Why Can't Aionas Ton Aionon Mean Eternity?

Dear Gary and Michelle thank you, your writings have been of much inspiration in my quest for the truth. Having been a Christian for a number of years and having only stumbled on what I now consider to be the truth - that which you preach and teach I'd like to ask you a quick question from a site that a brother sent me re: Universalism and why he thinks it's false. The copy/paste section is below and I'm inquiring as to why  "aionas ton aionon" or as they translate "forever and ever" cannot be basically translated into eternity.

forever and ever

aionas ton aionon
"ages of the ages"
Eternal - without end Eternal Damnation
"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen," (1 Tim. 1:17).

". . . To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever" (Rev. 5:13).

"And a second time they said, "Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up forever and ever " (Rev. 19:3).

"And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever," (Rev. 20:10).

     The Greek phrase "aionas ton aionon," which is translated "forever and ever," occurs 18 times in the Greek New Testament.  In 17 of them, the phrase means without end, extending into infinity.  In Rev. 19:3, the phrase is used to describe the destruction of the great whore of Babylon (Rev. 17:1,4) whose smoke ascends forever and ever.  It too is eternal and it signifies the beginning of the eternal judgment that comes upon her.  
     Also worth examining is  Rev. 14:11: "And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever ; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." 
     The Greek in Rev. 14:11 is only slightly different.  In the table above, "forever and ever" is translated from the Greek, "aionas ton aionon," which is literally "ages of the of ages."  In Rev. 14:11, the Greek is "aionas aionon" which is literally, "ages of ages."  In the latter, the single Greek word "of the" is missing.  But it is not necessary and does not change the meaning of the text.  Therefore, the scripture teaches the smoke of their torment goes up forever, without end.

Please, I'd really value your response as I love your writings and truly value them.

From a Brother in Townsville, Nth Queensland, Australia.

Gary's Answer:

Does "foreverS AND everS" Make Sense to You?

By Gary Amirault

Many English speaking peoples have heard and used the English expression "forever and ever." This phrase has become an idiomatic expression meaning to most English-speaking people "eternity, perpetuity or everlasting." This is an English rendering of SEVERAL DIFFERENT phrases found in the Greek New Testament. However, if one told the original writers of the Greek New Testament that by this phrase one meant "eternity," they would say that you are not using an "idiomatic" expression, but an "idiotic" one. They would NOT recognize our "forever and ever" as anything remotely representing what the Greek actually meant to them AND they would tell you that the Greek behind our "forever and ever" is NOT a Greek idiomatic expression meaning "eternity." You see, the Greek construct of this term would make it extremely difficult for a first century Greek to see how we moderns ever concocted "forever and ever" from these Greek phrases and words. Let me explain.

The English idiom "It's raining cats and dogs" only makes sense to us because we have been taught to associate the meaning, "It's raining heavily" with those words. Should a Chinese person just beginning to learn English read "it's raining cats and dogs," their natural instinct would first be to take the phrase literally. There is no way they could determine the "idiomatic" meaning of that phrase unless someone explained to them they were reading an idiom and then gave them its meaning. An idiom is an expression peculiar to a particular people or language the meaning of which is not apparent to those outside that group. Most languages have them. American English is filled with them. "I'm hip," "that's cool," "far out, man," "I dig you," are some examples. (I say "American" English because many idioms of the United States are not idioms of other English-speaking countries.)

We have a rather unique situation with this expression "forever and ever." It has come to be an English idiom meaning "eternity." However, it is SUPPOSED TO BE a literal translation of the New Testament Greek, NOT an idiomatic expression. This article will prove this phrase it is neither a literal translation of the Greek NOR an idiom representing the true first century Greek language. It's meaning is so far removed from the early Greek, that first century Greeks could not possibly be able to determine how a modern English-speaking person got these Greek phrases to mean "eternity." They would think the English "forever and ever" was as crazy as "It's raining cats and dogs" would be to a Chinese person. To the first century Greeks, our English "forever and ever" would NOT be a literal translation of the Greek, nor would they consider it an idiomatic expression. They would consider it simply IDIOTIC!

Many Bible translations contain the words "forever AND ever." It sounds nice because we have heard and read this expression thousands of times. Once a tradition is set into the language or customs of a particular people, it is difficult to remove. Just because a tradition has been around a long time and has been assimilated by a large group does NOT make it true. There are more traditions in this world based upon pure falsehood and superstition than our libraries could possibly contain. Santa, the Christmas tree, and the Easter Bunny are examples of how pagan myths and superstitions have entered christendom. Many of our Bible translations contain material as far off from reality as is the Easter Bunny. The phrase "forever and ever" is one of them.

