storm on the Sea of Galilee is recorded in Matthew, Mark 4:35-41, and Luke 8:22-25, and in every record, epitimaō is used. [For more on epitimaō, and Jesus’ use of the power of God, see the commentary on Mark 1:25.](top)
|Mat 8:27||- (top)|
“two demonized men met him.” This record of Jesus casting out demons that then went into pigs occurs in three of the four Gospels: Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; and Luke 8:26-39. As we would expect, although the records are of the same event, the different Gospels give different, but not contradictory, accounts.
Almost never are the details of an account the same in all the Gospels that record it, and there are a number of reasons for that. One reason is that the Four Gospels are specifically written from four different perspectives, and each Gospel is written in a way that highlights the perspective from which it was written [For more on the different perspectives of the Four Gospels, see commentary on Mark 1:1].
Another reason is that the different details in the different Gospels allow us to get a “larger picture” of what happened than just a verbatim repetition of the account could ever give us. For example, in the record of the trial of Jesus Christ before Pilate, the different Gospels have somewhat different details as to what Pilate and Jesus said to each other, with the Gospel of John giving the most information. But in reality, even the Four Gospels combined don’t give us anywhere near the full conversation between them. Jesus was on trial for his life, and Pilate did not want to crucify an innocent man—and he knew Christ was innocent (Matt. 27:18)—so he surely would have pressed Jesus very hard for details. But the details of the conversation are not important for God to make His point and the end result—Jesus’ crucifixion—would have been the same whether they were given or not, so the Bible only records the conversation in brief.
Most of the records of Jesus speaking only contain a very small portion of what he said. For example, the record of Jesus with the woman at the well (John 4:4-42) records Jesus speaking to the woman in only 12 verses, but we know he said a whole lot more than that to her, because she told the people of her village that he told her everything she ever did (John 4:29). Of course the woman was exaggerating, but the point is that Jesus had told her more than enough to convince her he was the Messiah. Had that record in John 4 been recounted in other Gospels, no doubt what Jesus said to the woman would have been recorded differently, with each Gospel picking up different details of the account, but even then the full conversation would not have been recorded.
Still another reason that the Four Gospels give different details of an account, or express what happened in different terms, is to make it clear as to exactly what happened and what was being communicated. For example, in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew, Jesus says, “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). In contrast, Luke 11:4 reads, “And forgive us our sins….” It is possible that Jesus repeated the prayer, or lines of it, for emphasis and used the words “debts” and “sins,” and the different Gospels reflect that fact, but there is another possible explanation as well. During the Babylonian captivity the Jews began to equate sin with debt, and a sin was a debt that had to be repaid. [For more on sin being referred to as a debt, see commentary on 1 John 1:7, “sin”].
Matthew is the most Jewish of the Four Gospels and his audience would not misunderstand that when he wrote “Forgive us our debts,” he was referring to sins. Luke, on the other hand, was likely a Greek (he may have been a Hellenistic Jew) and his audience would not instinctively equate debt with sin, so he would have taken what Jesus most likely said to his audience, “debt,” and translated it for his more Greek audience and wrote “sin.” Thus Luke would have written what Jesus meant but not the exact word he spoke, which is the way translation always works.
Still another reason for the different Gospels to give different details is so that anyone who really wants to find out what happened in the life of Jesus must read all Four Gospels. The whole Bible is “God-breathed,” and God is not interested in giving us an “easy way out” so we don’t have to work to get to really know Him and His Word. It honors God when we take the time to read His whole Word and learn from the details.
Returning to the record of the men in the tombs, we can see from the context and content of the accounts in the three different Gospels that they are the same account. It would stretch the limits of credulity to say that Jesus went twice to the east coast of the Sea of Galilee, twice met demonized people from the tombs who kept people from passing by there, twice cast out demons who caused pigs to drown themselves in the Sea, and so forth. The records are of the same account with differing details, and the details never contradict one another.
One differing detail is that Matthew says the region of the “Gadarenes,” while Mark and Luke say “Gerasenes.” Although there are a number of manuscripts that make all the names the same, that is most likely an attempt to harmonize the three Gospels. The more likely explanation is that to Matthew’s more Jewish audience, the region was best known for the important Jewish city, Gadara, and thus the region was called that of the Gadarenes, while the Gospels that were written from a more Greek perspective, Mark and Luke, would label the region by the more well-known Greek city, Gerasa, and thus have the regional name Gerasenes.
