Wednesday, November 23, 2016

2 Thessalonians 1:3-10 - Eternal Destruction of the Wicked.

Many look at 1 Thessalonians 1:3-10 through the tint of man's tradition, and fail to see what is being said in those verses. Some view some expressions as sustaining the eternal torment or eternal torture theories, although nothing at all is said in those verses about anyone being kept conscious for eternity for God to inflict pain upon them for eternity
Others seem to think that these verses mean that millions of unbelievers will be eternally destroyed in "Armageddon" without their ever having received any benefit from the ransom for all. Part of this comes from the mistakened idea that the flaming fire spoken of is in reference to the time of trouble, and not the coming day of judgment of those who in this age rejected Christ. -- John 12:47,48.

Nevertheless, we must look at any scripture in connection both with its context and the Bible as a whole, and not as an isolated scripture. There is much scriptural evidence that the destruction at Armageddon will be the culmination of God's wrath upon man inherited through Adam, and that these will not die the second death. In other words, those of the world who die in the Armageddon battle die the death for which Jesus provided a ransom; they are not sentenced to a new judgment, but rather they die with all who are "judged already" in Adam. (John 3:18; Romans 5:18) They die under the wrath of God that has been upon them. (John 3:36) Therefore the destruction at Armageddon will not be the eternal destruction that Paul refers to.

With this thought, let us look at the scripture from its contextual setting and we can see that it is not referring to the eternal destruction of those who do not know God in the present age, but rather that application is to the age to come.

We will quote 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10 from Green's King James II Version, 4th edition, in order to see if we can get a clearer picture of what the apostle was speaking of here as he writes to the Christians at Thessalonica. "Brothers, we are bound to give thanks to God always concerning you, even as it is right, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of each one of you all multiplies toward one another, so as for us to boast ourselves in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions, and the afflictions which you endure, a clear token of the just judgment of God, for you to be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you indeed suffer, since it is a just thing with God to repay affliction to the ones afflicting you; and to you, those being afflicted, rest with us at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from Heaven with angels of His power, in flaming fire giving full vengeance to those not knowing God, and to those not obeying the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will pay the penalty of eternal destruction from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of His strength, when He comes to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all those who believe in that Day, because our testimony to you was believed."

We believe, with many others, that the parousia or coming of our Lord is invisible, and that the parousia begins before the judgment of the world begins. Those who use 2 Thessalonians 1:7,8 to prove that certain ones who are blinded by Satan will suffer eternal destruction at Armageddon evidently presuppose that the expression "when he comes (Greek, erkomai)" (verse 10) and "at the revelation (Greek, apokalupsis) of the Lord Jesus" (verse 7) as used in these verses are limited to some time either at the end of the present age, or the beginning of the age to come, but not encompassing the entire millennial reign, as though it would exclude the day of judgment when the books are opened.

However, the scriptures do not limit the term apokalupsis to the just the ending of this age or beginning of the age to come. The time of the final revealing of the sons of God is also referred to as the period of His revelation. In Romans 8:18-23 the revelation (apokalupsis) is very evidently referring to the Millennial revelation and the post-millennial revelation when the creation, the world of mankind who proves themselves faithful, will "be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. - Revelation 21:7.

But let us suppose for a moment that the period of time spoken of here only applies to a short period at the end of, or the beginning of, the age to come, that the persecutors of the Church would be dealt everlasting destruction before the blessing of the world begins. What would this mean? It would mean that those persecutors of the Church spoken of in verse 6 would have to be brought back to life either before or during the "great tribulation" so that they could be eternally destroyed at that time. This is the only logical conclusion that we could possibly reach from the way the scripture is written, if we view the eternal destruction to come upon those in opposition as occurring before the the world is blessed in the age to come. The scriptures tell us however, that God will reserve the wicked under punishment [of death through Adam, not the second death] until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (2 Peter 2:9) The day of judgment, as has been shown before from the scriptures, is the entire thousand year reign of Christ. It is during this period that the persecutors of the first century Church are brought back to life to face judgment and possible eternal destruction. The purpose of their reservation, we are told, is to give them all opportunity to believe "in that day." (2 Thessalonians 1:10) Thus in the day of judgment many will repent and believe, thus escaping the eternal destruction of the ungodly that comes after the day of judgment.

