The Power of Life and Death in a Greek Four Letter Word--Aion
By Gary Amirault
The understanding contained in this article was first given to me through the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, whom Jesus promised to send us to guide us into all Truth. As I entered into various denominations, it was taken from my memory. I believe God allowed this to show me how powerful religion can be in a negative way. The traditions of men and the doctrines of demons are tremendous forces in much of the church. Jesus said there were leaders of God's own people who, "have made the Word of God of no effect by their traditions." (Matt. 15:6) In His Sovereignty I have experienced how true these words are. May this article help those who also have been seduced by the "traditions of men and the doctrines of demons to be set free."
My wife and I can truly say, that when we personally discovered Jesus Christ to be the Son of the Living God, it was a dramatic turning point in our lives. While the change brought a peace which could not be bought for any price, it also brought about a war that almost broke our marriage apart.
My wife was raised a reformed Jew. I did not have a religious background of any kind. I was an atheist most of my life. Unlike most Christians, who are raised in a particular denomination or stream of Christian thought, we were immediately immersed into all different types of denominations and movements. One day I tried to count how many different churches I attended in the first 4 or 5 years of our walk. It was over 200! Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Word/Faith, Quaker, Episcopalian, Jews for Jesus groups, etc.
For those of you who have been in different denominations, you know the torment of trying to decide on different doctrines like "once saved always saved" versus "you can chose to give the gift of life back." We were immediately confronted with many profound differences of beliefs among the various denominations. Of course they all thought they were right! Predestination vs free-will, Saturday versus Sunday worship, tongues is from the devil vs tongues as evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Jesus only vs Trinity, sprinkle vs immersion. There were literally dozens of different major issues that confronted us. Most Christians who spend their entire life in one or two denominations never have to wrestle with these differences.
So as you can imagine the first few years of our lives became a continuous search for the truth. We wondered how Christians could come up with so many different, often contradictory beliefs using basically the same Bible!?
Often I would be in several different churches from different denominations in the same week! As you probably can image, pastors were not too thrilled when I showed up because they knew I was going to ask difficult questions. Often they did not have answers to these questions and instead of searching for the answers, they would get angry.
One of the first major conflicts began with the Law versus Grace issue. Living in the Washington D.C. at that time, we became familiar with several congregations which had a large numbers of Jews who had found their Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus). Many of these congregations kept a very large portion of the Mosaic Law. There was never a consensus as to how much of the Law was to be kept. It varied from one congregation to another. For example, some worshipped on Saturday instead of Sunday. Some kept all of the dietary laws contained in the Law. Others added extras contained in the Talmud and some came up with their own ideas of what to keep and what was not applicable to today. Most celebrated the Old Testament feasts, but the method varied from congregation to congregation. Believe me, once a person puts themselves back under the Mosaic Law, there is no end to the discussions on how to keep it. While we were wrestling with the various different interpretations of what to do with the Mosaic Law, we also had to wrestle with the various differences between the other churches we attended on Sunday and mid-week.
During those first 4 or 5 years of our Christian walk, the Law versus Grace issue was a subject that we were not able to fully resolve. We came to really understand all the sides to the issue. They each had very good Scriptural supports. There seemed to be no end to these debates. Had we known what was in this article, we would not have had most of the torment we went through.
Those who believed that the Law of Moses was still for today pointed to several Scriptures which seemed to indicate that the Jewish system would never pass away. Yet, there were several Scriptures in the New Testament which declared it was passing away in that very generation. Some of the Old Testament Scriptures which were used to support the "everlasting"ness of the Old Covenant were: Exodus 40:15, which describes the Aaronic Priesthood as "everlasting," yet Hebrews 7:14-18 declares an end to it being replaced by the Melchizedek Priesthood; the children of Israel were to "observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant" (Exodus 31:16), yet Paul states there remains "another day" of Sabbath rest for the people of God (Heb. 4:8,9); the Law of Moses was to be an "everlasting covenant" (Leviticus 24:8) yet we read in the New Covenant the first was "done away" and "abolished" (2 Corinthians 3:11,13), and God "made the first old" (Hebrews 8:13).
The Hebrew word which is translated "everlasting" and "perpetual" in the above Old Testament passages is the word "olam." This same word was used by the King James Bible translators to make Jonah stay in the "belly of hell forever" where the "bars of the earth closed behind me forever." Yet in the same verse God brought his life "up from the pit!" (see Jonah 2:2,6) In verse 1:17 the King James translation clearly says Jonah was in the fish for 3 days and nights. How could this be forever?
