ALL THINGS IN CHRIST
In all wisdom and prudence making known to us the mystery of His will according to His
good pleasure which He purposed in Him the plan for the fullness of the times
TO HEAD UP THE ALL THINGS IN THE CHRIST ,
the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth, in Him ….
(Ephesians 1:8b-10)
By – Stuart H. Pouliot
Article #57
Eternal or Eonian?
July 2013
Without doubt, most Christians believe salvation and, for that matter, the good news are all
about what is called eternal life and eternity . After all, in the gospels, Jesus is quoted using the
term eternal or everlasting life some 23 times, depending on the translation. But, what is
eternal life ? Most would probably say it means an endless or immortal life, after death and
generally in heaven, for those who manage to apply their so-called free will "to get saved." To
this, others might add that it is a quality of life even while occupying bodies of death (i.e.,
mortal bodies).
But, what if the Greek word that is most often translated as eternal or everlasting does not
necessarily mean eternal as most think of it? What if there is a more appropriate adjective to be
applied to the life spoken of by Jesus? What if the Greek word actually signifies something
related to an indefinite period of time, such as an age or eon? Or, even more significantly, what
if eternal life is a relational term linked to the ages to come?
The answers that follow are by no means an exhaustive study of this subject. Many scholars
have debated and dissected this issue, especially in light of the question of eternal
condemnation or punishment or, as I call it, eternal torture in a place called hell that is
fashioned after pagan mythology. For those with an inquisitive mind or who are like the
Bereans, there are plenty of articles and books on the subject. You are encouraged to search
them out as I have done. What follows simply highlights the conclusions drawn from such a
study. One caution is offered; there are plenty of blogs and apologetic sites out there that
would adamantly refute the conclusions of this article, if they ever read it. However, most of
the dissent would come from those who are hell-bent (literally) on believing that God fully
intends to send billions upon billions of people, created to be in His image, into a never-ending
hell of literal fire and worms because they refused to exercise their so-called free will to believe
on His Son. Personally, I find such a view repulsive and a vile mischaracterization of God is love ,
never mind that it is nowhere to be found in scripture but is ripe in the traditions of men.
What follows addresses three issues along the line of these questions:
1. Scripture places much more emphasis on the ages than on eternity. The fact of the matter is
that God is working out His purpose through the ages or eons, making the ages a major tenet of
scripture. The good news is related to what God is and will be doing through the ages that He
made through His Son.
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2. The present-day concepts of eternal life and eternal punishment , which are based on the
common understanding of the word eternal , are not the best translations of the Greek and lead
to erroneous doctrines, such as endless (eternal) punishment. They should be replaced with
what are called eonian life or life of the age(s) and eonian chastisement . Some might wonder
why the fuss over this. The answer is simple. If eternal life is about an endless life for believers,
then eternal judgment ( aka hell) for unbelievers is also endless and the lost have no chance of
ever being set free. In other words, contrary to scripture, they are toast forever and ever.
3. Eonian life and immortality are different concepts and, yet, are closely aligned, especially for
those that will be found worthy to rule and reign with Christ in the ages to come. Eonian life
speaks of a quality of life in the ages. Immortality is simply having life that is no longer subject
to death; it is life beyond death in an immortal body.
Before proceeding to the meat; there are some housekeeping items, so to speak.
First , some definitions…
Anglicized means the item in question has been changed to an English pronunciation,
idiom, custom, manner, word, etc. Thus, eon is the Anglicized word for aiōn . Notice how
the two words are similar in spelling and pronunciation.
Concordant method of translation takes a Greek word, finds all the places it is used in
scripture, then determines its usage, and thus its meaning, based on all the text in which
it is discovered. Once this is accomplished, every attempt is made to translate the one
Greek word wherever it is used into one English word or, at least, the fewest English
words as possible.
Eternal , an adjective , is defined as: 1. without beginning or end; existing through all time;
everlasting; 2. timeless; 3. forever the same; always true or valid; unchangeable: as,
eternal principles; 4. always going on or coming back; never stopping; perpetual; 5. seems
never to stop; happening very often. Eternity , a noun , is defined as: 1. the quality, state,
or fact of being eternal; eternal existence or duration: continuous without end; 2. infinite
time: time without beginning or end; 3. a long period of time that seems endless, as an
eternity of waiting; 4. (a) the endless time after death; hence, (b) future life; immortality.
Source: Webster's New World Dictionary (1966 edition; World Publishing Company).
Take special note that the concept of time is interwoven in the definitions. However,
eternal is presented as outside of time, since it exists through all time, timeless; whereas,
eternity entertains the thought that it is within time, even if it is infinite time. As such, the
definitions of the noun and the adjective form are not truly consistent with each other.
Interestingly, Christian commentators (preachers, teachers) generally use both words in
the sense of outside of time and endless.
Interpretative bias refers to translator bias. In translating scripture from the original
languages into another language, translators use words based on interpretation and
tradition of what they believe to be the meaning or intent behind the words; thus, their
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interpretative bias gets built into their translations based on the words and phrases they
use. The term is not meant to question the integrity or honesty of translators. It seems
that a certain amount of interpretative bias is inevitable and found in all translations.
Septuagint [LXX] is the Greek translation of Hebrew scripture, that is, the Greek version
of the Old Testament Hebrew text. Around 280 BC, 72 Jewish scholars translated their
Hebrew scripture into Greek. In so doing, they produced what could be called a Hebrew-
to-Greek lexicon, for they translated Hebrew words into Greek words. Consequently, a
Greek word was selected that best matched the meaning of a Hebrew word, and this set
the meaning of the Greek. Thus, when basing doctrine on the Greek, it is important to
know the Hebrew source word and its meaning. By the way, the writers of the New
Testament often quote the Old Testament based on the Septuagint .
Transliterated refers to writing or spelling words, etc. in the characters of another
alphabet that represent the same sound or sounds of the original language. For example,
aiōn is the transliterated word for the Greek word αίωυ, pronounced ahee-ohn .
Second , what follows does not challenge the concept that God is eternal in the absolute sense,
since, as far as we know, He is without beginning or end. Interestingly, as the Alpha and
Omega , Jesus said He is the beginning and the end (Revelation 21:6), which clearly places Him
in the dimension of time. The fact of the matter is that the ages (or, time) were created through
the Son, through whom He (God) made or constituted the ages or eons (Hebrews 1:2). So,
stating that God and His Son are eonian or in time does not take away from the fact that they
are also eternal or before time or the age(s) of man, as we know it and attempt to explain it.
Third , in the Greek, the word that most clearly means eternal is the transliterated word aidios ,
which means everlasting or eternal . The fact is Jesus never used this word; if He had used it,
then the points of this article would be null and void. However, aidios appears in the Greek text
only two times, Romans 1:20 and Jude 6. Surprisingly, scripture never associates aidios , which is
an adjective, with life . In the Greek, it never reads aidios zoe (life); instead, it always reads
aiōnios zoe , a phrase used some 41 times in Greek scripture, again, depending on the
translation. If aidios were joined with zoe (life) throughout the Greek text, then we would have
no argument and would have to agree with all who hold to eternal life based on the accepted
definition of the word eternal . The fact that it is not joined with life is a strong indicator that
something else is meant, and it behooves us to discover what this is.
Fourth , the Greek adjective most often translated in the mainline translations as eternal is
aiōnios or aiōnion , which is derived from the word aiōn . Generally, an adjective gets its
meaning from a noun, so aiōnios (the adjective) should get its meaning from aiōn (the noun).
Fifth , in the Greek, the transliterated noun aiōn is equivalent to the Anglicized word eon or its
equivalent word age , meaning an indefinite period of time . It refers to an age or period of
time, often without defining the length of the time. The adjective form of aiōn is aiōnion ; its
Anglicized equivalent is eonian [or, aionian ] or its equivalent age-lasting or age-during ,
meaning it qualifies something as existing in time or that lasts for a period of time . The
challenge is that, with the exception of translations that attempt more literal accuracy, most
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translations do not concur with this understanding of the word eonian and instead choose the
word eternal or everlasting to define the adjective form as if the noun and the adjective are not
integrally related.
Going forward, please keep in mind that the words eon and age are interchangeable, as well as
the words eonian [or, aionian ] and age-during or age-lasting . For the most part, I prefer the
words eon and eonian , which are found in the Concordant Literal New Testament [CV];
however, both eon and age are used throughout what follows.
Sixth , in the Greek text, the noun aiōn is used 128 times (singular [ aiōn ] and plural [ aiōnōn ]
forms), and the adjective aiōnios/aiōnion is used 71 times. New Testaments written in English
translate these words using nearly 40 different words, including: age, ages, ago, age-lasting,
age-long, duration, earliest ages, last ages, latest ages, remote age, remotest age, always,
ancient, any more, beginning, does, end, eternal, eternity, ever, forever, and ever, for
evermore, first, very first, Immortal, life, never, nevermore, never while the world lasts, never
to the end of my days, of old, permanently, time again, all time, old time, today, universe,
world, yonder world.
These statistics, alone, should be a caution flag to the inquisitive mind. How can nearly 40
English words for two similar Greek words not produce confusion or, worse, downright error?
Just consider five words─ eternal , everlasting , forever , world , and age ─that are translated from
aiōn and aiōnion . Do you notice something odd about these five words? They have different
meanings. Eternal or everlasting refers to timelessness or that which is outside of time and has
no beginning or end. An age refers to an indefinite period of time but with an end in view, even
if unknown. World refers to an orderly arrangement or system.
How can one word and its derivations have such divergent usage and maintain the intent of the
Greek? If the Greek word meant "world," then why do the translators not use the word world in
all places for the word aiōn ? The answer is that it would not make sense in all cases.
Unfortunately, making sense does not always seem to be the criteria used by translators.
Consider two verses from the King James Version in which aiōn is translated as world .
