The Evangelical Universalist Forum

2 Thess 1:5-10

In this passage the apostle Paul is speaking of the same “revealing” of Jesus in judgment as is spoken of in Luke 17:30-31 (which refers to the overthrow of the nation of Israel in 70 AD; cf. Luke 21:20-21 and Matt 24:16-18). That this “revealing” of Jesus from heaven to punish the unrighteous and be glorified in his saints refers to the signal manifestation of his divine power and Messianic authority in the judgment of national Israel is clear from the fact that, in both Acts 17:5-9 and 1 Thess 2:14-16, we are told that the principle persecutors of the Christians of Thessalonica were the unbelieving Jewish people. The Bible reveals no other persons than the unbelieving Jewish people as having any part in the punishment which Paul is here describing. Paul’s words, “and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us” further establishes the first-century timeframe for when this “revealing” of Christ would take place, and shows that the apostle fully expected Christ’s coming in his kingdom to take place while the Thessalonian Christians he was addressing were still living (for more evidence that Paul believed that the “day of the Lord” would be during the lifetime of those to whom he wrote, see also 2:19; 3:11-13; 5:1-4, 23-24).

But what of Jesus’ being “revealed from heaven?” Paul uses similar language in Romans 1:18, where he says, “For the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth…” In verses 21-28, Paul tells us how the wrath of God is being “revealed from heaven” against such people:

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves…For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions…And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”

And in verse 32, Paul says, “Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Thus, we see that God’s wrath being “revealed from heaven” against these people refers to his righteous judgment being manifested in the deserved consequences they experienced because of their lack of regard for God (with the ultimate consequence evidently being a premature loss of life). Similarly, Jesus’ being “revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire” refers to his divine power, authority and presence being manifested in the national judgment of which Paul is speaking (a judgment which reached its climax in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple). And because of the fearful divine judgment manifested in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:24), the image of “fire” became frequently used as a striking emblem of God’s disapproval of, and opposition to, sin, particularly as manifested in temporal judgments upon sinful people and nations (Deut 4:24; 9:3; 29:23-24; 32:22; 2 Sam 22:9, 13; Job 18:15; Psalm 11:6; 21:9; 29:7; 50:3; 68:2; 78:21; 79:5; 83:13-15; 89:46; 97:3; Isaiah 9:19; 10:17; 30:27-33; 34:9-10; 42:24-25; 47:14; 66:15-16, 24; Jer 4:4; 17:4, 27; 21:10-12; 48:45; Lam 2:3-4; 4:11; Ezekiel 21:31; 22:18-22, 31; 38:22; Amos 1:4, 7, 10, 12, 14; 2:2, 5; 5:6; Obadiah 1:18; Nahum 1:6; Zeph 3:8; Zech 13:9; Mal 3:2).

Regarding the phrase, “presence of the Lord,” we know from the Old Testament that this was a common Hebrew expression denoting God’s covenantal approbation (Gen 4:16; Ex. 33:14; Psalm 139:7-8). For the Jews, the land of Judea - and particularly the temple - was the place of God’s peculiar presence and favor. Under the Old Covenant, the “Shekinah cloud” that dwelt between the cherubim which overshadowed the Mercy Seat was considered the presence of the Lord, where God’s glory was especially manifest. Hence David exclaims, “You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth” (Psalm 80:1). Moreover, we are told that Jonah, after being commissioned by God to proclaim repentance to the Ninevites, “rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord” (Jonah 1:3). In other words, he fled to where he thought “the presence of the Lord” was not. In Jonah 2:4, we learn where he believed the presence of the Lord to be: “I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall look again upon your holy temple.” There dwelt “the presence of the Lord” according to Jonah, and there the glory of his power was uniquely displayed for the Jewish people.

God’s presence (i.e., his covenantal approbation), then, was enjoyed by the Jews in Judea, and especially in their temple service. Thus, to be “cast out of the Lord’s presence” was to be banished from Judea into captivity, and from all the covenant privileges and blessings that the Jews enjoyed in their land (especially temple worship). This “casting out” was the same as “destroying” them. In 2 Kings 13:23, we read:

“But the LORD was gracious to them and had compassion on them, and he turned toward them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, nor has he cast them from his presence until now.

What God said he would not do to the people at this time, in the following passage we find that he does: “For because of the anger of the LORD it came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from his presence” (2 Kings 24:20). The prophet Jeremiah had long before applied these very terms to them as a people, and to their sorrows in this world under God’s judgment:

Therefore, behold I, even I will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence; and I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten" (Jer. 23:39-40; cf. Jer. 52:3).

They were thus “destroyed” and “cast out of the Lord’s presence” for seventy years during their captivity in Babylon, in that they were banished from their land and from their holy temple, where God’s presence was especially manifest. During this time, they were said to be utterly forgotten and forsaken by God, and under an “everlasting reproach” and a “perpetual shame” which would “not be forgotten.” But after 70 years, God “remembered them,” and they were brought back from this captivity to once again enjoy God’s “presence” in their own land, and in their temple service.

At the time Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers, the time was quickly drawing near when the Jews, as a people, were to be again “cast out of the Lord’s presence,” and dispersed among all nations (Luke 21:20-24, 32). Paul employs the very language of the above passages (used in speaking of their former national destruction and exile) to describe the judgment of God that awaited them - both in their being cast out of their land, and in their city and temple being utterly destroyed – which he describes as “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.” Following the Roman siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, the Jews were just as certainly “destroyed from the presence of the Lord” as they were during their seventy years’ captivity in Babylon. Thus, when we interpret Scripture with Scripture, we find that Paul is simply describing the temporal destruction and exile of the Jewish people in the very language by which the prophets before him had described their former punishments.

And I gather that the word “everlasting” is translated from some form of aion there… Interesting that it is 70 years, which is roughly the typical eartlhy lifespan of man. This certainly fits with the notion of aion (age) as sometimes referring to the earthly lifespan of a man. :sunglasses:

Excellent find.

Interesting how many passages (even ECT passages) have a different meaning once we understand them in light of other OT scriptures.

I consider this one of the main pillars of ECT proof in the pauline letters. Or maybe the only one. This interpretation as described in the post obliterates the former ECT interpretation.

So many OT passages shed light on the NT writers meaning don’t they.

Hi Steve,

I’m glad you found my post helpful. The following may be considered something of an “addendum” to it: