VINCENT'S WORD STUDIES
2 THESSALONIANS 1
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Robertson's Word Pictures in the NT - Greek NT
On vv. 1, 2, see on 1 Thess. i. 1.
Groweth exceedingly (uperauxanei). N.T.o . See on 1 Thessalonians iii. 10.
That ye may be counted worthy. The structure of the sentence is loose. These words should be directly connected with righteous judgment, and denote the purport of that judgment - their assignment to an inheritance in the kingdom of God.
Of the kingdom of God (thv basileiav tou qeou). The phrase is not frequent in Paul. basileia qeou four times; basileia tou cristou kai qeou kingdom of Christ and of God, once. Here in the eschatological sense - the future, consummated kingdom, the goal of their striving and the recompense of their suffering. See on Luke vi. 20.
With us. According to Paul's habit of identifying his experience with that of his Christian readers. See 1 Cor. iv. 8; Rom. viii. 23; Philippians i. 29, 30; ii. 18; iii. 20, 21; 2 Cor. i. 7.
When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed (en th apokaluyei tou kuriou Ihsou). Lit. in the revelation of the Lord Jesus. For ajpokaluyiv revelation, see on Apoc. i. 1.
With his mighty angels (met aggelwn dunamewv autou). Lit. with the angels of his power.
Taking vengeance (didontov ekdikhsin). Lit. giving or rendering. Vengeance is an unfortunate rendering, as implying, in popular usage, personal vindictiveness. See on 2 Cor. vii. 11. It is the full awarding of justice to all parties.
On them that know not God - obey not the gospel (toiv mh eidosi qeon - toiv mh upakouousin tw euggeliw). To know God is to know him as the one, true God as distinguished from false gods; to know his will, his holiness, his hatred of sin, and his saving intent toward mankind. Two words are used of such knowledge, eijdenai and ginwskein. Both are applied to the heathen and to Christians, and both are used of the Jews' knowledge of God. Eidenai, of heathen, Gal. iv. 8; 1 Thessalonians iv. 5; 2 Thess. i. 8. Ginwskein of heathen, Romans i. 21; 1 Cor. i. 21. Eidenai, of Christ and Christians, John vii. 29, viii. 19, 55; xiv. 7. Ginwskein of Christ and Christians, Gal. iv. 9; 1 John ii. 13, 14; iv. 6, 7, 8; John x. 15; xvii. 3. In John, ginwskein of Jews who do not know the Father, John xvi. 3; viii. 55: eijdenai, John vii. 28; viii. 19; xv. 21. The two are combined, John i. 26; vii. 27; viii. 55; 2 Cor. v. 16. A distinction is asserted between ginwskein as knowledge grounded in personal experience, apprehension of external impressions - and eijdemai purely mental perception in contrast with conjecture or knowledge derived from others. There are doubtless passages which bear out this distinction (see on John ii. 24), but it is impossible to carry it rigidly through the N.T. In the two classes, - those who know not God and those who obey not the gospel, - it is not probable that Paul has in mind a distinction between Jews and Gentiles. The Jews were not ignorant of God, yet they are described by John as not knowing him. The Gentiles are described by Paul as knowing God, but as refusing to glorify him as God (Rom. i. 21). Paul rather describes here the subjects of God's judgment as one class, but under different aspects.
Everlasting destruction (oleqron aiwnion). The phrase nowhere else in N.T. In LXX, 4 Macc. x. 15. Rev. properly, eternal destruction. It is to be carefully noted that eternal and everlasting are not synonymous. See additional note at the end of this chapter.
From the presence (apo proswpou). Or face. Apo from has simply the sense of separation. Not from the time of the Lord's appearing, nor by reason of the glory of his presence. Proswpon is variously translated in A.V. Mostly face: also presence, Acts iii. 13, 19; v. 41: person, Matthew xxii. 16; Luke xx. 21; Gal. ii. 6: appearance, 2 Cor. v. 12; x. 1; fashion, Jas. i. 11. The formula ajpo proswpou or tou proswpou occurs Acts iii. 19; v. 41; vii. 45; Apoc. vi. 16; xii. 14; xx. 11. In LXX, Gen. iii. 8; iv. 14, 16; Exod. xiv. 25, and frequently.
