If Everlasting Punishment is not Eternal then how can Life be Eternal? (Matthew 25:46)Matthew 25:46 Commentary - By Gary Amirault
Does Eternal Punishment have to be as long as Eternal life because the adjective “aionios” is used to describe both punishment and life?
(A short synopsis of this article: The following article proves that “everlasting punishment” in Matthew 25:46 is a MIStranslation in many of the current leading selling English Bible translations including the King James Version, New International Standard Version, New American Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version, the Amplified Bible, The Net Bible, New Century Version, New Living Translation, International Standard Version, English Standard Version as well as many others. There are several translations, however, some of which are listed at the end of this article, which do NOT make this mistake. This correction is crucial in regards to having a proper understanding of the nature and character of God and His role as judge. Just because “aionios” is used to describe life and punishment, does not mean they have to be of the same length and quality any more than a “small” house has to be the same size as a “small” ring because the same adjective is used to describe both. Often adjectives take on some of the value of the word they describe. Therefore, “kolasin aionion” (mistranslated “everlasting punishment”) does not have to be the same length as “zoen aionion” (mistranslated “eternal life”). Aionion should not have been translated “everlasting” because aion and its adjective are clearly time words that have beginnings and endings. And “punishment” for the Greek “kolasin” is too strong a word. Kolasin means “to prune a tree to make it more fruitful.” There is nothing fruitful about eternal damnation in burning flames. If Jesus wanted to imply vindictive punishment, the author of Matthew could have chosen the Greek word “timoria,” but he didn’t – he used a much softer word. Furthermore, Matthew 25:46 does not speak of individual salvation based upon faith in Christ, it speaks of separation of nations based upon how they treated Jesus. And lastly, the context seems to indicate the judgments would be upon the religious leadership of Israel and those who considered themselves righteous, not street sinners, low-life Jews and/or adherents to other religious systems, that is, the Gentiles.)
The Full Article:
Too frequently Bible teachers and students take a small portion of Scripture out of context and build an entire doctrine on it. This is the case with Matthew 25:46. In the entire Greek New Testament we find the Greek words “kolasin aionion” occurring only a single time. This phrase has been translated “everlasting punishment” by most of the leading selling English Bible translations. The very foundation of most of modern Christianity is built upon salvation FROM eternal punishment in a place called Hell through faith in Jesus Christ. Yet the truth of the matter is that the concept of salvation being deliverance from “eternal punishment” is utterly false. The concept of “everlasting punishment” does NOT exist in either the Hebrew nor the Greek languages of the Christian Scriptures. Yes, it does exist in “some” leading selling English Bible translations, but not in the original languages of the Bible. Many outstanding Christian scholars are beginning to agree with what the early believers in Christ knew that salvation through Jesus Christ was deliverance from DEATH, not from everlasting life being tormented forever. The wages of sin have ALWAYS been death, NEVER everlasting punishment. People who died prior to Christ’s resurrection were asleep, the dead knew nothing, they couldn’t praise God, they were unconscious in “Sheol.” Everyone went to this one place, “Sheol.” Abraham, Moses, David, the Pharaoh, the King of Babylon and the street sinner whether Jew or Gentile, their bodies went into the grave and their soul went to “Sheol.” This was the understanding the Jews had regarding death until after the Babylonian captivity. After that time, some Jews began to write material later named “Apocrypha” that compartmentalized “Sheol” after the order of the Zorastrianism found in Persia. These writings are extra-biblical. The Jews do not have these writings in their Bible, nor do most Protestant Bibles. However, these writings did get into the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) used by the early church. That is one of the ways the teaching of Hell entered into Christianity. But remember, we do NOT find such a concept in the Torah (Pentateuch, first five books of the Bible). We do NOT find such a concept in any portion of the law given to and through Moses. The Hebrew prophets know of no such a compartmentalization, nor do we find anything remotely close to such a thing in the Wisdom writings of the Old Covenant. Clearly, it is a “tradition of men which makes the word of God of no effect.” Jesus rebuked the Jewish leadership of His day for doing that. Jesus came to empty the place of the dead. The early church clearly taught that Jesus went into “Sheol,” preached to those who were disobedient in the days of Noah and “led captivity captive.” Only the Spirit of God could bring people out of the grave.
