Thousand-Year Discipline and Matthew 8:12 (Part 1)

Thousand-Year Discipline

Matthew 8:12 (Part 1)

An Overview of the Thousand-Year Discipline Recovery Doctrine

In the millennium the overcoming believers will be with Christ in the bright glory of the kingdom, whereas the defeated believers will suffer discipline in outer darkness (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). This is so that they can be perfected for their maturity.

For any crop to become matured, that crop needs to go through a certain process. The process through which the immature believers will have to pass will not be pleasant but will be a period of discipline and punishment for one thousand years.


Witness Lee, the primary teacher of the Lord’s Recovery movement, taught the thousand-year discipline (TYD) doctrine. And since the Lord’s Recovery’s belief system is literally everything that Witness Lee taught, the Lord’s Recovery teaches and believes in TYD doctrine.

TYD essentially explains that Christians who are not good enough (Christians who are not “overcomers”) in this lifetime will be cast into the Outer Darkness, a special believer-specific discipline, for 1000 years:

To be cast out into the outer darkness is not to perish; it is to be dealt with dispensationally for not having lived an overcoming life by Christ to qualify for participation in the enjoyment of the kingdom during the millennium.


According to the teaching of TYD, these non-overcoming Christians (“defeated believers”) will be cut off from the sphere of the presence of God:

…the defeated believers will not be cast into the lake of fire, but into the outer darkness outside the glorious sphere of the Lord’s presence.


According to the Bible, the Outer Darkness will have weeping and gnashing of teeth. God’s Word repetitively uses that phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” to describe pain, agony, and regret (Matt. 8:1213:4213:5022:1324:5125:30Luke 13:28). The Recovery truly believes that a certain group of believers will be disciplined for 1000 years and that the agonizing weeping and gnashing of teeth of the Outer Darkness is that discipline, different from the eternal punishment of Hell/the Lake of Fire for the unbelievers.

And it’s this following quote on weeping and gnashing of teeth and the “sons of the kingdom” that is the focus of this post’s deconstruction of the TYD doctrine:

Matthew 8:12 says, “But the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.” Because the sons of the kingdom certainly are saved ones, they will not be cast into the furnace of fire. Rather, they will be put into outer darkness. I do not believe that there is darkness in the furnace of fire. Although there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth both for the ones who perish and for the defeated believers, the defeated believers will not be cast into the lake of fire, but into the outer darkness outside the glorious sphere of the Lord’s presence.


Who Are the “Sons of the Kingdom” in Matthew 8:12?

The “sons of the kingdom” in Matthew 8:12 are not “certainly saved ones,” as Witness Lee taught. The sons of the kingdom are actually Israelites in the kingdom of Israel.

Witness Lee used the “certainly saved” in Matthew 8:12 as grounds to state that the Outer Darkness was for believers, for Christians. However, a careful look at the context of this verse immediately exposes Witness Lee’s “certainly saved” assertion as false. The better phrase is “certainly Jews.”

For some quick background of Matthew 8:12Matthew 8:5-13 is the true story of Jesus encountering a centurion who was full of great faith. This centurion believed that Jesus had the authority to speak a word and heal his paralyzed, suffering servant. The centurion’s rationalization and explanation of Jesus’ authority in Matthew 8:9 was indicative of the centurion’s faith. And so begins Matthew 8:10-12:

10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.

11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,

12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

MATTHEW 8:10-12 (ESV)

Matthew 8:10 is an important key. Jesus said, “With no one in Israel have I found such faith.”

Matthew 8:11 is also an important key. Jesus said, “Many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” If there’s “certainly saved ones” in this passage, it’s those from east and west, likely the Gentiles, the non-Jewish Christians.

With this context, Jesus words as translated into English already point to the sons of the kingdom being a reference to Israelites. However, the original language of the Bible makes it even more clear — the phrase “sons/children of the kingdom” is a Hebraism (a Hebrew idiom or expression):

The children of the kingdom.—The form of the phrase is a Hebraism, indicating, as in “the children of the bride-chamber,” those who belonged to the kingdom, i.e., in this case, the Israelites, to whom the kingdom of heaven had, in the first instance, been promised, the natural heirs who had forfeited their inheritance.


A plethora of Bible commentaries also affirm that the phrase “children/sons of the kingdom” refers to the Jews:

  1. Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
  2. Bible Study New Testament, The
  3. Coffman’s Commentary on the Bible
  4. E.M. Zerr’s Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
  5. John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible
  6. Matthew Poole’s Commentary
  7. Meyer’s NT Commentary
  8. People’s New Testament
  9. Robert’s Word Pictures in the New Testament

Did Witness Lee Miss the Reference to Israel?

