In nearly every instance when reading the Bible and comparing our English translations to Strong’s Concordance, we have found that it illuminates the Word as best it can with today’s understanding and sensibilities. In the case of the Greek word “brygmos” (gnashing), we feel it may be understated in Strong’s.
Here’s the outline of its Biblical usage:
I. a gnashing of teeth
A. used to denote extreme anguish and utter despair of men consigned to eternal punishment in hell
II. snarling, growling: in the sense of biting
Anguish and utter despair cannot truly depict the feeling. In fact, there really is no way to describe it in words, particularly for those who feel they were misled. When the end comes for every individual and judgment is passed based upon how whether we lived our lives in repentant faith or not, both extremes will be felt. Those who stay true through to the end will feel an indescribable joy. Those who fall will feel indescribably regret, but I believe it’s more than that. I believe many will feel resentment as represented in the gnashing of teeth.
They’ll feel betrayed. They want to blame others. They’ll feel as if they were not given proper warning. They’ll want their case heard as to why they did not believe, why they did not commit, and why they chose to live their best life in this world rather than preparing for the next. Just thinking about it fills me with woe for those who must go through it. Regret is powerful.
The phrase is used seven times in the New Testament, six in Matthew and once in Luke. It is always accompanied by either wailing or weeping, understandably so given the context.
There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. – Luke 13:28 (KJV)
Indulge me for a moment to consider an extremely hypothetical situation. Think of the most amazing thing that can happen to you in this life and then think of the worst thing. Imagine, for example, that someone walks up to you and asks you for a dollar. If you give it to them, you find out that they’re actually an extremely wealthy person and you were randomly chosen to pass or fail a test. By giving them the dollar, you passed and they give you $100 million as a reward. If you don’t give it to them but offer an excuse of some sort, they kidnap you and torture you for the rest of your life.
If you gave the dollar, you’ll be grateful for the opportunity and happy that you made the right choice. If you don’t give the dollar, it will haunt you to the end with every wrenching moment of torture that you must go through. Now, multiply that hypothetical joy and hypothetical despair by infinity. That’s the closest I can come to understanding the difference between eternity in Heaven or eternity in the pit of fire.
Despite the pain, the anguish, and the suffering, I could imagine the regret being the heaviest burden. This is what the gnashing of teeth means to me, knowing that salvation was so simple and it was sacrificed for temporary worldly pleasures. Our long lives will seem so short once we are judged.
(Photo Credit: Deviant Art)