As well as:
The verbal pivot on which swings the question, Does the Bible teach the doctrine of Endless Punishment? Is the word Aion and its derivatives and reduplications... It will generally be conceded that the tenet referred to is not contained in the Scriptures if the meaning of endless duration does not reside in the controverted word.(From the preface of "THE GREEK WORD AION -- AIONIOS, TRANSLATED Everlasting -- Eternal IN THE HOLY BIBLE, SHOWN TO DENOTE LIMITED DURATION." Written by: REV. JOHN WESLEY HANSON in 1875.)
Adding just a little bit more to this message from J. W. Hanson's book, just cited, for clarity on this subject, if this is the first time you've been presented this issue:
The oldest lexicographer, Hesychius, (A. D. 400-600,) defines aion thus: "The life of man, the time of life."
At this early date no theologian had yet imported into the word the meaning of endless duration. It retained only the sense it had in the classics, and in the Bible.
Theodoret (A. D. 300-4--) "Aion is not any existing thing, but an interval denoting time, sometimes infinite when spoken of God, sometimes proportioned to the duration of the creation, and sometimes to the life of man."
John of Damascus (A. D. 750,) says, "1, The life of every man is called aion. 3, The whole duration or life of this world is called aion. 4, The life after the resurrection is called 'the aion to come.'"
But in the sixteenth century Phavorinus was compelled to notice an addition, which subsequently to the time of the famous Council of 544 had been grafted on the word. He says: "Aion, time, also life, also habit, or way of life. Aion is also the eternal and endless AS IT SEEMS TO THE THEOLOGIAN." Theologians had succeeded in using the word in the sense of endless, and Phavorinus was forced to recognize their usage of it and his phraseology shows conclusively enough that he attributed to theologians the authorship of that use of the word.
Alluding to this definition, Rev. Ezra S. Goodwin, one of the ripest scholars and profoundest critics, said, "Here I strongly suspect is the true secret brought to light of the origin of the sense of eternity in aion. The theologian first thought he perceived it, or else he placed it there. The theologian keeps it there, now. And the theologian will probably retain it there longer than any one else. Hence it is that those lexicographers who assign eternity as one of the meanings of aion uniformly appeal for proofs to either theological, Hebrew, or Rabbinical Greek, or some species of Greek subsequent to the age of the Seventy, if not subsequent to the age of the Apostles, so far as I can ascertain."
From the sixteenth century onward, the word has been defined as used to denote all lengths of duration from brief to endless.
Macknight: "These words being ambiguous, are always to be understood according to the nature and circumstances to which they are applied." He thinks the words sustain endless punishment, but adds: "At the same time I must be so candid as to acknowledge that the use of these terms, forever, eternal and everlasting, in other passages of Scripture, shows that they who understand these words in a limited sense, when applied to punishment, put no forced interpretation upon them."
But the Blessed Life has not been left dependent on so equivocal a word. The soul's immortal and happy existence is taught in the New Testament, by words that in the Bible are never applied to anything that is of limited duration. They are applied to God and the soul's happy existence only. These words are akataluton, imperishable; amarantos and amarantinos, unfading; aphtharto, immortal, incorruptible; and athanasian, immortality. Let us quote some of the passages in which these words occur:
Heb. vii:15, 16, "And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchizedek there ariseth another priest, who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless (akatalutos, imperishable) life." 1 Pet. i:3, 4, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, (aphtharton,) and undefiled, and that fadeth not (amaranton) away." 1 Pet. v:4, "And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory thatfadeth not (amarantinos) away." 1 Tim. i:17, "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, (aphtharto,) invisible, the only wise god, be honor and glory forever and ever, Amen." Rom. i:23, "And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man." 1 Cor. ix:25, "Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible." 1 Cor. xv:51-54, "Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, (aphthartoi,) and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, (aphtharsian,) and this mortal must put on immortality (athanasian). So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, (aphtharsian,) and this mortal shall have put on immortality, (athanasian,) then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory." Rom. ii:7, "To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, (aphtharsia,) eternal life." 1 Cor. xv:42, "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption (aphtharsia)." See also verse 50, 2 Tim i:10, "Who brought life and immortality (aphtharsian) to light, through the gospel." 1 Tim. vi:16, "Who only hath immortality (athanasian)."