The quote this post addresses comes from Witness Lee’s Life-Study of Matthew, chapter 66. However, 41 chapters earlier, in chapter 25 of Life-Study of Matthew, Witness Lee recognized that the sons of kingdom were indeed Jews. But to Lee, that phrase referred more specifically to saved Jews:

The sons of the kingdom in verse 12 refer to the saved Jews who are the good seed (13:38)…


The 13:38 reference in the quote above refers to Matthew 13:38, which also uses the phrase “sons of the kingdom.” However, the phrase “sons of the kingdom” in Matthew 13:38 does not have any specific affiliation with the Jews. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines a clear distinction of the phrase used in Matthew 8:12 versus Matthew 13:38. 8:12 refers to “those to whom the prophetic promise of the heavenly kingdom extends: used of the Jews,” and 13:38 refers to “those gathered out of all nations who have shown themselves worthy of a share in this kingdom” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, Strongs G932, Definition 3e).

There’s no ground to assume that Matthew 8:12’s “sons of the kingdom” refers to anyone other than the Jews. There’s no reference to the Jews being saved. There’s a strong argument they are not saved (weeping and gnashing of teeth, outer darkness), but there’s no evidence that the sons of the kingdom in Matthew 8:12 are saved.

But Witness Lee only referenced the “sons of the kingdom” as “certainly saved ones” in chapter 66 of Life-Study of Matthew, not referencing his study’s interpretation in chapter 25. In chapter 66, all he does is say that the “sons of the kingdom” are “certainly saved ones” in order to defend TYD doctrine.

That’s not the only place in which Witness Lee uses Matthew 8:12 as evidence that saved people will be disciplined for 1000 years:

In the coming kingdom age the overcoming believers will be with Christ in the bright glory of the kingdom (Col. 3:4), whereas the defeated believers will suffer discipline in outer darkness (Matt. 8:12).


Again, Witness Lee offered no reference to the “sons of the kingdom” being the Jews. Instead, he again used the Matthew 8:12 verse reference as authoritative evidence to back up his assertion of TYD doctrine. In short, according to Witness Lee, the sons of the kingdom in Matthew 8:12 are (1) saved Jews, (2) certainly saved ones, and/or (3) defeated believers.

Conclusion: Matthew 8:12’s “Sons of the Kingdom” Are Not “Certainly Saved Ones”

Witness Lee made the assertion that the phrase “sons of the kingdom” in Matthew 8:12 referred to saved people. This ignores both the context and the language of the phrase. With the truth of the meaning of the phrase “sons of the kingdom,” the Recovery’s explanation of thousand-year discipline doctrine based on Matthew 8:12 is already a logical fallacy. Since Matthew 8:12 does not reference “certainly saved people” but references the Jews, the meaning of the verse carries an entirely different meaning than Witness Lee taught.

To Be Continued

As with all of these Deconstructing False Doctrine blog series, there’s a lot of ground to cover. This post’s entire purpose was to deconstruct only one argument related to TYD doctrine, specifically in knowing that the “sons of the kingdom” phrase was actually referencing the Jews. Hopefully you were convinced that the sons of the kingdom were not “certainly saved ones.”

There’s still more to deconstruct in Witness Lee’s teaching on Matthew 8:12. The next post will discuss the Outer Darkness, what the Recovery says it means, and what the Bible says it means.

This Post Has Been Revised for Accuracy

REVISED 06/12/2020

Publication 1: 02/10/2020

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Kenyari Martin
Kenyari Martin
3 years ago

Wow! This was great insight! I thought the same at first, but there you have it! Lol Praise God!

R Kelly
R Kelly
3 years ago

Thank you for what you are doing, these blog articles are very well-written and logical. Your use of Witness Lee quotes is eye-opening!!!
One thing that really stood out to me here, and maybe you are going to delve into this in the future, is how he taught that “defeated believers” would be “perfected to maturity” WITHOUT the presence of God. The basis of that teaching is beyond me, and certainly not biblical, at the very least. What a mercy to be free from all of that, thanks be to Jesus!

3 years ago
Reply to  R Kelly

My exact thought too. How can one learn to live in His presence by being punished excessively without His presence. A poor analogy off the top of my head would be training your bad dog to stay in the yard by then punishing him and putting him in the basement for a week.
Plus the 1000 years always seemed a bit excessive. Furthermore with the story of the prodigal son the Father runs towards a repentant sinner. So for any unfaithful or immature believers (who I believe would very quickly repent before God) this would say that instead they will be punished for returning or not returning. Of course Lee’s argument would be that it is a different or transition into a different dispensation however the punishment seems to go against God’s nature of love and forgiveness towards his own children.