So shall it be at the end of the world [ aiōn ] . (Matthew 13:49)
Throughout all ages [ genea ] , world [ aiōn ] without end . (Ephesians 3:21)
How could the world have an end and not have an end? To add to the confusion, the word ages
is translated from the Greek word genea , meaning "generations," and not aiōn . To be fair, the
contradiction could be explained this way: The orderly arrangement of man's systems ( kosmos )
will come to an end as the kingdom of our Lord takes root among the nations, but the earth will
not end; the earth will be transformed by God's fiery word (law) in God's Day. But, you see, this
could all be avoided simply by keeping to the Greek word aiōn .
Following a concordant approach to scripture, these verses more appropriately read as follows.
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Thus shall it be in the conclusion of the eon .
For all the generations of the eon of the eons .
These renderings have no contradiction, even if one has no understanding of the word eon . The
eon in the first verse has a conclusion, but there is no direct reference to an end of the eon of
the eons in the second verse.
Wouldn't it be far better to use the words eon (noun) or eonian (adjective) every place that the
Greek words aiōn and aiōnion appear in the original language and leave it to the reader to
discern the meaning according to the context of the verse? Or better yet, how about
committing to what the Greek actually means and using the words age-during , age-lasting , or
eonian ?
Now, to begin, let us consider some definitions of the words eon and eonian . Since the noun
sets (at least it should set) the course for the adjective, we need to start with the word aiōn ,
that is, eon .
Meaning of Aiōn , Eon
Webster's New World Dictionary defines eon as "an extremely long, indefinite period of
time, thousands and thousands of years."
The New Englishman's Greek-English Concordance & Lexicon (Sovereign Grace Publishers,
1982) defines eon as "an age. (a) an indefinitely long period, eternity (past or future), John
6:51; 9:32; (b) a certain segment of time, an era, age (present or future), Matthew 12:32;
Mark 10:30; (c) material universe as the manifestation of the ages, i.e., the aggregate of
things contained in time."
Take note that section (a) defines age as an indefinitely long period but qualifies it as
eternity past or future. If eternity is outside of time or timeless, how could it ever be past,
present, or future? It simply is , just like God is I AM . If eternity is related to time, meaning
endless time, but time nonetheless, wouldn't eternity past or future rightly be called an age
or eon, meaning it has either a beginning or an end, even if unknown? The only way this
question is resolved is to make eternal a qualifier (adjective) of an age, meaning it signifies
lasting for an age, even if it is an indefinitely long period of time. Thus, in this case, eternal
is not truly endless or timeless.
Adlai Loudy, in his book God's Eonian Purpose (Concordant Publishing), defines the word
eon as " a period of time between two great physical and moral cataclysmic judgments of
the earth and its inhabitants. Each of these long periods of time has a beginning and is
punctuated by an end. "
In Appendix 129 of The Companion Bible , Dr. E.W. Bullinger states that aiōn " may be limited or
extended as the context of each occurrence may demand . The root meaning of aiōn is expressed
by the Hebrew olam which denotes indefinite, unknown or concealed duration, just as we
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speak of "the patriarchal age," or "the golden age." Hence, it has come to denote any given
period of time, characterized by a special form of Divine administration or dispensation."
Dr. Bullinger goes on to state: "In the plural we have the Heb. olamin and Gr. aiones used of
ages, or of a succession of age-times, and of an abiding from age to age. From this comes the
adjective aionios … used as an unrestricted duration, as distinct from a particular or limited age-
time. These age-times must be distinct or they could not be added to, or multiplied, as in the
expression aions of aions ."
For reference, aions of aions is the same expression used in the Concordant Literal New
Testament [CV] as eons of the eons .
The Appendix to Rotherham's Emphasized Bible contains a citation on Age and Age-Abiding. It
reads in part: "To trace the Biblical development of the Ages is to gain a point from which many
far-reaching observations may be made. The first thing to note is, that the idea of an "age" is
one of comparatively slow growth. The Biblical parent of the Greek aion is the Hebrew olam ,
and the root conception of olam is concealed duration. Concealed duration is naturally
unknown and unbounded; and it should be carefully remembered that it is from this radical
conception of the nouns olam and aion that the force of the qualifying terms l'olam and aionios
springs. … Age-abiding: that is, lasting for an indefinite or perpetual age; or abiding from age to
age. The reasons for adopting this rendering of the Greek adjective aionios are; (i.) to keep up a
close connection with the word "age" as the translation, in this New Testament, of the cognate
noun aion ; and (ii.) to avoid, as too restricted the confinement of the idea of any particular,
limited age. It is true that aion does not of itself mean absolute eternity, otherwise it would not
submit to be multiplied by itself, as in the familiar phrase "aions of aions," which would then be
equivalent to "eternities of eternities" …. But, with all this, it is most important to remember
that "age" is not the primary meaning of aion : rather, duration indefinitely extended."
Rotherham recognizes the need to remain close to the word age ; thus, his use of the expression
age-abiding . However, he seems to straddle the fence, for he intertwines the concept of
eternal or perpetual even into the concept of an age. By his way of thinking, concealed duration
is naturally unbounded. This is a contradiction of terms, for duration implies limited time or
something that ends. Nevertheless, Rotherham is cited because his translation uses the
expressions age-abiding and age-during , which retain the concept of an age regardless of how
one defines it.
These definitions raise two important points regarding the phrase forever and ever and the
Hebrew word olam .
Forever and Ever
The Greek language has a singular form, aiōn , and a plural form, aiōns , which yields Anglicized
phrases, such as the eons of the eons , the eon of the eons , and the eon of the eon . The word
eons can be replaced with the word aions . These phrases could refer to two oncoming or
impending eons that follow our present eon or, simply, ages beyond our present one, with the
number of ages unknown.
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In some cases, translators ignore the plural forms in favor of a singular rendering. For example,
Romans 16:27 is most often translated as forever [NASB] or forever and ever [KJV] but never as
forevers , for this would make no sense. Concordantly speaking, it is rendered as the eons of the
eons [CV] or ages [WED; YLT]. The same applies to Galatians 1:5, Philippians 4:20, 1 Timothy
1:17, 2 Timothy 4:18, Hebrews 13:21, and 1 Peter 4:11.
Just for the sake of argument, if, in these cases, the Greek does refer to things forever , which is
defined as "for eternity; endlessly," then why use the phrase forever and ever ? Would not the
phrase forever be sufficient to convey the thought of eternal? It is an unneeded redundancy to
add the word ever .
Again, the concordant method for translating yields other eon expressions, such as the
oncoming eons (Ephesians 2:7), from the eons (Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:26), for the eons
(Luke 1:33; Romans 1:25; 9:5; 11:36; 2 Corinthians 11:31; Hebrews 13:8), the eons (Ephesians
3:11; 1 Timothy 1:17; Hebrews 1:2; 11:3; Jude 25), the conclusion of the eons (Hebrews 9:26),
and the consummation of the eons (1 Corinthians 10:11; see 1 Corinthians 15:24). If one
prefers, the word eon can be replaced with the word age .
These verses alone should bring some clarity to the concept of an eon , for they reveal that
there is more than one eon, there are eons to come, and there is a conclusion or a
consummation of the eons. All one needs is an understanding of the meaning of the word eon ,
and these verses can be better understood contextually.
Hebrew Olam
Now, for good reason, both Bullinger and Rotherham refer to the Hebrew word olam in
defining aion . According to some scholars, the Hebrews had no single word to express
endlessness or eternal .
Unfortunately, in translating the Hebrew (Old Testament) into English, most translators use the
words forever or everlasting to translate olam in nearly 400 verses. Without doubt, this fact
alone should be cause for concern, for it misleads the reader into thinking that scripture has
much to say about eternal matters when it is primarily concerned with temporal or time-age-
related matters.
Rev. John Wesley Hanson, in his book Translated Everlasting – Eternal in the Holy Bible, Shown
to Denote Limited Duration (1875), provides a quote from Professor Knapp, supposedly the
author of the best edition of the Greek Testament: "The pure idea of eternity is too abstract to
have been conceived in the early ages of the world, and accordingly is not found expressed by
any word in the ancient languages. But as cultivation advanced and this idea became more
distinctly developed, it became necessary in order to express it to invent new words in a new
sense, as was done with the words eternitas , perennitas , etc. The Hebrews were destitute of
any single word to express endless duration. To express a past eternity they said before the
world was; a future, when the world shall be no more…. The Hebrews and other ancient
people have no one word for expressing the precise idea of eternity. "
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As a side note; it is easy to see how concepts get so muddled, at least for one with a mind for
logic. In the above, the professor is quoted using the term "past eternity." What does this
mean? It seems that he is using a definition that aligns with Webster's definition of "infinite
time; time without beginning or end; a long period of time that seems endless." However, the
use of the word past implies some sort of timeline, for it must be measured against something
in order to be past and the measuring line must be a point in time. This means it is more on the
line of an age, even if it is one that man cannot define or calculate and thus remains obscure.
Consequently, the only way eternity makes sense in this context is to define eternity as an
obscure age, which most modern-day people do not.
To express the concept of time or ages, the Hebrews used the word olam , which means "to
hide, keep secret, obscure." The Gesenius' Lexicon defines olam as "what is hidden; specially
hidden time, long; the beginning or end of which is either uncertain or else not defined." A
footnote in The Companion Bible states: "Heb. olam = the ages; or the world (in relation to
time). Here, put by Fig. Metonymy (of Subject) for that which is inscrutable by man, viz,
obscurity as to the past and the future ages, resulting in man's incapacity for finding out, or
comprehending the whole of what God doeth."
The website Bible Pages makes the following comment in its article, "On the meaning of the old
Hebrew word olam ." Se e www.biblepages.net/gg09.htm .
Linguistics: It is thought that olam was related to the verb alam which apparently meant
something like "to hide from sight". The idiomatic meaning of olam perhaps was "of long
duration, so that the beginning or end of the matter cannot be seen" (on the relatively
short and narrow human point of view). In some cases, "long-lasting" can be a fitting
English translation for olam . Not "ever-lasting", but simply long-lasting.