The phrase "forever and ever" is a traditional phrase which has been around in English-speaking nations for several hundred years. It has been accepted as a true rendering of the Greek New Testament for a long time by millions of people. Nevertheless, this "tradition of the elders" is false. Furthermore, it is a tradition that has cause great havoc and produced many contradictions in our English Bibles. Even more significantly, it is a tradition that besmears the character of the God of Christianity to such an extent that the original writers of the Bible would not recognize this God as the one they were inspired to write by in the first place! For example:

Revelation 20:10 is one of several places where we find the English phrase "forever AND ever."

In the original it is written:

kai okarnos tou basanismou auton eis aionas ton aionon anabainei
and smoke the torment of them into eons of the eons is ascending.

Please note:

  • Our English word "ever" appears in the singular form. We have no plural form for "ever." Putting another "ever" next to an "ever" does NOT add anything to the meaning. It's a nonsensical thing to do. We merely do it because of the tradition of the elders we have swallowed without thinking it through.
  • We get our English word "eon" and its plural "eons" from the Greek word "aion" and its inflections. Note that our English "eon" DOES have a plural form "eons" unlike our English word "ever."
  • In the Greek, both words which were translated "ever" are in their PLURAL form. (aionas, aionon) "Ton aionon" is in the genitive form meaning "of" or "belonging to" or "what comes out of" the aionon.
  • The Greek word for "and" is "kai," NOT "ton." Why did some of the leading translations replace the Greek "of the" with "and?" There is no linguistical reason for them to do so. "Of the" works perfectly fine and MANY English translations contain such rendering in the very text itself and many others show it in the margins, footnotes or appendixes.

Given this information, we see that if the King James Bible and its cousins wanted to translate the Greek word "aion" as "ever," AND stay true to the Greek forms of speech, they should have come up with the following rendering:

"And the smoke of their torment is ascending for the evers and evers."

As we can plainly see, this is getting pretty messy. But it gets much more messy than that. Any beginning Greek student knows that the Greek word for "and" is "kai," NOT "ton." So why do many modern English Bibles use the expression "forever AND ever?" There is only one answer--TRADITION!!

There are MANY English Bibles who have broken the "tradition of the elders" in this regard in order to bring forth the true meaning of the Greek. They have translated this Greek phrase "aionas ton aionon":

"for the eons of the eons." Concordant Literal New Testament

"for the ages of the ages." Young's Literal, and others

"for the aeons of the aeons." The New Covenant by Dr. J.W. Hanson

"unto the ages of the ages.: Rotherham's Emphasized, and others

"through the ages of the ages." The Holy Bible in Modern English

The Greek word "aion" in its form in this verse is in the PLURAL both times. So we have "eternities" (plural) AND MORE "eternities" (plural). Are there more than one "eternities?" Does adding one "ever" to another produce eternity? Would "everS AND everS, double plurals make eternity longer? You see, dear reader, when we look at the original Greek construction behind our English phrase "forever and ever," it becomes quite plain to a rational person that this phrase found in many of our leading English Bible translations, comes from the same place that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny come from.

Simply put, we have a plain manipulation of the Greek word "aion" twice in this text AND a mistranslation of the Greek word "ton," which basically means "of the." "Ton" NEVER means "and," unless, of course, one is translating according to "tradition" rather than by proper translation methods.

What is really more amazing is that the double construct phrase of the Greek word "aion" appears in two other forms in the Bible. In one form both aions appear in the singular and in the other form, one aion is singular and the other is plural. In order for the "traditional" folks to be honest in their translating and still maintain that "aion" means "ever," they would have to give us English that reads like this:

"Ever and ever," and "ever and everS," and "everS and everS."

As a rational person can begin to see, our English "forever and ever," has NO resemblance to the original Greek form. The Greeks would NOT be able to understand at all how we came to such a meaning so remote from the original Greek. They would NOT consider these Greek constructions "idiomatic" expressions at all NOR literal translations. They would consider it all theological bunk. (Which is what it all really is.)

The Greeks had no problem with plural forms of the word "aion," because it meant to them what our modern word "eon" means to us. Eons are periods of time, NOT eternity. "Eon, eons, eon of the eon, eon of the eons, eons of the eons, made perfect sense to the Greeks of the first century A.D. AND they make sense in modern English. We have many translations which have translated these Greek phrases this way or similar ways, as I pointed out previously. When we allow "aion" and its derivatives to be a period of time, rather than "eternity," reason returns to us instead of "idiotic" senseless meanings which only reek havoc with our minds and destroy our concept of the True God of the Bible.

When it is determined that "aion" means and has always meant "an indeterminate period of time" sometimes long enough to be called an "age," sometimes as short as the three days and nights Jonah spent in the fish (Jonah 2:6), then we can easily see a number of ages in succession. Then phrases like the "age of the ages" becomes a particular age out of several ages. This is exactly what the Greeks had in mind.

