As I mentioned in another thread, I’m reading “One Root, One Kingdom, All Nations!” by Don Preston. For those of you unfamiliar with him, Preston is one of the world’s leading preterist voices. He’s not a universalist, but his interpretation of 2 Thes 1:9 seems compatible with universalism.
Preston says those who would be punished with eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord were the Jews, who were persecuting the early Christians. He writes:
If then, Paul is speaking of the casting out of Judah from the presence of the Lord, i.e. at the parousia, and that casting out would be “everlasting” then any claim that 1948 was the restoration of Israel, or that at some proposed future coming of the Lord, Israel will be restored, is falsified. The casting out Judah in Thessalonians would be everlasting.
Paul is not saying that individual Jews would never have the opportunity to be in the presence of God. No, Paul is addressing a corporate situation in which the authorities in Jerusalem were instigating persecution against the church throughout the empire.
So, to reiterate, what Paul says in Galatians and Thessalonians is a powerful rejection of the modern view that Israel remains God’s chosen, covenant people. Israel forfeited her “place in the sun” when she rejected the Son.
Israel / Judah dwelling in the presence of the Lord was a covenental concept.
I think his first lines in the first two paragraphs are dubious. But as he is a Full Preterist (which is very similar to Pantelism) I am not surprised. On a table I have a stack of his books i’ve barely touched.
I like the interpretation. It allows us to affirm universalism while accepting that the Bible speaks of eternal punishment, rather going through the usual universalist mental gymnastics of trying to redefine aionios.
If the translation of aionios as eternal or everlasting is uniformly accepted, then one would have to find an interpretation that harmonizes with universalism in all such passages, not just 2 Thess.1:9. For example Mark 3:29. In that regard, see my remarks that i just posted to Tom Talbott’s thread on the subject of Mt.25:46, & his 2 different interpretations where he renders aionios as everlasting & eternal in an effort to harmonize them with UR, here:
I’'m aware he hasn’t posted in almost 3 years. Or so it seems, according to his profile. I don’t recall him ever posting since i’ve been here. Maybe one day he’ll make a comeback, like others who’ve been away. In any case, even if he doesn’t return, i’m hoping others might have some insights to explain Mk.3:29 & other passages in light of his interpretations. If they could harmonize them with his perspective, then, as you say, it would be a way to avoid some gymnastics. I wonder if any of Talbott’s remarks on the blasphemy of the Spirit might address the phrase “eternal sin”.
Leaving aside the preterism question, my main critique of DP’s interpretation is that Paul is referencing individual judgment in the OT verses he’s citing or alluding to in that passage (Jeremiah directly, Isaiah a little less directly but with verbal similarities).
Considering that the Thessalonian verses themselves do not obviously read as a judgment only of the nation per se (nor is the nation or government, as such, in view as the persecutors of Christians), I infer individual judgment is intended here, specific persecutors being wholly ruined – yet coming to honor/value their eonian whole-ruination from God. (Which is topically part of the Isaiah prophecy being referenced, and which is not at all an idea foreign to Jeremiah even though he isn’t talking about restoration of punished sinners in the prophecy Paul is directly citing.)
Talbott’s writing on the unforgivable sin in TILOG was IMO the weakest part of the book. He kind of avoided expounding the blasphemy against the spirit texts. Maybe someone here can ask him to clarify?
Are Talbott’s views similar to that of Barclay which states:
“To take the word aionios, when it refers to blessings and punishment, to mean lasting forever is to oversimplify, and indeed to misunderstand, the word altogether. It means far more than that. It means that that which the faithful will receive and that which the unfaithful will suffer is that which it befits God’s nature and character to bestow and to inflict—and beyond that we who are men cannot go, except to remember that that nature and character are holy love.— Barclay, New Testament Words, 37.”
In light of that remark, how does/would Barclay interpret the phrase “guilty of an aionion sin”? A penalty which “it befits God’s nature and character to bestow and to inflict—and beyond that we who are men cannot go, except to remember that that nature and character are holy love”? But aionion modifies sin, not penalty. So the question still remains, what is an “aionion sin”? Is it a sin which “it befits God’s nature and character to bestow and to inflict—and beyond that we who are men cannot go, except to remember that that nature and character are holy love”? Do Barclay’s writings ever comment on the BHS passages, in particular Mk.3:29? Yes, he states:
“If we are to understand what this terrible saying means we must first understand the circumstances in which it was said. It was said by Jesus when the Scribes and Pharisees had declared that the cures he wrought were wrought not by the power of God, but by the power of the devil. These men had been able to look at the incarnate love of God and to think it the incarnate power of Satan.”
“We must begin by remembering that Jesus could not have used the phrase the Holy Spirit in the fun Christian sense of the term. The Spirit in all his fullness did not come to men until Jesus had returned to his glory. It was not until Pentecost that there came to men the supreme experience of the Holy Spirit. Jesus must have used the term in the Jewish sense of the term. Now in Jewish thought the Holy Spirit had two great functions. First, he revealed God’s truth to men; second, he enabled men to recognize that truth when they saw it. That will give us the key to this passage.”