In other words, olam implies that the length of time in question is unknown or even hidden
from man. Thus, it could mean an age, or it could mean a period of time with no end, at least as
far as man can see. The context must determine which it is. However, it seems that translators
have struggled over how to translate the word olam , resulting in the use of the words eternity ,
everlasting , or forever .
For example, people often quote the portion of Ecclesiastes 3:11 about eternity in one's heart.
Consider how the New American Standard Bible [NASB] words this verse: He has made
everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity [ olam ] in their heart, yet so that
man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end .
Notice that, although the word eternity is used, the subject of the verse is actually time and the
beginning to the end. Other translations use the words knowledge , understanding , world , or
obscurity , the latter lining up the most with the meaning of olam . Consider these translations.
He has made everything right in its time; but he has made their hearts without knowledge
[ olam ] , so that man is unable to see the works of God, from the first to the last. (Ecclesiastes
3:11 BBE)
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God makes everything happen at the right time. Yet none of us can ever fully understand
[ olam ] all he has done, and he puts questions in our minds about the past and the future.
(Ecclesiastes 3:11 CEV)
He hath made everything beautiful in its time; also he hath set the world [ olam ] in their
heart, so that man findeth not out from the beginning to the end the work that God doeth.
(Ecclesiastes 3:11 DNT)
The whole He hath made beautiful in its season; also, that knowledge [ olam ] He hath put in
their heart without which man findeth not out the work that God hath done from the
beginning even unto the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11 YLT)
Rotherham's Emphasized Bible uses the word intelligence to read: Also intelligence [ olam ] hath
he put in their heart without which men could not find out the work which God hath
wrought . Obviously, this gives a different meaning to this verse; note how the subject is placed
in the positive, not the negative. Intelligence was given to man so that he could figure out what
God was doing, not to keep it hidden from him. This is a rather appealing interpretation;
however, it must be left to the reader to discern if it is the proper interpretation based on the
generally accepted meaning of the word olam . However, it seems that one translation actually
gets it right; at least as far as olam being defined as "obscurity" is concerned.
He has made everything fitting in its season; however, He has put obscurity [ olam ] in their
heart so that the man not find out His work, that which the One, Elohim, does from the
beginning to the terminus. (Ecclesiastes 3:11 CV)
This actually makes more sense in light of the context of the verse, which, by the way, is time or
seasons, beginning to end. Simply, Solomon, who had great wisdom and knowledge from God,
also knew that some things relative to what God has done and is doing in time from beginning
to end are obscure to man. Can anyone truly say that he understands all that God has done
since He began to make the eons through His Son?
Given all this, perhaps, He has also set the ages [ olam ] in their heart is an appropriate way to
translate this, especially in light of the context. Simply, God set the ages in man's heart so that
he could not figure out everything that God has done or will do before and beyond the ages, as
well as in the ages. This should remind us of something Paul quoted from Isaiah 64:4.
According as it has been written, "Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard," nor has it risen
up into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those that love Him. (1
Corinthians 2:9 LITV)
Take special note of Paul's emphasis on the ages leading up to this quote.
(6) But we speak wisdom among the perfect, but not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers
of this age [ aiōn ] , those being brought to nothing. (7) But we speak the wisdom of God in a
mystery, having been hidden, which God predetermined before the ages [ aiōn ] for our glory,
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(8) which none of the rulers of this age [ aiōn ] has known. For if they had known, they would
not have crucified the Lord of glory…. (1 Corinthians 2:6-8 LITV)
What Solomon saw as obscure, Paul saw as a mystery. The difference between the two men is
that the mystery of the ages was revealed to Paul.
Another example of the meaning of olam is discovered in Psalm 45:6: Your throne, O God, is
forever [ olam ] and ever [ va ad ]. Surely, God's throne is forever; but, notice how the psalmist
had to add va ad to olam to indicate something beyond or in addition to a long period of time.
In other words, the psalmist had to add va ad to olam to bring in the concept of forever or,
perhaps, additional eons.
Some of the more literal renderings of this verse seem to best capture the meaning of olam .
Your throne, O God is to times age-abiding [ olam ] and beyond [ va ad ]…. (Psalm 45:6 REB)
Your throne, O Elohim, is for the eon [ olam ] and further [ ad ] …. (Psalm 45:6 CV)
Thy throne, O God, is age-during [ olam ] , and for ever [ ad ] …. (Psalm 45:6 YLT)
Olam = Aiōn
As noted earlier, the Septuagint often sets the meaning of Greek words, at least as far as
scripture is concerned. When the Hebrew scholars translated their Hebrew text into Greek text,
they had to choose Greek words that best matched the meaning of their Hebrew words. As a
result, a Hebrew word generally set the meaning of a Greek word and not the other way
around. This is vital to our understanding, for there was a mighty powerful influence in that day
from pagan mythology that obviously was expressed through Greek words. Thus, a Greek word
steeped in paganism might have meant one thing to a Greek and another thing to a Hebrew
who based its meaning on the Hebrew language, not on the pagan Greek.
Again, the website Bible Pages in its article, "On the meaning of the old Hebrew word olam ,"
states:
In the ancient Greek text of the Septuagint (LXX), the Hebrew olam is mostly translated as
aiôn or (sometimes) aiônios . Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon by Henry George Liddell
and Robert Scott shows that the old Greek word aion meant "period of existence", such
as "life-time", "life", "an age", "generation", "posterity" ( ho mellôn aiôn ), "a long space of
time", "of old", "for ages" ( ap' aiônos ), "a definite space of time", "an era", "epoch",
"age", "period", and so on.
Given this understanding, one proof that the Hebrew olam is equivalent to the Greek aiōn is
discovered in the way that Psalm 45:6 is quoted in Hebrews 1:8. Most mainline translations
ignore the meaning of the words olam and aion and use phrases like forever [ aiōn ] and ever
[ aiōn ], but there are some translations that attempt to remain true to the original intent. In the
following, note that olam of Psalm 45:6 is translated into aiōn as quoted in Hebrews 1:8.
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Thy throne, O God, is unto times [ aiōn ] age-abiding [ aiōn ] . (Hebrews 1:8 REB)
"Thy throne, O God, is for the age [ aiōn ] …." (Hebrews 1:8 WED)
'Thy throne, O God, is to the age of the age [ aiōn ]…. ' (Hebrews 1:8 YLT)
Interestingly, in the above, there is no attempt to come up with another word to replace the
Hebrew va ad ; the Greek simply uses aiōn . For this reason, some of the more literal translations
obviously stick with the concept of time or ages. Some might argue that this cannot be because
God's throne is eternal. Perhaps; but this does not exclude the possibility that His throne is
eonian or related to the ages as well. After all, He is working out His purpose in and through the
ages. Besides, from man's perspective, God's throne is more eonian than eternal. The point is
that, given the context, translating olam into the word forever or everlasting is not always
accurate, if ever. Consider these examples.
Jonah was in the bowels of the fish for three days, but he cried out that he was there forever.
I went down to the bases of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me forever
[ olam ] . But You brought up my life from the pit, O Jehovah my God. (Jonah 2:6 LITV)
To the cuttings of mountains I have come down, the earth, her bars are behind me to the age
[ olam ] . And Thou bringest up from the pit my life, O Jehovah my God. (Jonah 2:6 YLT)
Most translations record that the prophet cried out that the earth with its bars was around him
forever . How could Jonah be in the belly of the fish for three days and nights, and forever
(everlasting) at the same time? The answer becomes apparent when we see that the word
forever is translated from olam . The more literal translations use the words eon or age [CV;
REB; YLT] rather than the word forever . However, it simply means that Jonah had no idea how
long his ordeal lasted. It must have seemed as if it would never end, but it did end; proving that
olam does not necessarily mean "everlasting."
Or, consider the fact that God made an everlasting covenant with the sons of Israel as they
stood at the foot of Mount Sinai in Arabia. This covenant is called the Old Covenant. What does
the book of Hebrews have to say about this covenant?
(8) For finding fault, He said to them, "Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, and I will make
an end on the house of Israel and on the house of Judah; a new covenant shall be, (9) not
according to the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day of My taking hold of
their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My
covenant, and I did not regard them, says the Lord. (13) In the saying, New, He has made
the first old. And the thing being made old and growing aged is near disappearing. (Hebrews
8:8-9, 13 LITV)
Consequently, the old was replaced with the new. How could the first covenant be everlasting
or eternal if it was replaced with a second one, which, by the way, is based on better promises?
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Or, consider one more example in which Phinehas was given an everlasting priesthood.
And it shall be to him, and to his seed after him, the covenant of an everlasting [ olam ]
priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and atoned for the sons of Israel. (Numbers
25:13 LITV)
(12) 'Therefore say, Lo, I am giving to him My covenant of peace, (13) and it hath been to him
and to his seed after him a covenant of a priesthood age-during [ olam ] , because that he hath
been zealous for his God, and doth make atonement for the sons of Israel.' (Numbers 25:12-
13 YLT)
His priesthood was not everlasting, for it was replaced by Zadok during the reign of Solomon
300 years later. Simply, when Phinehas was given his priesthood, it was olam , meaning for an
unknown period of time. He did not know how long it would last, and God did not tell him.
It must added that the Hebrew word olam is also translated into other words such as the word
old . This alone adds to the points already made that olam speaks of finite time.
"Remember the days of old [ olam ] , consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and
he will inform you, your elders, and they will tell you." (Deuteronomy 32:7 NASB)
Take note that the word old comes from the Hebrew word olam . Similar verses are found in
Genesis 6:4, Joshua 24:2, 1 Samuel 27:8, Job 22:15, and Isaiah 42:14. Thus, olam not only
signifies future periods of time such as ages but also past times such as times of old.
Now, before moving on to the concept of eonian , there are two essential facts that need to be
highlighted about...
The Eons
First, we might debate when eons begin and end and how long they last, or if they even have an
end, but this does not negate the fact that scripture clearly refers to eons or ages of time.
Consider these few verses.