Dear reader -- the prophets, Jesus, His apostles and the early body of Christ clearly taught universal salvation through Jesus Christ, not Hell which was a concept prevalent in the pagan religions surrounding Israel. THAT is where some Jews and Christians in a later period got the teaching of everlasting punishment – from the pagan religions around the Mediterranean basin, not from Scripture. In this paper, we will look at the meaning of the Greek words “kolasin” and “aionion,” the adjective of the noun “aion.” We will also look at the context in which this phrase occurs which will help determine the meaning of the phrase and to whom it applies.
Miles Coverdale, in the introduction to his Bible translation made a statement which, if followed, would greatly aid a student of the Bible in understanding what is written. Most of the errors in Bible interpretation stem from neglecting a part of the following:
“It will greatly help you to understand scripture if you note – not only what is spoken and written, but of whom and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goes before and what follows.” (Miles Coverdale in the introduction to his Bible translation.)
The context of Matthew 25:46 actually places it in a time when Jesus is NOT speaking to a general audience; He is not speaking to Jewish street sinners; He is certainly not speaking to the gentiles; He is, in fact, speaking to His disciples privately and we, the readers, are listening in. The exchange with His disciples in Matthew chapter 25 capped off a very long day in Jesus’ life. It is unclear in the gospel of Matthew when the day actually began. It could have begun in Matthew chapter 22 or 23. In any event, in all of these chapters, Jesus is making a very startling and irritating point: the religious and Jewish political leadership of His day was utterly corrupt. Judgment was at the door. God was about to take the kingdom of God away from the Jews and give it to another who would bear fruit, not like Israel which bore no good fruit. The Jewish leadership consisting of Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers (Bible experts), and scribes were all corrupt according to Jesus. This generation was about to be judged and found wanting and the kingdom of God would be given to another nation.
Understand that in Matthew chapter 23, where Jesus warned the multitudes NOT to be like their religious leadership who put burdens upon the poor which they are not willing to carry themselves. When Jesus spoke to the “multitudes,” one must remember that most of there Jews, especially in Galilee, were very poor. There essentially was no middle class. It is hard for Western Christians to identify with the times in which Jesus lived. There were the very rich and there were the very poor. Jesus rebuked the rich and fed, healed and taught the poor. From the Jewish leadership’s point of view, the poor were poor because they were sinners. The poor were being punished by God for not being “righteous” like they were. So when Jesus ate and drank with them, He was eating with trash, according to the religious leadership.
It is hard for most American Christians to imagine, but most of Church history in Europe was very much like the days of Israel. In whatever country you lived, there was the one national church of that country. You were either a part of it or you had to leave. Freedom of religion was unheard of. And you were either very well off or very poor. The middle class we see all around us virtually didn’t exist. There were the royalty (God ordained, of course) and priests on the one hand and there were the poor peasants on the other. Picture, if you will, your church with the middle class removed. The pastor, choir director, and other high leadership very well off. Special seating for the political and military leadership who were also very well off. The rest of the people were pretty much poor. They had no say in anything including in religion and just barely survived. On top of that the church demanded that they pay 10 percent of the little that they had to the church. Plus there were the building drives, special speaker offerings, missionary offerings, etc. Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, there are many believers in Christ who are in this exact position today and their number is increasing as the middle class continues to shrink in America.
Understand that the contexts of all of these verses at the end of the book of Matthew relate to the nation of Israel, its leadership and people. Of course one may make application of the principles found in these verses to modern times, but first let us see their application to the people to whom they were first spoken. Personally, I believe the modern church is presently much closer to the condition of Israel in the first century than most church leadership would care to acknowledge. So then, let us first see these verses in the context of the time in which Jesus preached remembering “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt. 15:24) Also, Jesus speaking to his disciples said, “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matt. 10:5, 6) Keep this in mind as you read these dialogues.
