Friday, November 4, 2016

Lex Talionis in 2nd Thessalonians 1:9

by Hiram R. Diaz III
They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction,
away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might
2nd Thessalonians 1:9
Introductory Remarks
Among the more frequently cited verses in support of annihilationism, one finds 2nd Thessalonians 1:9. The passage is interpreted by proponents of annihilationism as speaking not of a never-ending process of ruination (bodily and spiritual), which is the most popularly held view among defenders of the orthodox doctrine of hell (henceforth, ODH), but of a finite destruction unto annihilation whose effect is forever. This view that the destruction is a never-ending process of bodily and spiritual ruination is usually argued from the phrase “away from,” translated from the Greek preposition ἀπὸ.
Contrastively, annihilationists argue that readings of the text that center around the Greek preposition are either mistaken or examples of eisegesis. They also argue that defenders of the ODH either mistakenly or intentionally, for theological reasons, interpret the word destruction to signify ruinationlossdistress, etc.

A close, contextual reading, however, reveals that the disputed translation has its roots in Paul’s use of the LXX. He is utilizing Isaiah typologically, expanding the prophet’s meaning in light of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
[1] Thus, interpreters who translate the preposition as “away from” or “shut out from” are not mistaken or guilty of eisegesis. Rather, they are following Paul’s thought very closely. Moreover, as will be argued at the end of this paper, Paul’s words cannot be divorced from the larger context of the pericope in which it occurs, viz. 2nd Thess 1:4-10. The pericope constitutes an example of lex talionis on an eschatological scale. Whereas the wicked actively cause God’s people to suffer in this present age, the Lord Jesus Christ will cause them to suffer in the age to come. Correlations with the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16:19-31 will be examined in order to demonstrate the consistency of Scripture’s teaching on the matter of the equally opposed fates of the righteous and the reprobates. Whereas God’s people are now afflicted, God the Son will afflict their enemies with everlasting destruction, perpetual ruination away from the presence of the Lord.
I. ἀπὸ & Destruction
§ 1. πὸ
Defenders of the ODH often employ 2nd Thessalonians 1:9 in their apologetic against the doctrine of annihilationism. Typically, an emphasis is placed upon the phrase “away from the presence of the Lord.” Among past writers who held to this interpretation, we find the likes of John Chrysostom, Martin Luther, Matthew Poole, and John Wesley.[2] Also representative of the majority interpretation, Albert Barnes notes that the phrase suggests that “a part of [the reprobate’s] punishment will consist in being banished from the immediate presence of the Lord.”[3] As he explains further:
…God is everywhere present, and in that sense he will be in the world where the wicked will dwell, to punish them. But the phrase is also used to denote his more immediate presence; the place where are the symbols of his majesty and glory; the home of the holy and the blessed. It is in that sense that the word is used here, and the idea is, that it will be one of the circumstances contributing to the deeper woe of the place of punishment, that those who dwell there will be banished from that holy abode, and will never be permitted to enter there.[4]
Though some annihilationists believe that “[2nd Thess 1:9] is still a passage in dispute,”[5] it is nevertheless often used as a “strong” proof-text among annihilationists.[6] In contrast to defenders of the ODH, who emphasize the separation of the reprobate from God as fully comprising or being a part of the punishment they experience,[7] annihilationists focus their interpretation on the word destruction. The phrase “away from the presence of the Lord” they take to be a translational error that, even if correct, would still have no substantial bearing on their position, seeing as the focal point of Paul’s assertion is that the wicked will be “destroyed” (annihilated) forever. As Glenn Peoples emphatically declares in his paper “Why I Am an Annihilationist”:
there is…no ambiguity about what the ‘eternal punishment’ consists of. It will consist of destruction.”[8]
