Forever Is Not Forever? You Still Gotta Be Kidding Me!

SOME>> Forever Is Not Forever?  You Still Gotta Be Kidding Me!

ME>> This is an excellent point already briefly discussed in my previous article, Forever Is Not Forever?  You Gotta Be Kidding Me!  The main point is that I do boldly say with others that the Greek word "aion" and its adjective "aionios" are often misunderstood and mistranslated in many translations of the Christian Scriptures.  This Greek noun and adjective have a much richer meaning than simple infinite duration. Now if you are not a student of the Greek language you may not know how to determine the truth of the matter.

Two quick steps into the discussion are first: the English word "eon" directly descends etymologically from the Greek word "aion."  This much is plain to see and perhaps enough to motivate your further study.  Friend, you and I both already know that "eon" does not mean "eternal" but is a long period of time with a beginning... and an end!  This fact alone ought to give every Christian pause to reconsider the usage of "aion" within the New Testament.  Second: the subject of salvation by grace received through faith alone ought to embolden every believer to thoroughly examine the Scriptures to understand the extent of God's grace even for the unbelieving.  If God has saved anyone by grace, why would we be offended that he would save even the unbelieving by that same grace, even after an eon in Hades?

Hoping for better things however, to help your further study I have used the to find every usage of the Greek words "aion," "aionios," and "aidios" in the New Testament. 

aion:  Strong's G165 occurs 128 times in 102 verses in the Greek concordance.
aionios: Strong's G166 occurs 71 times in 69 verses in the Greek concordance.
aïdios: Strong's G126 occurs 2 times in 2 verses in the Greek concordance.

The large chart attached at DGJC.ORG/OPTIMISM/AION lists the references to these Greek words in the World English Bible and the Young's Literal Translation along with my notes. This spread sheet could be a useful starting point for your own study.

Other resources to study also include:

A. E. Knoch proposes in his book All In All that the Holy Spirit uses the words "aion" and "aionios" in very distinct and precise ways to refer to five distinct eons between eternity past and eternity future.  Knoch insists that "aion" never means eternal.  Knoch preferred the term "eon" in the Concordant Bible Translation rather than "age" which is used in Young's Literal Translation because "eon" has the useful adjective "eonian" while Young uses the cumbersome "age-during."  Knoch also argues that his five proposed "eons" correspond to five "worlds," two of which are the pre-flood and the post-flood world.  Knoch also says that these "worlds" are different than the administrations within a particular "eon," such as the Old and New Covenant administrations of grace within the present "eon."  Knoch offers a detailed chart of his theory on page 160 of All In All.  He also makes the assertion that "aion" does not even have to mean "eternal" in verses like Romans 1:25.  This Scripture says God is blessed unto the "ages," meaning the "eonian times."  Knoch's understanding is actually very reasonable because saying that God is blessed through all the "eons" does not contradict that God is also blessed eternally beyond the "eons."  Knoch makes some very acute observations worthy of every theologian's consideration.  His proposed five eons are charted below in parallel with the Tabernacle.

Eternity Future - Post-Eonian
Tabernacle Time
Holies of Holies
Inner two Holies
The Holy of Holies Lake of Fire Fifth Eon Eons of Eons
Last two Eons
The Holy Millennial Kingdom Fourth Eon
 The Court Present Third Eon, Flood to Return 
 The Camp Second Eon - Gen 1:2 to Flood 
 Outside the Camp First Eon - Creation to Gen 1:2 
Eternity Past - Pre-Eonian

Dr. Heleen Keizer concludes, at slight variance from Knoch, in her work Life, Time, Entirety - A Study of Aion in Greek Literature and Philosophy, the Septuagint and Philo that "aion" has been used to mean "eternal," but even richer than "age" or "eon" the original meaning is "life," "complete," or "entire."  Wow!  Reread John 3:16 with this understanding!

A thorough study of Scripture will help us understand the meaning of these words and the Holy Spirit's usage in context.  The primary denotations and synonyms possible from the above resources and the Greek lexicon are summarized as:

  • eon, eonian: an age, general or particular, with a beginning and end, not eternal.
  • entire, whole, life, complete, unbroken: a purposeful whole unbroken life.
  • eternal: lasting forever in the past and/or the future.
  • world: the world and human condition during a particular age or circumstance.

Thank you for giving this your very careful attention.  Again the large chart attached at DGJC.ORG/OPTIMISM/AION lists the references to these Greek words in the World English Bible and the Young's Literal Translation. This spread sheet could be a useful starting point for your own study.