The conversation began after Jesus left the temple where He railed at the religious leadership of His day. In Matthew 23 we find some of the harshest language Jesus employed. This language was NOT aimed at the average citizen. Nor was it aimed at the heathen nations surrounding Israel. It was, in fact, aimed at the Jewish leadership, the Pharisees, scribes, and lawyers. Among Jesus' descriptive words for the Jewish leadership of His generation was "blind guides, hypocrites, den of snakes, sons of Gehenna (the local city dump translated Hell by some translations), white-washed tombs and fools. After a thorough thrashing Jesus declared to them, "I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon THIS generation.” (not some generation 1,000 or 2,000 years later.) (Matthew 23:34-36)
It is vitally important to note that it is a specific generation to whom He is speaking and that He was sending these men (apostles and prophets) to that very generation so that judgment could come upon it. He spoke these words in the temple in Jerusalem. He then departed from the temple "And His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple." (Matthew 24:1)
Then Jesus made a statement which must have made the disciples’ hearts (who still had a lot of ego working in them) drop. The disciples were gloating over these brand new buildings because they thought they were going to rule and reign with Jesus IN these very buildings. Jesus told them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down." (Matthew 24:2) It is vitally important throughout this whole discourse to understand that Jesus is speaking ALL of these things to a specific people who lived at THAT time, NOT to some people far removed from this whole scene. When Jesus said "Take heed that no one deceive you," (Matthew 24:4) Jesus was speaking to His disciples, NOT some future generation! ALL of what Jesus referenced occurred within the very generation He was addressing! All those buildings to which Jesus was referring were destroyed within the very generation to which He was speaking.
After rebuking the entire religious leadership of His day, Jesus wept over Jerusalem, the central city of sacrifice of the entire nation, a city filled with thousands of priests. He said it was a city that always killed God’s messengers, the prophet, and it would now become desolate. “Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell (Greek: Gehenna, the local city dump off the Southwest wall of Jerusalem, a place for utterly worthless things where criminals were often thrown to be burned up)?” (Matt. 23:32, 33, NKJV) This was an insult of insults from a Jewish point of view. Most respected people had extravagant funerals to show how important their lives were. Jesus was telling the respected of Jerusalem that their lives were worthless. After Jesus said this, they departed from the temple area, went up to the Mount of Olives which allows a grand view of the entire city, especially the temple. The disciples must have been shocked at what Jesus prophesied regarding Jerusalem and its people. Therefore they asked Him basically when was all this going to happen and what kind of signs would there be to prepare for such a horrible time.
In Matthew chapter 24, Jesus prophesied what was about to take place. I realize dispensationalists chop this chapter into all kinds of nonsensical pieces, leaving parts of it for that time period and other parts for a “rapture” thousands of years later, but that is all utter nonsense. The disciples clearly expected these things to occur in their own time and they did, PERFECTLY. A careful reading of Josephus’ “War of the Jews” reveals EVERYTHING Jesus foretold in these verses were perfectly fulfilled within that very generation of Jews Jesus said would be judged. So when Jesus spoke of wars and rumors of wars, nations rising against one another, earthquakes and famines, being delivered up to tribulation and hated by all nations, false prophets, the abomination of desolation as spoken by the mouth of Daniel, one need go no further than the 60’s and 70’s of the first century, the exact generation in which Jesus said these signs would occur. If the reader would simply read the last chapters of Matthew as if he/she were a disciple of Jesus living in the fourth decade of the first century of the Common Era (A.D.) AND read Josephus’ “War of the Jews,” these chapters be filled with light which the traditional modern day interpretations do not give forth. A modern Christian does not have to live under the fear of fleeing to the mountains, looking for the signs of the Great Tribulation or wondering if you will be “Left Behind” during some wild “rapture” of the saints.
