Eternal Torment: Godly Love?
Jesus loves you. Jesus will make sure you burn forever if you don't love him back. Jesus is the savior of the world. Jesus will not actually save most people. Jesus is a strong victor and a king. Jesus can't overcome resistance to his will. Jesus tells you to love your enemies. Jesus will torture his own. Are you tired of confusion? Are you tired of fear?
Would it be fair to say that most Christians, and even atheists, have difficulty reconciling the concept of eternal torment with Christ's statements in the Bible to love your enemies, and to do good to those who spitefully use you? Don't those commandments come from the very heart of God? What if I told you that Biblical reason exists to doubt the concept of eternal torment? What if I told you that Christ will not only eventually save the entire world, but will do so without sacrificing his interest in justice and holiness? If it were true, would that sound good to you?
In a debate with atheist Reggie Finley, Calvinism apologist Matt Slick debated with an atheist caller who said (edited for space), "Seems to me that if God is going to compel anyone after death to force them to be tormented in hell, why doesn't God use the compulsion of sanctification, and say 'Ok pal, you didn't let me do this before, but now I'm going to clean you up'…if God is going to compel anything after death, why not compel sanctification?"
Matt's response was: "Well you can ask God that. God is the one who defines the punishment." He said more things which you can hear in context here, where you can see the internal struggle with this concept that many people have. Matt's above answer really captures the Christian understanding. It doesn't make sense to our rational minds that God would rather compel eternal torture than sanctification of the sinner, if he has the power to do either, especially given God's stated desire for his followers to bless their own enemies. At the end of the day, Christians see the word "eternal" in their Bibles, so what can they say? They have to believe the Bible, even if it doesn't make sense.
What about free will? Doesn't man choose of his own free will to be tormented eternally for rejecting God? Hardly, because as Matt said, God sets the punishments. Man did not decide of his free will that the punishment for rejecting the Gospel should be eternal torment. Supposedly, God set that parameter, for what reason? They don't know.
Matt attempted to make sense of it the way most Christians do, by providing this reasoning for why God must compel eternal torment: "If we were to sin against God, he is infinite by nature, and infinitely holy, so we have committed an infinite insult against him, which must receive an infinite punishment." He threw alot of "infinite" words there to fabricate a false parallel and this is a common technique in Christendom to justify eternal torment. It doesn't follow at all.
This is a logical fallacy of unsupported claim. The claim is: "sin must receive an infinite punishment." The evidence he provides: "God is infinite." Since this supposed evidence fails to provide any causal link between God's quality of immortality and the necessity for him to punish anyone forever, the claim remains unsupported. Why does God's immortality necessitate an infinite punishment? Who knows? He does not explain and that's probably because no causal link exists, either in scripture or basic logic. In actuality, God retains the power to forgive whenever he chooses, because he is sovereign.
Don't fall for this stuff. Jesus is holy. That does not mean that if Pharisees threw a rock at Jesus, the rock is suddenly becomes holy too, any more than it becomes an infinite rock, any more than the sin of throwing the rock becomes an "infinite insult." An external action toward an object does not automatically inherit the defining characteristics of that object. That is an invented principle and it is false.
Herein lies a great irony. As much as they would proclaim a mighty and powerful God, they teach that he is subservient to some grand cosmic principle (they invented) to torment people forever. In reality, the moment he chooses to forgive is the moment the insult melts away and retains no power. God is not forced by any cosmic principle to create an infinite punishment, because he is the governor, he is the czar, he is the emperor, and he is the king.
Do human judges set the length of penalty based on the age of the victims? Of course not, because that would be ridiculous. In fact, we could use the same rationale to reason the opposite, that because sin originates from a mortal being within a temporal world it retains the temporal traits of the sinner and must only be punished temporarily. The claim: "sin must recieve a temporary punishment." The evidence provided: "Because, man is mortal."
What's wrong with, "I don't know?" After all, the phrase "I don't know" is what has inspired many people to pursue the answers. Christians see eternal torment in the Bible, but they don't know why it's there, and it makes little sense given the great weight Jesus places on forgiving his own enemies, and that his followers should do the same. But, rather than just admitting that they don't understand it, they invent a host of irrational, unsupported arguments to make sense from the senseless. If they stuck with "I don't know, but I see it in the Bible," at least that would be honest.
It is better to stick with scriptural arguments than forced justifications not found in scripture, or even the general rules of logic, in the first place. Unfortunately (or fortunately), from a scriptural perspective, the eternal torment argument struggles to find solid ground either. What if these Biblical concepts have been misunderstood? Can we make sense out of this from within the scripture? I think so. Read further, and you may find that there is valid reason to doubt that God will do anything other than save the whole world, while also satisfying his position as a just and holy God. Let's get into it.