Thus, when critiquing J. I. Packer’s use of 2nd Thess 1:9 against annihilationism, Chris Date and Nicholas Quient argue that “Packer…relies upon a dubious translation…that abuses the original Greek.”[9] They argue the abuse consists in how the Greek preposition ἀπὸ,  which “simply means ‘from,’ or in some cases, ‘away from,’”[10] is translated and subsequently interpreted by Packer. Date and Quient:
Paul’s use of ἀπὸ does not warrant inserting the interpretive interpolation “and shut out from” into the translation. Exclusion may be a supplemental connotation of some uses of the preposition, but its use in a translation of 2 Thessalonians 1:9 truly stretches the word’s meaning and reveals a theological interpretation rather than an attempt at objective translation.[11]
Indeed, according to Date and Quient, since
…there are a number of Greek words Paul could have chosen to use had he intended to emphasize the idea of separation [and] Paul uses neither of these here in Thessalonians, nor any other word that emphasizes separation or exclusion…the addition of ‘and shut out from’ seems particularly egregious.[12]
Yet fellow annihilationist and biblical commentator John R.W. Stott, in contradiction to Dear, Peoples, Date, and Quient’s understanding of the inaccuracy and impropriety of the “traditionalist” translation of the preposition ἀπὸ, states that
…most translators, recognizing that Paul’s emphasis is not so much on the destruction of the wicked as on the separation from God which their destruction will involve, feel the need to elaborate the preposition apo, ‘away from’. For example, the punishment will be ‘eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord’ (RSV); they will be shut out (NIV) or ‘cut off’ (REB) from his presence.[13]
Unlike Dear, Peoples, Date, and Quient, Stott neither disputes the accuracy and/or propriety of the translation of ἀπὸ, nor the claim that separation is the focal point of the reprobates’ experience of destruction.
Regarding the passage, moreover, Maarten J. J. Menken convincingly argues that in being “excluded from the company of the Lord,” the wicked are experiencing “the reversal of the Pauline idea that the final salvation consists in ‘being with the Lord’ or ‘living with the Lord.’”[14] The apostle purposefully reduces the “picture [of final punishment] to its bare essence: [the reprobates’] exclusion from the presence of the Lord.”[15] Menken adds that Paul borrows the language of the LXX’s translation of Isaiah, albeit modifying it significantly in light of the person and work of Christ,[16] in order to convey the idea that the punishment of the wicked consists in their eternal “exclusion from the presence of the Lord.” Menken:
The final words of 1.9…have been derived from Isaiah…and the borrowing from it in 2 Thessalonians 1.9 occurred no doubt on the presupposition that it indeed concerns the events of the end. Three times we hear in the Isaiah passage that people will hide themselves (I translate again literally) ‘far away from the face of the terror of the Lord and from the majesty of his highness’. The LXX has ‘far away from the face of the terror of the Lord and from the glory of his power’, and this version has been used in 2 Thessalonians. In Hebrew the word ‘face’ is often used redundantly in combination with a preposition in cases where we would use a preposition only: in Isaiah 2.10, 19, and 21 we would simply say ‘far away from the terror of the Lord’. The LXX translates this Hebrew idiom literally, here and in many comparable instances. Now the author of our letter omits ‘of the terror’, probably because after God’s final judgment there is no question any longer of people seeking to hide themselves from God’s terror. The omission, however, has the result that the word ‘face’ regains something of its proper meaning: ‘far away from the face of the Lord’ is equivalent to ‘far away from the presence of the Lord’, which can be translated simply as ‘far away from the Lord’ (so also von Dobschütz 1909:249–50). In Isaiah, ‘the Lord’ is God (the Greek word kurios translates the Hebrew name of God Jhwh), but in 2 Thessalonians 1.9 it is Christ, who has been mentioned in the two preceding verses as ‘the/our Lord Jesus’. We have again an example of the creative use of an Old Testament passage in Christian apocalyptic eschatology.[17]
Translating the Greek preposition as Packer and other “traditionalists” do, in other words, clarifies Paul’s meaning, seeing as it corresponds to his OT source material.