The King James Bible, as well as many others, tells us that a bondslave was to serve his master "forever." (Exodus 21:6) It also tells us that God would dwell in Solomon's Temple "forever." (1 Kings 8:13) I began to see there was not only a problem with Old Testament Scriptures contradicting New Testament ones, but even within the Old Testament itself. Passages such as God dwelling in Solomon's Temple "forever" clearly contradict history which shows that Solomon's Temple was destroyed long ago.
While studying this Hebrew word "olam," I came across some quotations from leading scholars which began to give me much understanding. The classical Wilson's Old Testament Word Studies by William Wilson gives as the meaning of "olam," "duration of time which is concealed or hidden," in other words, an unknown length of time. This unknown length of time could be 3 days and nights as in the case of Jonah, or the length of a man's life, or as long as the period of time the Aaronic Priesthood was in effect, which was around 1600 years.
Well, that seemed to solve all the problems. This definition took care of all the clear contradictions between the Old and New Testament and got old Jonah out of "hell forever." From Jonah's point of view, while he was in the fish, he didn't know how long he was there since he couldn't see the sun and moon. (They didn't invent Timex watches until a few thousand years later.)
But while the problem was solved in the Old Testament, it presented some different problems in the New Testament. The Greek equivalent for the Hebrew olam is the word aion. We get the English word "eon" from this word. It seems that many Bible translators carried the error of mistranslating olam to the Greek word aion. Here are the various ways the KJV translated the word aion: age (2), world (40), never (7), course (1), ever (72), evermore (4). The adjective of this world (aionios) was translated: everlasting (25), eternal (42), world (3), Ever (1). Strong's, Young's or Smith's Concordance will bear this out.
Well, as we can see, the problem in the Greek didn't get much better, it actually got considerably more confusing causing some clear contradictions to occur in the King James Bible, as well as several other leading translations.
The fact that the same word translated "for ever," "everlasting," and "eternal" is also translated "world" and "age" may be shocking to many believers, but that is the case, nevertheless. Let us look at some problems this kind of poor translating has caused those who are trying to live a Christian life, patterned after Jesus Christ.
One of the major problems the King James translators have caused by their incorrect handling of this word, deals with the end of the world. It seems most Christians throughout the Christian era have been very interested in this time period. Martin Luther, in his time, was convinced he was living in "the end of the world." The King James translation contradicts itself using this phrase. Most present day Bible translations have corrected this error in many places, but not enough to clear up the confusion completely. In Hebrews 9:26 we read from the King James translation: "For then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." According to this King James verse, the end of the world occurred 1900 years ago. If we are supposedly living in the end of the world, the "end of the world" has been going on for 1900 years of the 6000 year Biblical record! But this is not the end of the confusion, it gets worse. According to Ephesians 3:21(see also Isaiah 45:17), there is to be no end of the world: "Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." The King James Bible tells us that the end of the world occurred 1900 years ago, yet at the same time tells us the world will never end! And we wonder why there are so many atheists out there!
This problem is immediately cleared up when we discover aion should never have been translated world. The Greeks had a perfectly good word to describe world, the word kosmos. We use this word in the English today, but with a slightly different meaning than in the Greek of Biblical days. If the King's translators had done what most leading Bible translations today have done with the word aion in these cases where the KJV translated it "world," much of the confusion about the "end of the world" would disappear. The word aion should have been translated "age" (or something similar). Jesus would then have been living at the end of the Jewish "age." After that came a new "age," the one we are currently experiencing.
Because of the way the King James Bible was translated, many people have really only two ages in their minds, the "Old World" and the "New World." This is due to the way the KJV handled the word aion. The Bible actually speaks of at least 5 ages or "worlds" as the KJV incorrectly puts it. Things now revealed are said to have been concealed in past "ages" (plural) in Colossians 1:26 and Ephesians 3:9. There is a "present age" which the writers of the New Testament were living in, which is revealed in passages such as Luke 20:34,35, Romans 12:2, Ephesians 1:21, Titus 2:12, etc. And at that point there are at least two more ages to come. Ephesians 2:7 tells us that, "in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."