This paper will cover the following topics in the same order:
- The word "eternal" and its origins in the Greek language and Scripture
- The Bible's definition of "eternal life," as opposed to what most Christians are taught
- The Biblical difference between "life" and "immortality"
- A close look at God's judgment and the duration of that judgment
- A close look at the lake of fire
- And finally the times of the restoration of all things in Christ
Your Bible is a Translation and is not the Original Text
To begin, understand that your Bible is a translation of the inerrant word of God. The "spirit breathed" word of God itself was written in Hebrew and Greek, so to explore his word on a deeper level, we ought to become acquainted with the concept that Bibles are translations, not the original text.
Of course, the Bible contains no verse which says, "all future translations of this text will be flawless and exact." Christians assume this belief because they infer that if God's original text is inerrant, they reason that he would have a stake in making sure all the ensuing translations are perfect. They are guessing what God would do, based on what they think he ought to do. However, one could infer that God might allow translation issues since Jesus hid his truths in parables (Matt 13:11-12). After all, if God created mysteries in the Old Testament and the parables, why wouldn't he allow human error into the translation process? Inference can work both ways.
Man has primal instinct to avoid instability and preserve safety, so it is incumbent upon them to develop a doctrine of perfect translations, even if that doctrine is made of whole cloth and is not clearly found in the Bible. If all translations are necessarily perfect, the problem then becomes with reconciling all the differences in the various translations. Many Christians have strong disagreements about which translation is good enough and which are faulty. Why? If God allows imperfection in one, why not the other?
To deal with this issue, a smaller subset of Christians demand that the King James Bible is only completely infallible translation that we can be sure about, even to the exclusion of the Latin Vulgate which was written prior to the KJV. Why? They just do! It's just a belief they have, again not because the Bible guarantees it, but because the alternative is uncomfortable. So, they determine their personal inference to be dogmatically authentic, and they move on. The alternative is too hard to live with. It just feels better to do that, than than admit that fallible men can make mistakes in translating. Fear is what drives these unfounded beliefs. Fear and misinformation.
Any linguist worth their salt will tell you that translation is not a clean, word-for-word undertaking. Have you ever met someone from another country who has trouble finding the exact English word to translate his native word, because the connotations and nuanced meanings are not the same? He then settles on one that might not be the best word, but it's all he can do, and hopes that you understand the gyst. That's the essence of translation and translators deal with that problem daily.
When you open your Bible, without fail, every English word you see is the end result of men pondering context, meaning, linguistics and theology and choosing the best word that they believe is the right one. That is why in the world of linguistics there are "bad" translations and "good" translations, of novels and other texts, because translation relies on human interpretation, and humans are not perfect. The terms "bad" and "good" are judgments of how well the translator interpreted the text. One can pinpoint issues in any translation of any text and it becomes a matter of debate.
Concerning the doctrine of eternal torment, understand that in the New Testament, the word "eternal" was translated from two Greek words: aion and aionios. In the Old Testament Hebrew, it is derived from a single word olam. Yes, there are even less words in Hebrew than Greek.
The word aion - as will be discussed later - means "age," as in the English word "eon" which is a time span having both a beginning and an end. Bible translators indeed rendered the word aion into "age" several times in scripture as seen later in this study. In English we don't have an equivalent adjective for "eon" as being "eonian." But the Greek does have an adjective: aionios, which, means "pertaining to aion" or "pertaining to age(s)." God's judgments upon the unbelieving world "pertains to age(s)." They don't last forever.
The same words that denote a specific time-frames, they translated to indicate timelessness, or eternity. Therefore, the prevailing doctrine is that when God punishes sinners, he will do so for eternity, an unending torment. This has led preachers and sidewalk prophets to declare that God intends to torment man infinitely, when in fact his judgments bear fruit unto the ages.
The gospel of Christ's massive victory into good news for a few, and gruesome news for the rest.
What Do Scholars Say?
Before we explore the scriptural implications of this truth, consider the writings of very prominent and respected Biblical scholars regarding "aionios:"
Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible (Matt. 25:46). Everlasting punishment--life eternal. The two adjectives represent the same Greek word, aionios it must be admitted that the Greek word which is rendered "eternal" does not, in itself, involve endlessness, but rather, duration, whether through an age or succession of ages, and that it is therefore applied in the N.T. to periods of time that have had both a beginning and ending (Rom. 16:25).
Hasting's Dictionary of the New Testament (Vol. I, p. 542, art. Christ and the Gospels): Eternity. There is no word either in the O.T. Hebrew or the N.T. Greek to express the abstract idea of eternity. (Vol. III, p. 369): Eternal, everlasting—nonetheless "eternal" is misleading, inasmuch as it has come in the English to connote the idea of "endlessly existing," and thus to be practically a synonym for "everlasting." But this is not an adequate rendering of aionios which varies in meaning with the variations of the noun aion from which it comes. (p. 370)
Jeremy Taylor, a world famous Protestant hell-fire advocate wavers, and after his ebullient flashes of Systematic Hellology, he 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.