G. K. Beale, with Menken, notes that
…the phrase from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power comes from Isaiah …[and in Isaiah] underscores that idolaters will be forced to separate themselves from God's presence at the time of judgment.[18]
After commenting on Paul’s use of Isaiah, Gordon D. Fee likewise states:
…Paul considers the nature of the judgment to be twofold. First, it affirms the ultimate in terms of eternal loss - to be cut off forever from the divine presence, which in this case is to be found in Christ…Second, it means to miss out on the “glory of his might,” both now and forever.
The eternal judgment of the wicked is the absolute loss of [seeing and knowing the glory of the risen and exalted Christ].[19]
Hence, he interprets Paul’s language of being “shut out” as an expression of the broader biblical depiction of judgment derived from the fall narrative of Genesis 3. Fee:
…the greater “punishment” is to be “shut out” from the presence of the Lord, language that reflects the original punishment of the human race in Eden. This indeed is “full retribution” for human arrogance against God.[20]
Fee’s comments find corroboration in the second judgment passage found in Scripture, it should be noted. An outcast from God’s garden by virtue of being the son of Adam, Cain’s murder of Abel is met with God’s further judgment of expulsion from God’s presence, away from his face. The Lord states:
“What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.”[21]
This futile toiling away at the earth and wandering as a fugitive on the earth is then identified by Cain as a “punishment…greater than [he] can bear.[22] Though he was familiar with death, it having been introduced into the world by his father’s sin, and visually displayed in the sacrifice of animal life offered up by Abel,[23] and brought about by the murder of his own brother, Cain identifies God’s judgment him as “more than” he could bear. God had “driven [him]…away from the ground, and from [God’s] face [he was] hidden.”[24] Cain goes on to state that whoever finds him will kill him, but this is added almost as an afterthought. Contextually, the greater punishment is being cast away, driven away from God by God, left to exist as a wanderer under the curse of God. Cain was the second exiled image of God bearer to appear in Scripture, forced to exist without a land or a name.[25] Cain states that this fate is worse than physical death.
This is implied by his assertion that it is more than he can bear, whereas physical death is not. It must be noted that the terror of such a fate is even articulated by the righteous. For instance king David, who had escaped death seemingly through the death of his son, feared being cast away from the presence of God for his sin of adultery,[26] a fear which he also expresses under other circumstances.[27] Rather than the fear being simply that of physical death, Psalm 88 spells out the deep spiritual anguish experienced by one from whom God has hidden his face. The psalmist describes his condition as he exists apart from God’s presence: He is “like the slain that lie in the grave,”[28] which he explains further in the following verses.
You have put me in the depths of the pit,
    in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
    and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah
You have caused my companions to shun me;
    you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
    my eye grows dim through sorrow.[29]
The psalmist then concludes with these words:
O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?
    Why do you hide your face from me?
Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
    I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
Your wrath has swept over me;
    your dreadful assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
    they close in on me together.
You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
    my companions have become darkness.[30]

The psalmist identifies his experience of being cast away from the presence of God, hidden from his face, as spiritual destruction.