Allowing Scripture to define itself instead of modern theologians twisting Bible words into their pet doctrines, we find that :
The aions have beginnings
|Scripture||Literal||King James Version|
|Hebrews 1:2||God made the ages||God made the worlds|
|1 Corinthians 2:7||before the ages||before the world|
|2 Timothy 1:9||before the beginning of time||before the world began|
The aions have ends
|Scripture||Literal||King James Version|
|Hebrews 9:26||the end of the ages||the end of the world|
|1 Corinthians 10:11||the ends of the ages||the ends of the world|
|Matthew 24:3||the end of the age||the end of the world|
These ages have important purpose
- Ephesians 3:8-11
- Ephesians 1:9-10
- Phillipians 2:9-11
- Colossians 1:15-21
- 1 Corinthians 15:22-28.
Please note under 1 Co. 2:7, the literal translation has the word ages in the plural, but the KJV has it singular. You will see in the rest of this article, the translators took even greater liberty than this when translating this word aion.
The proper understanding of the correct use of this word aion will truly bring forth the Good News of Jesus Christ's plan for mankind. That will bring a priceless joy to your relationship with Him and your fellow man. I will point out one obvious revelation right now.
The Unpardonable Sin
We have all heard of the term "the unpardonable sin." You will not find this term in the Bible, at least not in the Greek text. Some Bibles, such as the New Open Bible New American Standard puts headers into the text such as "Scribes Commit the Unpardonable Sin." These headers are not in the Greek text. They have been added by the editors of that particular translation. This is one reason why so-called "study Bibles" often are a detriment rather than a help. The Scofield Reference Bible was among the first to use such techniques. The Pre-trib Rapture teaching was greatly aided by these kinds of additions into Bibles such as Scofields. They clearly "add to the Word of God" as do most "study Bibles."
As to the so-called "unpardonable sin," the Bible speaks of no such thing. What you will find, is just the opposite. "His mercies endure forever." (Psalm 106:1, 107:1, etc.) When the disciples tried to determine the place where they did not have to forgive anymore, Jesus told them 7 times 70, making the point that you should always forgive. Yet the King James Bible tells us of a sin and a group of people who will never be forgiven, a total contradiction to many other passages of Scripture.
When the Pharisees said that Jesus did His miracles by the power of Beelzebub, He warned of the sin of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. The King James in Mark 3:29 has Jesus saying, "But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:" The New International Standard Version puts it this way: "But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." (Please note the word "eternal" in both these translations is aionios, the adjective form of aion. We will get back to that word later in the article.) There is a parallel account of this incident in Matthew chapter 12 verses 25-37. Here the King James translators have Jesus saying, "And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come." Now if your theology says there are only two worlds, that closes the door of mercy to those pharisees forever. The Pharisee lived in the Old Covenant World, and the world to come under this type of reasoning was the New Covenant World. Therefore, the Pharisee was doomed to "eternal damnation," as the King James puts it.
But the New King James, renders Matthew 12:32, "either in this age or in the age to come." So does the New International Version as well as almost every other version produced since the King James Version, printed in 1611. With the knowledge we have gained from Ephesians 2:7 that there are more "ages" (plural) than one to come, this opens the door of hope for the Pharisee, and confirms the many Scriptures which declare the foundation of unending mercy.
Well, it seems a proper translation of this little word aion eliminates many contradictions in quite a few Bible translations, which, by the way, have caused many to abandon Christianity because they said the Bible contradicts itself. The fact of the matter is, some Bible translations do contradict themselves, but not in the original languages.
Now what I have just revealed will be great news to many reading this little article. In their hearts is the love of Christ, which wants to reach all of mankind. Their desire is to bring glory of their Savior, Jesus Christ. What I have just shown will be graciously received by those filled with Christ. But to the hard-hearted, to those who like to use fear to hold people in their power, to those who confess Christ with their mouth, but their hearts are full of bitterness, prejudice, hatred, unforgiveness, the previous pages will make them uneasy. I realize this and there is nothing I can do about it. I am writing to those who truly have been born from above of incorruptible seed who have tender, clean hearts and desire to spread the love of God to the whole world. To you, I say, prayerfully take the rest of this article and search out the matter for yourselves. Pray and study and you will see it is Truth. The hard-hearted will totally reject these plain facts, which can easily be verified. Those who have built a kingdom on fear, will not see what I am revealing. Perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18) If you are fearful or if you use fear to enslave others, you will not be able to see this truth. Fear will blind you to it. (1 John 4:16-18, John 10:27-29) There are many Christians who have been so bound up by the false traditions of the elders, that this little article will do little good in breaking off the chains which enslave them. May the Lord Jesus send them a boldness to cast off the fear of men and the desire to seek their approval and replace it with a reverence for God and a desire to be approved of Him more than receiving the approval of men. This is a stronghold which will probably require more than an eight page article.