I want to point out one of the critical mistakes we, Christians, often make due to faulty or archaic Bible translations. The King James Bible has the disciples ask Jesus privately, "Tell us, when shall these things be and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?" (Matthew 24:3; KJV) The word "world" in this passage is the Greek word "aion" which means "age" NOT the physical world. If Jesus meant "world" he would have used the word "cosmos." Because the King James Bible mistranslated this word "aion" several different WRONG ways, it has caused several different doctrinal problems. The Bible in its Greek form actually speaks of at least 5 "ages," NOT two worlds, the world destroyed by water and the world to be destroyed by fire. There are ages (plural) past (Col. 1:26 and Eph. 3:9), the present age in which the writers of the New Testament were living (Luke 20:34,35, Rom. 12:2, Eph. 1:21, Titus 2:12, etc.) and at least two future ages to come (Eph. 2:7). Matthew 24:3 in the King James version does NOT refer to the end of the physical world, it refers to the end of the Jewish "age" which ended at the destruction of the Temple and its priesthood in 70AD. The generation of Jews to which Jesus came was the last generation of Jews born under the Old Covenant which was about to pass away.
The form of "aion" in Matthew 25:46 is an adjective. An adjective is a form of a word indicating possession or pertaining to. For example, hourly pertains to "an hour." Clearly, when one studies Olam and aion, it makes much more sense that it is an indeterminate period of time rather than eternity. Mistranslation of "olam" as "forever" and "everlasting" in the Old Testament has given us contradictions in our modern Bibles. The Mosaic Covenant is described as "everlasting" while the book of Hebrews tells us it is has been abolished. Solomon's Temple was to be "everlasting" yet it is no more. So, too, the Levitical Priesthood which has been replaced by the Melchizedek Priesthood. If these occurrences of "olam" had been translated correctly, we would NOT have these glaring contradictions in our Bibles. So then, Aion is an indeterminate period of time which we do not know the end of until it occurs.
An adjective CANNOT have a greater meaning than the noun from which it is derived. Hourly, for example, cannot pertain to a week, or month, or year. The "ly" indicates it belongs to an "hour." So too with "aionIOS" The "ios" ending tells us that it pertains to "aion" that is, an indeterminate period of TIME.
This amount of time can vary greatly, but it still must remain within the parameters of time. G. Campbell Morgan, as well as other great Bible scholars have told us that the Bible does NOT speak of "eternity" as we use the term. And why should it? It's a history of God's dealings with man here on earth which is in the realm of time and space.
Jesus described "eternal life" thusly:
"And this is eternal (aionian) life (zoen), that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3)
Isn't it rather strange that MOST of the church believes one can "lose" their "eternal life" and yet they will fight with someone like myself tooth and nail that "aionian" means "eternal." So they fight insisting "aionios" means "eternal," and then turn right around and make this "eternal" life, a kind of life which can be lost! Talk about foolish religious contradictions! This is a major one if I ever saw one!
Another thing to note about adjectives is that they often take on some of their meaning from the noun they are describing. For example, one would NOT expect a "small" ring to be the same size as a "small" house even though the same adjective is used to describe the nouns “ring” and “house.” The adjective “small” gets some of its force from the noun to which it is connected. Why then should "aionian" punishment have to be of the same duration as "aionian" zoen (Divine life)? Aionian may take on a greater force because it is connected to "zoen" which is “God-life.” It is as incorrect to assume that “aionian punishment” must be as long as "aionian zoen" as it is to force a house to become the size as a ring simply because they are both described by the same adjective, “small.” The Bible plainly tells us that God's anger WILL come to an end. “Aionian” punishment is NOT eternal.
"For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would fail before Me, and the souls which I have made." Isaiah 57:16
The word "zoen" in Matthew 25:46 has given the word "aionian" a greater value, so to speak. It is exegetically false to assume the same value must be applied to the word punishment (kolasin) simply because the adjective “aionian” are used with both phrases. As seen from above, certain scriptures makes it abundantly clear, God’s punishment WILL come to an end despite what many church leaders teach. To continuously punish someone infinitely for a crime committed in finite time is not only unjust, it's downright demonic. It totally violates all of our sense of justice. No wonder most people are unwilling to come to Jesus for judgment. They do not see Him nor His Father as righteous judges. The Roman Catholics are taught to go to Mary because Jesus and His Father are too harsh. Mary is used to soften the Father and Son us for us. This is the kind of false teaching which has crept into the church because of this gross misrepresentation of God as a judge Who will give over unbelievers and sinful Christians to unending torture.
