FEEDBACK: WHAT IS “FOREVER” FOR THE UNSAVED? #1
We appreciate feedback on the studies posted on this website. It helps us to see if there is anything on this website that does not agree with the Bible.
Below is an email received from a viewer of this website and OUR response FOLLOWS
The viewer’s email is in “italics”. Our response is in regular text.
To download the Greek font used on this page, right click the link below. Select ‘Save Target as’, then use the Control Panel in Windows to install the font.
The first question popped into my mind when I first heard the annihilation
teaching was: How could it be that eternal life means forever and eternal
damnation has an end? This can’t be right!
Obviously the word “eternal” in eternal damnation is a key word in understanding God’s judgment process. We always took it for granted that the Greek words (aion <165>and aionios <166>, which are translated “ever/eternal/forever/everlasting …etc” always meant “without end”. As it turns out this is not always true.
In this study I will attempt to demonstrate that aion and aionios do not necessarily signify “everlasting” but rather speak of “of indefinite duration” where the duration must be defined by the context.
There are two Greek words to be considered in this regard:
a. The noun aion <165is found 128 times in the NT and is translated:
(ever=71 times; world=38; evermore=4; age=2; eternal=2 and misc=11). The English word “eon” which mean indefinite long period of time is derived from it.
b. The adjective aionios <166is found 71 time in the NT and is translated:
(eternal=42 times; everlasting=25; forever=1, and misc=3)
Matt 12:32 says something extremely significant, when it uses aion to
describe two different “durations”, one finite and one infinite:
And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world <165>, neither in the world to come.
Out of the 199 occurrences of the these 2 Greek words, it is obvious that “world” was an unfortunate choice by the translators since it is the only word that doesn’t covey “duration ” as the rest of them do (ever, eternal, age, everlasting). It would have been better if the translators used “age” instead of “world”. In fact, if we substitute “age” for “world” in the 38 places where it is found, it would fit very nicely. After all, the whole universe will burn (2Peter 3:10), and not just the earth.
What is significant about Matt 12:32 is that it uses aion in a sense of a finite period, since we know for sure that this age will end. The latter part of the verse should more correctly read “…neither in this age, nor [the one] to come”. There certainly are two durations in view
here. One is now ( the finite duration of this age) and the other is still to come (infinite duration of life everlasting), and both are called “aion”.
Are there any other usages of the noun aion that also suggest finite duration? The answer is yes: Six times! In all cases, I suggest a better literal translation of “the end of the world” would be “the end of the age”, “Gr. synteleia aion”
1. Matt 13:39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world <165>; and the reapers are the angels.
2. Matt 13:40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world <165>.
3. Matt 13:49 So shall it be at the end of the world <165>: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just,
4. Matt 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what [shall be] the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world
5. Matt 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, [even] unto the end of the world <165>. Amen.
6. Heb 9:26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world <165> hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
What is most significant is that these verses most certainly speak of a duration “aion” that has an end. This means that in itself, aion does not express the meaning “unending or forever”. It just means age, or duration.
How about the adjective aionios which is used in Mark 3:29, the verse that made us think that God’s damnation on the unsaved is necessarily everlasting:
…But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal <aionios 166> damnation.
Here is the big question. Is aionios used anywhere else in the
Bible to mean of finite duration? The answer is yes again.
1. Rom 16:25 Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world [age] began <5550 chronos 166 aionios>
2. 2Tim 1:9 Who hath saved us, and called [us] with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world [age] began <pro aionios 166 chronos 5550>
3. Titus 1:2 In hope of eternal < aionios 166> life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world [age] began <pro aionios 166 chronos 5550>
4. Philemon 15 For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him forever <aionios 166>
Now what chronos, which means ‘time” is doing here, if it is true that aionios can only mean “timeless” or “everlasting”?
We know that the reference is made here to this present age, “called world” which we know had a beginning and will have an end.
What is also significant is that God is bracketing the duration of this age by speaking of “the beginning of this world” 3 times and “the end of this world ” six times while using <165> and <166>, thus affirming to us the legitimacy of its usage to describe a finite period of time.
What does this teaching do then to our understanding of ”eternal life”? Does it weaken it or threaten it in any way?
The concept of the eternity of the life in Christ does come from
aion or aionios (since they are but expressions of indefinite duration”, but
from other verses in the Bible, for example:
Luke 1:33: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever
<165>; and of his kingdom there shall be no end
1Co 15:53&54 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this
mortal [must] put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
Heb 7:16 …who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.
