What Does Gnashing Of Teeth Mean? A Bible Study

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

You have likely heard of the term “gnashing of teeth.”  What does this mean?  Is it just an expression or is it something that will literally happen?  Who does it mean?

Ever Been Angry?

I bet you have been angry. I believe that every human that has ever lived has gotten angry.  I remember a guy I used to work with and when he got angry, he would clinch his jaw shut and tighten down his jaw.  You could see the jaw muscles twitch as he displayed his anger.  He was literally “gnashing his teeth.”  Sometime people do this when they have just missed a great opportunity.   I saw this frequently happen when someone just missed their flight at the airport, when the school bus driver couldn’t stand the noise, when someone was disappointed by something that happened or maybe a deep regret over something that they did that they wish they could take back.  Does this make sense?  When someone “gnashes their teeth” it could mean that they have great anger, they are extremely disappointment, they have great regret or maybe all three.

The Outer Darkness

Jesus spoke more about hell than He ever did heaven.  Why?  He passionately desired that no one go there.  We do know that God’s wish is that no one goes to eternal judgment (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9).  Listen to these warnings Jesus gives about being sent into the outer darkness:

Matthew 22:13 “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Matthew 8:12 “the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Matthew 25:30 “And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Outer Darkness, Gnashing of Teeth, and Weeping

Notice the outer darkness goes with the gnashing of teeth.  This is a place of judgment that cannot be crossed back over from.  There will be eternal weeping or regret…regret from hearing the gospel and knowing about the grace of God yet rejecting Him time and time again.  This regret will be so intense that people will be grinding (or gnashing) their teeth for all time.  Some say, “Well, not today…maybe tomorrow” which may be what Jesus meant when He told this parable “My master is delayed,’ and he begins to beat his fellow servants[and] and eats and drinks with drunkards, [then] the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 24:48-51). This is why time and time again Jesus warned that “you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt 24:44).

Since God is light (John 1) then complete separation from God must be total darkness.

Since God is light (John 1) then complete separation from God must be total darkness.

I once got nearly lost in a cave in Arkansas.  It was frightening.  You could hardly see your hand in front of your face.  I was terrified that I would die in this cave and be separated from my family and friends forever.  That is what is meant by the outer darkness. It is a total and complete separation from God and from any light at all.  And, it is for all eternity.

Jesus’ Final Warning

Jesus gives us all time because it is still today (2 Cor 6:2) but time is running out and too many will delay their chance for salvation.  For them, it is “that place [where] there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen (Matt 22:13-14).  We need to read that again!  “Many are called…but few…very few…are chosen!”  The very sobering fact is that someday those who believed that they were saved or kept putting it off or maybe even thought that they were a pretty good person will hear these terrifying words from Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

Notice that “many” will call out to Him and claim to have done works in His name but Jesus shocks them.  He will not say that He did not know them well or that He knew about them, be He never knew them!  For those who profess Christ and do not possess Christ, He says “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits” (Matt 7:19-20).  Jesus said that we would be known by our fruit, not by our words (Matt 7:15-20).


God doesn’t send anyone to hell.  People choose to go there because they don’t want God to rule over them.  Sadly, most do not understand that God’s rule is a joyous rule.  There is so much joy in being a child of God that no human or earthly pleasure can surpass it.  The Devil may think he can influence people that haven’t repented and trusted in Christ to believe that there is no heaven.  Nope, that won’t work (Psalm 19:1).  Maybe he’ll convince them there is no hell.  No, people have a conscience and know better (Rom 1).  One demon suggested, “We’ll convince them that there is no hurry.  That’s it! said the Devil.”  Since no one is guaranteed that they will live beyond tomorrow, and Christ could return at any moment, choose today…right now…to repent and confess your sins, apologize to God for them, ask for His forgiveness, and trust in Jesus Christ and you will be saved.  Otherwise, you might live to regret it…forever…and this weeping and gnashing of teeth is all that you will do for all time…time without end.  Please consider Jesus.

More to read: End Times: Are We in the Last Days?

Resource –  “Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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