The Evangelical Universalist Forum

II Thessalonians 1:8-9

Brilliant! Great find Caleb cheers. I’ll have a good read of part II

Hi again Caleb
I have studied the second part now and I wish I could say that I was thoroughly convinced by the UR arguments. Note that they are plural (eg Paidion’s differs markedly from Tom’s). This plurality is always (to me) a warning flag, an indication of the straining needed in order for a text to comply with one’s belief (or with other scriptural passages). I think Tom, in his replies, indicates as much and that we do have to live with the tension of texts which appear to be at odds with other texts.
I am glad to say that I am perfectly happy with the ‘coming from’ rather than the ‘away from’ interpretation. But as for the eternal destruction of (whatever), I generally ask myself (of any particular interpretation) “is that how the author would naturally write the passage if the proposed interpretation was what he was wanting to convey, or would he obviously have written it differently?”
For me, if Paul had intended to convey eternal annihilation of the person, then he could well have written in that manner. However, if Paul had intended to convey destruction of the wicked element in order to purify the person, I have a little difficulty in believing that he would have constructed the sentence in that manner.
However, the thread has helped to some degree. Perhaps it is TRUE that Jesus came to destroy the world, to destroy us. I am being serious. I have heard that Jesus does not want to make us better people, He wants to destroy us completely and make us anew. If only Paul had included that latter part in this text!
Oh well, I’ll have to live with that, and I’ll have to live with the tension of clearly seeing UR texts elsewhere whilst having to acknowledge (to any ECTers) that I see difficulties with the text in Thessalonians.
Thanks once again for your help.

As I see it Pilgrim this is only “a problem” because ECTers have read their position into the text so universalists have felt obliged to read their position out of the text… IMO it is neither, but more akin to what I shared above.

I did go into a lot of detail upthread about “eonian whole-ruination” and its contexts. It wasn’t like I ignored that part.

This does remind me I haven’t posted up my collected notes on the verses for the ExCom yet! – also that I haven’t compiled a few more things, and I need to redraft what’s in my notes a bit (since what’s there was based originally on a placekeeping copy-paste from my notes elsewhere for the the TFan debate. So it has debate refs that should be deleted, and some linguistic discussion that I originally broke out for a different part of the debate, etc.)

I’ll post a link here when I finally set up the new ExCom thread, hopefully before lunch. :slight_smile:

I can’t think of any theological position that doesn’t have problem texts. I think there are only two ways to deal with that:

  1. Assert that the Scriptures do not contradict one another. Then determine what is the main thrust of the Scriptures, and interpret the problem texts in ways harmonious with the Scriptures’ main thrust.

  2. Assert that the Scriptures contradict one another. Then determine what is the main thrust of the Scriptures, and ignore the problem texts.

At the end of the day, either option comes to basically the same thing: Belief in the main thrust of the Scriptures, and (one way or the other) putting the problem texts aside.

Well, it took until after lunch, but… Lo! It Comes! :laughing:

Possibly my longest single entry so far; but I was able to put it in a single post so at least I can guarantee it’s less than 30K characters. :mrgreen:

The same Greek word for “destruction” is used in the following verse:

… deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1Cor 5:5)

^^ Yep! One of several pieces of evidence that Paul didn’t mean a hopeless punishment at 2 Thess 1.

First let me thank you Jason for a thorough response to my questions (on the parallel thread ) and to assure you that I would like to reply to that earlier post to me very shortly but as the 1 Cor 5:5 text has been raised again, perhaps it makes sense for me to first comment on that.

Bear in mind, if I take the stance which appears to be critical of seeing UR in texts, then let me assure you that it is definitely NOT because I want my criticism to hold water. On the contrary, it is one of my personality traits that if I venture upon some possible ‘good-news’ I often feel the need to check, double check, prod, squeeze, even play devils advocate in order to fully convince myself that I am not embarking on some wish fulfilment pipe-dream. I also wish to respect the position of any detractors (ECTers etc.) if I believe that they have reasonable cause to hold to a more hopeless interpretation. Perhaps we are not dissimilar in this respect.
(Thankfully I regard several other texts as clearly indicating UR)

So, let me make comment on the connection with 1 Cor 5:5:
Yes, I too can see the connection in that the same Greek word is used. This gives me concern rather than comfort and IMO adds to the weight of evidence towards a ‘hopeless’ interpretation in II Thess 1:9

The point about 1 Cor 5:5 is that the object of the destruction is the mortal body ONLY and Paul makes that absolutely clear. So the only relevant question we must ask is whether the object of the ‘destruction’ is destroyed absolutely and forever? YES, I believe it is. We are all to be given a new incorruptible body in the future but that sinner (in Corinth) will have finished with his earthly body once and for all. So surely the Greek word in this instance was used to convey absolute eternal destruction.

