The ᾿Απο of 2 Thessalonians 1:9 and the Nature of Eternal Punishment -- By: Charles L. Quarles

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 59:2 (Fall 1997)
Article: The ᾿Απο of 2 Thessalonians 1:9 and the Nature of Eternal Punishment
Author: Charles L. Quarles

The ᾿Απο of 2 Thessalonians 1:9 and the Nature of Eternal Punishment

Charles L. Quarles

I. Introduction

In his 1988 dialogue with David Edwards, John Stott tentatively suggested that the annihilation of the finally impenitent may provide a solution to some theological and exegetical difficulties.1 Since that time, the nature of eternal punishment has become a topic of serious debate among evangelicals.2 While Stott’s work spawned the recent debate, Edward Fudge, an American evangelical, produced an extensive defense of annihilationism that preceded Stott’s work by several years.3 Fudge’s work has been recognized as one of the most important and thorough exegetical arguments for the annihilation of the wicked. This article will respond to Fudge’s use of 2 Thess 1:9 as evidence for annihilationism.

In his appeal to this passage, Fudge argued that everlasting destruction “proceeds from God’s glorious, fiery presence” and “removes the wicked away from His presence forever.” Fudge agreed with other conditionalists who have reasoned, “(1) God’s presence will fill all that is, in every place [with reference to 1 Cor 15:27, 28]; (2) the wicked will not be in His presence (Matt 25:41, 46; 2 Thess 1:9); (3) therefore the wicked will no longer exist.”4 The need to reconcile divine omnipresence with the separative view of the preposition (eternal destruction separated from the presence of the Lord) thus prompts the annihilationist view. However, if the sinner’s eternal destruction consists of encounter, especially continuing encounter, with the presence of God, the annihilationist deduction becomes much more problematic. If the second premise of the syllogism is incorrect, this compelling argument for annihilationism crumbles.

Fudge admitted that some theologians like Donald Bloesch had argued that hell was not exclusion from the presence of God but only exclusion from communion with God. He commended Bloesch’s view as “provocative.” However he countered, “Still the question remains: Where is its exegetical basis in Scripture?”5 This article will offer the exegetical basis which Fudge requested.

According to the consensus of ...

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