The large Catholic Bible dictionary, The Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible (p. 693): 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 (Gen. 3:22; etc.) in contexts where it is traditionally translated as "forever," means in itself no more than ‘for an indefinitely long period." Thus me olam does not mean "from eternity" but "of old" Gen. 6:4; etc.). In the N.T. aion is used as the equivalent of olam. (Note: even the Catholic translators of The Jerusalem Bible and The New American Bible have failed to heed the scholarship of their own Catholic authorities.)
Saint Gregory of Nyssa speaks of aionios diastema, "an eonian interval." How many intervals do you know of that are "endless" or "eternal?"
What led these scholars to such understanding? What understanding did they have available that most of the Christian world does not currently have?
Aionios: What It Really Means
Word meaning changes over time. This is natural. To understand an old word, two methods may be employed: knowing a word's roots (etymology), and studying its usage to determine if the intended meaning adheres to its etymology. Many words we use today do adhere to the etymology. For example, the English name Christian has remained consistent through the ages. As with the word "aionios" when we break it down, the term means "pertaining to Christ" or "of Christ." Here are more examples:
As I said, the English language doesn't have an actual adjective for "age" as being "ageian" or "eon" as being "eonian." The Hebrew language doesn't have an adjective for olam either. But, the Greek language does. In considering the parts of the Greek aionios, it is formed from two: aion (age) and the suffix -ios (pertaining to). Thus, aionios means pertaining to aion or pertaining to ages.
Example: In ancient Greek texts - notably in Homer - a man's hometown would be part of his name. The suffix -ios would signify which town by modifying it into an adjective. Thus, "Ajax son of Telamon" translates to "Aias Telamwvios." The English is the same: if a man is from Italy, he is an Italian.
Dr. Marvin Vincent, a notable New Testament scholar, in Word Studies of the New Testament wrote the following regarding aion:
Aristotle says: "The period which includes the whole time of each one's life is called the aion (eon) of each one." (Peri Ouravou, i.9, 15)
Hence, it often means the life of a man, as in Homer, where one's life (aion) is said to leave him or consume away (Iliad. v. 685; Odessy. v. 160). It is not, however, limited to human life;
It signifies any period in the course of events, as the period or age before Christ in the flesh; the period of the millennium (the 1000 year reign of Christ to come); the mythological period before the beginnings of history. The word has not a "stationary and mechanical value" (De Quincey). It does not mean a period of a fixed length for all cases. There is one aion of a human life, another of the life of a nation, another of a crow's life, another of an oak's life.
The length of the aion depends on the subject to which it is attached. It is sometimes translated "world," with "world" representing a period or a series of periods of time. (See Matt 12:32; Matt 13:40-49; 1 Cor. 1:20; 1 Cor. 1:20; Ephesians 1:21). Similarly the worlds, the universe, the aggregate of the ages or periods, and their contents which are included in the duration of the world. (1 Cor. 2:7; 1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 1:2; Heb 9:26; Heb 11:3)
The word always carries the notion of time, and not of eternity. It always means a period of time. Otherwise it would be impossible to account for the plural, or for such qualifying expressions as this age, or the age to come. It does not mean something endless or everlasting. . . . The adjective aionios in like manner carries the idea of time. Neither the noun nor the adjective, in themselves, carry the sense of endless or everlasting. (pp. 58-59, vol. IV, Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament.
The False Assumption and Theological Hypocrisy
As I said earlier, because Hebrew and Greek languages contain much fewer words than common English, man must apply a certain level of interpretation of surrounding context to determine the intended usage. The reason that aionios was translated "everlasting" is largely due to a false assumption. Their reasoning is that because this adjective is applied to life promised to believers (John 3:16), God himself (Romans 16:26), and punishment (Matthew 8:18), the word automatically means "eternal" on that basis alone. At a superficial level, that seems fine. But, at closer examination, both of logic and the scripture, it actually falls apart.
Just because aionios is applied to God does not mean "aionios" automatically means "eternal." God can pertain to the ages, and also be immortal, and the scriptures testify to both as you will see. Likewise, believers may have "the life of the ages" and also be promised a future immortality. The scripture testifies to that as well. When we study that out to find that immortality and life are distinguishable concepts in the Bible, you might be surprised to what level the meaning of "life" is misunderstood by prevalent Christian theology.
The word "life" has a very specific meaning in the New Testament, that has been ignored in analyzing the concept of the life promised to believers. It might surprise you when you find out what it is.
God is holy, righteous, and good. Guess what? The word "aionios" doesn't mean any of those things either. The word aionios neither means "infinite" OR "temporary." Instead, it means "PERTAINING to the aions/ages." Does God NOT pertain to the ages? Of course he does. Does the indwelling life of Christ NOT pertain to the ages? Of course it does. And, God's judgment also pertains to the ages.2 Peter 3:8
Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
Just imagine it, this amazing insight into God's experience. A day is like a thousand years to God, as a thousand years is like only a day. God does not age, nor does he end. It is difficult to imagine because we are human. Since that is all we know, Peter expresses God's transcendence in terms we can understand. Moreover, this truth exposes just how Orthodox Christian doctrine contradicts itself.
