Q: #475. What does the phrase "gnashing of teeth" mean in (Mt 8:12)(Mt 13:42,50)(Mt 22:30)(Mt 24:51(Mt 25:30)(Lk 13:28)?
A: The phrase “gnashing of teeth” is used by Jesus 7 times in the Gospels. Each time Jesus says this phrase, He uses the Greek word “brugmos” for “gnashing.” In total, the word “gnash,” or a form of that word, is used 14 times in the Bible (5 in the Old Testament). Each time it is used, it is connected with “teeth.” In the Old Testament, the word used for “gnash,” (or a form of that word) is “charaq.” Two other Greek words are used in (Mk 9:18) and (Acts 7:54).
Strong’s defines “brugmos” as “a grating of the teeth,” and “charaq” as “to grate the teeth.” Each time that Jesus used the term “gnashing of teeth,” He connected it to Hell. Most believe that this “gnashing of teeth” is the result of being in pain or agony in Hell. This would be similar to what we see today when someone is in pain (i.e. they accidentally burn themselves). This interpretation is quite possible. However, based upon a previous study I did called “If God is omnipresent, does that mean God is in Hell?,” I believe the “gnashing of teeth” in Hell might be primarily the same as what we see in the Old Testament, and in (Acts 7:54).
When we look at the five uses of “gnashed (charaq) their teeth,” in the Old Testament, we see it associated with being angry at someone (Job 16:9)(Ps 35:16)(Ps 37:12)(Ps 112:10)(Lam 2:16). It is also used this way in (Acts 7:54), and pretty clearly in (Lk 13:28). As I point out in that previous study, perhaps the “gnashing of teeth” that Jesus is speaking of in Hell is the same thing. Perhaps, rather than “pain or agony,” it is primarily about “anger or rage” directed at God. I italicize the word “primarily” because perhaps the “gnashing of teeth” in Hell is about “anger or rage” and “pain or agony.” Either way, we know that Hell is not a place we want to go.