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Explain 1 Thess. 1:9 & John 8:58

What kind of punishment was given to unbelievers? How was Jesus before Abraham? 

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Actually the quote you cite is not 1 Thessalonians 1:9 but 2 Thessalonians 1:9.

Here is a comment from an online commentary on 2 Thessalonians

See: christadelphianbooks.org/agora/53_2th/iith02.html

THEY WILL BE PUNISHED WITH EVERLASTING DESTRUCTION: The same word for "destruction" occurs also in 1Th 5:3. "Everlasting destruction" is clearly the counterpart and contrast of "everlasting life" (Rom 2:7; 5:21; 6:22,23; Gal 6:8), and therefore involves DEATH -- literal and final. It is plain that everlasting punishment means a punishment that is everlasting in its effect, though not in duration of actual suffering. The ultimate wages of sin is literal death (Rom 6:23), in this case the "second death" (Rev 21:8). The punishment of the wicked is annihilation: a complete and final cutting off (Psa 37:9,10,20,34; Job 20:5-8; John 15:6; Mal 4:1,3). Death is a state of unconsciousness (Ecc 9:5,6; Psa 146:3,4), and so it will be even for the wicked. Sodom is spoken of as "suffering the vengeance of ETERNAL fire", yet Jeremiah speaks of Sodom being "overthrown IN A MOMENT" (Lam 4:6).

AND SHUT OUT FROM THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD AND FROM THE MAJESTY OF HIS POWER: An aspect of this punishment is a dismissal "away from" the very presence of Jesus Christ (Mat 7:23; 8:12; 22:13; 25:30,41; Luke 13:27; Rev 22:15), echoing the fearful language of Isa 2:10,19,21. Therefore Paul has in mind here those who, being responsible by their knowledge, have appeared before Christ the Judge (Rom 14:10-12; 2Co 5:10,11) only to be rejected by him.

There is a link with 1Th 1:9: Believers had turned "away from" (sw) idols, so that they might not be turned "away from" the presence of Christ at his coming.

The language here is that of the Garden of Eden: as Adam and Eve hid themselves from the presence of God (Gen 3:8), so He at last sent them forth from His presence (v 23). Cain, as punishment for his crimes, was sent even further from the presence of God (4:16). And so man, ever since, has existed apart from, or away from, God. Jesus is the means by which God seeks to bring man back into His presence (Psa 16:10,11), but for some who listened to (and even accepted) His initial invitation, their fate will be the same as Cain's.

As for the old "Before Abraham was, I am" chestnut. Here is a quote from another Christadelphian website about this:

see www.wrestedscriptures.com/b08trinity/john8v58.html

This passage is usually connected with Exod. 3:14 where God says to Moses, "I am that I am". From these references two conclusions are drawn:

  1. Since Christ was before Abraham, Christ must have existed prior to his birth on earth.
  2. Since Christ says, "I am" he is alluding to the divine name, thereby in effect telling the Jews that he is "Very God".

What does this passage really mean?

Christ's reference to Abraham is to affirm his (Christ's) pre-eminence, not pre-existence. The Jews had claimed that Abraham was their father (vs. 39) and so Christ establishes his pre-eminence in the divine purpose by stating that before Abraham was, "I am". He did not say "before Abraham was, I was" as it is frequently misread. But the Jews, like modern-day trinitarians, misunderstood Jesus. He was not claiming to be literally older in years than Abraham. This is indicated by his prior remark: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad." (vs. 56). Abraham, to whom the gospel was preached (Gal. 3:8), "saw" the day of Christ through the eye of faith. Christ was "foreordained before the foundation of the world, but manifest in these last times". (1 Peter 1:20). He was foreordained in the divine purpose, but not formed. Similarly in the divine purpose he was the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8) but literally he was not slain until his crucifixion in the time of Pilate.

There is no proof that Christ alludes to the divine name (imperfectly rendered by the A.V., "I am that I am"). Jesus simply uses the present tense of the verb "to be". Even if this verse were intended to be read as an allusion to the divine name, this is not proof that Christ was claiming to be "Very God". The divine name declared, "I will be what I will be". (Exod. 3:14 R.S.V. mg.). The name was a prophetic declaration of the divine purpose. Jesus Christ was "God manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16), "the word" (Greek: logos) "made flesh." (John 1:14). As such, he was the expression of the divine character, "full of grace and truth" (John 1:14 cf. Exod. 33:19), and became the "firstborn among many brethren". (Rom. 8:29). Christ was the result of the word made flesh, not the originator of the divine plan. As he himself said, "I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me." (John 8:42).

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I hope you have found this helpful.

God bless,

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