Below are some examples of where the Greek double construct of aion shows three completely separate renderings which the King James and its kissing cousin Bibles hide from our hungry eyes. The Greek language is a very precise language. If it uses three different constructions of the double use of "aion," there is a very good reason for it. To arbitrarily translate all of them exactly the same way "forever and ever" as the KJV, NIV, NASB, NRSB, Amplified, Living, etc. have done, is NOT translating, its butchering the Greek through dark age traditions.

Singular/plural (aionos ton aionon): Ephesians 3:21

Singular/singular (aiona tou aionos): Hebrews 1:8

Plural/plural (aionas ton aionon): Revelation 20:10, 1 Peter 4:11

The word "aion" in ALL its forms refers to "ages" which have ends AND beginnings. There are at least 5 ages mentioned in the Greek New Testament. There is only ONE eternity, not multiples.

The Greek and Hebrew languages have several expressions which are constructed similarly to the double construct of the word "aion" as in "aionas ton aionon." We frequently find expressions like "King of kings," "Lord of Lords," and "Holy of Holies." But "for everS AND everS" makes no real sense to anyone in any language except to the traditionalist who refuses to let go of their tradition because it would cost them more than they are willing to let go of.

Pride, control, money, prestige, anger, wrath, vengeance, self-righteousness, etc. are NOT things most of us, especially religious folks of all persuasions are willing to let go of easily or without a big fight. Are you willing to let go of these things? We all know how hard it is to let go of these things--but let go we must--if we are to go on into a deeper relationship with our Creator and Father. Unless we let go of these traditions, our image of God is nothing more than an idol, a false image formed in our minds from false information. The greatest form of idolatry is not bowing down to a stone or piece of wood--it is holding our very life to a false concept of God in our hearts and minds. Ezekiel warned of such idolatry in the fourteenth chapter of his book. Do not be deceived--the image of God as one who created a place in which He is either going to annihilate or torture many of the human beings He created, is an idol of the magnitude of Moloch, or Baal--nay, it is an abomination a thousand times worse. The plain fact of the matter is that most of Christianity has been and presently still is bowing down to this hideous image. And we wonder why the world is in the confusion that it is. We wonder why the church is so full of hypocrisy. The answers become very plain and simple when we become honest enough with ourselves and our belief systems to look at the facts regardless of what it will cost us.

Jesus said that to follow Him will cost us our lives. Will you lay down your inherited traditions so that the True Image of God may rise in your hearts and minds and find expression through your being? I warn you, just as Jesus had to come against the very people who claimed to represent Him and His Father, you too, will find yourself standing against a huge army of tradtionalists who refuse to allow the True Gospel (which will set creation free) from coming forth. You will understand what it means to "suffer for His Name's sake." Jesus and His Father have been greatly maligned by the traditional view of Christendom. God is raising up an army of men, women, AND children who will strike this false image at its feet and destroy it forever. (Daniel 2:45) I hope the reader is given the grace and boldness to join in the cause.

Dear honest Christian, please study this out. Ask some Greek experts why some English translations have the word "and" between the two "aions?" Oh, make sure you find an expert who knows what the word "is" is. You may discover there are as many spinmeisters in theology as there are in politics. Ask them why they don't make "ever" plural like it is in the Greek. Let them explain what "foreverS AND everS" or "foreverS of the everS" means. "Forever and ever," the present English form in many of our Bibles would make absolutely NO sense to those who were inspired to write these words in the first place over 1900 years ago. When we get honest enough with ourselves to examine whether our beliefs are based upon tradition or the Truth, we will discover that "forever and ever" makes no sense period. We will discover we have been duped. Paul warned 1900 years ago that many wolves would enter the church after his departure. John, the apostle warned that even during his time there were MANY anti-christs. The fact there are over 30,000 denominations of Christendom should attest to their warnings. There is only ONE body of Christ, not 30,000 of them. Paul warned about following after men in his letters to the Corinthians. (1 Cor. 3:1-10) Today, we have literally thousands of denominations each built upon the teachings of some man or woman. We have Lutherans, Wesleyans, Calvinists, etc. We have those who swear allegiance to the Pope or a Patriarch. It is this error which has caused us to fall from the truth and be trapped in systems of tradition which make the word of God of no effect.

Do you know that the Bible speaks of something more powerful than the Word of God? "Thus you have made the word of God of no effect by your TRADITION. Hypocrites! Well, did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines commandments of men.'" (Matthew 15:6-9)

Are we going to stay true to the "tradition of the elders" or are we going to become faithful to the Spirit which inspired the writers of the New Testament? If we desire to be true to the Spirit of inspiration, then we will have to abandon this tradition, and many others that are outside the parameter of this article.