Afterwards He was on the Mount of Olives and was seated there when the disciples came to
Him, apart from the others, and said, "Tell us when this will be; and what will be the sign of
your Coming and of the Close of the Age [ aiōn ] ?" (Matthew 24:3 WNT)
Teaching them to observe all, whatever I did command you,) and lo, I am with you all the
days─till the full end of the age [ aiōn ] . (Matthew 28:20 YLT)
As a side note, most take this to mean to the end of our present so-called church age that
started at Pentecost, but another view sees the end of the age in 70 AD when Jerusalem was
totally destroyed and Judaism, the first order or old covenant, was made obsolete or cast aside
for Christianity, the second order or new covenant (Hebrews 8:13; 10:9). Let the reader decide.
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(3) Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, (4) who gave
Himself for our sins, so that He might deliver us out of the present evil age [ aiōn ] , according
to the will of our God and Father, (5) to whom be the glory to the ages [ aiōn ] of the ages
[ aiōn ] [ eons of the eons] . Amen. (Galatians 1:3-5 LITV [CV])
(20) When He displayed it in Christ by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His own
right hand in the heavenly realms, (21) high above all other government and authority and
power and dominion, and every title of sovereignty used either in this Age [ aiōn ] or in the Age
[ aiōn ] to come. (Ephesians 1:20-21 WNT)
(24) Now to Him Who is able to guard you from tripping, and to stand you flawless in sight of
His glory, in exultation, (25) to the only God, our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be
glory, majesty, might and authority before the entire eon [ aiōn ], now, as well as for all the
eons [ aiōn ]. Amen! (Jude 24-25 CV)
And did taste the good saying of God, the powers also of the coming age [ aiōn ] …. (Hebrews
6:5 YLT)
Clearly, in these few verses, we are told that the disciples saw themselves in an age, even a
wicked age; Jesus was with them until the end of the age; there is an Age that is coming; and
there are ages upon ages or ages to follow the Age to come. Again, we are not given specifics as
to the length of time attached to these ages or eons or even the full character of these ages.
However, there is one place in scripture in which we are given a specific time and a glimpse of
its character; it is found in John's Patmos vision.
(4) And I saw thrones, and they sat on them. And judgment was given to them, and the souls
of the ones having been beheaded because of the witness of Jesus, and because of the Word
of God, and who had not worshiped the beast nor its image, and had not received the mark
on their forehead and on their hand. And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
(5) But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were ended. This is the
first resurrection. (6) Blessed and holy is the one having part in the first resurrection. The
second death has no authority over these, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and
will reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4-6 LITV)
By the way; there is one school of thought that claims the 1,000 years is not to be taken
literally; rather, it must be viewed allegorically or figuratively. Again, let the reader decide.
The Son Makes the Eons
Second, scripture makes it clear that the eons and the Son of God are inseparable. We must
never lose sight of God's Son in our understanding of the eons or, for that matter, in our
understanding of all scripture. It is essential that we understand that through His Son, God
makes the eons, and that the eons begin and end in His Son . It is in Him that we see the purpose
of the eons.
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(1) God, speaking to the fathers in the prophets, (2) in the last of these days speaks to us in a
Son, Whom He appoints enjoyer of the allotment of all, through Whom He also makes the
eons [ ages ] [ aiōn ] .… (Hebrews 1:1-2 CV [REB])
Reading most translations, one would miss the connection of the Son to the eons, for most
inject their interpretative bias into this verse by rendering it as "through whom He made the
world [ aiōn ]." Again, the Greek word is aiōn (eon), not kosmos (world). Truly, the Son created
the world, but He also created time or the eons along with the world. We could say that He
created the time-space continuum in which we live today.
He [the Son] brightly reflects God's glory and is the exact representation of His being, and
upholds the universe by His all-powerful word (Hebrews 1:3 WNT).
Remove the Son from the universe and there is no universe. It is like removing the sun from our
solar system. Remove the sun that shines upon our earth, and human life on earth will cease to
exist. Likewise, remove the Son from God's purpose, and there is no purpose of God. All
creation is held by the powerful word of the Son of God, who is the Word of God. The eons are
nothing apart from the Son of God. He is the Origin and the Consummation of the eons.
Let this one truth be indelibly engraved on our hearts and in our minds: God established His
purpose in His Son before He even brought forth the eons, and His purpose for the eons has
been, is being, and will continue to be worked out in His Son until the glorious consummation
of the eons when God is truly All in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).
Now, let us consider the adjective aiōnios . Aiōn is often, but not always, translated as age ;
however, aiōnios is most often translated as forever , everlasting , or eternal . Obviously, these
are two different meanings. Let's see if this can be resolved.
Eonian
As noted already, Webster's New World Dictionary defines eon as "an extremely long, indefinite
period of time; thousands of thousands of years," but then defines eonian as "lasting forever;
eternal." Doesn't this seem contradictory considering the same dictionary defines eternal as
"without beginning or end; existing through all time; timeless"? How can the noun form be a
long period of time and the adjective form be eternal or timeless, when the adjective
derives its meaning from the noun? Some would say, and do say, that the adjective cannot
properly go beyond the meaning of the noun.
In the Appendix to the Emphatic Diaglott [WED], Benjamin Wilson explains the word Age as
follows: "AGE, aioon , an indefinite period of time, past, present or future. This is the proper
translation of aioon , which in the common version is often improperly rendered world ,
always , and forever . The word occurs about 100 times, in its singular and plural forms. The
adjective form of the same word, aioonios , is found about 75 times; and is applied to zoe ,
life, about 45 times; to fire , 3 times; to glory , 3 times, etc. Eternal , or everlasting , as
generally understood, is an improper translation of aioonios ; in fact, we have no proper
equivalent in the English language. Being an adjective and derived from the noun, aion ,
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age, it cannot properly go beyond its meaning ."
[ Aioon is the same as aion , and aioonios is the same as aiōnion or aiōnios .]
If we accept that eonian must be derived from its root word eon , then its meaning must also be
related to its root word. If aiōn , the noun, speaks of an age or eon, then aiōnion , the adjective,
should also speak of an age or eon as a qualifier of whatever subject [noun] is attached to it.
This is vital because, contrary to logic, many who see aiōn as an age see aiōnion as everlasting ,
forever , or eternal , meaning endless or, even, outside of time altogether.
As if to make matters worse, even confusing, due to interpretative bias, some versions have
translated the Greek word aiōn into the word eternal and the word aiōnion into the word age .
As an example, many mainline translations use the phrase eternal purpose in Paul's circular
letter titled Ephesians , not based on the adjective anionos but on the noun aiōn . Strictly
speaking, this should be translated age purpose or eon purpose , but this would not read very
well.
This was in accordance with the eternal [ aiōn ] purpose [ prosthesis ] which He carried out in
Christ Jesus our Lord…. (Ephesians 3:11 NASB [similar wording in KJV; LITV])
This type of translating not only adds to the potential for confusion and makes it more difficult
to explain the subject at hand; but, more significantly, it also leads to error and, frankly, bad
doctrine. Based on this translation, one is led to believe that God has an eternal or endless or
timeless purpose, but the fact of the matter is the Greek word translated eternal is the noun
aiōn in its plural form, meaning eons or ages . Thus, the more accurate rendering of this phrase
is the purpose of the ages , which brings God's purpose into time, not outside of it. Or, we could
say that God's purpose is explained in or through the ages. This conclusion is supported by
several translations compiled together.
In accord with [according to] the purpose of the eons [ages] [ aiōn ] , which He makes [made,
purposed] in Christ [Anointed; Messiah] Jesus, our Lord…. (Ephesians 3:11 CV; DNT; HCSB;
REB; WED; YLT)
A paraphrased translation captures the same thought by relating the eons or ages to history.
This was God's plan for all of history which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Ephesians 3:11 GW)
Another example is discovered in Paul's first epistle to his child of faith, Timothy. Two of the
most popular translations, the New American Standard Bible [NASB] and the King James Version
[KJV], both reveal their interpretative bias in the way they translate the Greek words aiōnios
and aiōn , using the English words eternal or everlasting and forever and ever . One thing for
sure, at least they are consistent in their bias. Life, the King, and His honor and glory are
presented as eternal.
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(16) Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might
demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for
eternal [ aiōnios ] life . (17) Now to the King eternal [ aiōn ] , immortal, invisible, the only God, be
honor and glory forever [ aiōn ] and ever [ aiōn ] . Amen. (1 Timothy 1:16-17 NASB)
(16) Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all
longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting
[ aiōnios ] . (17) Now unto the King eternal [ aiōn ] , immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be
honour and glory for ever [ aiōn ] and ever [ aiōn ] . Amen. (1 Timothy 1:16-17 KJV)
Other translations, such as the Darby New Testament [DNT] and the English Standard Version
[ESV], mix it up a bit by referring to eternal life but then declaring that the King is of the ages
and His honor and glory are either related to the ages or forever (i.e. eternal). Clearly, based on
the Greek, these translators knew that the King is of the ages. However, if so, why make life
eternal; why not of the ages as well? It is like mixing apples with oranges. Doesn't it make more
sense that the life of which Paul speaks is related to the same ages of the King, and His honor
and glory are also in those ages?
(16) … for a delineation of those about to believe on him to life eternal . (17) Now to the King
of the ages , the incorruptible, invisible, only God, honour and glory to the ages of ages.
Amen. (1 Timothy 1:16-17 DNT)
(16) … might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him
for eternal life . (17) To the King of ages , immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory
forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:16-17 ESV)
By the way, these are not the only translations that do this. Search it out!
Fortunately, there are a few translations, such as Young's Literal Translation [YLT], Weymouth's
New Testament [WNT], Wilson's Emphatic Diaglott [WED], Concordant Literal New Testament
[CV], and Mitchell's The New Testament, Expanded, Amplified, and Multiple Renderings [MNT],
that try to remain true to the Greek and consistently stick with the concept of ages, just as the
Greek words do. Take note how there is no mixture of eternal and age; everything is presented
in light of the ages, including the fact that God is the King of the ages and His honor and glory
are in these ages.