§ 2. Destroyed
2nd Thess 1:9, notes Robert A. Peterson, is taken by proponents of the ODH to speak “figuratively of the devastation that the damned will experience forever in hell.”[31] This contrasts significantly with annihilationists, who believe that the word signifies “irreversible annihilation [entailing being] shut out from the omnipresence of the Lord.”[32] Part of the rationale for the “traditionalist” interpretation of the word destruction is given by Robert Yarbrough, who writes:
…“destroy” in the New Testament can sometimes refer to enduring torment. For instance, the unclean spirits who ask whether Jesus will “destroy” them (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34) are clearly not afraid of death or even temporary torment. Rather, they fear that Jesus might begin the “forever and ever” torment that the book of Revelation says is the destiny of the devil and all those loyal to him (Rev. 14:11), including unclean spirits.[33]
While annihilationists agree that the semantic domain for the word destruction is broad, they argue that interpreting destruction in this way constitutes either a theologically motivated abuse of Scripture or an exegetical fallacy.[34] Date and Quient, for instance, see in Packer’s interpretation of 2nd Thess 1:9 an act of “eisegesis, [in which he reads] continued distress [in the place of destruction] into the texts without proper consideration of their contexts.”[35] 
Menken, however, notes that although Paul “does not draw a graphic image of the tortures of hell,…in 2 Thessalonians 1.9, the destruction does not amount to a total annihilation; it consists in being excluded from the company of the Lord—the reversal of the Pauline idea that the final salvation consists in ‘being with the Lord’ or ‘living with the Lord.’”[36] It is pertinent to note again that this close reading of the text, as mentioned above, is found in many defenders of the ODH. Among them Calvin states that the phrase “eternal destruction” signifies the unending distress of the wicked since “it has the glory of Christ as its opposite.”[37] Similarly, Luther ties Matt 25:41 & 45 into the destruction of “everlasting pain” away from the face of the Lord mentioned by Paul.[38]
II. The Pericope: Contextualizing 2nd Thessalonians 1:9
Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.
This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering — since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.
-2nd Thess 1:4-12
Paul begins by acknowledging the persecutions and afflictions the people of God. He then states that their suffering is evidence they are considered worthy of the kingdom of God.[39] Not only this, but their afflictions will be perfectly recompensed in the age to come. Those who now afflict the people of God and cause them to suffer will themselves suffer and be afflicted in the age to come. Menken sees 1:6-7a as
an explanation of God’s just judgment: ‘since indeed it is just in God’s eyes to repay those who oppress you with oppression, and you who are oppressed with liberation together with us’. This is the ancient lex talionis, the law of retribution, known from Exodus 21.23–5 and similar passages (‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth…’), but now transposed to the level of divine, eschatological retribution, as also happens in Matthew 7.1–2 and Luke 16.25, for instance. Those who are presently oppressing the congregation will be oppressed by God in the coming age, and the oppressed congregation will then find ‘liberation’, another term for the coming salvation (cf., e.g., Acts 3.20).[40]
Weima agrees, explaining that Paul’s
concern with reciprocity, expressed not only in the emphatic form of the infinitive “to pay back” but also in the fitting penalty and reward that each group - those persecuting and those being persecuted - receives, stems from the OT principle of the lex talionis…Paul uses this OT principle to comfort his Thessalonian readers by pointing them to the future judgment as the time when the injustice of their present suffering will be redressed.[41]
The principle, he underscores, is comforting because it ensures that God will pay his enemies back with perfect justice. Weima:
What God in his just judgment will pay back to those who are persecuting the Christians in Thessalonica is described briefly in just one word: “affliction” (thlipsin). This judgment is indeed just since it involves exact reciprocity: since they are “the ones who are afflicting” (tois thlibousin) the Thessalonian believers, it is just that God will pay “affliction” (thlipsin) back to them. Just what this affliction entails is spelled out later in the paragraph: those who are afflicting the recipients of this letter will not participate with the saints in the glory of Christ’s return…; even worse, they “will pay a penalty, eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might”[42]
Paul’s depiction of the eschatological reversals of the wicked and the righteous is paralleled in the story of the rich man and Lazarus found in his companion Luke’s Gospel (16:19-31). Whereas the rich man in the present age “received [his] good things,”[43] he would “be in anguish”[44] after death. Conversely, whereas Lazarus in this age received “bad things,”[45] after death he would be “comforted.”[46] What makes the lex talionis principle clear in Christ’s story is the phrase “in like manner,”[47] translated from the Greek ὁμοίως (homoiōs), which literally translates as likewise, equally, and in the same way. The reversal of roles described in the story serves to underscore the perfect justice of God. It is at once a source of terror to those who neglect the poor and suffering in this life, and a source of comfort to the believing poor and needy in this life.