Why are Christians adamant to believe that the eternal Lord exists "outside of time" (according to their terminology), all the while defining eternal torment as an infinite span of wretched endurance . . . in time! Yet, they say both are eternal! Christians are satisfied in claiming God has no beginning, in that He is eternal. How about if we say that eternal torment likewise has no beginning, just like God? Are not both said to be eternal?
If Christians accept that God does not experience time in a linear fashion - insofar as He is "eternal" - then they should have no problem accepting that judgment against sinners is likewise nonlinear. They should have no problem accepting that this punishment would only be experienced as single a day, if it would be experienced as a thousand years.
The very fact that they compare eternal torment to thousands of years, but would NEVER allow it to be experienced as only a single day reveals a hypocrisy to which most Christians pay no mind.
In fact, if theologians teach that "aionios" means "eternal," while insisting that "aionios punishment" lasts for an infinite time-span, they clearly limit God by placing Him in the same time-based framework as judgment! Let us stop the doctrinal hypocrisy. Aionios does not mean temporary or infinite. It simply means "pertaining to the ages."
God: The Rock Of Ages
We shall consider a more sensible understanding while respecting God's immortality. Let's recap the facts:
- Aion means "age", and can also suggest a world associated with that age (eg Industrial Age, Industrial World)
- The word aionios is composed of aion + ios which means, as demonstrated before, "pertaining to aion"
- God is "aionios" which means God pertains to the ages
Why should anyone assume that such facts would limit God? Such an understanding does not rob God of his immortality, but simply underscores the important relationship drawn in the New Testament between God and the ages He created to execute his plan to live within his followers. God will never die, or end just because ages do, but doesn't God relate to what he creates, even if He is not limited to what he creates? Is this so difficult to understand? If God did not relate to the ages, how could we ever know Him?
He created the aions/ages to reveal his plan to the Israelites through their prophets of ages past (Hebrews 1:1-2). He is God of what He creates. God is big, even bigger than the universe, but is He limited to being big? Is not God also smaller than the tiniest atomic particle, able to see all things? King David said this:Psalm 102:24
I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days: thy years are throughout all generations.
Generations represent continual progression of ages in time. Now, did King David mean to suggest that because God's years are throughout all generations, that such a thing LIMITS God? Of course not. In this issue, Christians often commit a logical error called Affirming a Disjunct, which is to fallaciously claim that one distinction cancels out all other distinctions. If a cat is both fuzzy and gray, affirming that the cat is gray does not deny the fuzziness. Likewise, God's distinction of pertaining to the ages, does not cancel out his immortality.
The Bible says that Jesus died for the church (Ephesians 5:25). It also says he died for the whole world (1 John 2:2). Which one cancels out the other? Neither. They are both true.
Greek and Hebrew (aion and olam)
Many theologians debate whether the Greek philosophers used "aionios" to refer to eternity or timelessness. However, what Greek philosophers thought about eternity is irrelevant, because the New Testament is a translation of Hebrew concepts into Greek language. Therefore, it only matters what the Old Testament teaches about "olam."
When teaching on the concepts of the Old Testament in the Greek language, the Jewish Apostles of the New Testament (Paul, James, John, Peter), needed to choose a Greek word that would closely match the equivalent of their olam, and both aion and aionios fit the bill perfectly.
In fact, the Septuagint (Sept-ewa-jint), the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, substitutes "aionios" for instances of "olam." In references to the Old Covenant, it renders "olam" covenant with "aionios" covenant. We know that when Jesus spoke to the crowds in Israel, he spoke in Aramaic (the Hebrew language of the time), so when he spoke about judgment, he did not literally say "aionios" but "olam." Again, olam is the Hebrew term for ages or a span of time that proceeds to the horizon or the distance.
The word olam means "in the far distance. When looking off in the far distance it is difficult to make out any details and what is beyond that horizon cannot be seen. This concept is the olam. The word olam is also used for time for the distant past or the distant future as a time that is difficult to know or perceive. This word is frequently translated as eternity or forever but in the English language it is misunderstood to mean a continual span of time that never ends. In the Hebrew mind it is simply what is at or beyond the horizon, a very distant time." (AncientHebrew.org)
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were born
Or you gave birth to the earth and the world,
everlasting to everlasting (olam ad olam, age to age), You are God.
Of course, "everlasting to everlasting" makes no sense, but that didn't stop our lovely KJV translators from inserting it. Yet, the meaning is made clear via "all generations." David often spoke of the generational presence of God, not as a way to speak to his nature of immortality, which the Bible ALSO affirms, but olam speaks to his continual presence with man over time, from age to age.