(16) … for a pattern of those about to believe on him to life age-during : (17) and to the King of
the ages, the incorruptible, invisible, only wise God, is honour and glory─to the ages of the
ages ! Amen. (1 Timothy 1:16-17 YLT)
(16) … as an example to encourage those who would afterwards be resting their faith on Him
with a view to the Life of the Ages . (17) Now to the immortal and invisible King of the Ages ,
who alone is God, be honour and glory to the Ages of the Ages ! Amen. (1 Timothy 1:16-17
WNT)
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(16) … for an example of those being about to believe on him in order to aionian [eonian]
Life. (17) Now to the King of the Ages [eons] , the Incorruptible, the Invisible, the Only God, be
Honor and Glory for the Ages [eons] of the Ages [eons] . Amen. (1 Timothy 1:16-17 WED [CV])
By adding definitions and alternate wordings of the same text, Mitchell's The New Testament
[MNT] best captures Paul's thought. There should be little doubt that the life of which Paul
speaks is related to the ages.
(16) Into the midst of eonian life (into Life which pertains to and has the qualities and
characteristics of the Age [of Messiah]; into life of, and which lasts through, the ages .) (17) So,
to [the] King of the Ages (or: eons , indefinite time periods), to [the] incorruptible
(undecayable; unspoilable), invisible (unseen; not-able to be seen) One, to [the] only God
[some MSS add: wise; so: only wised God], [be] honor (value; worth) and glory (reputation
which calls forth praise), on into the ages (or: indefinite time periods) of the ages It is so
(Amen)!
(or: Now in and by the king to Whom belongs the ages ─ in and by the
imperishable, invisible [and] only One ─ in and by God [is] honor and glory,
[leading] into the [most important] eon of the eons . So be it!] (1 Timothy 1:16-17
MNT)
Now, there is another example of the confusion that comes from poor translations of the
Greek. This one is not as flagrant as the one just discussed; nevertheless, it is worth mentioning.
It deals with the expression…
Eternal Times (best translated as Before Times Eonian )
For the following verse, some versions translate the word aiōnios as eternal . The Greek word
chronos , which refers to the space of time, is translated as time .
In hope of eternal life [ aiōnios zoe ], which God, who cannot lie, promised before times eternal
[ chronos aiōnios ] . (Titus 1:2 ASV)
On hope of eternal life which the God who does not lie promised before the eternal times ….
(Titus 1:2 LITV)
What does the expression eternal times mean? It is mixing two concepts that do not go
together. Does it mean that there are two periods of time; one that deals with mankind and
one that existed before man? As such, one would have to conclude that there is no such thing
as eternal (endless) or outside of time and everything is based on the concept of time or
chronos . Even so, if there was a time period before mankind, then this period of time ended at
the start of the time of mankind; thus, it cannot rightly be called eternal without defining
eternal in relation to the ages.
Other translations seem to recognize the absurdity of eternal times so they incorporate the
concept of time. But, they only get it half right, for aiōnios zoe is still translated as eternal life
even as they acknowledge that chronos aiōnios is before time or before the ages.
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In hope of eternal life [ aiōnios zoe ] which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began
[ chronos aiōnios ] …. (Titus 1:2 NKJV)
In the hope of eternal life , which God, who cannot lie, promised before the ages of time ….
(Titus 1:2 DNT)
A point of interest; the New American Standard Bible [NASB] is based on a different Greek
manuscript than the one used by the King James Version [KJV] and the word aiōnios is not used
in this particular manuscript; only the word chronos is used. Regardless, take note that the
NASB incorporates the concept of ages while retaining the concept of eternal life .
In the hope of eternal life , which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago …. (Titus 1:2
NASB)
The 1833 Webster Bible [WEB] resolves the apparent conflict by ignoring time altogether.
In hope of eternal life , which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began …. (Titus
1:2 WEB)
However, all conflict is resolved by a few translations that have endeavored to remove
interpretative bias, at least on this occasion.
Upon hope of life age-during , which God, who doth not lie, did promise before times of
ages …. (Titus 1:2 YLT)
In hope of the Life of the Ages which God, who is never false to His word, promised before
the commencement of the Ages . (Titus 1:2 WNT)
In expectation of life eonian [life age-abiding], which God, Who does not lie, promises before
times eonian [age-during times] …. (Titus 1:1-2 CV [REB])
In Hope of aionian Life , which God, who is never false, announced before aionian Times ….
(Titus 1:2 WED)
Now, we are dealing with only apples, so to speak, and we are not left with any conflict, for the
entire sentence deals with time or the ages. Again, we might not know the length or character
of the ages in question; but, at least, we know that we are dealing with one concept. Life has to
do with the ages and this life was promised by God before He made the ages or eons through
His Son. It is called eonian (aionian) life .
Clearly, God's purpose and promises in Christ were set before times eonian, meaning God set
these things in motion before time itself, even before creation. Another way of stating this is
that they were set before the eons or ages were made by the Son. In fact, the eons were/are
made (past, present, and future) to accomplish God's purpose in Christ. Paul makes this point
elsewhere.
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Who saves us and calls us with a holy calling, not in accord with our acts, but in accord with
His own purpose and the grace which is given to us in Christ Jesus before times eonian
[ aionian times ] …. (2 Timothy 1:9 CV [WED])
(6) Yet wisdom are we speaking among the mature, yet a wisdom not of this eon [age],
neither of the chief men of this eon [age], who are being discarded, (7) but we are speaking
God's wisdom in a secret [mystery], (8) wisdom which has been concealed, which God
designates before–before the eons [ages] for our glory, which not one of the chief men of this
eon [age] knows, for if they know, they would not crucify the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:6-
8 CV [WED])
God had a secret or mystery hidden in His heart that was set before the ages came into being,
to be revealed some time during the ages. It pleased God to reveal this mystery to Paul.
Unfortunately, this mystery is still hidden in some measure to believers due to poor translations
and teaching based on translations that support a systematic theology centered on the eternal.
Now, this leads to the question of God and His gospel. Are God and His gospel eonian or
eternal?
Eonian God & Eonian Gospel
Many translations could be cited to make the point; but, it should be well-established by now
that there are "eternal" translations and there are "eonian" translations, so there is no need to
reference all of them. Some translations use the word everlasting instead of eternal . The more
literal translations use the terms aionian God , eonian God , age-abiding God , and age-during
God , which more accurately translate the Greek aiōnios .
But now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the
commandment of the eternal [ aiōnios ] God …. (Romans 16:26 NASB)
But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the
commandment of the everlasting God …. (Romans 16:26 KJV)
But has now been brought fully to light, and by the command of the God of the Ages ….
(Romans 16:26 WNT)
And now having been made manifest, also, through prophetic writings, according to a
command of the age-during God [ Aionian God ]…. (Romans 16:26 YLT [WED])
Obviously, the most common argument against these phrases linking God to the ages is they
imply that God is not eternal or outside of time, as if it is an insult to God to place Him in the
ages. How absurd! A book came out years ago in which the writer was adamant in trying to
prove that God is so outside of time that He has absolutely nothing to do with time. How could
the Creator of all things divorce Himself from His creation that is in time that He created? This
really is not worth debating. We need to stop trying to defend God and simply let His word
stand.
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The same thing is discovered in reference to an eonian gospel .
And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal [ aiōnios ] [ times eonian/age-
abiding/aionian ] gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and
tribe and tongue and people…. (Revelation 14:6 NASB [WED; CV; REB])
Is the gospel truly eternal, as most are taught? Perhaps it is not, for at the consummation of the
eons, all will be made new and God will be All in all. It seems that once all is made new, the
good news changes as well. It is proposed that the eonian gospel announced by the angel is the
good news of either the Age or the ages to come when the inhabitants of the world learn
righteousness (Isaiah 26:9) and all things are made new.
And I saw another angel flying across the sky, carrying the Good News of the Ages to tell to
every nation, tribe, language and people, among those who live on the earth. (Revelation 14:6
WNT)
At this point, some might still be wondering why all the fuss about the word eternal . After all, as
the common thinking goes, eternal life and, we must add, eternal torture are foundational
tenets of the Christian faith. Isn't this what the church has believed since the early, embryonic
days? So, why challenge church doctrine that is so commonly accepted? Because of the…
Tradition of Men and Systematizing of the Deception
Both Jesus and Paul warned against the tradition of men.
"Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men ." (Mark 7:8 NASB)
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to
the tradition of men , according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than
according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8 NASB)
Jesus identified these traditions as the leavened teaching (doctrine) of the Jewish elite leaders
of His day (Matthew 16:11-12) that would keep others from entering the kingdom. Paul offered
a similar warning about leavened doctrine that would become a systematic teaching and lead
people astray. He saw this coming through deceitful or scheming men.
According to Paul, the body of Christ is to mature until we attain to the unity of the faith and
of the realization of the son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature of the
complement of the Christ, that we may by no means still be minors, surging hither and
thither and being carried about by every wind of teaching, by human caprice, by craftiness
with a view to the systematizing of the deception . (Ephesians 4:13-14 CV)
To the end that no longer (or: no more) would or should we exist being infants (immature
folks; not-yet-speaking ones), continuously being tossed by (= being caused to fluctuate from)
[successive] waves and repeatedly being carried hither and thither (or: around in circles) by
every wind of the teaching (or: from what is taught) within the caprice (the throw of the dice;
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versatile artifice; games of chance; the trickery) of mankind, in readiness to do anything
(amoral craftiness; working everything; or: = while stopping at nothing) with a view toward
and leading to the methodical treatment (or: the systematizing or technical procedure) of the
Wandering (the straying; the deception). (Ephesians 4:14 MNT)
Other translations use phrases like systematized error [DNT], clever strategies that would lead
us astray [ISV], and plot to seduce in their subtlety [JMT]. It seems that Paul's warning is more
than simply a warning to be on guard against a false idea floating around among truth. A
systematized error or deception is more like a system of thought that comes out of error,
especially based on a spirit to deceive. Once planted, this deceptive seed becomes a system of
thought that permeates how one views other things. Unfortunately, what starts out as deceit
can be picked up by well-meaning men and, as time passes, become accepted as truth, long
after the perpetrators have passed off the scene. However, when such deception becomes
incorporated into mainline preaching, it becomes not only a tradition of men but also the basis
for the development of what is called systematic theology .