Significantly, Jesus reveals Lazarus was “covered with sores — a condition,” notes Joel B. Green, “that undoubtedly marked him as unclean.”[48] Given the description of his physical condition, it is very likely that he was, in fact, a leper.[49] The unclean dogs[50] licking his sores further marked him as unclean, to be excluded from the life of Israel in general, in the temple, and, in particular (i.e. the rich man’s house). The rich man would not have been acting in accordance with the law had he taken Lazarus into his home, for according to the law, Lazarus was to remain outside of the camp for as long as he had the disease.[51] However, he would have been acting in accordance with the law had he chosen to feed and clothe Lazarus, for there is no prohibition against showing kindness toward even those who are outside the camp.
In contradiction to the above reading, Richard Bauckham asserts that “there is no reference to the good deeds of Lazarus or the evil deeds of the rich man in the story of the rich man and Lazarus.”[52] He continues:
“the reason for the reversal of fortune is clearly stated but different. It is simply that the rich man has received ‘good things’ during his life, whereas Lazarus has received ‘evil things’ (Luke 16:25).[53] 
Bauckham further claims that the point of the story is that “the next world compensates for [social] inequality by replacing it with a reverse inequality.”[54] However, a biblical-contextual reading[55] of the text demonstrates that the point of the narrative is that those who do not believe Moses and the prophets, and thereby reject the Lord Jesus Christ, will not believe even if one were to rise from the dead and prove their words true.[56] 
Lazarus’ poverty and piety correspond not only to Jesus’ teaching regarding the righteous in this life,[57] they also harken back to many similar statements made in the psalms.[58] Hence, Bauckham wrongly argues that “it is not relevant to condemn the rich man for over-indulgence, dishonesty or even neglecting his duty of charity to the poor,”[59] since
what is wrong with the situation in this world, according to the parable, is the stark inequality in the living conditions of the two men, which is vividly and memorably conveyed simply by the juxtaposition of the rich man's expensive luxury and the poor man’s painful beggary.[60]
Rather, as noted above, a brief survey of the psalms reveals that the wealthy king David[61] considered himself as a “poor man”[62] among God’s people. It also reveals that the wicked are likewise characterized, by the wealthy king of Israel and other privileged Israelites, as rich.[63] These terms metaphorically describe the moral condition of the persons in question, as the Lord Jesus’ sermon on the mount makes clear.
Moreover, the wickedness of the rich man in Christ’s story is implied by the very existence of, and neglect shown toward, Lazarus. The law of God declares:
“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.[64]
“However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you.”[65]
“If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother.[66]
Lazarus was unclean, exiled, as it were, from the life of Israel; nevertheless, the law nowhere prohibits showing mercy toward lepers. Bauckham is simply wrong in asserting that Jesus gives “no mention of the moral qualities of the two men.”[67] This is especially the case, seeing as “it was ‘in the gate [of the city]’ that justice was to be served, not where the needy were to suffer from disregard.”[68] Admittedly, the mention is not explicit, but its implicit presence is immediately recognizable to the one who reads the story not against unconvincing and strained extra-biblical parallels but against the backdrop of the OT. When this is done, the sin of the rich man is impossible to ignore, and the eschatological reversal, wherein the wicked rich man is eternally excluded from the presence of the Lord while the righteous poor man is eternally comforted by God, is all the more evident.
While the focus of the story is on the unbelief of those who had the Scriptures buy failed to see Christ in them and, therefore, refused to believe in him despite his resurrection,[69] it underscores the underlying principle of divine justice, viz. the principle of lex talionis. In this way, it parallels 2nd Thess 1:4-10, stressing many of the same points, as the table below shows.