In the Greek Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament), in Hab. 3:6, we find “everlasting mountains” and “everlasting God” within the same verse. If we use the same logic and reasoning that traditionalists use in Matt. 25:46, God must not be able to live any longer than mountains on earth. We know that the mountains are NOT everlasting. It is a mistranslation of olam, the Hebrew counterpart of the Greek aion. Both adjectives describe things in time, space, and matter. God is Lord over creation, but He is beyond even that. True eternity is something higher than creation. That the Bible calls Yahweh the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, does NOT preclude the fact that He is also the God of Israel, the God of Judah, or the God of the whole earth. He is all these which fall into the realm of the “everlasting God,” that is, the “God of the ages.” But He is still more than all that.
Below is a list of Scriptures which clearly show that many of our leading selling English translations have mistranslated the Greek word “aion” and its Hebrew counterpart “olam.” Surely the Hebrews and Greeks had something entirely different in mind when using these words than how we understand the English words “eternal,” “everlasting,” “for ever and ever,” etc.:
Sodom's fiery judgment is "eternal" (Jude 7), that is--until--God "will restore the fortunes of Sodom" (Ez.16:53‑55);
Israel's "affliction is incurable" (Jer. 30:12), that is‑‑until‑‑the Lord "will restore health" and heal her wounds (Jer. 30:17);
The sin of Samaria "is incurable" (Mic. 1:9) that is‑‑until‑‑ Lord "will restore ... the fortunes of Samaria." (Ez. 16:53);
Ammon is to become a "wasteland forever" and "rise no more" (Zeph. 2:9, Jer. 25:27) that is‑until‑‑the Lord will "restore the fortunes of the Ammonites" (Jer. 49:6);
An Ammonite or Moabite is forbidden to enter the Lord's congregation "forever", that is‑‑until‑‑the tenth generation (Deut. 23:3):
Habakkuk tells us of mountains that were "everlasting", that is‑‑until‑‑they "were shattered" Hab. 3:6);
The fire for Israel's sin offering (of a ram without blemish) is never to be put out. It shall be ”perpetual" that is‑‑until‑‑Christ, the Lamb of God, dies for our sins. We now have a better covenant established on better promises (Lev. 6:12‑13, Heb. 8:6‑13);
God's waves of wrath roll over Jonah "forever," that is--until-‑the Lord delivers him from the large fish's belly on the third day (Jonah 2:6,10; 1: 17);
Egypt and Elam will "rise no more" (Jer. 25:27)‑‑until‑‑the Lord will "restore the fortunes of Egypt" (Ez. 29:14) and "restore the fortunes of Elam" (Jer. 49:39).
"Moab is destroyed" (Jer. 48:4, 42)‑‑until‑‑the Lord "will restore the fortunes of Moab" (Jer. 48:47);
Israel's judgment lasts "forever"‑‑until‑‑the Spirit is poured out and God restores it (Isa. 32:13‑15).
So, narrow is the way to life and few find it, that is‑‑until‑‑His church confiscates the "strong man's" booty, setting the captives free so God becomes all in all (Isa. 61, Luke 11:21‑22, Matt. 7:13; 16:18, 1 Cor. 15:24‑28);
God is now calling out "a people for His name"‑‑an "elect" or chosen priesthood people who will represent and reflect His loving nature. Many are called and few are chosen—that is, until‑‑the small chosen priesthood people, by the Spirit, restore "David's tabernacle" so ALL mankind may inquire of the Lord. Thus we see that the church is the first-born, the beginning‑‑until‑‑in ALL (later born new creatures in Christ) our Lord will have supremacy (Amos 9:11‑12, Matt. 22:14, Acts 15:14‑18, Eph. 3:15, Col. 1 18).
