Destruction of the Flesh?
Firstly, purpose in the Punishment of God
“Punishment” is to “destroy sin/evil” and eventually leading to a ‘new Creation’ (“all things new”) in Christ (“Restoration of all things”, “Reconciliation of all things”) Where finally God becomes “All in All” (the Will of God fulfilled & thereby the ‘world is Saved’) in the “End”.
Consider this verse:
“I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 5:5)
Notice that for the one “who was delivered to Satan for the destruction of the Flesh” (most likely in “Hell” or equivalent), the final result is that “his spirit” may be “Saved” in the “day of Lord Jesus” (sounds like a time beyond this ‘temporal life’).
What is the “day of Lord Jesus”?
It’s most likely a time period after which “He returns” as this verse refers to it:
“so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:7 – 8)
But note that even for such a person “Salvation” (note the word “Saved”) for “his spirit” is assured by Lord Jesus but not at the ‘same time’ as ‘us’ (believers) but on a specific time called as the “day of Lord Jesus”.
Some may argue that this case refers to the man referred to below (and that the same man has repented):
“Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.” (2 Corinthians 2:6 – 8)
However, Scripture does “not” specify that it refers to the ‘same individual’ who ‘repented’ later when this second letter to the Corinthians was written. Thus there are two possibilities:
(i) If the referred to individual ‘never repented’ on earth & died in his sins
Then apostle Paul’s judgment in 1 Corinthians 1:7 – 8 clearly refers to case in the “afterlife punishments” as described above.
(ii) If the referred to individual ‘repented’ and was the one made an example of in the 2 Corinthians letter
Then the argument still hold because at the time of sentencing in the first letter, apostle Paul clearly writes the ‘General sentencing’.
But the difference now being since ‘he has repented’, he is ‘forgiven’ at the ‘time of writing the second letter’ (“not” waiting to be forgiven on the ‘day of Lord Jesus’ as per initial sentencing).
“But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 2:10)
Now what is “destruction of the Flesh”?
The Bible scholars are divided as to what “flesh” or “body, soul or spirit” refers to “exactly” but almost all agree that there is ‘some overlap between these’.
I believe that the “flesh” refers to “body + soul” and thus the “destruction of the flesh” would refer to the “destruction of the body & soul” of the unrepentant ones in “Hell” (Gehenna, afterlife punishment place) as this verse highlights:
“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” – Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:28)
We know that there is a difference between “body, soul & spirit” as this verse mentions all three aspects:
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
Note that for a “believer” (the “you” referred to in the above passage), a ‘complete preservation’ (of holiness, sanctification of some sort is expected) in each “body, soul & spirit”.
Now here’s the crux of the matter:
All the above would make sense if “handed over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” refers to “an afterlife punishment”.
What if (this possibility is still valid) that the phrase “handed over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” refers to an “earthly” punishment instead?
It still does “not” refute Universal Reconciliation in Christ but rather helps us to understand the various Judgments of God on earth & in the afterlife more.
The fact remains in original Greek Scripture that the afterlife punishment (for unrepentant ones) vs reward of life (for repentant ones) are for “an age”. To quote:
“And these (wicked) shall go away to punishment age-during, but the righteous to life age-during.'” – Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:46)
Reconciliation and all that describe later things in God’s Will & Purpose in the “ages” (time periods) which He created.