2nd Thess 1:4-10
Luke 16:19-31
Righteous Afflicted/Unrighteous at Ease
Poor Afflicted/Rich living in luxury
Unrighteous cast out/Righteous brought in by angels (v.7)[70]
Rich sent to Hades (v.23)/Poor brought to God’s presence by angels (v.22)
Unrighteous punished with suffering/Righteous comforted with the presence of Christ
Rich punished with torment (i.e. suffering)/Poor comforted by Abraham in God’s presence
The Problem of the Epicureans
Annihilationists contend that the principle of lex talionis is preserved in their model of judgment. However, the historical context in which Paul wrote makes their view untenable, for this “passage…takes a side in the debate that was boiling during that era concerning the inevitability of divine judgment.”[71] He continues:
The Epicureans questioned any notion of future divine judgment, and they were not alone in such speculation. The argument against divine retribution revolved around the apparent tardiness of its execution. The fictive debate Plutarch sets up around the issue begins with the comments of Patrocleas, who says, “The delay and procrastination of the Deity in punishing the wicked appears to me the most telling argument by far.… Yet that feeling dates from long ago, when it would chafe me to hear Euripides say: ‘Apollo lags; such is the way of Heaven’ ” (Moralia 548C-D and 549B-D; and cf. 1 Pet. 3.3–13). So popularized was the Epicurean notion that Plutarch, a priest of Apollo at Delphi at the end of the first century, felt compelled to write a whole tractate to defend the traditional view (De Sera Numinis Vindicta). In this climate, the sufferings of the Thessalonians and the lack of any apparent intervention by God to bring an end to their undeserved suffering would be enough reason for the apostles to have presented such lengthy and detailed reassurances of the certainty of future judgment. This church suffered an enormous amount of confusion regarding eschatological subjects (see 1 Thess. 4.13–5.11; 2 Thess. 2.1–12), and their concerns do not surprise us given the diverse body of public opinion that circulated at that time about these topics. The apostle lays down an argument revolving around the character of God and his justice (vv. 5–6) and the promise of the coming of the Lord as Avenger who has all power to execute the verdict (vv. 7b–9). Judgment is certain, and it will be supremely powerful.[72]
Green’s historical contextualization of the epistle is highly significant, given that the Epicureans were staunch annihilationists. The result of any death, whether it is painful or painless, is the reduction of the living man to a lifeless, non-conscious corpse. Thus, if Paul had been informing the Thessalonians that God would annihilate his enemies, he would only be confirming the Epicureans’ belief that “there is no personal survival after death.”[73] What would be different would not be the eventual extinction of the person, but merely the means and length of the execution of the person. As there would be not life after death, i.e. no embodied conscious existence after one’s death, there would be no logically coherent reason to fear death. Paul’s identification of the second death, i.e. the future judgment of the wicked, as destruction/suffering, therefore, cannot be the annihilation of the individual.
Concluding Remarks
When read in its immediate context, 2nd Thessalonians 1:9 teaches that God will eternally repay with suffering the wicked who in this age are comforted, seeing as they caused the righteous to suffer in this age. This suffering is the very destruction of which Paul speaks, as is evidenced from Paul’s use and modification of Isaiah, and the intertextual links these texts have to the broader biblical theme of punishment as exile/exclusion from the presence/face of God.
2nd Thess 1:4-10, the immediate context of v.9, moreover, shares the notion of an eschatological lex talionis with the story of the rich man and Lazarus (which, by dint of Lazarus’ leprosy, again ties into the broader theme of exclusion as the fate of those whom God deems unclean, temporally (in Lazarus’ case) as well as, and more significantly, eternally (as in the rich man’s case)). Christ identifies Lazarus and the rich man as occupying distinct social orders (viz. rich and poor), but the language has moral/spiritual implications, as the psalms suggest and the teaching of Christ in the sermon on the mount explicitly states, thus reinforcing the theme of eschatological lex talionis. Claims of the story being a “reworked” parable are the fruit of strained and unconvincing forced parallels between the story and other “reversal of fortune” stories of the ancient world. Even less convincing is the claim made by Buackham that the story does not identify the moral/spiritual states of the rich man and Lazarus, and that it is only concerned with teaching that God will rectify current social injustices. The context of the story indicates that the rich man is a glutton who is actively disobeying God’s command to freely give to the needy and not be tightfisted toward them. The rich man’s behavior caused Lazarus’ affliction, and God has sent the rich man to a place where he will be tormented with affliction in turn.
