Someone asked me a question the other day regarding a difficult Bible verse.
"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 weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt. 8:11-12, NIV)
Basically, the question he was implying was, 'Why would the children (as the translation he was using said) of the Kingdom of God be thrown into Hell?'
Here is what I answered:
Verses 5-13 deal with Jesus talking to the Centurion, and noting
the Centurion's great faith. In the middle of Jesus commending the
Centurion for his faith, Jesus mentions the "children of the kingdom"
being thrown into outer darkness (vs. 12). Since Jesus was talking to the Centurion
about his faith before and after this, Jesus must have been relating this statement
to His commendation of the Centurion's faith.
In fact, what Jesus was doing, was contrasting the Centurion's great faith with the lack of faith that the Jews had. Matt. 8:11-12 is actually similar to James 2, which says that "faith without works is dead," except that James is talking about people in
general, and Jesus is here focusing on the Jews only. Remember that the Jews prided themselves on being the "children of Abraham," but Jesus said He could make "children of Abraham" from stones. So, I believe that by "children of the kingdom," Jesus
meant the Jews, since they were the chosen people, and they thought they were all
in right standing with God, as opposed to the lost, 'pagan' Gentiles.
"...and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham."
(Matt. 3:9, NASB)
"Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham."
(Luke 3:8, NASB)
Jesus is saying that, to be a child of Abraham means that you are a spiritual child of Abraham, not merely a blood descendant; in other words, that you have the faith of Abraham. Another way of saying it is the circumcision of the heart. Today, the NT equivalent would be "born again." Although the Jews are still God's chosen people as a nation (and the Jews will accept Jesus as their Messiah in the Last Days), in another sense, the chosen people of God are those who have the faith of Abraham---faith in the Messiah. In the OT, people were saved by faith, just as we are (see Hebrews 11). The Law was only meant to be a mirror, to make us see our need for a Savior. In the OT, their faith looked forward to the coming Messiah.
Today, our faith is in the Messiah Who has come, and Who will come again.
Back to Matt. 8:12 (and note that the NIV says "subjects"):
"But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness,
where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
This is saying something similar to what the verses immediately following Matt. 3:9 and Luke 3:8 say.
"The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire." (Matt. 3:10, NIV)
"Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (Luke 3:9, NASB)
Just because a person was a physical descendant of Abraham did not mean they were in right standing with God. Faith (in the Messiah), not bloodline, is what saves a person from Hell.
Similarly, a person is not a Christian just because they claim they are.
A person could have been baptized, or could have gone to church their whole life, or could even be a deacon in a church, or sing in the choir, or maybe their dad was a Pastor. But, unless they have been regenerated (born again), they are not saved. Also, if they claim to be a Christian, but their works prove otherwise (i.e. they are always getting drunk, or they are always sleeping around, or they are a heroin addict, etc.), then their claim is obviously a false claim.
So, I believe that Matt. 8:11-12---applied to the Jews in Jesus' day---is saying something very similar to the following verses, which apply to both Jews and Gentiles (and especially cults and false religions):
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. "
People say that we are all children of God, just as the Jews in Jesus' day said they were all children of Abraham. I could imagine that, if Jesus came down to earth today in American society, He might say, "But the children of God will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." In saying this, He could be responding to the idea that many people think we are all children of God, just as the Jews thought they were all the children of the kingdom of God, just because they had been born Jewish.
In actuality, we are all creations of God, but only those who are adopted into His family by faith in Christ are actually children of God.