2 Thessalonians 1:9 is one of those texts which first convinced me to take the idea of annihilation seriously. Not just in isolation, where it seems obvious that destruction due to Christ’s coming is the point, but in the context of what is being said in the first couple of chapters of the epistle. (The NRSV even uses the word “annihilating” a mere eleven verses later concerning the “man of lawlessness,” which is intriguing enough on its own!) The overall impact of the passage I think should give anyone pause about this issue, since it portrays the day of judgment and the fire of judgment differently from familiar expectations from Christian tradition. Too often, our critics treat a single word of this verse as an isolated proof-text, or suggest that’s how we treat it, when of course each side must give due consideration to the fuller structural context.
“Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” 2 Thessalonians 1:9, KJV
The conditionalist reading is that the glorious presence and power of the Lord causes the punishment of destruction, which is everlasting because it is God’s permanent judgment. Let’s explore how this makes the best sense.
Essential Context: Power and Manifest Presence (2 Thess 1:5–2:12)
From 2 Thessalonians 1:5, Paul connects the suffering of persecuted Christians with their inheritance in the kingdom of God, saying that when God judges the wicked, this will “grant you relief.” Jesus is coming back “on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed” (v10). It is the day of judgment, and the impression given is that once judgment occurs, the community of the righteous will continue on with their Lord and King, without unbelievers.
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