by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 3 Study # 6 October 4, 2015 Dayton, Texas
9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
1901 ASV Translation:
9 who shall suffer punishment, [even] eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might,
10 when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be marvelled at in all them that believed (because our testimony unto you was believed) in that day.
I. The Nature of the Final Outcome.
A. Literally in summary, "These shall experience judgment". The shifting of the active voice of the verb to the passive in the Authorized Version does not affect the resultant meaning, but it does not take into account that the voice is active.
1. Those of whom Paul writes in his description regarding their willful ignorance of God and rejection of the Gospel will "be punished", but Paul's way of describing that is "they will experience judgment".
2. The word translated "judgment" is only found four times in the New Testament but the uses are illuminating. Acts 25:15 reveals it to mean "a court decision of guilt with the attendant imposition of a legitimate consequence for that guilt". In Acts 28:4, the "barbarians" use the word to indicate a kind of cosmic principle that eventually catches up with people and subjects them to whatever they have coming because of their behavior. Jude 1:7 says that the fiery judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah is a physical example of the experience of "eternal fire" as a "legitimate end" for wicked people. The bottom line is that those who reject both the knowledge of God and the promise of the Gospel will experience what they have legitimately set themselves up, by their willfulness, to experience.
B. Then in description: "eternal destruction away from the presence (literally, "the face") of the Lord and from the glory of His omnipotence (literally, "the essential elements of God's inherent strength").
1. At issue: is "eternal destruction" an enduring experience of what one has due to him/her, or is it destruction of existence so that the person simply does not exist in any way any more?
a. The word translated "destruction" by both the Authorized Version and the ASV is a word that is only used four times in the New Testament. Two of the four are ambiguous enough to allow men to "theologize" them into whatever concept they wish to plug them into. Two of them have sufficient context to disallow that kind of arbitrary assignment of meaning.
1) 1 Corinthians 5:5 says that Satan can "destroy" the flesh. It does not say that he can make the flesh cease to exist. The very worst Satan can do is damage the flesh so that the body can no longer function in this world. In other words, Satan can kill a body, but the consequence of physical death is not in his hands. That a body of dust returns to dust is not a principle of Satan, nor is it a work of his power. Jude 1:9 establishes this fact beyond legitimate debate. Satan has absolutely no control over what happens to a body once it has been sufficiently damaged as to stop its physical function. Satan has no more "power of destruction" than does a murderer. Thus, "destruction" means, in this text, "to sufficiently damage a thing so that it can no longer function as it was designed to". A person whose nerves have been damaged to the point that he/she can no longer use an arm has a "destroyed arm" even though it continues to hang uselessly off of the person's shoulder.
2) 1 Thessalonians 5:3 says that "destruction" is the opposite of "peace and safety". Peace and safety are not "eternal existence" so that the opposite is not "eternal cessation of existence". "Destruction" in this context is all about the removal of certain aspects of existence so that it becomes significantly undesirable.
b. The word translated "eternal" or "everlasting" is used in sixty nine contexts of the New Testament so that we have sufficient data to determine that "eternal" means "without the boundaries of the ages", or something to that effect. That the "destruction" of which Paul writes is "eternal", then, means that the destruction will continue without the boundaries of the ages that govern a host of things in creation. In other words, there is no reason to think that a person who is destined for "eternal destruction" is ever going to "cease to exist", a truth that is emphasized over and over by the biblical doctrine of the physical resurrection of the body so that it endures forever afterwards in its actual functioning form. Additionally, the word "eternal", when plugged into the concept of "destruction" is a strong indication that "destruction", by itself, is not any kind of cessation of existence because anyone who has ceased to exist would automatically not be expected to reappear at a later time, making the adjective "eternal" totally meaningless.
2. The consequent problem, then, is that the phrase "away from the face of the Lord and the glory of His omnipotence" means that the "eternal destruction" means "existing forever without any of the benefits of God's presence or power."
a. That the issue is "benefits" means that what is going to happen is that people are going to only experience the opposite of "benefits". This means that they will experience the nonbeneficial aspects of God's "face": condemnation, wrath, mercilessness, etc.
b. The translation "away from...the glory of His omnipotence" is rooted in the word used in the AV, "power", and in the word used in the ASV, "might". The word means "the essential attributes of a given thing". The "power" or "might" of an arm means what the arm can do by the arrangement of its bones, muscles, tendons, nerves, blood vessels, etc. In our text, it is not an "arm" that is in mind, it is "God". So, what is the most basic aspect of God's ability to "do"? Omnipotence.
c. Being subjected to "eternal destruction" clearly means "existing forever isolated from any kind of beneficial input from God". Not even a tip of a finger dipped into water and placed upon tormented lips (Luke 16:24).