Of course, the object to be ‘destroyed’ in II Thess 1:9 (unfortunately) has not been flagged up by Paul as merely the earthly body. Isn’t that the rub?

Hi Davo - sorry for not getting back to you earlier regarding your interpretation. Firstly I need to thank you for it. It is an interpretation which was completely novel to me and one in which I can see your rationale. Secondly, I agree with either interpretation of ‘apo’ (coming from or away from) so am happy to consider your slant on that.
With regard to your full conclusion, of course you could be right but I just can’t quite convince myself that that was what Paul was alluding to. I don’t happen to be a preterist (semi or otherwise) so perhaps that doesn’t help but neither can I quite get my head around the idea that the OT Jews referred to have been eternally banished from the presence of the Lord even though I acknowledge that the presence of the LOrd (for them at least at THAT TIME but not for all eternity) dwelt in the Temple.



Don’t worry, I understand about being careful not to read UR into everything regardless. Otherwise I would have tried to do that to the Jeremiah citation!

Notably the difference here is that St. Paul didn’t think a totally new body would be resurrected, but rather the old one transformed. That he (perhaps wrongly) never thought of the old body being unavailable anymore is irrelevant to that point.

True, but unless any resurrection of the wicked at all is being denied, then regardless of whether the old body is raised and restored, or a new body supplied (which I suppose to happen where necessary without obviating the resurrection of the old body in a new form where the old body remains significantly available), and regardless of whether the wicked are raised to incorruption or not (I suppose not yet), what is being destroyed must be only the body not the spirit.

This is borne out incidentally in the Isaiah ref, where the penitent wicked plead for acceptance with those who, being righteous, survived.

Moreover, if the wicked souls were annihilated they couldn’t come to honor the justice of God as a result.

Beyond that (as already noted in the compilation), Paul also uses the term in 1 Thess as part of his analogical description of the coming punishment of the wicked as birth-pangs. Granted he could mix metaphors, but this would be mixing metaphors at direct odds at one another if he meant annihilation.

Still, it’s a good line of rebuttal to test out, and I should add it to the notes! :slight_smile:

When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. (1 Cor 5:4,5)

Surely Paul cannot be instructing the Corinthian church to deliver to Satan for the destruction of his physical flesh, the man who was copulating with his step-mother. Surely Paul wasn’t asking them to turn him over to Satan so that Satan would kill him.

Wasn’t Paul speaking of excommunicating and shunning the man? “…not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Cor 5:11). The result of this treatment was not the man’s death, but the man’s repentance, and submission to God. Paul wrote in his second letter, that the should forgive him, and that he, Paul, would forgive him also. Apparently he was received again into the assembly. He had been loosed from the assembly, and then after his repentance, bound back in.

The man had to have his “flesh” destroyed, that is, his self-serving nature.

Good point Paidion and you may well be correct.
With regards to the point under discussion, I don’t see that it changes anything. The object of the destruction (his self-serving nature as you put it) was to be destroyed not purged. The whole man may be said to be purged, but the means of purging was the destruction of the ‘sarx’. In 5:5 the object of the destruction was the ‘sarx’, not so in Thessalonians.

Hi Pilgrim…

Such banishment was indeed temporal i.e., relative to this life ONLY, and yet with regards to “the OT Jews” the effect of the judgement was full, complete or in TOTALITY. Thus as I understand it “eternal” is best understood in the QUALITATIVE sense meaning totality. This then would equate “eternal life” with the totality or fullness of life Christ brings… much in the vein as is found in Jn 10:10 and Jn 17:3.

So in this respect I view the “destruction” of life as meaning utter or TOTAL annihilation, BUT ONLY as touching the physicality of man and NO further than that, period. And so it was, as I see it, when Jesus said to his contemporaries “you was die in your sins” he was basically saying they would face the full temporal consequences of the last days of that old covenant age – AD66-70. Those of course “who believed” and enduring to the end would in kind be “saved”.

Of course as Paidion points out “destruction” doesn’t always apply to the physical nature, but as you also note whatever it does apply to its means a total annihilation of such, and I agree.

Also ditto’d over to the ExCom thread for archiving.

It is indeed true the man was excom’d, and I could go on to talk about that, too. But even if the only object of destruction was his self-serving nature, the point of the olethron was to destroy his self-serving nature. Lacking a specific object of the olethron in 2 Thess, we would still expect Paul, by comparison with what Paul specifically talks about when he uses the term elsewhere, to be talking about the same purpose. It still fits “those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel” coming to honor/value the justice of God; and still fits the proud, cruel, unjust, and sensuous sinners of Isaiah 2 (and 1 for that matter) having their self-serving nature destroyed and cleaned by the spirit of crisis and of burning.