So, rather than a timeless eternity, or an endless span of time, olam refers to a time in the distance, where the ending is not yet known. This does NOT mean that the time frame will never end, for as we have seen "from olam to olam," he is God. This is why in the Old Testament, as with Psalm 90 above, we frequently see the word "olam" associated with "generations."Psalm 85:5
Wilt thou be angry with us
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord
The usage of olam here is connected to the generations. Every generation has a time frame, as with Generation X, Generation Y, and the Millennials. So what happens when all these olams, or generations reach a conclusion. The Bible has something to say about that.Acts 3:21
(Christ) Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: To be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment--to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
So, while certain aions consist of judgment, when all these aions/olams reach fulfillment the result will not be what Christianity has taught: failure and unending torture. When David asked: will thou draw out thine anger throughout all generations? God's answer in the New Testament is no. The result - when the times reach fulfilment - will be "the restitution of all things" and "unity to all things in heaven and earth under Christ." We'll come back to that later.
For now, here is another scriptural example of how God "pertains to" - without being limited to - what he creates: God is the "God of heaven and the God of the earth." (Genesis 24:4-3) Which one cancels out the other? Neither. He is God of both. When somebody says that "aion" and "aionios" do not mean "ever" or "for ever," he is not denying God's immortality. Rather, "aionios God" refers to the generational presence of God throughout the ages, as David continually taught.
But, when another Christian claims that such a thing denies God's immorality, he is committing the error of "Affirming a Disjunct." Here is how you know:1 Timothy 1:17
Now unto the King
According to that scripture:
- God is of the age (aion)
- He has glory and honor unto the ages of the ages (eis aion aion)
- He is immortal
- He is invisible
Which trait cancels out the other? None. All four traits apply to him. In this one scripture, not only does Paul affirm that God is of the age (aion), he also confirms that God has glory and honor "unto the ages of the ages," just as King David also said that "God's years are throughout all generations."
However, in this scripture, Paul ALSO affirms God as both invisible and immortal. So, why confuse his immortality with his glory and honor in the ages he created, when they are not the same traits? They are traits which build up the total truth of God's nature. Additionally, and curiously enough, in the King James Bible they translate eis aion aion (meaning - "unto the ages of the ages") as forever and ever. Does forever actually need another "ever" attached to make it infinite? Really, it doesn't because the very concept of eternity defies pluralization of itself. But, the true meaning of aion does not, because ages do multiply unto themselves.
Acknowledging that aion means age - and aion eis aion means age unto age - does not limit God, not according to the verse above. He is the God of the aion/age, AND He is immortal, AND He is invisible. AND, unto Him be honor and glory from "age unto age." Amen. Furthermore, the fact that "aion" can be seen to be a "world" associated with an age, we could translated it as "God of the world." Is He the God of the world? Yes.
Even the old-time Christian hymn says, our God is the "Rock of Ages." He is, therefore, the "aionios Rock." He endures through all generations - and He is with us age unto age - straight through to His plan's ultimate fulfillment when time has reached a fulfillment (we will get to that later). When Christians sing that God is the Rock "of ages," do they mean to say that He is limited to those ages? Of course not. They mean that His glory and majesty endures throughout the ages He created, until surely all knees bow to Christ and all tongues confess that he is their Lord (Phil 2:10-11).
It All Began With A Promise
A Christian might say, "we have believed in everlasting torment for 2000 years, how could we be wrong after all that time?" The reason they have been wrong is because most Christians haven't investigated their beliefs. They simply cling what they were first taught without studying the scriptures to see if it was true, and it ends there. Under those conditions, it makes perfect sense. Since nobody investigated the theory of a flat earth, people believed in a flat earth for a long time! They were wrong.
Isn't it an interesting trend throughout history that what man dogmatically assumes first, tends to be the opposite. We thought the earth was flat. It's a sphere. We thought the sun revolved around the earth. It's the opposite. Didn't the Israelites kill the Messiah?
As it is, Christians are dead wrong about infinite torment for sinners, they are also wrong about what aionios-life really is. Observe Paul's sound pattern of words with actual Greek:Titus. 1:2
In hope of aionios-life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began (pro chronos aionios).
The Greek word pro means before, and chronos means time. The Greek text pro chronos aionios therefore reads: before the time of the ages. The King James translators substituted "before the world began" which is clearly problematic because if they also claim that aionios means eternity, that would mean Paul said "before time eternal!" Before time eternal? How can God promise something before "time eternal" if God always was and He is eternal? Is it any wonder that they translated it "before the world began" instead? Very slippery.
In reality, this verse means that God made a promise regarding aionios-life (the life of the ages), before he created those aions/ages. This will make perfect sense when we discuss what aionios-life really is. Just as Jesus Christ was slain from the foundation of the world and his death was purposed by God before it happened (Acts 4:27-28), even so, aionios-life was promised before the time of the ages (pro chronos aionios).