Knoch's five eon chart above suggests that the last two eons are a Millennial Kingdom and the Lake of Fire Judgment.  Knoch points to 1 Corinthians 15:23-28 and 15:50-55 as forecasting the end of the Lake of Fire.  However, as much as I agree with Knoch's critical observations about the eons of redemptive history, his eonian model may be shifted one notch to far into the future.  I understand 1 Corinthians 15 to point instead to the end of death and Hades judgment for mankind at the Great White Throne Judgment with Satan and his demons cast into the Lake of Fire at the commencement of either the last eon or eternity.  Knoch's model also includes a rigid mapping of five eons to five elements of the Tabernacle.  That is certainly possible, but my proposed model below is simpler to emphasize the main point: God is demonstrating his grace through various eons within history between eternity past and future.  Consider my proposed revision to Knoch's eonian chart below.

Eternity Future ( Post-Eonian )

Redemption Manifest for Mankind

Fallen Angels Damned for the Last Eon or for all Eternity
Holy of HoliesChurch Eon
Outside the HoliesEons before Christ
Eternity Past ( Pre-Eonian )

In this simplified model of understanding, the cross of Christ stands as the fulcrum point between the "ages" before Christ and the "ages" after Christ.  Hebrews 9:26 points to this understanding.

Finally, two critical verses to examine are Revelation 14:11 and 20:10.  The common English translation of both of these verses speak about torment "forever and ever."  Reference both these verses at DGJC.ORG/OPTIMISM/AION and your own Bible.  You will see that Revelation 14:11 is talking about wicked men, while Revelation 20:10 is talking about wicked angels.

So after all this work is my primary thesis at variance with Scripture? Do wicked men then share the same destiny as wicked angels?  Let's take a closer look at these two verses.

ComparisonRevelation 14:11Revelation 20:10
World English BibleThe smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. They have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are also. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Young's Literal Translationand the smoke of their torment doth go up to ages of ages; and they have no rest day and night, who are bowing before the beast and his image, also if any doth receive the mark of his name.and the Devil, who is leading them astray, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are the beast and the false prophet, and they shall be tormented day and night -- to the ages of the ages.
Greekκαὶ καπνὸς τοῦ βασανισμοῦ αὐτῶν εἰς αἰῶνας αἰώνων ἀναβαίνει καὶ οὐκ ἔχουσιν ἀνάπαυσιν ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτός οἱ προσκυνοῦντες τὸ θηρίον καὶ τὴν εἰκόνα αὐτοῦ καὶ εἴ τις λαμβάνει τὸ χάραγμα τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦκαὶ διάβολος πλανῶν αὐτοὺς ἐβλήθη εἰς τὴν λίμνην τοῦ πυρὸς καὶ θείου ὅπου καὶ τὸ θηρίον καὶ ψευδοπροφήτης καὶ βασανισθήσονται ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων
Subject of TormentWicked men branded with the mark of the Beast.Wicked fallen angels; Satan, the Beast, and the False Prophet.
Length of Tormentεἰς αἰῶνας αἰώνωνεἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων
εἰςinto, unto, to, towards, for, among
αἰῶναςages, eons
τῶνof the
αἰώνωνof ages, eonian
Literal translationfor ages of ages
for the ages of the ages

So are the phrases above identical?  The WEB Bible and most English Bibles translate the phrases identically.  However, I show above that they are not identical in wording in the underlying Greek.  But are they identical in meaning?  No, they are not identical in meaning either!  The torment promised for wicked men is for a long time, in fact "for ages of ages." This likely points to torment in Hades during the pre-Church Age and the Church Age.  However, the torment promised to Satan and his angels is for the definite specific time period of the Lake of Fire, "for the ages of the ages!"  Notice the absence of the definite article "the" in Revelation 14:11 and the presence of the definite article "the" in Revelation 20:10.  Consider all the possible interpretations of these observations:

  • Wicked men share the same eternal torment as wicked angels.  Though I have refuted this understanding to my own satisfaction due to the underlying differences in the Greek between Revelation 14:11 and 20:10.

  • Wicked men share the same eonian torment as wicked angels.  Some Christian Universalists propose that human beings will be punished in the Lake of Fire along with Satan and the demons, and then extracted some time beyond the pages of Scripture not explicitly mentioned.

  • Wicked men are punished "for ages of ages", through the church age, even to the brink of the Lake of Fire, while Satan and his angels are punished "for the ages of the ages", the Lake of Fire which is prepared for them, Matthew 25:41.  The Lake of Fire is not prepared for human beings.

I have also proposed a more complete chart of these events in my article, Eschatology is the Study of Future Good News!  Rejoice with me that wicked mankind will be punished temporally "for ages of ages" both now and in Hades up to the Great White Throne Judgment.  Rejoice also that Satan and his demons, the enemy of God and mankind, will be damned to the Lake of Fire "for the ages of the ages" after the Great White Throne Judgment.  Finally rejoice that Christ will rule forever.

Thank you for pursuing your own independent study of these things.  The implications are incredible and so faithful handling of God's word is critical.