Glory of his power (doxhv thv iscuov autou). For glory see on 1 Thessalonians ii. 12. Iscuv power, not often in Paul. It is indwelling power put forth or embodied, either aggressively or as an obstacle to resistance: physical power organized or working under individual direction. An army and a fortress are both ijscurov. The power inhering in the magistrate, which is put forth in laws or judicial decisions, is ijscuv, and makes the edicts ijscura valid and hard to resist. Dunamiv is the indwelling power which comes to manifestation in ijscuv The precise phrase used here does not appear elsewhere in N.T. In LXX, Isa. ii. 10, 19, 21. The power (dunamiv) and glory of God are associated in Matthew xxiv. 30; Mark xiii. 26; Luke xxi. 27; Apoc. iv. 11; xix. 1. Comp. kratov thv doxhv aujtou strength of his glory, Col. i. 11.
Count - worthy (axiwsh). Comp. 1 Tim. v. 17; Heb. iii. 3; x. 29. Your calling (thv klhsewv). Including both the act and the end of the Christian calling. Comp. Philip. iii. 14; 1 Thess. ii. 12; Eph. iv. 1.
All the good pleasure of his goodness (pasan eudokian agaqwsunhv). Wrong. Paul does not mean all the goodness which God ts pleased to bestow, but the delight of the Thessalonians in goodness. He prays that God may perfect their pleasure in goodness. So Weizsacker, die Freude an allem Guten. The Rev. desire for eujdokian is infelicitous, and lacks support. Agaqwsunh goodness (P. see on Rom. iii. 19) is never predicated of God in N.T. In LXX, see Neh. ix. 25, 35. Eudokia good pleasure, delight, is a purely Biblical word. As related to one's self, it means contentment, satisfaction: see Sir. xxix. 23; Ps. of Sol. iii. 4; xvi. 12. As related to others, good will, benevolence. Luke x. 21, Eph. i. 5, 9; Philip. i. 15; ii. 13; Ps. of Sol. viii. 39.
ADDITIONAL NOTE ON oleqron aijwnion eternal destruction, 2 TH. i. 9.
Aiwn transliterated eon, is a period of time of longer or shorter duration, having a beginning and an end, and complete in itself. Aristotle (peri oujranou, i. 9, 15) says: "The period which includes the whole time of each one's life is called the eon of each one." Hence it often means the life of a man, as in Homer, where one's life (aiwn) is said to leave him or to consume away (Il. v. 685; Od. v. 160). It is not, however, limited to human life; it signifies any period in the course of events, as the period or age before Christ; the period of the millenniam; the mytho-logical period before the beginnings of history. The word has not "a stationary and mechanical value" (De Quincey). It does not mean a period of a fixed length for all cases. There are as many eons as entities, the respective durations of which are fixed by the normal conditions of the several entities. There is one eon of a human life, another of the life of a nation, another of a crow's life, another of an oak's life. The length of the eon depends on the subject to which it is attached.
It is sometimes translated world; world representing a period or a series of periods of time. See Matt. xii. 32; xiii. 40, 49; Luke i. 70; 1 Corinthians i. 20; ii. 6; Eph. i. 21. Similarly oiJ aijwnev the worlds, the universe, the aggregate of the ages or periods, and their contents which are included in the duration of the world. 1 Cor. ii. 7; x. 11; Heb. i. 2; ix. 26; xi. 3.
The word always carries the notion of time, and not of eternity. It always means a period of time. Otherwise it would be impossible to account for the plural, or for such qualifying expressions as this age, or the age to come. It does not mean something endless or everlasting. To deduce that meaning from its relation to ajei is absurd; for, apart from the fact that the meaning of a word is not definitely fixed by its derivation, ajei does not signify endless duration. When the writer of the Pastoral Epistles quotes the saying that the Cretans are always (aei) liars (Tit. i. 12), he surely does not mean that the Cretans will go on Iying to all eternity. See also Acts vii. 51; 2 Cor. iv. 11; vi. 10; Heb. iii. 10; 1. Peter iii. 15. Aei means habitually or continually within the limit of the subject's life. In our colloquial dialect everlastingly is used in the same way. "The boy is everlastingly tormenting me to buy him a drum."