Matthew tells us there were two men, and that is almost certainly correct. Mark and Luke mention only one, but never say there was “only one,” and thus there is no contradiction in the Gospels, just differing details. The point is not how many people there were, the point is to show Jesus’ love for otherwise unlovable people and how he can deliver them and turn their lives around.
The records have many details that differ but do not contradict. For example, Matthew uses the Greek word “daimōn” for “demon,” while Mark and Luke use the word “daimōnion,” and for the reason for that see commentary on Matthew 8:31. Mark mentions that the man cut himself with stones (Mark 5:5), a typically demonic activity, but Matthew and Luke omit that detail. [For more on the demonic activity of self-mutilation see commentary on 1 Kings 18:28]. Similarly, Luke says the man was naked (Luke 8:27) which is a detail that neither Matthew nor Mark mention.
The three records show the great love that Jesus Christ had for people—even the most sinful and unlovable of people—and how anyone who comes to him can be saved and have everlasting life.(top)
“Look!” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20.
“What do you want with us?” The literal Greek is, “What is there to us and to you?” This was originally a Semitic idiom, but it was pulled into the Greek idiomatic language. As with many idioms, its meaning is somewhat flexible, depending on the context in which it is used. Here, the essence of the message is “Leave me alone” (Lenski). Mark Strauss writes, “The question ‘what do you want with us’ comes from a Hebrew idiom. It is a response to (perceived) inappropriate intervention and can mean ‘What do you have against me?” or ‘Why are you trying to involve me?’ (cf. Judg. 11:12; 2 Sam. 16:10; 19:22; 1 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 3:13; 2 Chron. 35:21; cf. Matt. 8:29; Mark 5:7; Luke 8:28; John 2:4) Here the question is rhetorical: ‘Mind your own business!’ or ‘Get out of my face!’” (Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; commentary on Mark 1:24). However, the phrase is also used when Jesus was speaking to his mother about changing water to wine, and there the essence is more, “What is that to me and to you?” (see commentary on John 2:4). This phrase is spoken by demons 5 times in the Four Gospels, but two are in the singular, as here, and three are in the plural. This is important and gives us a peek into how demons work. In this record in Matthew, while there are many demons in these men, Matthew has more than one speaking, while Mark and Luke are singular, as if only one demon was speaking. Thus, one is in charge, but others are chiming in. The demons are bothered by Jesus Christ and are challenging him; they are not asking him a serious question as if they cared to get an answer.
The Word of God records several incidences of demons speaking to Jesus: In the Synagogue: Mark 1:24, Luke 4:34 (τί ἡμῖν καί σοι [both plural]); from the tombs: Matthew 8:29 (τί ἡμῖν καί σοί [plural]); and Mark 5:7, Luke 8:28 (τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί [singular]).
The slight difference in the Greek words in the record of the tombs shows that in the record of the tombs there was one demon who was the main speaker, but also that the demons spoke as a group. The Greek word hemin (ἡμῖν) is plural, “we,” while emoi (ἐμοι) is singular, “I.”
“torment us before the appointed time.” The Greek word translated “torment” is basanizō (#928 βασανίζω), and in this context it means “torment” or “torture.” The demons knew that they rebelled against God and sinned horribly through the millennia, and that they would suffer greatly in the Lake of Fire along with the Devil (Rev. 20:10). Although Revelation 20:10 does not mention the demons along with the Devil, that was often done in the Bible and literature, where only the leader was mentioned but it included his or her followers. [For the Devil and demons being destroyed in the future, see commentary on Mark 1:24].
The word translated “appointed time” is kairos, whereas the Greek word for the flow of time is chronos. The Devil and the demons know that there is a time coming when they will be tormented in Gehenna and eventually destroyed. They understand God’s retributive justice, and they understand the meaning of the Flood, which was the destruction of the ungodly (2 Pet. 2:5); and the meaning of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, which was also an example of the destruction of the ungodly (Jude 1:7). They know they will be bound, tormented, then destroyed (Dan. 7:12; Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10). They knew, however, that the Messiah was to have his heel bruised before he bruised the head of the Serpent (Gen. 3:15), and so they asked if he had come to torment them before the proper time. There were demons who had caused the Nephilim (Gen. 6:4) during the days of Noah that led to the hardening of the human race and its eventual destruction. Genesis 6:5 describes how great mankind’s wickedness had become in the days of Noah by saying that “every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” The demons who caused that hardening were now imprisoned in Tartarus, “gloomy dungeons,” awaiting the Judgment (1 Pet. 3:19-20; 2 Pet. 2:4). Although not the Gehenna, Tartarus must be very unpleasant, to say the least. These demons thought Jesus might send them to Tartarus too, so they asked if he had come to torment them before “the time,” i.e., their being bound in the Abyss (Rev. 20:1-3) and then eventually thrown into Gehenna (Rev. 20:10).(top)
|Mat 8:30||- (top)|
“Demons.” The Greek word for “demons” is daimōn (#1142 δαίμων), and in the Bible it means “demons,” evil spirit beings who are fallen angels. Demons are evil spirits, fallen angels, the 1/3 of the angels that followed “the Devil” and rebelled against God. Both the Greek words daimōn and daimōnion mean “demon.” The word daimōn occurs only once in the New Testament, here in Matthew 8:31, while the word daimōnion occurs 63 times, for a total of 64 occurrences (this count is based on the better Greek texts. In the Western Text family, the word daimon occurs 5 times and the word daimonion occurs 60 times. The difference between 64 total occurrences in the Nestle-Aland text and 65 in the Western texts is due to the addition of daimon in Mark 5:12 in the Western text).
