Question: In Matthew 8:11-12 Christ speaks of certain people being thrown into outer darkness resulting in their great distress. The verse seems to imply that these "children" (and some translations have "sons") possess some ownership in the "Kingdom"? Exactly what is Christ teaching here? How does this apply to true believers? Thank you.
Response: The phrase "sons of the kingdom" mentioned here refers to non-believing Jews of Jesus' day. The "sons" part can best be understood with reference to Hebrew and Old Testament usage. In that language and environment, it is very common to refer to an entire group of people (whether truly related by descent or not) as "sons of ___ " = Hebrew "beney- _____". For example, you may have heard of the B'nai B'rith organization - it means in Hebrew "sons of the covenant" or in English terms "those under the covenant". So to make a long story short, the Israelites are often described in the OT as "the sons of Israel" and this = "Israelites" of all ages and sexes (not just young males). That is clearly the construction which Jesus is using here and elsewhere as well (it is and was a very well-known Hebrew idiom). What He means in particular by "sons of the kingdom" is that they (His reluctant Jewish audience in contrast to centurion whose faith He found remarkable) were by birth destined for the Kingdom of God, but in spite of their privileged birth and position, still lacked faith in God's promised Messiah come in the flesh (the only Way into the kingdom: Jn.14:6), and therefore could not and would not enter the Kingdom of God.
So there is much sorrow and irony in Jesus' words here. In spite of His and His Father's desire for them to be saved and to enter into the kingdom for which they were born, by persisting in unbelief they are essentially refusing to do so even in spite of the fact that very many of us who do not have the honor and privilege of Jewish birth do want to have a relationship with Him and so do believe and enter the kingdom (positionally now, experientially on that day of resurrection). As this verse you ask about teaches, these contemporaries of Jesus who rejected God's message, God's Messenger, and God's purpose for themselves, however, will suffer the fate of all who spurn God from self-willed arrogance (in spite of God's sacrifice of His Son on their behalf): they will be cast into torments (i.e., eternal condemnation), which is described here by our Lord as a place of grief, pain and darkness. True believers do not have to worry about this at all, because through our faith in Him, we will be delivered from this "second death" (Rev.2:11; 20:6), experiencing instead eternal life with Him forever.
Please see also the following links:
Bible Basics 4A: Christology
The Uniqueness of Israel
The Lake of Fire
Yours in Jesus Christ,