“(i) The Holy Spirit enabled men to recognize God’s truth when it entered their lives. But if a man refuses to exercise any God-given faculty he will in the end lose it. If he lives in the dark long enough he will lose the ability to see. If he stays in bed long enough he will lose the power to walk. If he refuses to do any serious study he will lose the power to study. And if a man refuses the guidance of God’s Spirit often enough he will become in the end incapable of recognizing that truth when he sees it. Evil to him becomes good and good evil. He can look on the goodness of God and call it the evil of Satan.”
“(ii) Why should such a sin have no forgiveness? H. B. Swete says, “To identify the source of good with the impersonation of evil implies a moral wreck for which the Incarnation itself provides no remedy.” A. J. Rawlinson calls it “essential wickedness,” as if here we see the quintessence of all evil. Bengel said that all other sins are human but this sin is Satanic. Why should all this be so?”
“Consider the effect of Jesus on a man. The very first effect is to make him see his own utter unworthiness in comparison with the beauty and the loveliness of the life of Jesus. “Depart from me,” said Peter, “for I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:8.) When Tokichi Ishii first read the story of the Gospel he said, “I stopped. I was stabbed to the heart as if pierced by a five-inch nail. Shall I call it the love of Christ? Shall I call it his compassion? I do not know what to call it. I only know that I believed and my hardness of heart was changed.” The first reaction was that he was stabbed to the heart. The result of that sense of unworthiness and the result of that stabbed heart is a heartfelt penitence, and penitence is the only condition of forgiveness. But, if a man has got himself into such a state, by repeated refusals to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, that he cannot see anything lovely in Jesus at all, then the sight of Jesus will not give him any sense of sin; because he has no sense of sin he cannot be penitent, and because he is not penitent he cannot be forgiven.”
“One of the Lucifer legends tells how one day a priest noticed in his congregation a magnificently handsome young man. After the service the young man stayed for confession. He confessed so many and such terrible sins that the priest’s hair stood on end. “You must have lived long to have done all that,” the priest said. “My name is Lucifer and I fell from heaven at the beginning of time,” said the young man. “Even so,” said the priest, “say that you are sorry, say that you repent and even you can be forgiven.” The young man looked at the priest for a moment and then turned and strode away. He would not and could not say it; and therefore he had to go on still desolate and still damned.”
“There is only one condition of forgiveness and that is penitence. So long as a man sees loveliness in Christ, so long as he hates his sin even if he cannot leave it, even if he is in the mud and the mire, he can still be forgiven. But if a man, by repeated refusals of God’s guidance, has lost the ability to recognize goodness when he sees it, if he has got his moral values inverted until evil to him is good and good to him is evil, then, even when he is confronted by Jesus, he is conscious of no sin; he cannot repent and therefore he can never be forgiven. That is the sin against the Holy Spirit.”
Perhaps his comments at the same site on the parallel BHS passages (Lk.12:10; Mt.12:31-32) will reveal more about his interpretation of “aionion sin” (Mk.3:29).
Another conceivable possibility is that the allegedly “best MSS” are wrong & the right translation is “aionion judgement”, not “aionion sin”:
"In danger of eternal damnation.—Better, eternal judgment, the Greek word not necessarily carrying with it the thoughts that now attach to the English. The best MSS., however, give, “in danger of an eternal sin”—i.e., of one which will, with its consequences, extend throughout the ages. It is, of course, more probable that a transcriber should have altered “sin” into “judgment,” substituting an easier for a more difficult rendering, than the converse."http://biblehub.com/commentaries/mark/3-29.htm
However Vincent states:
“Eternal damnation (αἰωνίου ἁμαρτήματος)”
"An utterly false rendering. Rightly as Rev., of an eternal sin. So Wyc., everlasting trespass. The A. V. has gone wrong in following Tyndale, who, in turn, followed the erroneous text of Erasmus, κρίσεως, judgment, wrongly rendered damnation."http://biblehub.com/commentaries/mark/3-29.htm
John’s “sin unto death” (1Jn 5:16) references a known criminal offense where that under Jewish law ‘the death penalty’ was the ultimate outcome for the most heinous of crimes, i.e., the “sin unto death” was notably any capital offense, as per the likes of…
Deut 21:22If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree…
This is the most direct and least complicated understanding of John’s “sin unto death” — thus when “eternal” is attached to it such shows the gravity, magnitude or totality of the crime.
If this is as I suspect… a capital offense, and believers were to follow the law/rule of the land (Rom 13:1; 1Pet 2:13-14) then that would explain why John wouldn’t suggest any move (prayer) against or concerning this — thus this is relevant to his own historical context and doesn’t require a royal “we” being attached to it.
The eternal sin is when the heart is separated from God’s common mercy/grace. As a result it hardens. People who commit the eternal sin hate God with the passion of a thousand suns. They don’t want God. That is, they have no desire for God. All motivations of their heart are to desecrate, scorn, and belittle the infinite worth of God’s glory as they blaspheme.