In his book, The Fire That Consumes (1982), Edward Fudge argues that the final destiny of the wicked will be annihilation. He believes that hell is “total, everlasting extinction.”
One of the New Testament passages which he cites in an attempt to prove this materialistic theory is 2 Thessalonians 1:9.
“and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might ...” (2 Thes. 1:7-9).
The inspired apostle affirms that those who are unprepared for the Lord at the time of His coming shall “suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” Fudge would define “destruction” as extinction. He does not believe that the wicked will be consciously punished forever.
In addressing this erroneous doctrine, several factors need to be taken into consideration. First, the passage affirms that ungodly rebels will “suffer punishment,” which is equivalent to “eternal destruction.” Suffering surely implies consciousness. Hence, the “destruction” is not that of an unconscious state of nonexistence. How can one who does not exist suffer?
Second, the word “destruction” (olethros) does not demand the concept of annihilation. Jeremiah, in predicting the overthrow of ancient Moab, declared that “destruction” (olethros) would come upon every city. He declared that both “plain” and “valley” would be destroyed (Jeremiah 31:8 – LXX).
This prophecy was fulfilled in 581 B.C. when the Babylonians, on a campaign against Egypt, subjugated both the Ammonites and the Moabites (Josephus, Antiquities, 10.9.7). Neither the Moabites nor their land went out of existence. They suffered ruin as a nation, and their country was devastated, but annihilation did not occur.
“Destruction” is not equivalent to “extinction.” Accordingly, underline “destruction” in 2 Thessalonians 1:9, and in your margin write: See Jeremiah 48:8. Moab destroyed by Babylon, but not extinguished. [Note: The reference in Jeremiah is 31:8 in the Septuagint (the Greek edition), but it is 48:8 in the English version.]