Historically the context in which 2nd Thessalonians was written militates against the annihilationist interpretation. Paul wrote the epistle, in part, to comfort the suffering Thessalonians with the truth that the wicked will not simply die and pass out of existence, as the Epicurean sects at this time believed and taught was the fate of all men, but that they will be judged with everlasting ruination, distress, anguish, destruction. In contradiction to the Epicurean doctrine of annihilation which provides no comfort to the suffering people of God, Paul preaches that the wicked will suffer forever.

[1]The Incarnation of the Son entails the theanthropic fulfillment of actions the OT anthropomorphically attributes to Yahweh. Space forbids a detailed study of this subject, so only a few examples can be mentioned. Christ’s feeding of the five thousand with bread (cf. Mark 6:30-44) is a theanthropic fulfillment of Psalm 132:15, as his walking on the water (cf. Mark 6:45-52) is a theanthropic fulfillment of passages like Job 9:8 & Psalm 104:3 where Yahweh is shown treading or subduing the waters under his feet. Similarly, the Lord Jesus’ opening of the eyes of the blind (cf. Matt 9:27-31 & John 9) is a fulfilment of passages like Psalm 146:8; Isaiah 29:18-21, 35:3-7. What was spoken anthropomorphically of God in the OT applies literally to Theanthropos, Incarnate Yahweh, Jesus Christ.
[2] Thiselton, Anthony C. 1 & 2 Thessalonians Through the Centuries (England: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 191-210.
[3] Notes on the New Testament: Explanatory and Practical, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, accessed October 26, 2016, (spec. p. 73)
[4] ibid.
[5] Dear, Joseph. “Matthew 25:46 Does Not Teach Eternal Torment - Part 2,” Rethinking Hell, accessed October 26, 2016,
[6] Glenn Peoples, for instance, references 2nd Thess 1:9 in order to “avoid the monotony of citing verse after verse, all of which speak with one clear voice in the same direction on this subject.” “Why I Am an Annihilationist,” Right Reason, accessed October 26, 2016,, 11. (emphasis added)
[7] E.g. see Peterson, Robert A. “Fallacies in the Annihilationist Debate,” in JETS 50/2 (2007), 349-355 [spec. 352-353]; Moo, Douglas J. “Paul on Hell,” in Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment, ed. Christopher W. Morgan & Robert A. Peterson (Michigan: Zondervan, 2007), 106-108.
[8] “Why I Am an Annihilationist,” Right Reason, accessed October 26, 2016,, 22. (emphasis added)
[9]  “Why J. I. Packer Is (Still) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 3),” Rethinking Hell, accessed October 26, 2016,
[10] ibid.
[11] ibid.
[12] ibid.
[13] The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians: Preparing for the Coming King (England: Inter-Varsity, 1991), 94. (emphasis added)
[14] 2 Thessalonians (New York: Routledge, 1994), 89-90.
[15] ibid.
[16] By so doing, we should note, Paul is expanding upon the OT’s meaning. In light of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, Isaiah’s words have newly unfolded meaning. For more on the NT’s unfolding of the OT see Diaz, Hiram R. “The Necessity of Typological Exegesis: Refuting the Annihilationists’ ‘Mention-of-Expansion’ Rule,” Biblical Trinitarian, accessed October 31, 2016,
[17] 2 Thessalonians, Menken, 89-90. (emphasis added)
[18] 1-2 Thessalonians, ed. Grant R. Osborne (Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2003), Ebook. (emphasis added)
[19] The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians (Michigan: Eerdmans, 2009), Kindle edition, location 4643. (emphasis added)
[20] The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians, Fee, location 4608.
