God uses imagery powerfully in the Bible. One image shared by the Old and New Testaments is the “gnashing of teeth.” The Old Testament often uses this image to describe those who mistreat vulnerable people, while the New Testament applies it to those suffering great pain, usually in Hell. Here are a few examples:
From the Old Testament:
Psalm 35:15-16 "But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered themselves together; The smiters whom I did not know gathered together against me, They slandered me without ceasing. Like godless jesters at a feast, They gnashed at me with their teeth."
Psalm 37:12 "The wicked plots against the righteous And gnashes at him with his teeth."
Lamentations 2:16 All your enemies Have opened their mouths wide against you; They hiss and gnash their teeth. They say, “We have swallowed her up! Surely this is the day for which we waited; We have reached it, we have seen it.”
From the New Testament:
Matthew 8:12, speaking of the Jews who were unresponsive to Jesus’s message: "but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Matthew 13:41-42 “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Following the “gnashing of teeth” through the Old and New Testaments shows a prophetic picture of eternity based on actions taken today. Those who live like the ones in the Old Testament, gnashing their teeth against the weak and vulnerable, will gnash their teeth forever as they endure the unique suffering produced by the fires of Hell in eternal darkness.
In John 13:34, Jesus instructs His followers to love one another in the same way He loved them. Jesus’s love was full of sacrifice to produce the highest spiritual good for others. He never gnashed His teeth at those who were vulnerable or weak; He served them. If we want to enjoy the love of God in eternity, we must show the love of God to others today, as Jesus did during His life.