To the average Greek, a daimōn was a god, the spirit of a dead person, or a supernatural being, and could be either good or evil, or like people, could do both good and evil depending on the circumstances. In fact, in the Greek classics a daimōn was more often than not a force for good. In contrast, the word daimōnion, especially by New Testament times, was considered to be a god, the spirit of a dead person, or a supernatural being, but was generally thought of as being evil or hostile. This fact explains why the word daimōnion is used almost exclusively in both the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, and in the Greek text of the New Testament. To the Greek readers in the first century, using daimōnion would make it clear that the demon spirits were evil, while using daimōn would not unless the context clearly dictated it, which it does in Matthew 8:31.
The word daimōn also appears one time in the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament. Daimōn is the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew word gad, the goddess of Good Fortune, in Isaiah 65:11. Translating gad as daimōn makes sense, because, “the Greek tragic poets use daimōn to denote fortune or fate” (Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary, AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, TN, 1992, p. 395).
Since a daimōn was often thought of as often doing good, and the demon “Good Fortune” brings “good things” (like winning in gambling, which only lures people into evil behavior and gets them hooked on it), the Greek translation of gad as daimōn makes sense in Isaiah 65 given the Greek culture.
The New Testament use of daimōn is in Matthew 8:31 where it is used in the plural for the demons who were inside the man who lived in the tombs. The record of the man of the tombs occurs in Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8. Mark does not use daimōn or daimōnion, but uses “unclean spirit.” Luke uses both daimōnion and “unclean spirit.” By comparing all three records, the reader can see that the Greek words daimōn and daimōnion referred to evil spirits, something that the Greek-speaking believers would need to know to be fully equipped in the spiritual battle.
It is sometimes taught that daimōnion is a diminutive form of daimōn as if daimōn ruled over daimōnion, but the two uses of daimōn in the Bible (Isa. 65:11; Matt. 8:31), as well as the use of the words in the Greek literature, do not support that conclusion. Furthermore, daimōnion is not technically the diminutive form of daimōn. It is the substantive of the neuter adjective daimōnios, i.e., “pertaining to a demon” (W. E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words “Demon.” BDAG, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, “daimonion.” Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 2, p. 8).
[For information on the actual existence of the Devil, the “Slanderer,” and Demons, see commentary on Luke 4:2, “Slanderer.” For more on the Devil as the “serpent,” see commentary on Rev. 20:2. For more on the names of the Devil, see Appendix 14, “Names of the Devil”].(top)
“Look at this” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20.
“steep bank.” On the east side of the Sea of Galilee is a place just south of where Jesus cast the demons out of the men, today called the Nokeib Overlook, where the steep bank runs right down to the lake.(top)
“who were looking after them.” Herding pigs was hard, lonely, and dangerous work. The pigs were outside the city, so there was very little social interaction with other people. Also, the herdsman had to keep watch day and night, so if the animals were nervous for whatever reason, the herdsman could go night after night without a good night’s sleep, as well as be out in the weather by day and night, whatever that may have been. Also, both robbers and wild animals were a constant source of danger, and the herdsman was expected to protect the herd from both. Also, if any pigs were missing, the herdsmen were immediately suspected of slaughtering it to eat or selling it for profit, and that partly explains why, when the herd ran into the Sea of Galilee, the herdsmen went into the city right away to report what had happened.(top)
“behold,” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20.
“the whole city.” This is the figure of speech synecdoche, the “whole” being put for the greater part.
“territory.” See commentary on Mark 5:17.(top)