Now these words are applied to God and the soul's happiness. They are words that in the Bible are never applied to punishment, or to anything perishable. They would have been affixed to punishment had the Bible intended to teach endless punishment. And certainly they show the error of those who declare that the indefinite word aiónion is all the word, or the strongest word in the Bible declarative of the endlessness of the life beyond the grave. A little more study of the subject would prevent such reckless statements and would show that the happy, endless life does not depend at all on the pet word of the partialist critics.
There is but one Greek word beside aiónios rendered everlasting, and applied to punishment, in the New Testament, and that is the word aidios found in Jude 6: "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgement of the great day." This word is found in but one other place in the New Testament, viz. Rom. i:20: "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead."
Now it is admitted that this word among the Greeks had the sense of eternal, and should be understood as having that meaning wherever found, unless by express limitation it is shorn of its proper meaning. It is further admitted that had aidios occurred where aiónios does, there would be no escape from the conclusion that the New Testament teaches Endless Punishment. It is further admitted that the word is here used in the exact sense of aiónios, as is seen in the succeeding verse: "Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." That is to say, the "aidios" chains in verse 6 are "even as" durable as the aiónion fire" in verse 7. Which word modifies the other?
1. The construction of the language shows that the latter word limits the former. The aidios chains are even as the aiónion fire. As if one should say "I have been infinitely troubled, I have been vexed for an hour," or "He is an endless talker, he can talk five hours on a stretch." Now while "infinitely" and "endless" convey the sense of unlimited, they are both limited by what follows, as aidios, eternal, is limited by aiónios, indefinitely long.
2. That this is the correct exegesis is evident from still another limitation of the word. "The angels - - - he hath reserved in everlasting chains UNTO the judgement of the great day." Had Jude said that the angels are held in aidios chains, and stopped there, not limiting the word, we should not dare deny that he taught their eternal imprisonment. But when he limits the duration by aiónion and then expressly states that it is only unto a certain date, we understand that the imprisonment will terminate, even though we find applied to it a word that intrinsically signifies eternal duration, and that was used by the Greeks to convey the idea of eternity, and was attached to punishment by the Greek Jews of our Savior's times, to describe endless punishment, in which they were believers.
But observe, while this word aidios was in universal use among the Greek Jews of our Savior's day, to convey the idea of eternal duration, and was used by them to teach endless punishment, he never allowed himself to use it in connection with punishment, nor did any of his disciples but one, and he but once, and then carefully and expressly limited its meaning. Can demonstration go further than this to show that Jesus carefully avoided the phraseology by which his contemporaries described the doctrine of endless punishment? He never employed it. What ground then is there for saying that he adopted the language of his day on this subject? Their language was aidios timoria, endless torment. His language was aionion kolasin, age-lasting correction. They described unending ruin, he discipline, resulting in reformation. - end quote
Let me quote something briefly from a scholarly work by Thomas Allin, entitled "Christ Triumphant":
"Let me state the dilemma clearly. Aion either means endless duration (in Scriptural usage) as its necessary, or at least it's ordinary significance, or it does not. If it does, the following difficulties at once arise; 1 - How if it means an endless period can aion have a plural? 2 - How came such phrases to be used as those repeatedly occuring in Scripture, where aion is added to aion, if aion is of itself infinite? 3 - How come such phrases as for the "aion" or aions and beyond? - ton aiona kai ep aiona kai eti: eis tous aionas kai eti. - See (Sept.) Ex. xv. 18; Dan xii. 3; Micah iv. 5. 4 - How is it that we repeatedly read of the end of the aion? - S. Matt. xiii. 39-40-49; xxiv. 3; xxviii. 20; 1Cor. x. 11; Heb. ix. 26. 5 - Finally, if aion be infinite, why is it applied over and over to what is strictly finite? e.g., S. Mark iv. 19; Acts iii. 21; Rom. xii. 2; 1Cor. i. 20, ii. 6, iii. 18, x. 11, &c., &c. But if an aion be not infinite, what right have we to render the adjective aionios (which depends on it's meaning on aion) by the terms "eternal" (when used as the equivalent of "endless") and "everlasting?" Indeed our translators have really done further hurt to those who can only read their English Bible. They have, wholly obscured a very important doctrine, that of "the ages." This when fully understood throws a flood of light on the plan of redemption, and the method of the divine working." - end quote.