Since God stated clearly that His kingdom shall have no end by using these unmistakable negative expressions, it makes sense that ainoios in “everlasting life” legitimately mean “of unending duration”. Definitely Luke 1:33 says that <165> in this context means “shall be no end”
Conclusion: In itself, the Greek noun aion <165> and its adjective aionios <166> do not necessarily mean forever. They refer to, or describe something “of indefinite duration” that is only defined by the
context. One must determine from the context the extent of this duration. Proofs were given that aionios could mean forever, or could mean for as long as this age (this world) endures, or define the duration to be as that of a lifetime of a human being (Philemon 15).
The expression “eternal damnation” should not in any way weaken
our new understanding that God’s damnation on the wicked does not continue
May God give us wisdom and understanding,
BELOW IS OUR RESPONSE TO THE ABOVE EMAIL
Thank you for sharing this study.
The Greek words "aion" and "aionios" are used in several different ways. Sometimes they mean "forevermore" and sometimes they mean something else.
However, to understand what God means by "forever" for the unsaved we have to look at more than just these two words.
Let us consider two verses. The Greek and English texts are shown below:
Revelation 19:3 And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.
Revelation 19:3 kai deuteron eirhkan allhlouia kai o kapnov authv anabainei eiv touv aiwnav twn aiwnwn
Revelation 20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
Revelation 20:10 kai o diabolov o planwn autouv eblhyh eiv thn limnhn tou purov kai yeiou opou to yhrion kai o qeudoprofhthv kai basanisyhsontai hmerav kai nuktov eiv touv aiwnav twn aiwnwn
The phrase translated "for ever and ever" in these two verses is a 5 word Greek phrase. This 5 word Greek phrase has the word "aion" in it, but it has other words also and is written in a very specific way.
In the Greek language, the phrase is: eiv touv aiwnav twn aiwnwn
In Bible study we want to remember the rule of 1 Corinthians 2:13 that God defines words and phrases by how He uses them in the Bible.
To understand what God means by this Greek phrase, we have to search how God uses this same 5 word Greek phrase in other parts of the Bible. If God uses it in other parts of the Bible, then God has provided definition for what it means.
This 5 word Greek phrase is used in exactly 20 verses in the Bible. In 20 verses, we have the same 5 Greek words, with all the same spellings and all the same letters, exactly the same.
Because this same exact phrase is used a number of times in the Bible, God has given us good definition for it.
Two of the verses are given above.
For the remaining 18 verses, they fall into 3 categories:
1. How long God lives:
Revelation 1:18 (the verse in English says forevermore, but in the Greek, it is the same 5 word phrase), Revelation 4:9, 4:10, 5:14, 10:6, 15:7.
2. How long God receives praise, honor, glory, etc.:
Galatians 1:5, Philippians 4:20, 1 Timothy 1:17, 2 Timothy 4:18, Hebrews 13:21, 1 Peter 4:11, 1 Peter 5:11, Revelation 1:6, 5:13, 7:12.
3. How long God and the believers reign:
Revelation 11:15, 22:5.
These are the only ways that this 5 word Greek phrase is used. It is used 20 times total, so God has given good definition for this 5 word Greek phrase.
We remember that God defines words and phrases by how He uses them.
Based on how God uses this 5 word Greek phrase, the unsaved will be tormented day and night, and their smoke shall ascend up as long as:
1. God will live.
Is it possible that God will not live forevermore?
No. That is not possible. God lives forevermore.
2. God will receive praise, glory, honor, etc.
Is it possible that praise, glory, honor will ever end for God?
No. That is not possible. God receives praise, glory and honor forevermore. It never ends.
3. God and the believers will reign.
God and the believers will reign forevermore. There is no doubt about that.
In all the other 18 uses of this same 5 word Greek phrase, it refers to something that goes on forevermore, and something for which it is not possible for it to end.
Therefore, according to 1 Corinthians 2:13, God is defining the 5 word Greek phrase translated "for ever and ever" in Revelation 19:3 and 20:10 as truly forevermore. It cannot end.
Otherwise, God would have to come to an end, and praise, glory, honor to God would have to come to an end, and God would not reign forevermore.
However, we know that those things are not possible.
For more information, including all of the Greek text involved, please see the study at:
There is another study that examines the question, "Does the phrase 'day and night' limit duration to this world?"
The link is:
If you have time to look at these studies we would appreciate knowing if you find anything that does not agree with the Bible in them.