In the New Testament the history of the world is conceived as developed through a succession of eons. A series of such eons precedes the introduction of a new series inaugurated by the Christian dispensation, and the end of the world and the second coming of Christ are to mark the beginning of another series. See Eph. iii. 11. Paul contemplates eons before and after the Chuistian era. Eph. i. 21; ii. 7; iii. 9, 21; 1 Corinthians x. 11; comp. Heb. ix. 26. He includes the series of eons in one great eon, oJ aijwn twn aijwnwn the eon of the eons (Eph. iii. 21); and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews describes the throne of God as enduring unto the eon of the eons (Heb. i. 8). The plural is also used, eons of the eons, signifying all the successive periods which make up the sum total of the ages collectively. Rom. xvi. 27; Gal. i. 5; Philip. iv. 20, etc. This plural phrase is applied by Paul to God only. The adjective aijwniov in like manner carries the idea of time. Neither the noun nor the adjective, in themselves, carry the sense of endless or everlasting. They may acquire that sense by their connotation, as, on the other hand, ajidiov, which means everlasting, has its meaning limited to a given point of time in Jude 6. Aiwniov means enduring through or pertaining to a period of time. Both the noun and the adjective are applied to limited periods. Thus the phrase eijv ton aijwna, habitually rendered forever, is often used of duration which is limited in the very nature of the case. See, for a few out of many instances, LXX, Exod. xxi. 6; xxix. 9; xxxii. 13; Josh. xiv. 9; 1 Sam. viii. 13; Lev. xxv. 46; Deut. xv. 17; 1 Chronicles xxviii. 4. See also Matt. xxi. 19; John xiii. 8; 1 Cor. viii. 13. The same is true of aijwniov. Out of 150 instances in LXX, four-fifths imply limited duration. For a few instances see Gen. xlviii. 4; Numbers x. 8; xv. 15; Prov. xxii. 28; Jon. ii. 6; Hab. iii. 6; Isa. lxi. 17. Words which are habitually applied to things temporal or material can not carry in themselves the sense of endlessness. Even when applied to God, we are not forced to render aijwniov everlasting. Of course the life of God is endless; but the question is whether, in describing God as aijwniov,. it was intended to describe the duration of his being, or whether some different and larger idea was not contemplated. That God lives longer than men, and lives on everlastingly, and has lived everlastingly, are, no doubt, great and significant facts; yet they are not the dominant or the most impressive facts in God's relations to time. God's eternity does not stand merely or chiefly for a scale of length. It is not primarily a mathematical but a moral fact. The relations of God to time include and imply far more than the bare fact of endless continuance. They carry with them the fact that God transcends time; works on different principles and on a vaster scale than the wisdom of time provides; oversteps the conditions and the motives of time; marshals the successive eons fronn a point outside of time, on lines which run out into his own measureless cycles, and for sublime moral ends which the creature of threescore and ten years cannot grasp and does not even suspect.
There is a word for everlasting if that idea is demanded. That aijwniov occurs rarely in the New Testament and in LXX does not prove that its place was taken by aijwniov. It rather goes to show that less importance was attached to the bare idea of everlastingness than later theological thought has given it. Paul uses the word once, in Rom. i. 20, where he speaks of "the everlasting power and divinity of God." In Rom. xvi. 26 he speaks of the eternal God (tou aiwniou qeou); but that he does not mean the everlasting God is perfectly clear from the context. He has said that "the mystery" has been kept in silence in times eternal (cronoiv aiwnioiv), by which he does not mean everlasting times, but the successive eons which elapsed before Christ was proclaimed. God therefore is described as the God of the eons, the God who pervaded and controlled those periods before the incarnation. To the same effect is the title oJ basileuv twn aijwnwn the King of the eons, applied to God in 1 Timothy i. 17; Apoc. xv. 3; comp. Tob. xiii. 6, 10. The phrase pro cronwn aijwniwn before eternal times (2 Tim. i. 9; Tit. i. 2), cannot mean before everlasting times. To say that God bestowed grace on men, or promised them eternal life before endless times, would be absurd. The meaning is of old, as Luke i. 70. The grace and the promise were given in time, but far back in the ages, before the times of reckoning the eons. Zwh aijwniov eternal life, which occurs 42 times in N.T., but not in LXX, is not endless life, but life pertaining to a certain age or eon, or continuing during that eon. I repeat, life may be endless. The life in union with Christ is endless, but the fact is not expressed by aijwniov. Kolasiv aijwniov, rendered everlasting punishment (Matt. xxv. 46), is the punishment peculiar to an eon other than that in which Christ is speaking. In some cases zwh aijwniov does not refer specifically to the life beyond time, but rather to the eon or dispensation of Messiah which succeeds the legal dispensation. See Matt. xix. 16; John v. 39. John says that zwh aijwniov is the present possession of those who believe on the Son of God, John iii. 36; v. 24; vi. 47, 64. The Father's commandment is zwh aijwviov, John xii. 50; to know the only true God and Jesus Christ is zwh aijwniov, John xvii. 3.