As we have shown, consistently translating this word aion into "age" (or something indicating indeterminate time with a beginning and end) is solving a lot of obvious contradictions in many Bibles. The confusion between Mosaic Law versus Grace is solved; the number of ages is clearly expanded beyond the two in the King James which opens the door to God's mercy extending beyond the church age; 1900 years ago wasn't the "end of the world," as the King James states, but the end of the Mosaic Covenant, the end of an age.
The question arises: Can and should this word aion be consistently translated a time word like "age?" It certainly cannot be consistently translated with words that imply the concept of eternity. Look at what we would have in some of these passages if we translated aion as "eternity."
- "God designates before the eternities," (1 Corinthians 2:7)
- "The present wicked eternity." (Galatians 1:4)
- "Neither in this eternity, nor in the next." (Matthew 12:32)
- "At the close of the eternity." (Matthew 13:39)
- "At the end of the eternities." (Hebrews 9:36)
- And many more absurdities!!!
To the one truly seeking the Truth, the question will arise, "Well, if translating aion all the different ways the King James Bible translated it has caused so many contradictions, and translating the word consistently as an "eternity" or "eternal" word obviously doesn't work, what would happen if the word was consistently translated a time word such as "age" or "age-during" or "age-abiding" or something like that?"
It may come as a surprise to many of you, but there are a number of Bibles which have done just that. Not only that, but many outstanding scholars have protested the King James translation of this word and have written at length on the subject. But you will probably not hear about that at your local Bible study because this correction will destroy many current church theologies or doctrines.
When one translates this word as a time word consistently some of the greatest contradictions of all quickly disappear. Oddly, many church leaders are not willing to give up these contradictions. Their whole theology, their creeds, their articles of faith, their whole program of bringing in converts and money would fall apart. The power of fear would have to completely be laid down. There is the problem. Most denominations have been built on the power of fear. This has been a powerful force in bringing in converts and money. Most church leaders who have used fear as the main power to built these religious institutions are incapable of dropping this weapon and replacing it with true agape love. The entire institutional structure would collapse. The cost is too high. And so it will require the power of God to bring judgment which will destroy these institutions. Seventy AD was the judgment day for Israel. Read Josephus' War of the Jews and see the writing on the wall for christendom.
Those of you who truly have the love of Christ in their hearts are well aware of the fact that there are dozens of Scriptures, if not hundreds, which declare that Christ's work on the cross will save all mankind. I will mention just a few here. (A lengthy list is available to those who desire to study this out.)
Clearly, God desires or "will have" as the KJV puts it "all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), the salvation of all will be testified in due time (1 Tim. 2:6), Jesus came to save all (John 12:47), He is declared the Savior of the world ( John 4:42, 1 John 4:14), He will draw all mankind unto Himself (John 12:32), He is able to save to the uttermost (Heb. 7:25), in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22), every tongue will confess Jesus as Lord and one cannot do that apart from the Holy Spirit (Phil 2:9-11, 1 Cor. 12:3), there is to be a "restitution of all things" (Acts 3:21), all will be reconciled to God (Col. 1:20), He will have mercy on all (Rom. 11:32), all has been given into Jesus hands (John 3:35), Jesus will lose nothing (John 6:39), Jesus is Heir of all things (Heb. 2:2), Jesus died for all (2 Cor. 5:15), He will take away the "sin" (singular) of the world (John 1:29) and, therefore, is the actual Savior of the world (1 Tim. 4:9-11).
The above list can be multiplied greatly, but I have to limit this article to four pages.
If the Greek word aion and its various forms such as the adjective aionios, is translated in a consistent manner as a time word with beginnings and endings, then all these Scriptures would be absolutely true. Jesus Christ would be declared the absolute Savior of all mankind. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw (drag in the Greek) all mankind unto myself." (John 12:32) These words would all of a sudden be pure simple uncomplicated truth. You see, when the word aion is consistently translated as a time word with a beginning and end, the doctrine of eternal torment or punishment vanishes from the pages of the Bible! The handful of Scriptures such as those similar to Matthew 25:46, could no longer be used to void Jesus Christ's declaration to the Universe that He drew or dragged all mankind to Himself. "Eternal punishment" would become "age-abiding correction" as the Rotherham Emphasized Bible puts it. Young's Literal Translation renders it "punishment age-during" while the Concordant Literal translates it "chastening eonian." I have found over a dozen Bible translations which have been consistent with the translation of aion and in each of them, the doctrine of eternal torment disappears off their pages! If the love of Christ is in your hearts, there should be a Hallelujah in your mouth right about now!
