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I've come across a passage that seems to support the idea that Hell is total annihilation. The verbiage "eternal destruction" in the English translation seems to denote that the individual is destroyed and thus ceases to exist.

However, given the prevalence of the view that human souls in Hell suffer eternal conscious torment, I would assume there is some explanation for this passage that resolves the apparent conflict between this passage and that doctrine. Here is the text:

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.

2 Thessalonians 1:9

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    You have not explained why this text supports your own theory. Nor have you attempted to resolve many other texts of scripture on the same subject. The grammar of the text expresses a continuous state and a continuous departure from presence. This question needs considerable support from further details and further clarity. Related 2 Thessalonians 1:9.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 17:24
  • All I'm asking is how people of a particular view would interpret or understand this text. I'm not attempting to defend any view myself, and as such I see no reason to defend whatever view you think I hold on the subject.
    – Zenon
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 17:37
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    Zenon, I voted up. There is a tendency on this site to vote down on questions or responses that folks do not like. I am not sure it’s supposed to be for that purpose.
    – Jess
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 22:01
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    Maybe a moderator could migrate the question into the mythology or hermeneutics section?
    – Jess
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 22:03
  • See this question: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/76481/… Commented May 29, 2022 at 23:45

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Most arguments for eternal torment based on this verse rely on the words "Away from" or "Separated from", which are said to imply ongoing separation, meaning "destruction" is not literal. However, this verse is actually a stronger argument for annihilationism that it appears, as those words have been added in several popular English translations. The only Greek word between "eternal destruction" and "the presence of the Lord" is "apo", meaning "from" - the KJV translation accurately reflects this. This word "apo" does not inherently carry any sense of separation and is used almost identically to the English equivalent - Paul uses it approximately 110 times in the New Testament, and none of the other occurrences are translated "away from" when used alone like this. As with 'from', it can mean 'away from', but relies on other grammar and context to convey this meaning which is not present in this verse.

What you then have is "eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his might" - in other words, the Lord and His glory are the source of the eternal (ie permanent) destruction. This fits with the fear of God's presence shown in the Old Testament; for example, when Moses is not permitted to look upon the face of God, but only His back, and this alone caused his face to glow so that he had to cover it with a veil.

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    apo does not indicate causality, as in sick from (apo) the measles. Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 21:42
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    @MikeBorden as I said, almost identical. Here it indicates the source, as in a gift from (apo) Santa Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 1:44
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    Yup. Santa is the origin and it would be ek not apo. For the verse to say what you'd like it would be ek Examples: "Making a whip from (ek) cords (John 2:15)", "We must not be like Cain who was from (ek) the Evil One (1 John 3:12), "For if inheritance is from (ek) the Law, it is not from (ek) promise (Gal 3:18)". Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 12:31
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    @MikeBorden apo also works like that; compare Romans 1:7, "Grace and peace to you from (apo) God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ". Very similar usage to this Thessalonians passage. Other examples include Mat 3:13, Mat 5:42, Mat 17:25, to name just a couple. Commented Dec 24, 2021 at 19:03
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    @MikeBorden they indicate the source, which is what I'm suggesting is the case in this passage. Commented Dec 27, 2021 at 19:42
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Eternal destruction "from or out of" the presence of the Lord and the glory of His might.

Some think that "from" indicates causality and interpret the "presence of the Lord and the glory of His might" as that which brings about the destruction, in much the same way as one might be sick from the flu but this is not proper.

The preposition απο (apo) can often be translated with "from" or "out of" but marks more than simply origin, as would the preposition εκ (ek). Instead, απο (apo) emphasizes the former relationship of elements that had always existed independently but joined within a realm of origin, and the present separation from both that realm and the other element(s). This difficult concept lives on in English words such as apostasy (literally a separation from that which stands), apothecary (literally a place where select items are put away) and of course apostle (literally an emissary, or someone appointed out of someone else). Our preposition απο (apo) may describe leaving a place or community, but its use suggests that this separation comes with feelings such as grief or relief. It may likewise describe the removal of certain items from a place or person, which may bring our word close to the idea of cleansing. But it may also describe a removal of a person from the favor of someone else, or God.

Translations which render "away from" rather than simply "from" are doing so to remove the confusion that occurs when causality is mistakenly brought in to the picture. The rendering "away from" is not the superfluous addition of a word but is, rather, the correct English of an ancient Greek concept.