All manner of sin will be forgiven in this AGE as well as in the AGE (not eternity) to come, except blasphemy against God's Spirit‑‑until‑‑such blasphemy finds pardon in the fullness of the times (or ages) when God unites all in Christ. For the Lord does not retain His anger forever because He delights in mercy (Matt. 12:32; 18:11,21‑22, Eph. 1:9‑11, Rev. 4:11; 5:13, Mic. 7:18‑20). (Much of the above list was provided by Charles Slagle)
Our justice systems, as faulty as they are, attempt to fit the punishment to the crime. There are many different forms and lengths of punishment to satisfy our moral sense of justice. But according to modern Christendom, all crimes (sins) committed here on earth will receive the same punishment AND it will be far more severe than the most cruel tyrants of the world have inflicted upon mankind. Modern Christian justice has NOT made God a just judge, it has made Him out to be the most barbaric of dictators this world has ever seen. Hitler would be a saint compared to the image of God as judge the church has portrayed of Him.
The Hebrew word Olam is the equivalent of the Greek Word "aion." If olam meant "forever," why do we find constructs which tell us there is a "beyond" this "forever," as in Exodus 15:18. When we look at the Latin in this case, we begin to see how this great error came into our vulgar translations. The Latin Vulgate reads "Dominus regnabit in aeturnum et ultra," "The Lord will reign unto (or into) eternity and beyond." How is such a thing possible?
If aion means eternity, why does this word appear in the plural form? Why does it appear in double constructs such as aion of the aion, aion of the aions, and aions of the aions? Is Greek such a confusing language that one can take several different variations of the same word and simple stick them all under "everlasting" or "forever and ever" or is Greek much more exact than our modern Bible translators make it appear to be? When one looks at all the different forms of this Greek word and how many of our modern translations have rendered this word, it becomes quite apparent to the neutral observer that some twisting of meanings has been going on. "Aionas ton aionon," for example is rendered "for ever AND ever" by many leading Bible translations. Ask a scholar what the meaning of "ton" is. You will NEVER hear one say it means "and." This should have correctly been translated "of the" and NOT "and." This is just one of many examples that many translators have been translating according to tradition, rather than what the Greek and Hebrew means. The first revision of the King James Bible, the Revised Version and the American Version, made many corrections in the text and placed many corrections in the margins. Due to subsequent pressure from the Fundamentalists, they have since removed all of the marginal notes which would aid one to seeing that the King James translation was NOT true to the original Greek. Go find a 1901 American Standard. You will see these corrections in the margins.
Just in case the reader thinks that these thoughts are simply the words of a dimwit who doesn't understand the original languages of the Bible, here are a few quotes from leading scholars on the same subject:
Dr. R.F. Weymouth, a translator who was adept in Greek, states in The New Testament in
Modern Speech (p. 657), “Eternal, Greek aeonian, i.e., of the ages: Etymologically this
adjective, like others similarly formed does not signify, “during” but “belonging to” the aeons or ages.”
Dr. Marvin Vincent, in his Word Studies of the New Testament (vol. IV, p. 59): “The
adjective aionios in like manner carries the idea of time. Neither the noun nor the adjective IN THEMSELVES carries the sense of “endless” or “everlasting.” Aionios means enduring through or pertaining to a period of time. Out of the 150 instances in the LXX (Septuagint), four-fifths imply limited duration.” (Editor’s note: the rest of the time aionios takes on a greater meaning from the noun to which it is connected, usually God Himself or heaven.)
Dr. F.W. Farrar, author of The Life of Christ and The Life and Work of St. Paul, as well
as books about Greek grammar and syntax, writes in The Eternal Hope (p. 198), “That the adjective is applied to some things which are “endless” does not, of course, for one moment prove that the word itself meant ‘endless;’ and to introduce this rendering into many passages would be utterly impossible and absurd.” In his book, Mercy and Judgment, Dr. Farrar states (p. 378), “Since aion meant ‘age,’ aionios means, properly, ‘belonging to an age,’ or ‘age-long,’ and anyone who asserts that it must mean ‘endless’ defends a position which even Augustine practically abandoned twelve centuries ago. Even if aion always meant ‘eternity,’ which is not the case in classic or Hellenistic Greek–aionios could still mean only ‘belonging to eternity’ and not ‘lasting through it.’”