Bishop Westcott very justly says, commenting upon the terms used by John to describe life under different aspects: "In considering these phrases it is necessary to premise that in spiritual things we must guard against all conclusions which rest upen the notions of succession and duration. 'Eternal life' is that which St. Paul speaks of as hJ ontwv zwh the life which is life indeed, and hJ zwh tou qeou the life of God. It is not an endless duration of being in time, but being of which time is not a measure. We have indeed no powers to grasp the idea except through forms and images of sense. These must be used, but we must not transfer them as realities to another order." 34 Thus, while aijwniov carries the idea of time, though not of endlessness, there belongs to it also, more or less, a sense of quality. Its character is ethical rather than mathematical. The deepest significance of the life beyond time lies, not in endlessness, but in the moral quality of the eon into which the life passes. It is comparatively unimportant whether or not the rich fool, when his soul was required of him (L. xii. 20), entered upon a state that was endless. The principal, the tremendous fact, as Christ unmistakably puts it, was that, in the new eon, the motives, the aims, the conditions, the successes and awards of time counted for nothing. In time, his barns and their contents were everything; the soul was nothing. In the new life the soul was first and everything, and the barns and storehouses nothing. The bliss of the sanctified does not consist primarily in its endlessness, but in the nobler moral conditions of the new eon, - the years of the holy and eternal God. Duration is a secondary idea. When it enters it enters as an accompaniment and outgrowth of moral conditions. In the present passage it is urged that oleqron destruction points to an unchangeable, irremediable, and endless condition. If this be true, if oleqrov is extinction, then the passage teaches the annihilation of the wicked, in which case the adjective aijwniov is superfluous, since extinction is final, and excludes the idea of duration. But oleqrov does not always mean destruction or extinction. Take the kindred verb ajpollumi to destroy, put an end to, or in the middle voice, to be lost, to perish. Peter says, "the world being deluged with water, perished" (ajpolountai 2 Peter iii. 6); but the world did not become extinct, it was renewed. In Heb. i. 11, 12 quoted from Psalm 102, we read concerning the heavens and the earth as compared with the eternity of God, "they shall perish" (apolountai). But the perishing is only preparatory to change and renewal. "They shall be changed" (allaghsontai). Comp. Isa. li. 6, 16; lxv. 17; lxvi. 22; 2 Pet. iii. 13; Apoc. xxi. 1. Similarly, "the Son of man came to save that which was lost" (apolwlov), Luke xix. 10. Jesus charged his apostles to go to the lost (apolwlota) sheep of the house of Israel, Matt. x. 6, comp. xv. 24. "He that shall lose (apolesh) his life for my sake shall find it," Matt. xvi. 25. Comp. Luke xv. 6, 9, 32.
In this passage the word destruction is qualified. It is "destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power, " at his second coming, in the new eon. In other words, it is the severance, at a given point of time, of those who obey not the gospel from the presence and the glory of Christ. Aiwniov may therefore describe this severance as continuing during the millennial eon between Christ's coming and the final judgment; as being for the wicked prolonged throughout that eon and characteristic of it, or it may describe the severance as characterizing or enduring through a period or eon succeeding the final judgment, the extent of which period is not defined. In neither case is aijwniov to be interpreted as everlasting or endless.