It is vitally important that we perfectly understand this word aion. Whether God "eternally tortures" or "corrects through the ages" totally changes the very nature of the Father. If "eternal punishment" is correct in Matthew 25:46, then His mercy and forgiveness certainly has an end. But if "age-during correction" or something similar is correct, then we have a Father Who chastens to bring correction-a Father Who has the ability through time, patience, and a burning or consuming love to bring back all of His wayward children. In this instance, the parables such as the Shepherd leaving the 99 to find the one lost sheep is in perfect harmony with "age-during correction." Present-day "orthodox" theology is more like the Good Shepherd torturing most and just barely saving a few.
We will conform to the image of the God we have in our hearts. History tells us, Queen Mary, the Catholic Queen of England, burned many Protestants to death because she conformed to the image of the God she was taught in Roman Catholicism. Protestants would later in history would do the very same thing.
Whether one's God is an eternal tormentor, annihilator, or Savior of all mankind will ultimately determine how one treats their fellow man. Jesus told us how to treat our enemies in Romans 12:20,21. Do good to your enemies. Will our Father do likewise or will He become a hypocrite? No wonder little children are much quicker to jump into the laps of Santa Claus's, than to feel secure with the knowledge of a loving heavenly Father. Little children pick up quickly the message of hell-fire evangelists. They can't reconcile a God Who may torture them endlessly with a loving Father. Neither can I and neither can correctly translated Bibles.
Our concept of God will also determine how close one will get to the True Father. I don't know of too many people who want to snuggle up to a God Who is going to torture most of their brothers and sisters, especially if they are not absolutely certain that they themselves will one of those who will escape the barbecue pit.
It is extremely disappointing to me that while most of the leading selling Bibles have corrected the mistranslations of the word aion in many places, they are very reluctant to get completely consistent. Why? The doctrine of eternal torment has been the primary instrument of fear used to build most current denominations of Christianity. To admit they have been wrong on such a central part of Christianity would totally discredit them. The heads of these denominations would strongly protest the introduction of Bibles which not longer the man-made doctrine of eternal torment. They certainly would not recommend them to their members.
Most Bible publishing companies, whether we like it or not, are a profit-making ventures, often very profitable. Those Bibles which are currently published and do not contain the doctrine of eternal torment such as Young's Literal, Rotherham's Emphasized, or Concordant Literal are usually accorded no space in Christian books stores. They must be special ordered. The big publishers like Nelson, will not print totally consistent Bibles until they feel the denominational structures will not come against them.
Until then, the leading selling Bibles with the most money behind them will continue to give us clear errors and embarrassing contradictions.
When they finally will break completely free from their bondage to a corrupt King James tradition and some key traditional, but false doctrines of modern denominations, Bibles will get better and clearer.
To give you an idea of how badly such leading selling Bibles as the NIV, NASB, NKJV, and NRSV have to twist the Greek Texts to make them conform to the false doctrine of eternal torment, I want to give you some clear evidence.
The first revision of the King James Bible was the Revised Version. In 1901 an American version of the Revised Version was printed. The first attempt to update the King James Bible received great hostility from the fundamentalist community. Because the Revised Version and American Version were revisions of the King James Bible and not actually a new translation, they had to stay as close to the King James Bible as possible. As a result of this kind of limitation, here is an example of the kinds of idiotic phrases that can occur. 2 Timothy 1:8,9 says in the American Standard translation of 1901: "Be not ashamed therefore of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but suffer hardship with the gospel according to the power of God; who saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before times eternal."
"Before times eternal" is a contraction in three terms! It sounds good, but it does not make sense! How can there be time before eternity? The translators put in the margin of this Bible "long ages ago." Now this makes sense. Why didn't they just put this in the text? Because the sacred cow, the King James Bible, has been billed as the "Authorized and Inerrant" one, and that is all a bunch of bunk!
The revisers also felt it was not proper for the King's translators to arbitrarily translate the Hebrew word Sheol into three different words in English, that being "grave" 31 times, "pit" one time, and "hell" 31 times. The revisers put in the word Sheol without translating it at all. This wiped out "hell" from the entire Old Testament. This made it consistent with Jewish Bibles which also do not contain the word "hell." Of course the fundamentalists went mad and to this day, they still are. Breaking traditions to return to the truth is a slow painful process.