What they are eternally destroyed "away from" is the presence of the Lord and the glory of His might. This does nothing to resolve the debate over annihilation as they could be eternally destroyed away from the presence by annihilation or by continuous expulsion as God's light presses out into infinite "outer" darkness.

Of interest is that the foolish virgins of Matthew 25 stand outside of the shut door begging entrance and they are refused entrance, not annihilated. Later in the chapter when the sheep and goats are separated the goats are sent into everlasting fire (v.41) and then in verse 46 that same everlasting fire is referred to as everlasting punishment.

I suggest the adjective "eternal" attached to the noun "destruction" suggests non-annihilation as annihilation would result in the end of the destruction, thereby rendering it non-eternal.

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    What is eternal about the destruction is the result, not the process. Same as eternal salvation, eternal judgment, eternal life etc. The state of destruction would never end, ie they would never be un-destroyed. Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 1:46
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    @IsaacMiddlemiss Looking through 71 times this adjective form of "eternal" occurs, it modifies destruction, fire, damnation, habitations, God (significantly), weight of glory, unseen things, God's building, consolation, God's power, time prior to creation, salvation, judgement, redemption, Spirit, inheritance, covenant, kingdom of God, gospel, and (most often by far) life. The only instance that might be read as you claim is Philemon 1:15 but it doesn't have to be. This same *everlasting" God is not the result of a process and neither is the life which was with the Father and declared to us. Commented Dec 23, 2021 at 13:10
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This particular verse can see be seen in a much clearer light if properly translated.

Youngs does a better job of translating this verse:

First, a short background to bring in a better context of the scripture as well. Acts 17:1-9 shows some of the afflictions and persecutions the new believers in Thessaloniki were experiencing and from who.

5 The Jews, however, became jealous. So they brought in some troublemakers from the marketplace, formed a mob, and sent the city into an uproar. They raided Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas, hoping to bring them out to the people. 6 But when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have now come here, 7 and Jason has welcomed them into his home: They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, named Jesus!” Acts 17:5-7, BSB

"These believers were experiencing the wrath and anger of men and thought God was against them. After all, God wasn't doing anything to stop it. These believers however grew in endurance and faith and Paul makes a statement to encourage them." From Concordant Commentary

That is why we boast among God’s churches about your perseverance and faith in the face of all the persecution and affliction you are enduring. 5 All this is clear evidence of God’s righteous judgment. And so you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 After all, it is only right for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are oppressed and to us as well. This will take place when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels 8 in blazing fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 2 Thessalonians 1:4-8, BSB

So God is going to bring about his righteous judgment between the believers and the unbelievers when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven.

The Jews who were causing all of this will suffer ruin and loss for a complete age. It's not eternal and it's not extinction. It is a loss for a very long time. Even though they have been persecuting these believers for a comparatively short time, they will be put away from the Lord's presence for an age, which is a considerable amount of time.

Young's translation:

who shall suffer justice — destruction age-during — from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of his strength, 10when He may come to be glorified in his saints, and to be wondered at in all those believe. 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10, YLT

Here are two definitions, first for "age," which is commonly mistranslated as "eternal."

166. aiónios ► Strong's Concordance aiónios: agelong, Definition: agelong, eternal Usage: age-long, and therefore: practically eternal, unending; partaking of the character of that which lasts for an age, as contrasted with that which is brief and fleeting.

The second one is for "destruction," which does not mean "extinction."

3639 ólethros (from ollymi/"destroy") – properly, ruination with its full, destructive results (LS).

3639 ólethros ("ruination") however does not imply "extinction (annihilation). Rather it emphasizes the consequent loss that goes with the complete "undoing."

To sum it up, God's righteous judgments are always corrective, and, in this case, the judgment will show in time who the true believers are and who are not. The believers will be glorified, and the unbelievers will suffer loss for a long time. They will see that they missed it and that they were in the wrong.

