The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Destruction's Meaning in Philippians 1:28

The attached page was a study in the meaning of the Biblical term “destroyed,” during my Sunday School class in Philippians (1:28).What is the meaning of the Bible.doc (22.5 KB)

Thanks, Bob, for your article. A lot of good points made!

I invite you to consider how “destroy” is used in the following passage from I Peter 1:3-7

*Praise be the God and Father of the Anointed Lord Jesus, who, in keeping with His great mercy has regenerated us for the purpose of a living hope, through the resurrection of the Anointed Jesus from the dead, into an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance reserved in heaven for you, who, by the power of God are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed at the last time. In this you exult, yet for a little while, if necessary, grieving in various trials in order that the testing of you of the faith, very valuable, gold being destroyed through fire, yet being tested, may be found for praise and glory and honour at the revealing of Jesus the Anointed. *

Peter compared either his readers, or the testing of their faith, to gold being destroyed by fire. Now we all know that pure gold cannot be destroyed by fire. It can be melted, but cannot be destroyed (in the usual sense of the word). What then, did Peter mean? Did he not mean that gold in its original form (gold ore) can be destroyed by fire so that the pure gold can come forth? Was he not referring to the refining process? When we undergo various trials, our character can be refined.

But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner‘s fire and like fullers’ soap. Malachi 3:2 RSV

Both fire and soap can purify. That is what the Lord can do for a person, and sometimes He does it through trials.

Someone may object that some translations refer to gold as being “perishable” in I Peter 3:7, and again in verse 18, where Peter clearly speaks of gold being perishable.

1 Peter 1:18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers.

However,Peter used a different word from that which he used in verse 7. The word is better translated as “corruptible”. The Greek word is the adjective “phthartos” which is derived from the verb “phtheirō”. The Online Bible Lexicon gives the following note for the latter word:

So gold can be corrupted in this sense, it can be scratched or dirtied, or altered in other ways. But pure gold cannot be “destroyed” in the usual sense of “destroy”, at least not by fire.

Now I would like to express what I believe to be Paul’s meaning of aeonian destruction of the wicked. They will suffer a very severe refinement in the fires of Gehenna which will destroy their sinful, wicked natures, until the pure “gold” shines forth. Of course, they, themselves will have to repent and submit to Messiah Jesus in order for the refining process to be effective. And quite likely, the fully mature sons of God will have a part in bringing the truth to these people. Sometimes, the righteous suffer such a refining process in this life. The refining of the wicked in that day will be much, much, more severe. Perhaps less refining will be necessary for those who have never heard the gospel in this life (some of them have never heard of Jesus). Whatever the case, God will do what is best for every individual.

Thank you Bob and Paidon. It’s great to get clarification on some of these points. I’d also be grateful if either of you have anything to contribute here:

God bless you both

Thanks Pilgrim. And Paidion, I appreciate your observation on 1 Peter 1. On a thread about analogy and touching on questions of post-mortem dealings, Aaron pointed out to me that most Biblical references to fire don’t appear corrective, just punitive or total destruction. But 1 Peter does sound like Mal. 3:2, and it seems clear that fire can sometimes signify the historic idea of a painful but purifying ‘destruction.’

I couldn’t access this study. Would someone post them in this thread, please?

What is the meaning of the Bible’s word: “DESTRUCTION”?

For in Phil. 1:28, our manner of life is to be a sign to the unrepentant that they will be “destroyed.”
Similarly, in 2 Thes. 1:9, Jesus’ fiery presence bring enemies’ “eternal destruction.” Compare Matthew 7:13, “Broad is the way that leads to destruction.” Rom. 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.” (2 Pet. 2:1; 1 Tim. 6:9)
Destruction comes from the verb (apollumi): to destroy, kill, ruin, or cause to perish, die, or be lost.
So! Does this definitive loss describe our concept that people who don’t accept our beliefs will face a ‘final’ judgment and damnation that involves a hopeless and endless torment, lostness, or oblivion? It appears so. “Destroyed” appears to be the opposite of “saved.”
But do we then conclude that God “loves” all people, yet ultimately will irretrievably “destroy” them? Or, does such a tension require either that God’s gracious “love” to them is temporary & conditional, or that “destruction” actually does not describe God’s ‘final’ action toward all those whom He loves?

An Argument for a more heretical Alternative

  1. In truth, this term, destruction, is often not used for a ‘final’ or hopeless “perishing.” For example, in Luke 15:4,24, Jesus promises that it is precisely those who have “been lost” (lit. “have perished”), whom God will pursue “until He finds them.” In Luke 19:10, God seeks those who “have perished.”

  2. In truth, our salvation requires a real “destruction” or death! For example, in Romans 6:6,7, “the body ruled by sin” must be destroyed (done away with), so that we become “one who has died” to sin. Romans 7:9-11 adds that Paul’s own salvation required him being “put to death.”
    This design is made clear in 1 Corinthians 5:5. On a man with a sin worse than pagans(!), God will bring the “destruction of the flesh,” by delivering him to Satan!
    Such a harshly worded and punishing judgment does not sound to us as at all redemptive or hopeful. Nevertheless, Paul makes it clear here that God’s purpose in this “destruction” is to “save his spirit!”

For “flesh” refers not to annihilation of the person or his body, but to a severe destruction of his “sin nature” (NIV). Thus, Paul means that experiencing the evil afflictions of the world will draw the rebel to repentance. (Similarly in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” refers to God’s use of the “torment” of “a messenger of Satan” in order to remove his “conceit” and to “perfect” Paul!)
For in Scripture, the “fire” of God that brings destructive judgment is regularly revealed as a “refiner’s fire” that is necessary in purifying sinners. In 2 Corinthians, 3:5, we can even be those who “will be saved, as one escaping through the flames.”
Romans 9:22,23 explains that it is precisely God’s destructive severity which will change “objects of His wrath-made for destruction” (which certainly sounds hopelessly final) into “vessels of mercy.” The truth is that we all are by nature “objects of God’s wrath” (Eph. 2:3). But Rom. 11:1-32 explains why we will one day be able to celebrate that we became qualified to be recipients of God’s mercy (31,32). It won’t be that we had a superior insight, will, or goodness of heart, but because of God’s actions toward us, which will prove to be gracious in saving us, even when they seem to be severe or destructive (Compare vss. 7-10, 22 and 11f,15,26,36).

My perception: Even the strongest references to judgment and “destruction” like those at the top, do not require that in the end God will have ‘destroyed’ or cut off from His love any of the offspring He has made in His image. They can agree with the Bible’s teaching that His love never fails, and that it’s actually God’s love that brings the wrath and “destruction” that will lead to making us whole.


Peter solemnly warns us of the destruction of Creation (our classroom):

2 Peter 3:10-13

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives
12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.
13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

But then we read further clarification, that what happens to Creation is more of an improvement or an exchange:

1 Cor. 15:54

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

We read about standing before what appears to be a vindictive God’s judgment, about hell, followed by what appears to be a never-ending torture chamber lake of fire; but then we consider these clarifications:

1 Cor. 4:5

Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.

Romans 11:32

32 For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the LORD’s wrath, until he pleads my case and upholds my cause. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness. (Micah 7:9)

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