Let us be clear; systematizing is not merely accepting something false; it is building an entire
framework based on a deception, so that other things (teachings, doctrines, so-called truths)
are seen or explained based on this deception. The systematizing of the deception is not only
taking what is false but taking it and packaging it into a systematic framework and then passing
it off as the truth. Many of God’s people have been hooked into various frameworks of
deception.
We need to be reminded that Paul warned that the time would come when they will not
endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for
themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from
the truth and will turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NASB). Surely, this happened early on
in church history, but are we so naïve to think that this cannot happen or has not already
happened in our day?
Is the concept of eternal, at best, a tradition of men or, at worst, a systematizing of the
deception, or something in between? As stated at the beginning, for those with a Berean
temperament, on this subject alone, there are many commentaries for one to search out.
Obviously, there are many ways or angles by which one could approach this question. However,
there is one angle that seems to be quite important in establishing the source for the traditional
and systematic use of the word eternal .
Augustine
It is important to understand that the early church was split by language, the Greek-speaking in
the east (Constantinople) and the Latin-speaking in the west (Rome). The Greeks understood
that kolasin aionian referred to eonian or age-during judgment ; thus, they did not hold to
endless punishment. [ Kolasin is explained in the next section on Eonian Chastisement .]
However, this was not universally understood, especially in the western Latin church where the
concept of eternal or endless judgment took hold. We could say that the controversy centered
on the meaning of the word aiōnion .
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In the early fifth century, Jerome translated the Greek New Testament into what is known as
the Latin Vulgate . There were two Latin words that he could have used for the Greek word
aiōnion ─ aeternum and speculum , from which come our English words eternal and secular (or,
worldly), respectively. However, aeternum also has a double meaning, either unending time or
an age or eon , as in a limited period of time. In a sense, both meanings incorporate the concept
of time. Jerome chose aeternum and herein is the challenge, for this left its meaning open to
interpretative bias.
Unfortunately, Augustine, a contemporary of Jerome, was virtually ignorant of Greek, as noted
in the book Augustine of Hippo (page 36) by historian Peter Brown.
"Augustine's failure to learn Greek was a momentous casualty of the late Roman
educational system; he will become the only Latin philosopher in antiquity to be virtually
ignorant of Greek."
Consequently, when Augustine read the Vulgate , he took the word aeternum to mean "eternal"
or "endless," rather than an "age" or "a period of indefinite time." However, Augustine knew
the argument of eternal verses eonian judgment as evidenced by what he wrote in City of God,
Book XX1 :
"For Christ said in the very same place, including both in one and the same sentence: 'So
these will go into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.' If both are
eternal, then surely both must be understood as 'long,' but having an end, or else as
'everlasting' without an end. For they are matched with each other. In one clause eternal
punishment, in the other eternal life. (To say) 'eternal life shall be without end, (but)
eternal punishment will have an end' is utterly absurd. Hence, since eternal life of the
saints will be without end, eternal punishment also will surely have no end, for those
whose lot it is."
Based on common logic, his argument is sound. If life is eternal, then judgment must be so also.
If life is eonian then judgment must be so also. However, this does not change the fact that the
argument rests entirely on the Greek meaning of aiōnion , not on the Latin meaning. In other
words, the Latin interpretation of the Greek word does not necessarily make it the correct
meaning, especially if it is contrary to the Greek.
In fact, the early fathers of the Greek-speaking church believed that judgment was aionian not
endless. Many believed that God is going to save all mankind through judgment. Interestingly,
both Augustine and Jerome knew this. Augustine wrote that "very many who, though not
denying the Holy Spirit, do not believe in endless torments." Jerome wrote: "I know that most
persons understand by the story of Nineveh and its king, the ultimate forgiveness of the
adversary and all rational creatures" (From Stephen Jones, God's Kingdom Ministries, The
Argument of Augustine ).
Stop for a moment and meditate over what Jerome said. He said many understood that,
ultimately, even the adversary is going to be forgiven. Whether he meant the adversary is the
devil or carnal, rebellious man is unclear. But, for God to be All in all, it only makes sense that
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even the adversary would be forgiven and restored by the consummation of the ages. However,
the significance of their words is discovered in the use of the words many and most , meaning
that the concept of aionian or age-during was the primary understanding of the Greek-speaking
church. This should go a long way to defuse those of our day who argue against aionian life and
aionian judgment; as if it is a new heretical teaching conjured up by new age, liberal
theologians.
Unfortunately, the common thinking of the Greeks and Augustine's lack of understanding of the
Greek concept of ages did not stop him from his erroneous interpretation. In spite of the
obvious, he saw aionian life and immortality as synonymous and failed to see that aionian life
referred to immortality in the Age, that is, the age to come, and this was not promised to all but
only to those who are chosen to rule and reign with Christ for 1,000 years. There are two major
resurrections, and only those raised in the first resurrection will attain to aionian life and
immortality in the Age. The rest of the dead do not come alive until the second resurrection
1,000 years later. See Revelation 20. The first resurrection is what Paul called the out-
resurrection (Philippians 3:11) and the better resurrection (Hebrews 11:35).
Consequently, due to Augustine's great influence in the Latin church, the word eternal or
endless came to be the equivalent of the word aionian or eonian . It appears that he was later
shown the error of his interpretation, but due to his influence, the concept of unending,
eternal, or everlasting took root in the mind of many and has continued mostly unabated to our
day.
Dr. F. W. Farrar, in his book Mercy and Judgment (London, MacMillan and Co. 1904 [1 st edition
1881], page 178), states: "Since aion means 'age,' anionos means, properly, 'belonging to an
age,' or 'age-long,' and anyone who asserts that it must mean 'endless' defends a position
which even Augustine practically abandoned twelve centuries ago."
Simply, his error was in not seeing that aiōn means an "age" or an "eon." Consequently, aiōnion
also serves as a qualifier of an age or eon; that is, it pertains to an age or eon. This one error has
had profound influence on Christian doctrine down through the centuries to our present day.
It appears that aiōn and aiōnion have fallen victim to "the systematizing of the deception." This
does not mean that Jerome or Augustine were dishonest or deceptive men; quite the contrary.
However, it does mean that they introduced something that became part of the systematic
theology of the church and also became a tradition of men passed down from one generation
to the next and was incorporated as interpretative bias in many modern-day translations. One
such tradition is the eternal (forever, unending) punishment of the lost. Down through the
centuries, the concept of eternal (eternity) or everlasting or forever has been so systematically
cemented into Christian doctrine or thinking that it has obscured what scripture has to say
about the ages, especially in light of God's purpose of the ages to become all in all new.
This should raise a very important question: Is there a Greek word for eternal and, if so, is it
used in scripture? Yes!
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Aidios [ Perpetual ]
Earlier, reference was made to the Greek word aidios , which means "eternal" or "perpetual,"
and is used in only two verses.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal [ aidios ] power and
divine nature, have been clearly seen…. (Romans 1:20 NASB)
Since God is eternal, it is safe to state that His power is also eternal. This is the one verse in
scripture that plainly connects God to that which is eternal or perpetual or everlasting. But
(please excuse the buts ), it could be argued, as has already been done, that God also has eonian
power or power in the ages. Nevertheless, in the Greek, this refers to God's eternal nature.
Consider two translations of the second use of the word.
(6) Messengers also, those who did not keep their own principality, but did leave their proper
dwelling, to a judgment of a great day, in bonds everlasting [ aidios ] , under darkness He hath
kept, (7) as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them, in like manner to these,
having given themselves to whoredom, and gone after other flesh, have been set before─an
example, of fire age-during [ aiōnios ] , justice suffering. (Jude 1:6-7 YLT)
(6) And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He
has kept in eternal [ aidios ] bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, (7) just as
Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these
indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in
undergoing the punishment of eternal [ aiōnios ] fire. (Jude 1:6-7 NASB)
In these two verses from Jude, we discover there are eternal or aidios bonds and an aiōnios
[eonian/age-during] punishment of fire. So, here we have the two concepts of eternal and age-
during or eonian presented back-to-back. How are these verses to be interpreted?
To answer this question, again, consider the commentary of Rev. John Wesley Hanson from his
previously cited work:
1. The construction of the language shows that the latter word limits the former. The
aidios chains are even as the aiōnion fire. As if one should say "I have infinitely troubled, I
have been vexed for an hour," or "He is an endless talker, he can talk for five hours on a
stretch." Now while "infinitely" and "endless" convey the same sense of unlimited, they
are both limited by what follows, as aidios , eternal, is limited by aiōnios , indefinitely long.
2. That this is the correct exegesis is evident from still another limitation of the word.
"The angels …. He hath reserved in everlasting chains UNTO judgment of the great day."
Had Jude said that the angels are held in aidios chains, and stopped there, not limiting the
word, we should not dare deny that he taught their eternal imprisonment. But when he
limits the duration by aiōnion and then expressly states that it is only unto a certain date,
we understand that the imprisonment will terminate, even though we find applied to it a
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word that intrinsically signifies eternal duration, and that was used by the Greeks to
convey the idea of eternity, and was attached to punishment by the Greek Jews of our
Savior's times, to describe endless punishment, in which they were believers.
Although some of the Jews during Jesus' earthly walk believed in the pagan concept of eternal
or unending punishment (i.e., torture), it is highly significant that Jesus and His disciples never
used the word aidios in referring to punishment or life, for that matter. Aidios is never used
with zoë or life. It is never aidios zoe ; it is always aiōnion zoe. As for punishment, Jesus spoke of
eonian ( aiōnion ) chastening or correction, not eternal punishment.