[21] Gen 4:10-12.
[22] Gen 4:13. (emphasis added)
[23] Gen 4:4.
[24] Gen 4:14.
[25] The Hebrew used for “wander” is נוּעַ (nuwa`). It is used to describe Israel’s punishment of wandering in the wilderness for her sin (Ex 32:13), the fate of those who sought David’s life (Ps 59:15), and the fate of Judas, as prophesied by David (Ps 109:10).
[26] See 2nd Sam 12:13-14 & Ps 51:11.
[27] See Ps 27:9.
[28] Ps 88:5.
[29] Ps 88:6-9a.
[30] Ps 88:14-18.
[31] “The Dark Side of Eternity: Hell as Eternal Conscious Punishment,” in Christian Research Journal, volume 30, number 04 (2007), Christian Research Institute, accessed October 28, 2016,
[32] The Dark Side, Peterson.
[33] “What Jesus Said About Hell,” in Is Hell for Real or Does Everyone Go to Heaven? ed. Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson (Michigan: Zondervan, 2004), 42.
[34]Namely, the fallacy known as ‘illegitimate totality transfer’ or, as Robert I. Bradshaw concisely defines it, “the unjustified inclusion of all the possible meanings of a word regardless of the limitations of the context.” See Bradshaw, Robert I. “Language,”, accessed October 29, 2016,
[35]Still Wrong, Date and Quient.
[36] 2 Thess, Menken, 89.
[37]“Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible,” Study Light, accessed October 29, 2016, (emphasis added)
[38] “Twenty Sixth Sunday after Trinity: God's Judgment when Christ Returns,” in Epistle Sermons Vol. III, Bible Hub, accessed October 31, 2016,
[39] cf. Acts 5:41.
[40] 2 Thess, Menken, 86-87.
[41] 1-2 Thess, Weima, Ebook.
[42] ibid.
[43] Luke 16:25.
[44] ibid.
[45] ibid.
[46] ibid.
[47] ibid.
[48] The Gospel of Luke (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1997), 605.
[49] cf. Lev 13.
[50] cf. Lev 11:27.
[51] Lev 13:46. cf. Num 5:2.
[52] The Fate of the Dead: Studies on the Jewish & Christian Apocalypses (Boston: Brill, 1998), 100.
[53] ibid.
[54] The Fate of the Dead, Bauckham, 104.
[55] As opposed to a historical-source-critical reading, as performed by Bauckham.
[56] Christ often reprimands the Jews for not believing Moses and the Prophets, all the while claiming to, and then demanding signs from Christ that they may believe (cf. John 5:39-47).
[57] cf. Matt 5:3-6, & 10-12.
[58] cf. Ps 9:17-18 (which also contains a rich (Sheol)/poor (promised land) dichotomy); 12:5; 14:6; 34:6; 35:10; 72:4 & 12.
[59] The Fate of the Dead, Bauckham, 104.
[60] ibid.
[61] cf. 1st Chron 29:28.
[62] cf. Ps 34:4-7 (note that David seems to use “poor” and “saint” and “righteous” interchangeably, cf. vv.9, 15); 40:16-17.
[63] cf. Ps 52:7; 73:12.
[64] Deut 15:11. (emphasis added)
[65] Deut 15:4. (emphasis added)
[66] Deut 15:7. (emphasis added)
[67] The Fate of the Dead, Bauckham, 104.
[68] 1-2 Thess, Weima, Ebook.
[69] cf. Matt 28:11-15.
[70] cf. Matt 24:31.
[71] The Letters to the Thessalonians, Green, 293.
[72] The Letters to the Thessalonians, Green, 293-294.

[73] Diskin, Clay. “The Athenian Garden” in The Cambridge Companion to Epicureanism, ed. James Warren (Cambridge: Oxford, 2009)  15.