The reason why some scholars, Bible publishers and preachers have not already abandoned this false translation is because of what it would cost them should they translate these words correctly. If they pull further on this thread we have just exposed, and unravel it completely by translating it honestly, the whole concept of a hell in which people are tortured endlessly (forever and ever) completely falls apart! Many in Church leadership simply haven't caught on to the fact that Love will draw a lot more people than fear. Perfect love casts out fear. We become what we worship. Look at church history as see what the doctrine of endless punishment has left behind?thousands of wars, Christians killing each other and pagan nations in the name of God. Jesus' sword of His mouth has been replaced with the sword in the hand leaving behind a river of blood up to the horse's bridle.

If we believe God is going to waste most of mankind, our actions in the world have and will continue to reflect our beliefs and the nature of the God we worship. We cannot rise to a higher level than the god we hold in our hearts. If our God hates His enemies enough to have created a place to do to them what no human on earth is capable of doing to another human being, then we will, in a measure manifest some of that hatred. Look to church history. Those of us who read church history without applying tons of whitewash will find a very gruesome picture, regardless of whether they be Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant.

It has been said that when the Catholic Mary, queen of England, had thousands of Protestants burned at the stake that she said something like, "I only do here on earth what my God will continue to do to them perpetually." The wars, hangings, burnings, and drownings the Protestant denominations and the Orthodox branches have committed proves that ALL denominations of christendom which assemble under the banner of a god who will endlessly torture or annihilate most of mankind do NOT reflect the nature and character of the One who laid down His life for His friends AND enemies.

"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you?" (Matthew 5:44) This is a far cry from what "traditional" christendom has manifested during the last 1600 years. I say, 1600 hundred years rather than 1900 years because the early church of the first few centuries did NOT believe in such a fiend. They knew this image of God was the false image all the OTHER pagan nations believed in. When the church was married to the Roman Emperor under Constantine, and the Roman Empire's military arm became an instrument of the church used to destroy its enemies and its heretics and apostates, the death knoll sounded. The majority of Christians who believed in the salvation of all mankind was replaced by a new majority which advocated violence. The God of Christianity was changed from the Savior of the World to the Eternal Torturer of most of mankind. The God of Christianity was conformed to the tyrant murderers who controlled the Church. Those gentle-spirited Christians who believed in non-violence were either killed or they headed to the wilderness and became recluses.

After the church picked up the weapons of the Roman Empire as its own (military and law), it brought forth the darkness which we know today as "the Dark Ages." During this time, the doctrine of endless tortures was the main instrument church officials used to hold the masses in check. Did it produce holiness? Law-abiding citizens? Loving people? Study this time period yourself and you will find the greatest cruelty and superstitions that mankind has ever experienced.

Compare the effect the early church had on civilization with that of the "Dark Ages" Church. The first taught that God loved all mankind AND would redeem, restore, reconcile, and save all mankind. The "Dark Age" Church taught a cruel fiendish god who was so hard that even the Pope himself was not assured of his own salvation.

Today, both churches still exist. The early church whose majority believed in the salvation of all mankind, which has only one head, Jesus Christ--and the "Dark Age" church, made up of many thousands of denominations started by human beings, still teaches the Dark Age gospel, that God will only save a handful while torturing endlessly the great majority of mankind. Only a remnant of the early church has survived throughout the dark diabolical centuries, but survive it has. And now it is time for this rock cut out of the mountain by the Hands of God to come forth and strike this false image at its feet. (Daniel 2:45) God does not need a majority to accomplish His work. Ask Gideon.

It is time for a people to arise who will be bold enough to set aside man-made traditions to follow the Truth. If the person presently reading this article is stirred to move in such a direction, the following books and articles will be helpful in their journey to follow the ways of Abraham who left behind the traditions of his ancestors to seek a city whose Maker is God. (Hebrews 11:10) If your heart yearns for all that the New Jerusalem, the mother of us all, represents, then the following books and articles will be found helpful to you. They are all available for free download at the Tentmaker site and some of them are available in hard copy from Tentmaker Ministries at the address below.

"Time and Eternity" by G.T. Stevenson

"Aion" by J.W. Hanson

"An Analytical Study of Words" by Louis Abbott

"The Power of a Four Letter Greek Word--Aion" by Gary Amirault

"Bible Translations that do not teach Eternal Torment" by Gary Amirault

"The Bible Hell" by J.W. Hanson

"The Origin and History of the Doctrine of Endless Punishment" by Thomas Thayer

"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw (drag in the Greek) ALL mankind unto Myself." Spoken by Jesus the Messiah in John 12:32

P.S. That the verse brought up in the question (Rev. 20:10) does not refer to eternity is obvious from the text itself. During this time there is "day and night." We know that in eternity there is not day or night because the Lord is the Light and it is always DAY!

Rev 22:5 and night shall not be there, and they have no need of a lamp and light of a sun, because the Lord God doth give them light, and they shall reign--to the ages of the ages. (Young's Literal Translation)

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