3 years ago

In the context of Matthew 8, Jesus came from a mountain and large crowd followed him. There He healed a leper. And when He came to Capernaum a gentile Centurion demonstrated great faith in Jesus when he requested the Lord to heal his servant.

The Lord Jesus marveled at his faith and He said to those who followed Him, “Truly I say you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel…” He then said that many will come from the east and the west (from other nations / Gentile believers) who will dine with the patriarchs in the kingdom of heaven. While the “sons of the kingdom” will be cast out into the outer darkness.

So the “sons of the kingdom” then are the unbelieving Jews. They were the physical children of the patriarchs to whom the kingdom of God was promised in the Old Covenant. But because of their unbelief in the Messiah, they will be rejected in the kingdom of heaven and be cast away into Hell.

3 years ago

Without knowing anything of dispensationalism, it is very easy to misinterpret scripture as Lee did with the sons of the kingdom. As I used to(misinterpret) a bit more than I do now. Such a simple, yet vital, key to understanding….Who is the text speaking to? Who is it speaking of? So many years spent in the LC without ever hearing anything of rightly dividing the word. Praise Lord Jesus for His light to illuminate the word for us! The gospel itself had two different names based on who it was delivered to….the chosen nation, Israel, and later, the gentiles. Kingdom of God vs. Kingdom of Heaven. Thank you for sharing your understanding with us, brother!

3 years ago

John MacArthur comments on Matthew 8:5-13:

2. The centurion’s servant healed (8:5–13)

8:5 Capernaum. See note on 4:13. centurion. A Roman military officer who commanded (v. 9) one hundred men. Luke indicates that the centurion appealed to Jesus through intermediaries (Luke 7:3–6) because of his own sense of unworthiness (v. 8; cf. Luke 7:7). Matthew does not mention the intermediaries.

8:8 I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. Jewish tradition held that a person who entered a Gentile’s house was ceremonially defiled (cf. John 18:28). The centurion, undoubtedly familiar with this law, felt unworthy of having Jesus suffer such an inconvenience for his sake. He also had faith enough to know that Christ could heal by merely speaking a word (see note on v. 10 ).

8:10 I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! This centurion understood Jesus’ absolute authority (vv. 8, 9). Even some of Jesus’ own disciples did not see things so clearly (v. 26).

8:11 many . . . from east and west. Gentiles, in the kingdom with Abraham, will enjoy salvation and the blessing of God (Is. 49:8–12; 59:19; Mal. 1:11; Luke 13:28, 29).

8:12 sons of the kingdom refers to the Hebrew nation, physical heirs of Abraham. will be cast out. This thought directly opposed the rabbinical expectation that the kingdom would feature a great feast in the company of Abraham and the Messiah—open to Jews only. weeping and gnashing. See note on 22:13. Cf. 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28. This expression describes the eternal agonies of those in hell.

8:13 as you have believed. Sometimes faith was involved in the Lord’s healings (but in this case not by the person being healed, as also with healings in 9:2 and 15:28); other times it was not a factor (vv. 14–16; Luke 22:51).

—The MacArthur Bible Commentary

3 years ago

I agree with you. The context makes it very clear. However, I am curious what your interpretation of Matthew 25 is? Specifically the 10 virgins. They are all virgins, not virgins and harlots (all saints?). But 5 have oil and 5 do not. Oil was poured upon David by Samuel when the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David. So usually oil seems to represent the Spirit. I’m not a Witness Lee/Watchmen Nee follower, but it does seem like Lee’s interpretation fits more along with Matthew 25 than Matthew 8. Do you have any light you can shine upon this? I’ve been curious about it for a long time.

3 years ago

Praise the Lord! Thank you, Jacob. I know this must have taken some time to research and respond, but I’m very grateful. I love that Scripture was used to guide your points/thoughts. I truly feel sharpened as iron sharpens iron. Thank you!

Michelle Walter
Michelle Walter
2 years ago

I’m so thankful I found this page. Growing up in the church life we were always taught this doctrine since I was young….6th/7th grade and I always felt completely defeated by it instead of uplifted and encouraged….like I would never make it to being an over comer, no matter how hard I tried so I may as well just do my best and have my heart set on being stuck in outer darkness for 1000 years….reading this is so freeing and also draws you closer again to the Lord….thank you for sharing!!!!