An Analytical Study of Words
Verses "Proving" Punishment Will be Everlasting
"Professor A.T. Robertson and A.B. Bruce agree that 'kolasis aionion' of the KJV has a literal meaning of 'age-lasting correction.'"
"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..."
-G. Campbell Morgan
Matthew 25:31-46 concerns the judgment of NATIONS, not individuals. It is to be distinguished from other judgments mentioned in Scripture, such as the judgment of the saints (2 Cor. 5:10-11); the second resurrection, and the great white throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). The judgment of the nations is based upon their treatment of the Lord's brethren (verse 40). No resurrection of the dead is here, just nations living at the time. To apply verses 41 and 46 to mankind as a whole is an error. Perhaps it should be pointed out at this time that the Fundamentalist Evangelical community at large has made the error of gathering many Scriptures which speak of various judgments which will occur in different ages and assigning them all to "Great White Throne" judgment. This is a serious mistake. Matthew 25:46 speaks nothing of "grace through faith." We will leave it up to the reader to decide who the "Lord's brethren" are, but final judgment based upon the receiving of the Life of Christ is not the subject matter of Matthew 25:46 and should not be interjected here. Even if it were, the penalty is "age-during correction" and not "everlasting punishment."
Dr. J.D. Dummelow, in his commentary on Matt. 25:31-46, says, "Christ here speaks of the judgment of Christians alone, because that was the question which most concerned the apostles and their future converts... A common interpretation, however, is that the judgment of all mankind is meant."
Professor A.T. Robertson, in his Word Pictures in the N.T., and Prof. A.B. Bruce, in The Expositor's Greek Testament, agree that the kolasis aionion, the "everlasting punishment" of the KJV, has a literal meaning of "age-lasting correction."
Dr. F.W. Farrar says: "It may be worthwhile, however, to point out once more to less educated readers that aion, aionios, and their Hebrew equivalents in all combinations are repeatedly used of things which have come to an end. Even Augustine admits (what, indeed, no one can deny), that in Scripture aion and aionios must in many instances mean 'having an end,' and St. Gregory of Nyssa, who at least knew Greek, uses aionios as the epithet for 'an interval.'" Dean Farrar also states: "The pages of theologians in all ages show a startling prevalence of such terms as 'everlasting death, everlasting damnation, everlasting torments, everlasting vengeance, everlasting fire'-not one of which has Scriptural authority." Dr. Farrar was well versed in the Biblical languages, author of books on the life of Jesus, the life of Paul, and Greek grammar, as well as others.
Dr. Edwin Abbott, headmaster of the City of London School, wrote in his Cambridge Sermons (p. 25), "And as for ourselves, though occasionally mentioning in language general and metaphorical, states of eonian life and eonian chastisment awaiting us after death, the Holy Scriptures give no detailed information as to either condition." Dr. Abbott's conviction, as expressed, showed he thought the received dogma was untenable.
An argument was introduced by Augustine, and since his day incessantly repeated, that if aionios kolasis does not mean "endless punishment," then there is no security for the believer that aionios zoe means "endless life," and that he will enjoy the promise of endless happiness. But Matt. 25:46 shows the "eonian chastisement" and "eonian life" are of the same duration-lasting during the eons, and when the eons end, as Scripture states they will (1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 9:26), the time called "eonian" is past and the life called "eonian" is finished, but life continues beyond the eons, as Paul teaches at 1 Cor. 15:26: "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." That is, the last, the final one in order. How will it be destroyed? First Corinthians 15:22 gives the answer: "For as IN ADAM ALL are dying, even so IN CHRIST ALL shall be made alive." Death is destroyed when ALL have been vivified, or made alive, IN CHRIST. There will then be no more death. Just as life is destroyed by death, so death is destroyed by life. Our present bodies are mortal and corruptible (1 Cor. 15:44-55), but when mankind is made alive IN CHRIST they will be raised immortal and incorruptible.
Those who believe in a universal salvation as is spoken of at Col. 1:15-20, and see the purpose of God's love and His plan for the eons, are secure in their belief that the same number of those who are now dying as a result of Adam's disobedience will be made alive in Christ. The ALL of these verses represent exactly the same number of mankind. Romans 5:18-19 says, "by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men-by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men-by one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall the many be made righteous." The "all men" and the "many" in these verses include the same number of humans in both cases.
Theall"in 1 Cor. 15:22; Col. 1:15-22; and Rom. 5:18-19 mean the same in every case. God's eonian purpose is to head up ALL in the Christ, as is stated in Eph. 1:9-10 and 3:11.
