Question: "Why will there be weeping and gnashing of teeth in hell (Matthew 8:12)?"
Answer: On multiple occasions, Jesus refers to hell as a place where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30). This coupling of weeping and gnashing of teeth in hell reflects the unspeakable torment of those who will be separated from God for all eternity.
In the Bible, both “weeping” and “gnashing of teeth” represent physical and spiritual anguish. When Jerusalem was destroyed, and the Jews were exiled from their homeland, the people wept in anguish (Isaiah 22:12; Lamentations 1:2, 16; 2:11). In the New Testament, James warned the rich oppressors to prepare for God’s judgment, advising, “weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you” (James 5:1). Gnashing (or “grinding”) of teeth also appears throughout the Bible, always depicting people in moments of violent, furious torment and vexation (Psalm 37:12; Lamentations 2:16; Acts 7:54).
In every instance that Jesus uses the expression weeping and gnashing of teeth, He associates it with someone coming to the excruciating realization that he or she will not be allowed to enter the kingdom of heaven. In Matthew 8:12, it is the Jewish people who reject Christ’s salvation; in Matthew 13:36–43, it is the evil enemies of God; in Matthew 13:47–52, it is the wicked; in Matthew 22:1–14, it is all who refuse Christ’s invitation; in Matthew 24:48–51, it is the evil, disobedient servant; and in Matthew 25:14–30, it is the worthless, faithless servant.
Long before Jesus talked about weeping and gnashing of teeth in hell, the psalmist presented an end-of-the-world snapshot of the wicked observing the blissful destiny of the righteous (Psalm 112:1–9) while gnashing their teeth in rage (Psalm 112:10). There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in hell because the unredeemed will finally see and understand all that they have lost.
Likewise, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in hell because it is a place of eternal punishment (Jude 1:7). Hell was originally intended for Satan and his angels (Matthew 25:41; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 20:1–3, 10), but it is also for people who choose to reject the Lord (Matthew 13:40–42; Mark 9:42–48; Romans 2:8; Hebrews 10:26–29; 2 Peter 3:7; Revelation 20:15; 21:8).
Since God is a God of love (1 John 4:7–8), He wants everyone to understand the truth about hell. Through a relationship with Jesus Christ, God offers us eternal life in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 4:17; 25:31–34; John 3:16–18). If we reject His offer, the alternative is hell. And Scripture is clear—hell is a reality not to be taken lightly or ignored. Judgment and punishment in hell are expressed in the Bible as “God’s wrath” (John 3:36; Deuteronomy 32:22; Zephaniah 1:18; Romans 2:5), “torment” (Luke 16:23–24; Revelation 14:11; Revelation 20:10), “destruction” and “corruption” (Psalm 55:23; Romans 9:22; Philippians 3:18–19; Galatians 6:8; 2 Peter 1:4), and “eternal” and “unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12; Hebrews 10:27; Revelation 19:20). Scripture also emphasizes the extreme isolation of hell, referring to it as “blackest darkness” (Jude 1:6, 13; 2 Peter 2:17), “the Abyss” (Revelation 9:1–2), and “death” (John 8:21; Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:26; 1 Corinthians 15:54–55; Revelation 20:14–15; 21:8).
Perhaps the most distressing aspect of hell is that it means total and eternal separation from God (Matthew 7:23). The apostle Paul describes the Lord’s judgment as coming “in flaming fire . . . on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8–9, NLT).
The finality of hell is cause for anguish and torment, for there will be no escape for those who find themselves there (Luke 16:26 Hebrews 6:4–6; 10:26–27). In the endless absence of God’s love, light, peace, and joy, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. But for all who enter God’s eternal dwelling, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4, NLT).