The King James Bible has many translational errors and archaic English, which is not in our English language anymore. Can anyone tell me what these words mean: sottish, nitre, wist, collops, mallows, meteyard, tabering, murrain, sith? There are many of 17th century words in the King James Bible which have passed out of use in the English language. Why should we deprive our children the precious word of God by forcing them to read a Bible which makes no sense to a twentieth century person? Back to aion. In the Book of Revelation in the 20th Chapter and the 10th verse, we see the the devil, the beast, and the false prophet thrown into the lake of fire, which by definition, is called the second death. There they are tormented (literally "touchstoned") "day and night forever and ever." If you go to any Bible which contains the Greek text such as the Zondervan Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, or the Tyndale New Greek English Interlinear New Testament or any standard Greek Text, you will see that the Greek says they will be there for the aionas ton aionon which literally means "ages of the ages." Throughout the New Testament, we find this word aion used in double such as above only in important different forms. In Ephesians 3:21 we read of the "age (singular) of the ages (plural)." In Hebrews 1:8 we read of the "age (singular) of the age (singular)." In other places we read of the "ages (plural) of the ages (plural)." The Greek language is a very exact language and God is very exact also. If we neglected to take into consideration that there are at least three different forms here which should come through into the English, we would certainly do the Greek language and God a great injustice. But then that is exactly what these best selling Bibles have done. They have rendered all three of these phrases with "forever and ever." The word "and" is not even in the Greek! Obviously, there is some foul play here. The publishers have gone half way with correcting many of the King James Bible mistakes, but they will not correct this most major and dangerous error until they feel they can do it and still make a profit.
A proper regard for the different forms of these three forms is vitally important. The Bible speaks of the Holy of Holies, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. "Age of the ages" is a particular age out of more than one age. To render all three forms "forever and ever" is not just bad translating, it is outright deception. In Revelation 20:10 the fact that there are "days and nights" here should tell you that we are not dealing with eternity.
The renown Bible teacher and translator of a New Testament, Dr. William Barclay points out in his The Letters to the Corinthians that if the Greek words eis tous aionas ton aionon means endless time, as translated in the KJV, "forever and ever," we have a contradiction in Scripture, for Revelation 11:15 says, in the same version (KJV): "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever." That contradicts 1 Cor. 15:25, which says: "He must reign till ..." If Revelation 11:15 is translated "eons of the eons" or "ages of the ages," there is no contradiction.
There are some who after wrestling with the facts above will admit that the word aion means "an age," but they say its adjective aionios has to mean "eternal" because it is used so often to describe God. Professors in seminaries say these kind of foolish things. Anyone with a little bit of sense recognizes that an adjective cannot have a greater force or meaning than its noun. Hourly cannot mean "yearly," for example. The adjective gets its force from the noun. If the noun aion means age, then the adjective aionios has to pertain to "age" and not to something greater than "age." It cannot therefore correctly represent eternity. Just because aionios is used to describe God Who is eternal does not mean aionios means "eternal." God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Does that mean He is not the God of the rest of us? Of course, not! God can be the God of ages and well as being eternal. The very nature of God commands the idea of eternity. He doesn't have to be called eternal to make Him eternal. That is part of His nature.
The Bible has many other ways to express endlessness or not being exposed to the corruption of death. Endlessness is expressed in the Scriptures by the simple phase "no end" (Luke 1:33; Dan. 7:14; Isa. 9:7). The thought of permanence is also expressed in Hebrews 7:16, "the power of an endless or indissoluble life," and in 1 Peter 1:4, "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away." The word aion and its adjective aionios is not used in the above passages to describes conditions of endlessness or incorruptability. The Greek language uses prefixes indicating "not" or "no" or "un" in words to describe conditions we would normally use to describe conditions of the eternal. "Un"ending, "in"corruptible, "in"dissoluble are a few examples.
After thoroughly studying the Scriptures and being convinced the doctrine of eternal torment was not found in the original languages, I searched early Christian history and writings of that period. Among many things, here are a few items which may interest you:
- Many orthodox Christian historians acknowledge that the majority of the early church did not teach eternal torment. A couple of examples: Geisler-"The belief in the inalienable capability of improvement of all rational beings, and the limited duration of future punishment was so general in the West, and among the opponents of Origen, that it seems entirely independent of his system." (Eccles. Hist., 1-212). (Origen has been accused of bringing into the church the heresy of the salvation of all. Geisler points out the belief was prevalent even apart from Origen's influence.) The German theologian and historian Johann Christoph Doerderlin writes: "In proportion as any man was eminent in learning in Christian antiquity, the more he cherished and defended the hope of the termination of future torments." Professor and historian Henry Oxenham informs us that the, "Doctrine of endless punishment was not believed at all by some of the holiest and wisest of the Fathers, and was not taught as an integral part of the Christian faith by any, even of those who believed it as an opinion." Historian Pfaff says: The ultimate restoration of the lost was an opinion held by very many Jewish teachers, and some of the Fathers." Dietelmaier: "Universalism in the fourth century drove its roots down deeply, alike in the East and West, and had very many defenders." Reuss: "The doctrine of a general restoration of all rational creatures has been recommended by very many of the greatest thinkers of the ancient church, and of modern times." (Hist. De la Theol. Apost.).