This leads to the concept of…
Eonian Chastisement
Down through the centuries, it has been debated whether God's judgment or, as many prefer,
God's punishment of the unbeliever is eternal or for an age or ages. Is it unending, or is it
limited in duration? It is a safe assumption that, for the most part, eternal punishment has won
out and become a tradition among most Christians. This tradition of men declares, almost with
a sense of pride, that billions upon billions of people, created to be in the image of God, are
going to be (or, already are) in a place of literal fire and worms called hell , where they are
tortured without end, that is, forever and ever and ever [emphasis added to make the point].
Let us consider one verse on the matter, recognizing that an entire article could be devoted to
this subject. A typical translation reads as follows.
(41) "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the
eternal [ aiōnios ] fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels…. (46) "These will
go away into eternal [ aiōnios ] punishment , but the righteous into eternal [ aiōnios ] life ."
(Matthew 25:41, 46 NASB)
Now, let us consider a compilation of the more literal translations.
(41) Then shall he say also to those on the left hand, Go ye from me, the cursed, to the fire,
the age-during [ aiōnios ] [age-abiding, fire eonian; Fire of the Ages; aionian fire], that hath
been prepared for the Devil and his messengers; … (46) 'And these shall go away to
punishment age-during [ aiōnios ] [age-abiding correction; eonian chastening], but the
righteous to life age-during [ aiōnios ] [ Life of the Ages ; aionian Life]' (Matthew 25:41, 46 YLT
[REB; CV; WNT; WED])
Given all that has been presented about the word eonian [aiōnion] , it should be apparent that
the judgment of God is eonian or age-during, meaning it is limited in duration, not eternal or
endless. Although the lake of fire and judgment is not the subject of this writing, this is a vital
key to understanding both the lake of fire and God's judgment emanating out of His fiery lake.
The Greek word translated punishment or chastisement is kolasis , which comes from a root
verb meaning "to curtail; thus, to prune; figuratively, to chastise, restrain." The Concordant
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Literal New Testament [CV] best captures the meaning with chastening eonian . In other words,
the punishment is actually a chastening or a correcting of behavior rather than a penal
punishment in which there is no concern for the outcome to the individual, other than
continual punishment. The chastening has an end in view, and that is restoration and
restitution, not, as some say, "Throw one in jail (i.e., a torture chamber called hell ), lock it up,
and throw away the key forever." It is eonian because only God knows how long it will last, for
the punishment must fit the crime, so to speak. But be assured, it will come to an end when the
demand of God's law is fulfilled or at Creation's Grand Jubilee when all debt is cancelled,
whether it has been paid in full or not. Simply, there is a limit to the chastening; it is not eternal.
God is love , and His love will not fail to reach the heart of all mankind to restore and redeem all
back to Him. Besides, God's judgment has purpose, for when the earth experiences Your
judgments the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:9). It is to teach, not to
destroy.
The final judgment of mankind is designed to restore harmony, to reconcile the entire creation
to God, and to bring all things back to God's lawful order. To this end, all judgment is designed
to correct and to deal with all unsettled injustices. God's judgments are remedial and aimed at
correcting and turning all of His children (all mankind) back to Himself. Even His wrath is
designed to remove the dross from sinners, restoring and refining them by fire, which is His
fiery law (word, commands). God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29); saved, yet so as
through fire (1 Corinthians 3:15).
To quote Stephen Jones (God's Kingdom Ministries): "The judgments of God come from His
nature. God is love. His love does not prevent Him from judgment, but the wisdom of God
knows how to judge in such a way that He loses nothing. God is able to save to the uttermost.
He has the Power to do so, He has the motive of Love, and He has the wisdom to know HOW to
do it while being true to Himself and His character." Amen.
Thus, eonian chastisement is God's plan; eternal torment and torture are not!
For more on the judgments of God, see article #58, Judgment of All by God is Love (August
2013). http://www.kingdomandglory.com/art/art58.html
This leads to the heart of the matter, and that is eonian life , which is generally translated as
eternal life in all but a handful of translations.
Eonian Life
Without doubt, many would quote Jesus as their proof that the promise to believers who
exercised their so-called free will is eternal life. After all, this is what all the mainline
translations tell us.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in
Him shall not perish, but have eternal [ aiōnios ] life . (John 3:16 NASB)
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As noted many times already, the literal translations use the expression eonian or aionian life ,
based on the word aiōnios . A compilation of these translations reads as follows.
For God did so love the world, that His Son—the only begotten—He gave, that every one who
is believing in him may not perish, but may have life age-during [ aiōnios ] [ life eonian; life age-
abiding; aionian Life ] . (John 3:16 YLT [CV; REB; WED])
Another traditional rendering is found in Mark. Note how the King James Version chose to
translate aiōn as world . Unfortunately, the use of the word eternal or everlasting masks the
true nature of what is called the Age to come.
But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and
mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life .
(Mark 10:30 KJV)
But that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and
brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the
age to come, eternal life . (Mark 10:30 NASB)
Now, consider the more literal rendering.
(29) And Jesus answering said, 'Verily I say to you, there is no one who left house, or
brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or fields, for my sake, and for
the good news', (30) who may not receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and
brothers, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and fields, with persecutions, and in the age
that is coming , life age-during [ aiōnios ] [aionian Life]….' (Mark 10:29-30 YLT [WED])
Taking it at face value and not reading the concept of eternity into Jesus' words, it becomes
apparent that He promised His disciples life in the age to come, and He called this life aionian
life, not eternal or aidios life. By contrast, the perishing of John 3:16 signifies not having this life
in an age. Clearly, Jesus made no mention of life outside of time. He promised His disciples life
in the age or eon that was coming.
But, this raises some interesting questions: To what age was Jesus referring? Has this age
already begun; did it begin with Jesus' resurrection and the subsequent destruction of
Jerusalem and Judaism in 70 AD, as some claim it has? After all, don't believers have eonian life,
at least in some measure, in this age? Or, is the age to come yet future; is it the 1,000-year
reign of Christ that comes after the conclusion of the six days (6,000 years) of man or Man's
Day (1 Corinthians 4:3 YLT; also CV; REB; WAET)? Many refer to this as the Messianic Age, the
Kingdom Age, or the Tabernacles Age that comes when heaven proclaims: "The kingdoms of
the world did become those of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign to the ages of the
ages" (Revelation 11:15 YLT).
Personally, I believe there is room for both views. We have eonian life today, just as we have an
earnest of the spirit today. However, the greater meaning or manifestation of eonian life is truly
reserved for an age to come, the Kingdom Age, as well as the many ages to follow.
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Regardless of one's view, the main take-away from all of this is that eonian life is dependent on
the ages, for it speaks of life in time and especially in the coming ages, starting with the
Kingdom Age, the age when Christ, through His conquerors, rules over our present earth.
Eonian life for the conquerors kicks into high gear, so to speak, at the end of our present age.
Consider the companion verse to Mark 10:30. Notice that the CV has chosen to use the
expression life eonian , which is the same as eonian life . For comparison, the traditional
rendering is presented from the NASB.
Who may not by all means be getting back manyfold in this era, and in the coming eon, life
eonian [ aiōnios ] [aionian Life; eternal life]. (Luke 18:30 CV [WED; NASB])
Again, eonian life is joined with the age or eon to come. Whether one sees this life as a present
reality for the believer or yet future really does not matter. Regardless, it deals with ages and
not endlessness, and it is not about dying and going to heaven and entering eternity. Jesus
never made this promise. He states that there is reward in the age to come for those who are
faithful to Him and who bring forth kingdom fruit in this age, and the reward is to have eonian
life.
To reiterate, eonian life is not about a life in eternity or exclusively in heaven but a quality of
life in the ages . The ancient prophets saw it. The Hebrew worldview fully expected God to send
forth the Messiah to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. The Anointed One, the Royal
Majesty came the first time to save the world; He is coming a second time to manifestly rule
over the world (all the nations) as He continues to sum up or head up all things in the heavens
and on the earth and subjects all things to Himself (Ephesians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 15:25-28).
It is amazing how easy it is to miss simple truths. Unfortunately, the concept of eternal has
become so ingrained in Christian thinking that it is like hardened cement that will not break.
But, Jesus clearly defines for us the true meaning of eonian life, not eternal life. Once again,
multiple translations are presented in order to make the point.
Eonian Life is a Progressive, Knowing, Relational Life
(1) When Jesus had thus spoken, He raised his eyes towards Heaven and said, "Father, the
hour has come. Glorify Thy Son that the Son may glorify Thee; (2) even as Thou hast given
Him authority over all mankind, so that on all whom Thou hast given Him He may bestow the
Life of the Ages [ aiōnios ] . (3) And in this consists the Life of the Ages [ aiōnios ] ─in knowing
Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. (John 17:1-3 WNT)
(1) Jesus spoke these things; and lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, "Father, the hour is
come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify thee, (2) as Thou didst give Him authority over
all flesh, so that every thing which thou hast given to him, he may give to them, even aionian
[ aiōnios ] Life . (3) And this is the aionian [ aiōnios ] Life , that they may know thee, the only true
God, and him whom thou didst send, Jesus Christ. (John 17:1-3 WED)
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(2) "Correspondingly as You give (or: gave) to Him right, privilege and authority pertaining to,
and over, all flesh, to the end that everything (or: all folks, male or female) which You have
given to Him, to them He will give eonian life (life having its origin in, and the characteristics
and qualities of the Age [of Messiah]; or age-enduring life; life of and for the ages). (3) "Now
THIS is (or: exists being) eonian life (living existence of and for the ages; life pertaining to the
Age [of Messiah]: namely, that they may progressively come to intimately and experientially
know You, the only true and real (genuine God) – and Jesus Christ, Whom You send forth as
an Emissary (or: as well as Jesus [as the] Anointed One, who You sent off as a
Representative)." (John 17:2-3 MNT)
Carefully consider how Jesus defines this life. He challenges every concept held by the tradition
of men. Eonian life is not about an endless life (in eternity); rather, it is all about relationship,
knowing God the Father and knowing His Son whom He sent to earth to reveal the Father. This
is how Jesus defines eonian life. Nowhere are we told that eonian life is about dying and going
to heaven for eternity or even immortality, for that matter. It is all relational: to KNOW GOD
AND HIS SON . This knowing is not only for our present age but also (and, especially) for the
ages to come. As Mitchell's [MNT] translation states, it is a progressive knowing, a knowing that
grows. This is truly the good news of the eonian life.