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  • Thanks for the answer! I have two critiques. First, your answer would have benefitted from links to your sources, which I've submitted an edit that should add those if the edit gets approved. Second, I would appreciate knowing whether this interpretive strategy is your own original work or if it represents the view of a particular theologian or denomination, given that the question asks how the verse is viewed "by those who." It's helpful if you specify who from among "those" folks you're representing :)
    – Zenon
    Commented Jun 18, 2022 at 23:51
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    @Zenon, Thanks for your critique and edits. Just posted the source for the one paragraph I quoted from. I don't represent any particular people but am convinced what Paul states in 1 Tim. 2:4-5 is true. Here is a link to a short article that represents many who believe in the salvation of all. goedbericht.nl/english/…
    – Sherrie
    Commented Jun 19, 2022 at 15:37
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2 Thessalonians 1:9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, [away] from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.

Were the aforementioned destruction to be total, then it would not be eternal, since, once something has already been annihilated, it cannot be subjected to anything anymore, having already ceased to exist.

Furthermore, there is always pre-Christian Hellenistic tradition to consider:

Judith 16:20-21 Woe be to the nation that rises up against my people: for the Lord almighty will take revenge on them, in the day of judgment he will visit them. For he will give fire, and worms into their flesh, that they may burn, and may feel for ever.

whose original Greek text and afferent thesaurus can be found here.

Rather unsurprisingly, this is also echoed by the words of Christ himself, as recorded in the Gospels:

Mark 9:43-48 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.

And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.

And if thy eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.

as well as by those of major Old Testament prophets:

Isaiah 66:24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

  • In order for fire to burn (forever), it needs (eternal) fuel, implying that the bodies in question will never be (completely) devoured by the flames.

  • Similarly for the worms as well, which would otherwise also perish without a (constant) food source or food supply.

If the physical (resurrected) body is then not obliterated, why exactly would the soul indwelling it be ? (Not that it couldn't, but why would this necessarily have to be the case ?)

Of course, one could, in theory, always choose to (re)interpret the (canonical) Old and New Testament's words in a manner which circumvents the Apocrypha, but this seems somewhat disingenuous (to me), as if almost intentionally taking the latter's words out of their sociocultural and historical context, by purposefully replacing them with novel ideas, foreign to those present within the early Christian milieu; in other words, an arguably eisegetical effort, rather than a genuinely exegetical one.

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It would appear that the Greek ólethros translated above as "destruction" cannot be construed to mean annihilation or extinction, but rather emphasizes a process that ends in destruction. Source: https://biblehub.com/greek/3639.htm

However, I could be wrong, so I'm definitely open to better answers.

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    Making eternal destruction a process without end. Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 21:39
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Never take one verse from the scripture to understand it. Take two or more. That is the Lord's teaching about testing all things and holding on to those that are true. And also, only accepting something as true when there are two or more witnesses. The Bible verses witness to each other!

2 Thessalonians 1:9

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.

Matthew 25:46 New International Version

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Revelation 14:11 New International Version

11 And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.”

For punishment and torment to be eternally forever, you have to exist. There is no two ways about it, and there is no argument that can say otherwise.

People who do not make it into God's kingdom go first to Hell where they are tormented, then the attend the Great White Throne Judgement, and finally, they end up in the eternal lake of fire.

In physics, energy is never destroyed. And the human spirit that is the energy source that powers our physical bodies, is also the source that powers our spirit bodies.

Be rest assured that bodies in Hell remain 100% conscious feeling pain, anguish and torment forever.

God has opened up the mysteries of Heaven and Hell since the Bible was written. After all, He is the God of Revelation through dreams and visions that none should be ignorant of the truth.

Here are some sources for you to review in your own good time:

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  • Interestingly, Revelation actually says that those who worship the beast and its image have no rest, the NIV translators seem to have taken a little liberty with the text. Potentially changes the meaning somewhat. Commented Jun 23, 2022 at 4:14
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To be eternally damned is eternal separation from God. Apocalyptic literature like the book of Revelation is highly symbolic, and reference to the lake of fire is likely symbolizing judgment. I don't believe scripture teaches the lost dead are beset by torturers for eternity, but eternal separation from God is a grave penalty.

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  • Sadly, this appears not to be the case. The text specifically refers to actual fire. Through the scriptures, we learn that in later times such as ours, God opens up the mysteries of Heaven and Hell through dreams and visions. Many people from all nations, cultures, and belief systems have experienced the same kind of visions when they have been taken to Heaven and Hell. And every person including atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Satanists, and Christians have all said the same thing about literal fire and torture in Hell. Read 23 Questions about Hell by Bill Wiese. It's enlightening.
    – user52134
    Commented Jun 23, 2022 at 22:15

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