Dr. Alford Plumer's An Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (pp. 351-352): "It is often pointed out that 'eternal' (aionios) in 'eternal punishment' must have the same meaning as in 'eternal life.' No doubt, but that does not give us the right to say that 'eternal' in both cases means 'endless.'"
Dr. G. Campbell Morgan, preacher, teacher, evangelist, and author; sometimes called the "prince of expositors," wrote in his Studies of the Four Gospels concerning Matt. 25:31-46, "Then, moreover, we must be careful not to read into this section of prophecy 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. They are terms that have to do wholly with the setting up of the kingdom here in this world..." In Dr. Morgan's, God's Methods with Men, he says (pp. 185-186), "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." In his book, The Corinthian Letters of Paul, the same author states concerning 1 Cor. 15:22 (p. 191): "The word Adam is used here in the sense of headship of a race, the one from whom the race springs. But God's second Man was the last Adam. If we say second Adam, we presuppose the possibility of a third Adam, another from whom a race shall spring. There will be none such. It is 'first Adam' and 'last Adam.' What does relationship with Him mean? In the program of God all are to be made alive in Christ."
Sir Robert Anderson, a writer on eschatology, says, "The N.T. unfolds an economy of times and seasons; many ages head up in the one great age, within which the manifold purpose of God, in relation to earth, shall be fulfilled. Here, these words eon, age are applicable, and are used."
Dr. Edward Plumptre, an eschatologist, wrote, "I fail to find, as is used by the Greek Fathers, any instance in which the idea of time duration is unlimited."
Dr. William White says, "That of the widely different subjects to which aeonian is applied in the N.T., in 70 they are of a limited and temporary nature."
Professor Knappe of Halle wrote, "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 Hermann Oldhausen said, "The Bible has no expression for endlessness. All the Biblical terms imply or denote long periods." Dr. Oldhausen was a German Lutheran theologian.
Lexicographers note the fact that it was not until the fifth century A.D. that theologians began to read the sense of endlessness into Bible words. Dr. Lewis S. Chafer deplores the difficulty that the average reader of the Bible will encounter in seeking to understand the real meaning of these passages, when he notes how hopelessly the KJV has obscured the word aion. He said, "The word, which in common usage has a limited meaning, is used by the translators as the one English rendering for at least four widely differing ideas in the original. So that if the truth contained in this important body of Scripture is to be understood, the student must not only know the various meanings which are expressed by the one word, but also be able to determine the correct use of it in the many passages in which it occurs. Therefore, the KJV has placed the simple truth they contain beyond the average reader of the Bible. The English word 'world,' as used in the New Testament, may mean a distinct period of time, commonly known as an age (as its original is a few times translated), or it may refer to the things created: the earth, its inhabitants, or their institution. The ages are often referred to in Scripture, and the study of the exact conditions and purposes of each of them are not fanciful; but it is rather the only adequate foundation for any true knowledge of the Bible."
Dr. W.H. Griffith Thomas wrote in The Christian, in a comment upon Heb. 11:3, "the word rendered 'worlds' is 'ages' and refers not so much to the material creation as to the world regarded from the standpoint of time... The last mentioned (age, aion) is the name used here, and it seems to refer to what may be called time-worlds, the idea being that of various ages or dispensations being planned by God with reference to a goal toward which all are moving."
Dr. Thomas' notes on Rom. 5:18-19 were, "As mankind's connection with Adam involved him in certain death, through sin, so his relation to Christ insures to him life without fail. The double headship of mankind in Adam and Christ show the significance of the work of redemption for the entire race."
Professor Max Muller says in reference to the Latin word aeternum, "that it originally signified life or time, but has given rise to a number of words expressing eternity-the very opposite of life and time." He says the Latin aevum, that is, the Greek word "ainon, later aion, became the name of time, age, and its derivative, aeviternus, or aeternus, was made to express eternity."
Dr. Isaac Watts says, "There is not one place in Scripture which occurs to me, where the word death necessarily signifies a certain miserable immortality of the soul."
Professor Taylor Lewis states, "The conception of absolute endlessness as etymological of olam or eon 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." Dr. Lewis wrote an interesting article for Lange's Commentary about the use of the words olam and aion as used at Ecc. 1:4.
Jeremy Taylor, a hell-fire advocate wavers, and after his ebullient flashes of Systematic Hellology, is constrained to the following modification in Jeremy Taylor's Works (vol. 3, p. 43), "Though the fire is everlasting, not all that enters it is everlasting," then adds, "The word everlasting signifies only to the end of its period." Would that other hell-fire advocates were so honest.