- Prior to Augustine in the 5th century, the vast majority of Christians including the leadership believed in the Salvation of all mankind through Jesus Christ. St. Basil the Great (c. 329-379) in his De Asceticis wrote: "The mass of men (Christians) say that there is to be an end of punishment to those who are punished." St. Jerome (342-420): "I know that most understand the story of Nineveh and its King, the ultimate forgiveness of the devil and all rational creatures." The Christian leader most instrumental in bringing in the damnable heresy of eternal torment, Augustine, admits himself that "There are very many (imo quam plurimi, which can be translated majority) who though not denying the Holy Scriptures do not believe in endless torments." (Enchiria, ad Laurent. c.29) Imagine, the champion of the doctrine of eternal torment admitting out of his own mouth that as late as the 5th century many or the majority of believers did not believe in eternal torment and he said they did not deny the Scriptures in believing so.
- Of the six theological schools known to the early church, 4 taught the salvation of all, one taught annihilation, and only one taught eternal torment.
- The Greek word aion was not used to mean eternal in the early church writings.
- The President of the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381, St. Gregory of Nazianzus was an outspoken Universalist, that is, he believed in the Salvation Of All Mankind Through Jesus Christ. Would the church designate a heretic as its head at such an important meeting?
- When Emperor Justinian finally declared the teaching of the Salvation of all as heresy, he used the word "ateleutetos" to describe "eternal punishment," not aionion which is the Biblical term. If aionion meant "eternal" why didn't he use it? He didn't because it didn't mean eternal!
- Many writings are still preserved from the early Christian bishops which clearly show they did not teach eternal torment. To mention just a few: Clement Alexandrinus, Gregory Thaumaturgus, Ambrose, Titus of Bostra, Diodore of Tarsus, Isidore of Alexandria, Origen, Theodore of Mopsuestia, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, etc.
- When studying the lives of the early leaders, those embracing the Salvation of all clearly showed much more love and fruit in their lives than those who taught eternal torment. Compare Origen and St. Gregory of Nyssa with Tertullian and Cyprian.
- If the doctrine of the salvation all was heresy, why didn't the church declare it as such until the church entered the dark ages? Could it be that when the pagan doctrine of eternal torment entered the church, this very doctrine brought about the gross darkness which the church plunged into?
- It was not until the church left the Greek text and went to the Latin Vulgate Text that large numbers began to believe in eternal torment. That was because Jerome mistranslated those very words we have just been talking about. The Latin Vulgate perpetuated the error. As long as the Church primarily used the Greek Text, it taught the Salvation of All Mankind.
- As late as the 16th century lexicographers such as Phavorinus knew that aion was just a time word. But he also noted where the idea of changing the meaning came from. He writes, "Aion, time also life, also habit, or way of life. Aion is also the eternal and endless as it seems to the theologian." Here we see where the deception came from, the theologian!
In addition to the above, there are many scholarly volumes which have voiced protest against the way the King James Bible and others have mistranslated this word. The famous G. Campbell Morgan sometimes called the "prince of expositors" in his book Studies of the Four Gospels concerning Matt: 25:31-36 says: "Then, moreover, we must be careful not to read into this section of prophesy things which it does not contain; for while it has been interpreted as though it were a description of the final judgment, the Great White Throne-'these shall go away into age-abiding punishment; but the righteous into age-abiding life'-the terms are co-equal in value, and whatever one means the other means. Only remember that here Christ is not dealing with the subject of the soul's destiny either in heaven or hell. Tthey are terms that have to do wholly with the setting up of the kingdom here in this world..." He states in his book God's Methods with Men, "Let me say to Bible students that we must be very careful how we use the word 'eternity.' We have fallen into great error in our constant usage of that word. There is no word in the whole Book of God corresponding with our 'eternal,' which as commonly used among us, means absolutely without end."