For man, both judgment and life pertain to ages that God created for a perfect and victorious purpose, and that purpose is not to torture people mercilessly. In hearing this, one may say: "But if aionios-life is not eternal-life, wouldn't it therefore only be temporary? You can't have it both ways." Since they don't understand the real Biblical definition of aionios-life they make this error.
The Truth About Aionios-Life (The Life Of The Ages)
On stage the world over, Christians say: "Believe in Jesus, so that you can enter into eternal life when you die." Sounds great right? It is easily demonstrated how such a statement defiles the true victory of the cross, contradicts the Bible, and makes God a liar! How could that be? It be. Their argument is catastrophically flawed.
To understand why, let us immediately cut to to the truth: "aionios-life" is not immortality at all, and the Bible proves it! Instead, the Bible shows that immortality is to be added to the-life-of-the-age. Aionios life was misunderstood by translators to be "everlasting life" or immortality itself, relegating it to a future benefit. But Paul claimed to have been given life in Christ in his day, yet also referred to himself as mortal.
Prevalent Christian doctrine has mashed the two concepts of life and immortality together into one incoherent mess, failing to acknowledge the distinctions that scripture provides. The Bible provides very specific and explicit definitions for aionios-life and NOT ONE definition approaches the concept of being immortal.
Let the scripture speak for itself:2 Timothy 1:8-11
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has 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 to us in Christ Jesus before the time of the ages, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought LIFE and IMMORTALITY to light through the gospel.
You have it here without question: immortality is "brought to light" through the Gospel. And guess what? Immortals never die! However, this is only part of the Gospel. The full Gospel promise includes much more than immortality but also deliverance from the carnal mind today, in this age, which is life. Failing to acknowledge the difference between life and immortality, provided in the Bible, will result in confusion and bad doctrine.
One thing people need to understand is that that "to be carnally minded is death." (Romans 8:10). Therefore, someone could be immortal and spiritually dead at the same time if they are carnally minded, inasmuch as one could be mortal and have ainios life - saved from the carnal mind - in these present ages. Because someone gains immortality does not mean they are alive to God on that basis alone.1 Timothy 5:6
The widow who lives for pleasure is dead although she is still alive.
To be alive is to KNOW CHRIST. That's is the Life of the age, which was promised before these ages. God will add immortality to that promise, but until then, aionios life is "the life of the ages." Therefore, comparing aionios-life to aionios-judgment fails to prove that aionios-judgment refers to eternal torment. The quality of LIFE and its connection to these present ages cannot be understated:Titus 2:11-12
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present age (Greek - nun aion)
As the scripture says, in this present age (nun aion), God is providing deliverance from "ungodliness and worldly lusts" so that we may live apart from carnal mindedness, which is death. If such death is presently reigning in these ages, doesn't it make sense that the solution to that problem is the LIFE of the ages? Apostle John thought so:1 John 3:14-17
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has aionios life IN HIM. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be IN him?
Did you catch that? According to John, where does aionios-life abide? If your answer is: "it dwells within" you get a prize. And this is the prize: Biblical accuracy. Doesn't it make sense? If someone hates his brother in his heart how could he have LIFE within him? Obviously he couldn't. With that in mind, here is Jesus Christ's explicit definition of "aionios-life" in His own words:John 17:3
And this is life aionios: that they might know you, the one true God, and Him whom You did send, Jesus Christ.
When the Bible says "this is," you ought to pay close attention; it means God could be defining something for you. Notice that John did not say: "And this is life aionios: going to Heaven after we die." No. Here, God has given you the true definition of aionios-life. It's knowing Jesus and his Father. It's being free from the carnal mind, and being given a spiritual mind unto "life and peace," right now in these very ages in which we currently exist.
Now, mind you, that does not mean that our salvation-of-the-age ends when when the ages do. Again, we must guard against hasty assumptions. Our immortality will carry our salvation beyond the ages into the heavenlies with Christ. But, because Christian theology conflates immortality with the life-of-the-ages, it causes a confusing mess. Just read the Scripture and believe it for yourselves. See how Apostle John's definition is aligned with Christ's definition:1 John 5:20
And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and aionios-life.
Hello! Here we have yet another Biblical "this is" statement with regard to aionios-life. THIS IS aionios-life: that WE MAY KNOW HIM today (that is true) that we are in IN CHRIST today (that is true) - because the Son of God is come. Do you see anything in that definition about being immortal? Of course not, because Paul already carefully made the distinction between life and immortality.
He says that both have come to light through the Gospel. Immortality will be added to the life-of-the-ages, after our physical deaths. It is at that point, Paul says, "this mortal must put on immortality." (1 Cor 15:53)
Here is something to consider carefully: if immortality and aionios-life were identical (like many Christians assume) did Paul not have "aionios-life" during his lifetime as a mortal? Did Paul not have knowledge of God before his mortal death? Or did he indeed have aionios-life within him before he could "put on immortality?" Of course he did! This is because Paul received aionios-life in his "present ages" BEFORE receiving immortality after his death. One comes after the other.