It also tells us that "in that day" many will believe. These believers are not those who come to believe in this present evil world for the present-day believers are set in contrast to those come to believe "in that day." Also the fact that it is in the time "when He [Jesus] comes to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all those who believe in that day" shows that this is the same time spoken of in Romans 8:19-21. This clearly identifies the Millennial era as the time period for the fulfillment of this prophecy.

Accordingly verse 10 tells explicitly what time period is referred to - "in that day." What day? It is the same day that is spoken of in Psalm 96:
Psalm 96:1 Sing to Jehovah a new song! Sing to Jehovah, all the earth.
Psalm 96:2 Sing to Jehovah! Bless his name. Proclaim his salvation from day to day.
Psalm 96:3 Declare his glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples.
Psalm 96:4 For great is Jehovah, and greatly to be praised! He is to be feared above all gods.
Psalm 96:5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But Jehovah made the heavens.
Psalm 96:6 Honor and majesty are before him. Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Psalm 96:7 Ascribe to Jehovah, you families of nations, Ascribe to Jehovah glory and strength.
Psalm 96:8 Ascribe to Jehovah the glory due to his name. Bring an offering, and come into his courts.
Psalm 96:9 Worship Jehovah in holy array. Tremble before him, all the earth.
Psalm 96:10 Say among the nations, "Jehovah reigns." The world is also established. It can't be moved. He will judge the peoples with equity.
Psalm 96:11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice. Let the sea roar, and the fullness of it!
Psalm 96:12 Let the field exult, and all that is therein. Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy
Psalm 96:13 Before Jehovah; for he comes, For he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, The peoples with his truth.
Also Psalm 98:
Psalm 98:1 Sing to Jehovah a new song, For he has done marvelous things! His right hand, and his holy arm, have worked salvation for him.
Psalm 98:2 Jehovah has made known his salvation. He has openly shown his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
Psalm 98:3 He has remembered his lovingkindness and his faithfulness toward the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Psalm 98:4 Make a joyful noise to Jehovah, all the earth! Burst out and sing for joy, yes, sing praises!
Psalm 98:5 Sing praises to Jehovah with the harp, With the harp and the voice of melody.
Psalm 98:6 With trumpets and sound of the ram's horn. Make a joyful noise before the King, Jehovah.
Psalm 98:7 Let the sea roar with its fullness; The world, and those who dwell therein. 8 Let the rivers clap their hands. Let the mountains sing for joy together.
Psalm 98:9 Let them sing before Jehovah, For he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with equity.
It is that "day" that Jehovah has appointed when he comes to judge the earth with righteousness. This "day" is spoken of in Acts 17:31:
Acts 17:31 - Because he [Jehovah] hath appointed a day, in the which he [Jehovah] will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
Jesus spoke of that same day, and spoke of those in his time who rejected him:
John 12:47 If anyone listens to my sayings, and doesn't believe, I don't judge him. For I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
John 12:48 He who rejects me, and doesn't receive my sayings, has one who judges him. The word that I spoke, the same will judge him in the last day.
Jesus showed that for those who opposed him the day of judgment will be a period of tribulation. He told those who would not listen to him: "But I say to you, that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you." (Matthew 11:24) The Millennium, though it will a time of blessing, will also be a time of purging. It will be easier for the people of Sodom to repent than for those who saw and heard Jesus, yet opposed him. These will find it hard to repent in the judgment day due to the hardness of their hearts.

Many of these will be so hardened that they will refuse to repent, thus never coming to know God, in the sense of heart agreement with God, and many will refuse to obey the Good News, the books that will then be opened. Both classes bring upon themselves, not the wrath of God as inherited from Adam, but rather the wrath of God that results in the second death. Thus Jesus asks the religious Scribes and Pharisees who opposed him: "How shall you escape the judgment of Gehenna?" - the second death. (Matthew 23:33) In asking this, he was not saying that they were already under this condemnation and therefore could not escape from it, as many have supposed. Rather, he is just stating the difficulty they will have in the next age of overcoming their hypocrisy in the day of judgment. That some of this class can repent is shown to us by the apostle Paul, who at one time was Saul, a zealous Pharisee in opposing the early Christians. - Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-22; 22:3-17; 23:6.

The conclusion, then, is that the eternal destruction of 2 Thessalonians actually applies to the end of the Millennial Age and not to the great tribulation, or simply to beginning of the Millennial Age.