Lange’s Commentary American Edition (vol. V, p. 48), on Ecclesiastes chapter 1 verse 4,
in commenting upon the statement “The earth abideth forever” says, “The preacher, in contending with the universalist, or restorationist, would commit an error, and, it may be, suffer a failure in his argument, should he lay the whole stress of it on the etymological or historical significance of the words, aion, aionios, and attempt to prove that, of themselves, they necessarily carry the meaning of endless duration.” On page 45 of the same work, Dr. Taylor Lewis says: “The Greek ‘aiones’ and ‘aiones ton aionon,’ the Latin ‘secula,’ and ‘secula seculorum,’ the Old Saxon, or Old English of Wicliffe, ‘to worldis or worldis’ (Heb. XIII 21), or our more modern phrase, ‘for ever and ever,’ wherever the German ewig, was originally a noun denoting age or a vast period, just like the Greek, Latin, and Hebrew words corresponding to it.”
The Rev. Bennet, in his “Olam Hanneshamoth” (p. 44), says, “The primary nature of olam is ‘hidden,’ and both as to past and future denotes a duration that is unknown.” “Olam” is the Hebrew word corresponding to the Greek word “aion.” The Greek Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) renders the Hebrew word “olam” as “aion” or it’s adjective “aionios.”
The Parkhurst Lexicon: “Olam (aeon) seems to be used much more for an indefinite than
for an infinite time.”
Dr. MacKnight: “I must be so candid as to acknowledge that the use of these terms
‘forever,’ ‘eternal,’ ‘everlasting,’ shows that they who understand these words in a limited sense when applied to punishment put no forced interpretation upon them.”
Dr. Nigel Turner, in Christian Words, says (p. 457), “All the way through it is never
feasible to understand aionios as everlasting.”
The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 15, p. 485, says, “It is possible that ‘aeonian’ may denote
merely indefinite duration without the connotation of never ending.”
The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 4, p. 643, says, “The O.T. and the N.T. are
not acquainted with conception of eternity as timelessness.” Page 644: “The O.T. has not developed a special term for eternity.” Page 645: “The use of the word aion in the N.T. is determined very much by the O.T. and the LXX. Aion means long, distant, uninterrupted time. The intensifying plural occurs frequently in the N.T. ...but it adds no new meaning.”
Dr. Lammenois, a man adept with languages, states, “In Hebrew and Greek the words
rendered ‘everlasting’ have not this sense. They signify a long duration of time, a period; whence the phrase, during these eternities and beyond.”
We could add many more scholars to the above list who believe that “everlasting punishment” is NOT the true translation of “aionian kolasin.” The following Bible translations have broken tradition with the King James family of Bibles which include the AS, ASV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, Amplified, Living Translation, etc. The following English Bible translations have translated “aion” in such a manner that God’s punishment does NOT contradict a God whose love and mercy truly endures forever and is unconditional for all mankind.
Translation of the New Testament from the Original Greek Humbly Attempted by Nathaniel Scarlett Assisted by Men of Piety & Literature with notes, 1798:
“And These will go away into onian punishment: but the righteous into onian life.”
The New Testament by Abner Kneeland, 1823:
“And these shall go away into aionian punishment*: but the righteous into aionian life.”
*The word here rendered “punishment,” properly signfies correction inflicted for the benefit of the offender. The word “aionian” is explained in the preface : which see.
The New Covenant by Dr. J.W. Hanson, 1884:
“And these shall go away into onian chastisement, and the just into onian life.”
Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible, 1898:
“And these shall go away to punishment age-during, but the righteous to life age-during.”
The Holy Bible in Modern English, 1903
“And these He will dismiss into a long correction, but the well-doers to an enduring life.”
The New Testament in Modern Speech, 1910:
“And these shall go away into the Punishment 1 of the Ages, but the righteous into the Life 1 of the Ages.”