This is because "aionios-life" is the Spirit of Jesus Christ living in us now in our ages too! This is exactly why Apostle John said, "anyone who hates his brother has not yet passed from death to life," though he lives and breathes right now. Remember, John says that no murderer has "aionios-life within him." In contrast, anyone who loves his brother has indeed "passed from death into life," because the love of God is within him.
Didn't Jesus Christ call himself "the way, the truth, and the life?" (John 14:6)Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is aionios-life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
aionios-life is "life" because: It is the Spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord within man.
aionios-life is "aionios" because: this promise has fulfillment in these present ages/aions, that we may know the one true God, giving us life from the wages of sin. Aionios-life is freedom from subjection to sin today, not after death.
Sorry to "beat a dead horse" but if you ever find yourself forgetting what life is according to the Scripture, if you find yourself comparing "life" to a tropical vacation resort in Heaven for a billion years, just recall the above verse. Realign yourself with the Lord's words: Jesus says, "I . . . am . . . the life." Do you understand this?
This was in God's plan, who promised this "life of the ages" before "the time of the ages" to live within us during the very ages of our lives, to resurrect us from death in sin. Jesus himself reiterates this promise before his death and resurrection, before the age of Pentecost to come, the Spirit within man:Mark 10:29-30
And Jesus answered and said, "Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions, and, in the world (aion) to come, aionios-life."
Take a look at how the translators swapped "world" for "aion" into in the above verse. However, they were left with an interesting dilemma. They translated aion as world, but they obviously could not stay consistent and translate "aionios" as "worldly." Worldly life? Yikes! So, they got inventive. They stayed with "world," but stretched aionios into "eternal." After all, they had a preconceived doctrine to adhere to.
Let's stay consistent: Jesus spoke of the coming age, in which a promised Life of the ages would be given. As He spoke these things, He knew that His imminent Resurrection would usher in the latter ages, as His Spirit would be poured into human beings, starting with the day of Pentecost.
As the Apostle John affirms:1 John 5:11-12
And this is the testimony: God has given us aionios-life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
Could that get any clearer? This Life in the Spirit, concerns the aions/ages of our lives - which is exactly what makes it aion-ios. The "age to come" Jesus spoke about began at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), when the Holy Spirit first entered into the heart of men, and that age continues now, and continues onward. It is this "life of the ages" to which immortality is added to the saints. Later, we will examine what happens when the aions reach their fullness.
Consider the Prodigal Son, who left his place with his father to seek fulfillment in pleasure. The wages of SIN is DEATH, because sin produces destruction in our lives, causing man to live in a perished state, away from the Lord seeking fulfillment in self. According to the Word of God, what was the Prodigal reaping during his experience, destruction or life? Obviously, he was reaping death and destruction in his sin. But the Spirit has come that we may not reap death in sin, but have life now. Look at the ages. Are they still ticking away? If so - and you have the love of God in you - you have aionios-life.
Jesus Christ sits on the throne of His temple, which is within his followers. Paul said "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Cor 3:16) According to the Bible, that's life.
What a precious gift we have been given, to have the Spirit of God within us, even while living here in the flesh, that He gives us power over our sin, the ability to understand the things of Spirit, the gifts, and communion with God to know His heart and be united with His purpose.
Why must we believe in Jesus Christ to receive life? It is not an arbitrary command when you realize the scriptural truth about life.
God did not put his Son on the cross to die for the world, only to attach a self-defeating belief clause sentencing billions to infinite suffering. If we understand that aionios-life is Jesus Christ within his followers right now, and that "this is life aionios: to know the one true God," it makes perfect practical sense!
How can one know someone else if not believing He exists? How would that be possible? It is by believing in Christ that you come know him, thereby receiving aionios-life away from sin in a daily walk. It is astounding that when some people hear that God, through Jesus, will bring the world into repentance and salvation, they say "why bother preaching the Gospel if everyone will be saved?" Do they have something against spreading good news? Given what the Bible says about being perished and receiving life, how could they keep the gift of God's Spirit to themselves by NOT spreading the good news? They must be joking.
God has the Right to Forgive Anyone at any Time
We see in John 8, that the Pharisees brought an adulteress before Jesus. They appealed to Deuteronomy 22:22, where it says adulteresses are to be killed. They demanded justice. In fact, Jesus was making company very often with people who deserved the death sentence according to the Law of Moses. You can see the trap the Pharisees were laying can't you: Why wasn't Jesus seeking "justice" with these people according to the Law of Moses? Wasn't Jesus bound to obey the Law? But, they knew if He did stone her, the people would turn against Him.
Here is the genius of the Lord: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." None could condemn her, and neither did Jesus. He did not put the adulteress to death, even though Moses demanded it. You see, what the Pharisees didn't realize, is that according to Scripture, the Law is "not for a righteous man." The Law was not intended for Jesus, but for sinners (1 Timothy 1:9). Jesus was, therefore, not bound by statute to put that woman to death.John 5:45
Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.