Again, it is a relational life, a life of knowing God and His Son, throughout the ages. Will this life
progress into eternity, if there is even such a thing? Of course, it will; but, this is not the heart of
the life that Jesus has given us. Whether we are in time, the ages, or in some other dimensional
state that we have no understanding of today, it matters not. What matters is that we have a
life that will progressively come to know GOD!! This is eonian life!
Just think about it. Generally, eternal life is preached as if it is a thing unto itself. Living forever
is presented as if it is the good news. But, living forever doing what? Drinking heavenly mint
juleps, strolling down the golden streets, dusting furniture in huge heavenly mansions, meeting
long-ago relatives; is this what it is all about? No! It is about knowing God and being one with
Him in heart, to be in love with God is love . We have been given a foretaste of this in our
present age, but it will get even better in the next age and the ages to follow. It is progressive. It
will continually grow. This is eonian life!
At this point, one might wonder where immortality comes into the picture. How do immortality
and eonian life relate to each other? Technically speaking, eonian life is not exactly the same as
immortal life. In a sense, they are both relational words. Eonian life relates to knowing God, and
immortality relates to being separated from death and being brought into full or complete
(nothing lacking) conformance with the life of the Son.
Eonian life is life in this age and the ages to come , and immortality is life beyond death,
regardless of the age .
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Immortal Life [Immortality]
Immortal life is not dependent on the eons, or time and space. However, one who is immortal
truly has eonian life, but eonian life does not automatically mean that one has immortality.
Most of us who believe in this age might agree that we have eonian life, since we progressively
are coming to know God and His Son (at least, we should be). But, we presently are not
immortal, for we all must face a physical death until the Lord comes and we are given
immortality through resurrection and transfiguration. The state of death has not been removed
from mankind, even though Jesus has overcome death. A day is coming when death will be
abolished (1 Corinthians 15:26).
Actually, Paul links immortality or incorruptibility with eonian life, as if the two are one and the
same. In a sense they are, for when we are immortal, we also have eonian life. The question is
whether we can have eonian life without immortal life. It would appear that, based on Jesus'
definition of eonian life, the answer is yes. If the answer were no, we would have to conclude
that we also cannot know God and His Son until we are immortal, meaning no believer in our
day truly knows God and His Son. Of course, the other conclusion is that all believers are
immortal today, which is a false conclusion since we all continue to die.
To those, indeed, who in continuance of a good work, do seek glory, and honour, and
incorruptibility [immortality]—life age-during [aionian life; eonian life; life age-abiding;
eternal life] …. (Romans 2:7 YLT [WED; CV; REB; NASB])
Since Paul leads off with incorruption or immortality as something to seek and since Jesus has
defined eonian life , could we not conclude that immortality is when we will know the Father
and the Son in a way that we have never known them before, even in fullness?
The Greek word aphtharsia is translated as immortal , which means "deathlessness" or "beyond
death." Paul uses this word in 1 Corinthians 15:53-54 and 1 Timothy 6:16. Immortality is life
beyond death, never again to be subjected to the possibility of death. This is the hope and
expectation of all believers. However, it would be remiss not to add that it is also the ultimate
destiny of all mankind when, at the consummation of the eons, God the Father is all in all.
In this age, immortal life is the promise for all believers. No one possesses it today. The issue is
timing, that is, when one enters into immortal life in the true and full sense. Will it come in the
first resurrection and transfiguration at the end of our present age or in the second resurrection
at the Great White Throne? The greatest expectation of a believer is to attain immortality at the
end of our present eon, for this ensures the Life of the Ages or eonian life for all the ages that
lead up to the consummation of the ages at Creation's Grand Jubilee and beyond.
Contrary to the tradition of men, immortality does not come about when one dies, that is,
through death of the mortal body. It comes about with the redemption of the body that occurs
with resurrection and transfiguration; a future event for which Christians should be waiting
eagerly (Romans 8:23). Death does not redeem our body, only resurrection does. No one has
immortality at this point in time, for the King alone possesses immortality [ athanasia ] (1
Timothy 6:16). "No one [man] has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from
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heaven: the Son of Man" (John 3:13). Thus, no one of mankind has immortality today and no
one except the Man is in heaven today, at least as far as these verses tell us.
The redemption of the body comes with the placing or adoption as sons (Romans 8:23) when
this mortal puts on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53). It is when we put on our dwelling from
heaven so that what is mortal is swallowed up by life (2 Corinthians 5:1-5). It is when we are
glorified into the image of the Son of God. This does not take place in death; it takes place with
resurrection and transfiguration at His appearing. As John wrote: We know that when He
appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has
this hope… (1 John 3:2).
However, all will not put on immortality at the same time . Some will put it on at the first
resurrection and others will put it on at the second resurrection. The anointed first fruits of
Christ (1 Corinthians 15:23) will be the first to come into immortality as they are raised from
among the dead in the first resurrection (Revelation 20:5-6) or the out-resurrection
(Philippians 3:11), also referred to as the better resurrection (Hebrews 11:35). They will enter
into both immortality and eonian life, Life in the Age to come and all the ages to follow.
The rest will follow 1,000 years later, brought forth from death in the second resurrection to
appear before the Great White Throne where they will be saved through God's consuming fire
that removes all dross (carnality); saved, yet so as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:15). The rest of
the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed (Revelation 20:5).The
unbelievers will face the judgment of the lake of fire where they will be justified by faith and
begin the process of sanctification that many of us experienced in this life, so they too will
attain glorification. There is a final judgment because some matters cannot and will not be
settled in this life, such as unbelief and murder, and only God can resolve them through His
loving discipline. This is the reason why it is so much better to be a believer in this age, to die to
self, to forgive all debts, and to owe nothing to anyone except to love one another (Romans
13:8).
Indestructible Life
Another reference to immortal life is found in the epistle to the Hebrews. In the Greek, the
word akatalutos is properly used to express immortality , and it is used to contrast the Levitical
priesthood with the Melchizedek priesthood. The Levites were placed as priests based on a law
of physical requirement, that is, based on their genealogy or bloodline that was traced to Levi.
These priests died and had to be replaced with other mortals of the same genetic line. But
God's Son is a high priest of an entirely different order based on the law of life.
(15) And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek,
(16) who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to
the power of an indestructible [ akatalutos ] life. (Hebrews 7:15-16 NASB)
Some translations use the word endless in place of indestructible , but the meaning is the same,
for it means that death has no power over such a life. Death is what destroys (brings
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destruction to) life, but the power of the indestructible life ensures that death has no more
power over such a life. This is our expectation!
Thus, eonian life is a matter of timing and quality of life. It speaks of progressively knowing God
the Father and His Son today and in the ages to come. Immortality is a life beyond all forms of
death, which includes the first and the second death. Immortality will come to all eventually,
even if it takes God millennia to bring all mankind into this glory. The issue for us individually is
whether we will be counted worthy to attain to the Age to come to rule and reign with Christ
when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover
the sea (Habakkuk 2:14). We must be conquerors to enjoy eonian life and immortal life in the
Age to come. Let us conquer through the Conqueror!
Conclusion
Why make such a big deal over eternal verses eonian?
First, they speak to the fate of billions upon billions of men and women just like us. Are most
destined for eternal punishment and a remnant for eternal life, or are most destined for eonian
chastisement with all eventually reaching eonian life? You choose; but it is God our Saviour,
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy
2:3-4 KJV).
Second, God has a purpose and a multifaceted plan to accomplish His purpose. It is the purpose
of (reason for) the ages, and it is summed up by Paul: But when all things are subjected to Him,
then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who has subjected all things to Him,
that God may be all things in all (1 Corinthians 15:28 LITV).
Third, God's plan is executed through His Son who will subject, head up, gather up, or sum up
all things in Christ (Anointed One), things in the heavens and things on the earth (Ephesians
1:10). The Weymouth New Testament captures the comprehensiveness of God's purpose and
the plan.
(9) And this is in harmony with God's merciful purpose (10) for the government of the world
when the times are ripe for it─the purpose which He has cherished in His own mind of
restoring the whole creation to find its one Head in Christ; yes, things in Heaven and things on
earth, to find their one Head in Him. (Ephesians 1:9-10 WNT)
Fourth, God's people who have eonian life in this age (or, the promise of having it in the ages)
and who will be transfigured into immortal life for the next age are the ones through whom the
Lord Jesus will sum up all things, for they will be His true complement, having been fully
conformed to His image, the image of the Heavenly (1 Corinthians 15:49). They will be the
complement of the One completing the all in all (Ephesians 1:23 CV).
Finally, why are the ages so important to those who have eonian life and are His complement?
They are important because the ages are part of God's plan of becoming all in all, and He is
raising up many sons of glory in the image of His Son that will be instrumental in implementing
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His plan for the ages. In other words, His conquerors won't be lounging on the clouds; they will
be administering God's Kingdom on earth and in heaven. Think about it!
Isn't it time to start reading scripture with a view to the eons or ages and to that which is
eonian or age-during (lasting, abiding) , for God's purpose of the ages is to redeem all mankind
and all creation through His Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus?
For a short article titled Eternity Explained , check out the following link found on the Tentmaker
website.
http://www.tentmaker.org/articles/EternityExplained.html
The good news is that eonian life knows God and His Son in this age and the ages to come. The
Life of the Ages will lead to immortal life as well; a life beyond death, never to die again and
forever and progressively knowing God and His Son; a life that through God's Son sums up and
heads up all things in the heavens and on the earth. This is life in the ultimate!
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