- [Of the Ages] Greek “aeonian.”
A Critical Paraphrase of the New Testament by Vincent T. Roth, 1960
“And these shall go away into age-continuing punishment, but the righteous into life age-continuing.”
“And these shall go away into age-abiding *correction, but the righteous into **age-abiding life.”
“And these last will go away ‘into onian punishment, but the righteous ‘into onian life.”
The People’s New Covenant, 1925
“And these will depart into age-continuing correction, but the righteous, into age-continuing life.”
“And these shall go forth to the aionian 1 cutting-off; but the RIGHTEOUS to aionian Life.”
“And these shall go away into agelasting cutting-off and the just into agelasting life.”
“And these will go away into eonian correction, but the righteous into eonian life.”
The New Testament, A New Translation, 1980
“Then they will begin to serve a new period of suffering; but God’s faithful will enter upon their heavenly life.”
Concordant Literal New Testament, 1983
And these shall be coming away into chastening eonian, yet the just into life eonian.”
Rotherham Emphasized Bible, 1959
“And these shall go away into age-abiding correction, But the righteous into age-abiding life.”
There are several other translations which do NOT contain the concept of “everlasting punishment,” but I could not get my hands on copies of them to give the exact rendering. In addition to these Bibles, there are a number of other Bibles like the King James Companion Bible and the Newberry Reference Bible which give enough information in the footnotes and appendages to make it clear to the reader that “everlasting punishment” is a clear MIStranslation. Even the original revision of the King James Bible, the Revised Version and the American Standard, had marginal readings which showed that “aion” literally meant “age.” Subsequent revisions of the King James Bible have removed those marginal notes. Apparently, the fundamentalist and evangelical movements were not reading for honest translating; they still clung to the “traditions of men” and “doctrines of demons.” But this hideous teaching, which makes God’s Unconditional Love an outright mockery, will one day be removed from every translation in the world. Surely that day will come.
I leave the reader with a Scripture which should settle the matter regarding God's judgments versus mercy. "Mercy shall triumph (exalt over) judgment." James 2:13
It is a vengeful, angry, hypocritical, and selfish person who desires "eternal punishment" for those whom THEY deem worthy of such cruelties, not God.
It should be noted that even if the word “aionios” actually could mean “eternal,” in some contexts, as far as Matthew 25:46 is concerned, the most one could make of the phrase is “correction or chastening pertaining to eternity.” This is how scholars like William Barclay, who believed in universal salvation dealt with this word. He believed “eternal punishment or chastisement was simply the punishment or correction that pertained to eternity. This still does not prove a hell of endless torture. A loving Father knows how to bring correction to His children without consigning them to an endless torture chamber. Tyrants and a few demented earthly parents may do such things to their children. But for Christians to ascribe such activity to the Creator of all mankind is simply terribly misguided thinking.
"I have come that you might have life, and more abundantly." (John 10:10)
For more information on this subject, read:
Hope Beyond Hell by Gerry Beauchemin
Hope For All Generations and Nations by Gary Amirault
Absolute Assurance by Charles Slagle
The Inescapable Love of God by Tom Talbott
An Analytical Study of Words by Louis Abbott
The Doctrine of Scriptural Retribution by Edward Beecher
The Origin and History of the Doctrine of Endless Punishment by Thomas Thayer
The Bible Hell by Dr. John Wesley Hanson
Bible Threatenings Explained by Dr. John Wesley Hanson
Time and Eternity by G.T. Stevens
The Power of Life and Death in a Four Letter Greek Word--Aion by Gary Amirault
Does "ForeverS and EverS" Make Sense to you? By Gary Amirault
Everlasting Punishment is NOT found in the Bible by Gary Amirault
Aion by Dr. John Wesley Hanson
Universalism, the Prevailing Doctrine of the Early Church by Dr. J.W. Hanson
All of these and many more are all available at no charge at the Internet Sites listed below. They are also available on a CD which contains dozens of Tentmaker audio files and the entire Tentmaker Internet site. We also make some of them available in print form. Write for a list of what we make available: