“These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
In order to gain a proper understanding of this passage, it is important to first define our terms. For instance, some might associate the term eternal (ASV) or everlasting destruction with the permanent cessation of conscious existence. However, a closer look at the original language of this verse reveals something different.
The word translated “destruction” in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 involves a continual or perpetual state of ruin. (1) One scholar expands on this concept with the following explanation: “The term ‘destruction’ (olethros) is also found in 1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Thess. 5:3; 1 Tim. 6:9. It means ‘the loss of all that gives worth to existence’ (Moulton, Milligan , p. 445), but not annihilation (exolethreuo, LXX of Deut. 18:19).” (2)
Another commentator offers the following insight…
“Paul explained the duration and extent of what is elsewhere in Scripture called ‘hell.’ First, it is forever, thus it is not a reversible experience. Second, destruction means ruin and does not involve annihilation, but rather a new state of conscious being which is significantly worse than the first (cf. Rev 20:14, 15). This is described as the absence of God’s presence and glory (cf. Mt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30; Lk 16:24–26).” (3)
Therefore we can associate “everlasting destruction“ with the concept of hell, or the place of eternal separation from God. It is destructive in the sense that it represents a perpetual state of isolation from the God who created us as well as anything that gives worth to our existence. This destination is so horrific that it prompted Jesus to offer the following warning…
“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands” (Mark 9:43 NLT).
The meaning behind this passage is clear: this state of eternal separation from God is so exceedingly bad that it would be better for someone to lose one of his or her hands if that’s what it would take to avoid going there. We’ll close this portion of our study with one element of hell that makes it the ruinous place it is…
“The very essence of eternal hell is that it involves everlasting separation from God and all manifestation of His glorious power… To be forever separated from all that God is—love, power, righteousness, beauty, intelligence, etc.—is essentially what men who reject Him have chosen, and this is what hell will be like.” (4)
(1) G3639 olethros https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g3639
(2) Dr. Bob Utley. Free Bible Commentary, 1 Thessalonians 1:4 Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL07/VOL07C_01.html
(3) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (2 Th 1:9). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
(4) Institute for Creation Research, New Defender’s Study Bible Notes 2 Thessalonians 1:9 https://www.icr.org/bible/2Th/1/9