FEEDBACK: WHAT IS “FOREVER” FOR THE UNSAVED? #3
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.
I believe that we must keep in mind when we read a verse like Gen 13:14 is that the literal or the factual side of God’s promises is as important as the spiritual.
We are all familiar with the argument that Gen 12:7 doesn’t have “forever” but Gen 13:14&15 does. I learned this from Mr. camping in the early 80’s and I thought back then that it was one of the most beautiful biblical insights I ever heard. While the conclusion is still the same today in my mind, I no longer think that it is so because of the presence or the absence of “forever”.
Gen 13:14 And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever “olam” <H 5769>.
It is evident from the detailed language […lift up your eyes and look from where you are in the four directions…] that God is emphasizing the literal fulfillment. We know that neither Abram nor any other human being could physically see beyond 3 miles or so (due to the curvature of the earth).
But we also
know from the rest of Bible that every eternal promise God ever made to His
people, was demonstrated, or confirmed, by a literal finite fulfillment.
The sojourn, the protection from the plagues, conquering
To me, this dual reference to spiritual and factual represents the infinite as well as the finite sides of God’s plan. While the spiritual aspect of the promise is the primary reason for the promise, God must fulfill the promise factually or it would be lie. While all literal fulfillments are finite, yet God used “ainios” or “olam”, demonstrating to us that it does not necessarily imply “forever”
I recently learned that G165 and G166 literally mean “an age” or “the age”. Intrinsically, they do not mean ever or forever. Rather, they mean “of indefinite or of unspecified duration”. Other verses in the Bible, as well as the context, determine their duration. God’s eternal nature and the eternal nature of his kingdom are defined by verses like these,
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.
Likewise, the fate the wicked is defined by verses like these:
Ps 9:6 O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end: and thou hast destroyed cities; their memorial is perished with them.
2Thes 1:9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
Now, the equivalent of G165 and G166 in Hebrew is”olam” H5769. It is found 439 times out of which it is translated “ever” 272 times. It was reassuring (because it confirmed what we recently learned) to discover that it is derived from H5956 which means “concealed” or “hidden”.
I believe that the reason we missed the annihilation truth is because the KJ translators assigned a value (infinite) to words that in themselves mean just “a duration” (in Greek) and “concealed” in Hebrew . This is a good example of the proverbial putting the cart before the horse.
Here is an example where H5769 can’t mean forever even though we know that Christ’s atonement is primarily in view. Factually, Jonah was in the belly of the fish for a finite period of time and was going to die and his body was going to see corruption if God did not intervene.
Jonah 2:6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars [was] about me for ever “olam”<5769>: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.
Another good example is Exodus 14:13. Is it possible that the Israelites never saw an Egyptian again since the exodus? Wouldn’t have sufficed to say “…ye shall see them again no more” without missing the weight of point. Why did God add “forever”? I am inclined to believe that God is defining to us here the sense of “olam” <5769> as to mean “no more”.
Exodus 14:13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever “olam” <5769>.
I do believe that if G165, G166 and H5769 inherently meant “eternal” or “forever” it would have been difficult for me to totally see annihilation. Learning their correct meaning did help confirm my understanding.
Take care everyone.
BELOW IS OUR RESPONSE TO THE ABOVE EMAIL
I would like to respond to your point about the Greek words G165 & G166, “aion” and “aionios”.
It is true that God uses the Greek word “aion” to speak of this world. In that sense, “age” is a good translation in those applications.
However, in speaking of this world, God never uses this word “aion” in the plural, nor does God ever double-up this word when speaking of this world.
God has created a special 5 word Greek phrase which could be translated as “into the ages of the ages”. This phrase has the word “aion” doubled-up and used in the plural.
God defines not only words, but phrases by how He uses them in the Bible.
God uses this phrase 20 times in the Bible, so it is well defined. Sometimes God only uses a word or phrase a few times, but not in this case. God has given good definition to this Greek phrase that could be translated “into the ages of the ages”.
18 of those 20 times, God uses this phrase to speak about Himself and His Kingdom. These are things that truly go on forevermore. There is no possibility that these things could end.
Nothing like this phrase is ever used to speak of this world or anything that can come to an end.
Following the rule of 1 Corinthians 2:13, God has defined this phrase “into the ages of the ages” as meaning forevermore. If we say that this phrase can have an end, then we are saying that it is possible that God or His Kingdom could have an end. But, that is not possible.
Then, God uses this same 5 word Greek phrase two times (Revelation 19:3 & 20:10) to speak of the unsaved.
Given that God has established the rule of 1 Corinthians 2:13 that God defines words and phrases by how He uses them, God has put a firm definition that this phrase “into the ages of the ages” must mean forevermore.
Therefore, following proper Bible study, we know that the duration of Revelation 19:3 & 20:10 is truly forevermore, just like God and His Kingdom is truly forevermore.
Regarding Psalm 9:6 we read:
O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end: and thou hast destroyed cities; their memorial is perished with them.
You put emphasis on the phrase “perpetual end”.
Some people may think of the word “end” in the sense of annihilation. However, let’s see how God uses this same Hebrew word in other parts of the Bible. We read:
2 Samuel 15:24 And lo Zadok also, and all the Levites were with him, bearing the ark of the covenant of God: and they set down the ark of God; and Abiathar went up, until all the people had done <08552> passing out of the city.
Here this Hebrew word is translated “done”. The people were “done” passing out of the city, but they were not annihilated. They still existed. But, they were “done” with the task at hand. In this world, God has cared for the unsaved, but at Judgment Day, God will be “done” with them. There will be no more mercy. But, this does not mean that the unsaved won’t exist.
We see this same Hebrew word from Psalm 9:6 in these two verses:
1 Kings 6:22 And the whole house he overlaid with gold, until he had finished <08552> all the house: also the whole altar that was by the oracle he overlaid with gold.
1 Kings 7:22 And upon the top of the pillars was lily work: so was the work of the pillars finished <08552>.
In these verses, the same word “end” is translated “finished”. They were “finished” with certain items with the temple. The items still existed, but they were “finished” making them.
God has been merciful to the unsaved in this world, but at Judgment Day, He will be “finished” with any mercy towards them, but that does not mean they won’t exist.
There are other examples of this nature.
We may think of the word “end” in the sense of annihilation. However, God also uses this word “end” in the sense of being “done” with something that still exists.
So, Psalm 9:6 is not a proof text of annihilation. Rather, it shows that God will be finished or done with the unsaved forevermore at Judgment Day. There will be no more mercy towards them. However, that does not mean they won’t exist.
Regarding 2 Thessalonians 1:9, we read there:
Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
When some people read the word “destruction”, they think in their minds “destruction = annihilation”.
However, the Bible defines it own terms. Let’s look at one example here:
We read a common word for “destruction” 7 times in Deuteronomy 28:15-68.
The tense of all 7 verses is not past tense. It is in an on-going tense that should have an “ing” on the word, like “destroying”.
The key point is that in all 7 verses, the verb “destroy” is not in the past or perfect tense. It is not describing a completed action.
In Deuteronomy 28:15-68 we find many words and phrases that signify conscious affliction.
In Deuteronomy 28:15-68, God defines the “destroying” that God intends for the unsaved. It is a “destroying” of on-going conscious affliction.
For more details on Deuteronomy 28:15-68, you may go to the link at:
Search for the phrase “Deuteronomy 28” to find the study.
So, Psalm 9:6 and 2 Thessalonians 1:9 are not proof texts of annihilation.