The act of destroying, ruining, or annihilating. Destruction usually refers to the physical end of an object or a living creature. (2Ki 21:3; Jer 18:7; Da 2:12, 14, 18) It may also refer to spiritual ruin.—1Co 3:17; see TEMPLE (Anointed Christians—A Spiritual Temple).
A Hebrew word commonly translated “destroy” is ʼa·vadhʹ. (Le 23:30; Ps 21:8, 10) It has the basic meaning “be lost,” or “perish,” and corresponds to the Greek term a·polʹly·mi. (Ex 10:7; 1Sa 9:20; Mr 3:6; 4:38; Lu 15:4) The noun form of ʼa·vadhʹ is ʼavad·dohnʹ, meaning “destruction.” (Job 26:6, ftn; see ABADDON; APOLLYON.) The Hebrew term cha·ramʹ means “devote to destruction,” or place under a sacred ban, that is, restrict from common or profane use.—Ex 22:20, ftn; see DEVOTED THING.
At times, Jehovah has found it necessary to execute judgment upon those meriting destruction in order to uphold his name and his standards of righteousness. As a result of the wicked conduct of the people in Noah’s day, Jehovah executed a judgment of destruction when he caused a global flood to destroy the world of that time. (2Pe 3:5, 6) Similarly, because of the ‘loud cry of complaint about Sodom and Gomorrah’ and their ‘heavy sin,’ Jehovah destroyed the cities and their inhabitants. (Ge 18:20; 19:13, 24, 25) In addition to natural forces, Jehovah at times used human agents to accomplish a sentence of destruction. In the case of the wicked nations of Canaan, Jehovah used his people Israel as principal executioners of his condemnatory decree.—De 9:1, 3, 4; 20:15-18.
Jehovah justly destroys deliberate lawbreakers, liars, and those showing hostility to his servants. (Le 23:30; Ps 5:6; 143:12) He acts against false religion and its idols. (Nu 33:52; De 12:2, 3) Jehovah even took destructive action against his people Israel when they proved disobedient to his covenant.—De 8:19, 20; 28:63; Jer 31:28.
Will all persons who were destroyed by God in times past be dead forever?
The Bible indicates that not all destruction is eternal. This is demonstrated by the fact that the Hebrew word ʼavad·dohnʹ (destruction) is used twice to parallel “Sheol.” (Job 26:6; Pr 15:11) The prophet Zephaniah spoke of the destruction of Assyria, whereas Ezekiel said that the Assyrians would go down to Sheol. (Zep 2:13; Eze 32:21, 22) When speaking of the destruction of the rebels Dathan and Abiram, Moses wrote that they went down “alive into Sheol.” (Nu 16:31, 33) Since Sheol in the Bible denotes the common grave of mankind from which there will be a resurrection, it is evident that not all destruction—not even all destruction at the hand of God—is necessarily eternal.
Everlasting Destruction. The Bible does not indicate that all the dead will be resurrected. Jesus implied this when he spoke of “those who have been counted worthy of gaining that system of things and the resurrection from the dead.” (Lu 20:35) The possibility of eternal destruction for some is also indicated by Jesus’ words at Matthew 10:28: “Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” Regarding this text, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (edited by C. Brown, 1978, Vol. 3, p. 304) states: “Matt. 10:28 teaches not the potential immortality of the soul but the irreversibility of divine judgment on the unrepentant.” Also, Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (revised by F. W. Gingrich and F. Danker, 1979, p. 95) gives the meaning “eternal death” with reference to the Greek phrase in Matthew 10:28 translated “destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” Thus, being consigned to Gehenna refers to utter destruction from which no resurrection is possible.—See GEHENNA.
“Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them . . . are placed before us as a warning example by undergoing the judicial punishment of everlasting fire.” (Jude 7) That punishment evidently applies not merely to the physical cities but to their inhabitants as well, because it was the people themselves who committed the gross sins that led to their annihilation.
The possibility of eternal destruction is particularly an issue during the conclusion of the system of things. When Jesus was asked by his disciples what would be ‘the sign of his presence and of the conclusion of the system of things,’ he included as part of his answer the parable of the sheep and the goats. (Mt 24:3; 25:31-46) Concerning “the goats” it was foretold that the heavenly King would say: “Be on your way from me, you who have been cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels,” and Jesus added, “These will depart into everlasting cutting-off.” Clearly the attitude and actions of some individuals will result in their permanent destruction.
However, Jehovah “does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2Pe 3:9; compare Eze 18:23, 32.) In fact, Jehovah loved humans so much that he provided the ransom sacrifice of his own Son, Jesus Christ. (Joh 3:16; compare Jas 4:12.) Despite this loving provision, the majority refuse to follow “the road leading off into life,” but they remain on “the road leading off into destruction.”—Mt 7:13, 14.
The Bible indicates that a number of things, individuals, and organizations are to be everlastingly destroyed. Jesus referred to Judas as “the son of destruction.” (Joh 17:12) Judas’ deliberate betrayal of the Son of God made him subject to eternal destruction. The same is true of those who blaspheme the holy spirit. They are guilty of “everlasting sin” and are forgiven neither “in this system of things nor in that to come.” (Mr 3:28, 29; Mt 12:32; see BLASPHEMY.) Permanent destruction also awaits those who by choice “do not know God and those who do not obey the good news.” (2Th 1:8, 9) The composite apostate “man of lawlessness” is also termed “the son of destruction.” (2Th 2:3; see MAN OF LAWLESSNESS.) A judgment of eternal destruction has been determined for Satan, his demons, the symbolic “wild beast” and “false prophet,” and even death and Hades. (Mt 25:41; Re 20:10, 14, 15; 21:8) All of these are consigned to “the lake of fire,” that is, they are everlastingly destroyed.—See LAKE OF FIRE.
Fire was used in Bible times as the most thorough means of destruction. Hence, Jesus used fire to illustrate the complete destruction of the wicked.—Mt 13:40-42, 49, 50; see FIRE.