(I just want to make a note here. As long as Jesus is still subduing His enemies, we can only attain "aionian life." Our true "eternal" life does not begin until all death is destroyed (first and second death.) This does not occur until the Father becomes all in all. (1 Cor. 15:28) The Bible does not speak of this condition. I think that it is because words could not adequately describe this state of being.)
On the subject of eternity, I could quote many scholars agreeing with G Campbell Morgan. A handful will suffice: Dr. Edward Plumtre, "I fail to find, as is used by the Greek Fathers, any instance in which the idea of time duration is unlimited." Professor Knappe, "The Hebrew was destitute of any single word to express endless duration. The pure idea of eternity is not found in any of the ancient languages." Professor Taylor Lewis, "The conception of absolute endlessness as etymological of olam or aion would clearly have prevented plurals." He continues, "'ever' (German, ewig), was originally a noun denoting age, just like the Greek, Latin and Hebrew words corresponding to it." He points out the German because most of the English language is derived from German.
The Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible says, "Eternity: The Bible hardly speaks of eternity in the philosophical sense of infinite duration without beginning or end. The Hebrew word "olam," which is used alone (Ps. 61:8; etc.) or with various prepositions (Gn. 3:22; etc.) in contexts where it is traditionally translated 'forever' means itself no more that 'for an indefinitely long period' Thus 'me olam' does not mean 'from eternity' but 'of old' (Gn. 6:4, etc.) In the N.T. 'aion' is used as the equivalent of 'olam.'"
The famous Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible under the headings for "eternal" shows olam, aion, and its adjective aionios to mean "age" and "age-lasting." He also translated a Bible called Young's Literal Bible which also translated these words correctly.
Even King James Bibles such as The Companion Bible by Bullinger have corrected the text in the margins and the appendages.
Great large-hearted men and women throughout the ages such as Abraham Lincoln embraced the message of the salvation of all mankind. Sadly, he was called an "infidel" by many fundamentalist type Christians in his own day.
I have several shelves of books by many scholarly Christians from all over the world which show the same things I have been revealing in these eight pages. I hope I have stirred your heart enough for you to search to see if these things be so. As I said, it depends upon what is in your heart. If it is full of love, you will search the matter out and your heart will be greatly satisfied.
As the famous German theologian and historian Johann Christoph Doederlin (1829-1888) said of the ancient church, and I think it speaks to those today whose hearts and mind are linked to that early church: "In proportion as any man was eminent in learning in Christian antiquity, the more did he cherish and defend the hope of the termination of future torments."
This article will cause some of you to study. Others will cast it away as rubbish. The key is what is in the heart. Perfect love casts out fear. Conversely, fear, casts out love.
Some materials we have put together which will help you on your search are: "Bible Translations That Do Not Teach a 'Hell' of Eternal Torment," "The Early Christian View of the Savior," "An Analytical Study of Words," "The Greek Word Aion" and many tracts. We also have many audio tapes on the subject. A couple of good titles to start with are: "Is the King James Bible Inerrant?," "Good Bye King James," "The Power of a Four Letter Word" (Two Tapes), "The Origin of the Word Eternal" (two tapes), and "The History of the Doctrine of Eternal Torment" (4 tapes).
Some books that would be of great benefit to the sincere student which may be purchased at your local Christian bookstore would be The King James Version 1611 Edition by Thomas Nelson Publishers which will reveal that there are tens of thousands of differences between that edition and a present day one.
Also helpful is The English Bible From KJV To NIV by Jack P. Lewis, published by Baker House. The King James Only Controversy by James R. White is helpful. It is published by Bethany House. While these books do not clear up the matter as much as they should, they are steps in the right direction.
Hard-hearted or Love-filled-you will eventually meet Jesus Christ Who saved the whole world in His Love for us. He came, taught, was crucified, rose again, and conquered death for all mankind, but each in his own order. (1 Cor. 15:22-28)
The mistranslation of the word aion killed the image of a Loving Father Whose nature is Love, Who is truly all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent, and just. With a proper understanding of the word aion, Scriptures such as the following, and many more, will cause us to see Him as He really is, thus allowing us to be conformed to His true image. As the title of this article states, the power of life and death are indeed in a four letter Greek word, aion .
"Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus Christ every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:9-11)
"This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. These things command and teach." (1 Timothy 4:9-11, New King James Translation.)
"Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:2,3, NKJV)
"The Father loves the Son, and has given ALL THINGS into His hand." (John 3:35, NKJV)
Write us and we will gladly send a list of dozens of Scriptures which declare that Jesus truly is Lord of all!
Give Him all the glory He deserves!