However: if Paul had only been expecting the man’s self-serving nature to be destroyed, he wouldn’t have been handing the man over to Satan to do that, and wouldn’t have stated he expected the man’s spirit to be saved in the Day of the Lord to come.

Also, the theory about his reference in 2 Cor being to the SSG, depends on 2 Cor actually being written subsequently to 1 Cor – which is about evenly disputed among scholars – and still would be supposition since Paul doesn’t give many clues about whom he is talking. But even if he was talking about the SSG, that wouldn’t mean Paul didn’t think he was handing the SSG over to physical death, only that the SSG hasn’t died. Whoever it is, is still strongly suffering, and the SSG as described in 1 Cor doesn’t seem to be the kind of person who would be suffering that much simply from being excluded from a small, culturally reviled group rejected by both Jews and Gentiles as nonsense or worse.

To this can be added that both of Paul’s scriptural references, Isaiah as well as Zechariah, talk about YHWH killing sinners when He finally makes the same direct appearance which Paul is talking about in 2 Thess 1.

(Amusingly, I did something some of the NT authors occasionally do, and referred to Zech as Jeremiah upthread! – and didn’t just refer to him as such, I was comparing Isaiah 2-5 with things that do occur elsewhere in Jeremiah but not in the verses I forgot didn’t come from Jeremiah but from Zechariah instead. :unamused: :laughing: )

Moreover, even though Paul compares the olethron of evildoers in 1 Thess 5:3 to birth-pangs, which are generally a hopeful crisis (and so not to be dismissed as evidence of Paul’s hopeful expectations), he cites either or both Jeremiah 6:14 and 8:11 (which are verbally very similar prophecies – and yes definitely Jeremiah this time, not Zech) where the destruction definitely involves killing evildoers – though more by pagan armies than by exposure to the direct presence of YHWH. (Another big difference being that pagan armies kill indiscriminately and so also must be punished in turn for volunteering to act as badder bad-guys – rather like Satan in 1 Cor 5! – but YHWH’s presence doesn’t harm the innocent and righteous.)

The total context still adds up to an expectation of death, even if the expectation is hopeful of subsequent salvation. Even excommunication from the group would be analogous to a death sentence. (Handing him over to Satan would seem to be analogous to God handing Israel over to pagan armies for that matter!)

Having said all that: back in 1 Cor 5 and 6, Paul goes on to chide the Corinthians in some detail about not being good judges among each other. Paul also talks in chapter 6 about how Christians are expected to judge angels {aggelous krinoumen}, which necessarily must involve rebel angels. However, Paul draws the angel-judging comparison to indicate that the Corinthians ought to be competent to judge civil cases among each other, which would normally involve reaching fair judgments to reconcile brothers to one another (rather than taking such cases to the pagan legal courts), and which might suggest the goal of judging angels, though maximally important by contrast, has a similar goal in view – ditto Paul’s judgment of handing the SSG over to Satan.

It is J. B. Phillips I think who noted that the Apostles would be surprised at the level of exacting exegesis to which their writings would later be subjected.

With that in mind, perhaps Paul here was not making an exacting eschatological statement but was rather speaking heatedly: “God is going to wipe those guys out!” People sometimes speak of sports teams “annihilating” other teams. This is just everyday talking, rather than carefully-formulated theological precision. We know sometimes Paul wrote with less than scholarly precision (as when he forgot and then remembered baptizing the household of Stephanas, then stating that he wasn’t 100% sure if he was forgetting anybody else I Corinthians 1:14-16).

Close exegesis has its value, and it also has its limitations.

Well, that’s the interesting thing; Knoch WASN’T a universalist when he started his translation, but he was by the time he finished it… :smiley:

Just want to thank Jason (and others) for giving me a lot of food for thought and a good reason to have another look at Isaiah.

I think that is precisely what Paul was doing. Satan has often been God’s agent for good, while he thinks he is being independently destructive. Satan thought he was destroying the man by destroying his self-serving nature, for he thought that was the only nature he had. but, without knowing it, Satan was actually purifying the man.

Isn’t that the way the man’s “spirit” would be saved? Indeed, isn’t that the only way that any of us can be saved? By each of us having his self-serving nature destroyed and replaced with the new nature?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2Cor 5:17)

I’m with Paidion on this; I don’t see why handing someone over to Satan can’t be a way to purge them of their selfishness and evil. It’s a motif of the Bible that God hands people over to evildoers in order to humble them and turn them back to him. Satan tears us down, thinking he is killing us but all he is doing is destroying the things we have held onto above God. Because he cannot destroy God, we end up turning back to him