Banished From Gods Presence

The following extract from Balfour's Second Inquiry presents this subject correctly:

"By the presence of God, or presence of the Lord, in scripture, is sometimes meant his being everywhere present. Thus, David says, Ps. 139:8, 'If I ascend up into heaven thou art there; if I make my bed in hell (sheol), behold, thou art there,' etc. Admitting for argument's sake, that hell is a place of endless punishment, how could the wicked even there be out of God's presence? Yet, in 2 Thess. 1:9, the Jews are said to be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord. Again; I find the phrase presence of the Lord, refers to heaven, or the dwelling-place of the Most High. Christ is said to have gone 'into heaven now to appear in the presence of God for us.' Heb. 9:24. And it is said, Luke 1:19, 'I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God.' But how could the wicked be punished with everlasting destruction from God's presence in this sense? For surely no one will say that they were in heaven, and like Gabriel stood in the presence of God.

"But there are still some passages which deserve our particular notice, because they clearly decide what is the meaning of the phrase, presence of the Lord. The first is, 2 Kings 13:24, 'And the Lord was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast them from his presence as yet.' This was spoken of the Jews; and just notice, that God speaks of destroying them, and casting them from his presence. What he here says. thatas yet, he would not do to this people, in the following passage we find that he did do. 2 Kings 24:20, 'For through the anger of the Lord it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.' God's presence was enjoyed by the Jews in Judea, and in their temple service. To be cast out of God's presence, is to be banished form Judea into captivity, and from all the privileges which the Jews enjoyed in their land, and temple worship. This was the same as destroying them. They were thus destroyed or cast out of God's presence for seventy years in their captivity at Babylon. But they were brought back from this captivity, and again enjoyed God's presence in their own land. At the time Paul wrote the words in Thessalonians, the time was drawing near when they were to be again cast out of God's presence, and dispersed among all nations. Paul adopts the very language of the above passages, used in speaking of their former captivity, to describe the judgments of God which awaited them in their being cast out of their land, their city and temple destroyed, and they destroyed with an everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord. The Jews now are just as certainly destroyed from the presence of the Lord, as they were during the seventy years' captivity in Babylon. How, them, can any man affirm that Paul meant, by this phrase, either annihilation or endless misery? If the Scriptures are allowed to interpret themselves, Paul only describes the temporal destruction and banishment of the Jews, and in the very language by which the prophets had described their former punishments. It is added by the apostle, 'and from the glory of his power;' or, as some render it, 'his glorious power.' Should this be understood of Jehovah, the God of Israel, it is certain his glorious power was displayed among the Jews. Should it be understood of Christ, it agrees with what is said of him; for at the destruction of Jerusalem he is said to have come in the glory of his Father; and he was then seen coming with power and great glory. Matt. 16:27, and 24:30."

Of course it is impossible to go out of the presence of God. Even in hell, God is there. Ps. 139:7-13. The term is used figuratively. To act in accordance with God's commands, and enjoy communion with him, is to be in his presence. To be out of his presence is to act contrary to God's laws.

Those who persecuted the early Christians, their countrymen, (Acts 17:17) were driven away from the place they loved best of all, where God's honor and glory dwelt, and were manifested. But they will be restored, for "when the fullness of the Gentiles shall come in, all Israel shall be saved," so that his "everlasting destruction" is not without end.

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