The Pharisees sure did trust that Law of Moses; but they did not realize that as they accused her, the Law accused them. We come to discover later in the New Testament something critical: The Law was given so that "sin might appear sin" (Romans 7:13, Heb 10:3-4). The Law shows people their sins so that they will desire a savior - which was not a problem for Jesus. Look what happened: Jesus used the Law to do exactly what it was for, that the Pharisees' hypocrisy might appear to them what it was, hypocrisy. It's a good thing that God isn't backed into corners by fancy theologians.
Today, Christian theologians want us to believe that God is BOUND by his immortal nature to torture people forever. That is how they corner him. But, do you see how Jesus was not controlled, but was in command?
Jesus says, "I AM LORD OF THE LAW." (Mark 2:28).
Jesus is Lord over justice, and therefore free to determine the duration of punishment as he sees fit. He is not forced to punish people forever just because He is immortal. Before his death, when Jesus Christ declared a man's sin forgiven (Matthew 9:2), without first demanding a Sinner's Prayer, did Jesus abandon justice? When God only temporarily abandoned Israel for worshipping Baal, where was the eternal justice in that? It looks like God is in complete command of justice.
When Christ hung on the cross and cried out to God regarding his murderers: "Father forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34) where was the eternal "justice" that orthodoxy confines Him to?
Here is the point friends: God is not compelled by a grander sense of justice. Justice is defined by God's choices. Whatever God chooses to do, He is right. So, if He chooses to punish temporarily for sins committed by mortal humans, that would be justice because it would His wisdom and His choice. God is Lord over justice, not the other way around. Jesus has the power to forgive sins, given to him by his Father. Here is the point, if God chooses to punish someone for a limited time, justice is still done because justice comes from God, not God from justice.
Aionios-Judgment (Judgment of the Ages)
Christians often say: "God must torture people forever, because he is just and holy, and cannot stand in the presence of sin." Does the presence of sin destroy God, or does the presence of God destroy sin?
The Bible answers that question as we will see. To understand the contrast between "the-life-of-the-ages" and "the-judgment-of-the-ages" and how they also relate, let us consider a most famous Scripture from the Bible.John 3:16
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish (Greek - apollumi - be lost) but have aionios-life.
Now, this scripture is used the Christian world over to prove infinite torment as truth. After all, what happens to whosoever does not believe? Look closely. The verse does not say that unbelievers will be tortured for infinity, nor does it say that those who do not now believe never will in the future.
The verse simply defines what belief results in: aionios-life, knowledge of God. Recalling the Biblical definition of life, those with faith have knowledge of Christ because they carry the Spirit of God within them. In like manner, this verse also defines the result of unbelief: "whosoever does not believe" does not obtain the life of the age, the Spirit within them, deliverance from the carnal mind.
They do not have knowledge of God in these ages. That is spiritual destruction on this earth right now, pertaining to the ages. With that in mind, you are about to discover the truth about "perishing" that not many in the congregations yet realize: the word "perish" in this verse comes from the Greek word apollumi meaning "to destroy" or "to lose" or "to be lost." Here is an example from the parable of the lost sheep:Luke 15:6
And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost (apollumi).
This word apollumi is used in this parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. After that son humbly returns to his father, observe his father's words when speaking to his son's jealous brother:Luke 15:32
'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours (the prodigal son) was dead and is alive again; he was lost (apollumi) and is found.'
That is why "whosoever believeth" shall not "perish." Through the Spirit of Christ within them, whosoever believes "was dead, and is alive again, was lost (apollumi) and is found." Reflect again on what John says is the product of sin: "Anyone who does not love remains in death (ie perished). Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has aionios-life in him." Without faith in Jesus Christ, will God allow us to be perished?
Without Christ we already are perished! God will allow us to remain destroyed (lost) as part of His judgments. In fact He will turn us over to our prodigal ways as part of judgment: (Romans 1:28-31). And we know that judgment leads to the overthrow of our flesh, our carnal, lustful nature, so that we may live according to the Spirit (1 Corinthians 5:1-5).2 Corinthians 4:3
But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost (appolumi - perished in sin)
Remember how the Prodigal Son was perished (lost) in sin, and what horrible experiences he had? Yet, his experience caused him to remember his Father who waited with loving patience for his son to return to him.
Such wise and glorious purposes in judgment God has! Sometimes we need to learn our lessons the hard way.
Recognizing what aionios-life is, we may understand aionios judgment, and how it will achieve God's perfect justice and purpose. In the "parable of the sheep and goats" we see a separation occurring between the wicked and the just:Matthew 25:46
And these (the wicked) shall go away into aionios punishment: but the righteous into life aionios.
Here is the verse that many Christian theologians use as a parallel comparison, to prove the unending state of punishment for unbelievers. Their logic: if eternal life is immortality, so the punishment is unending. But, we know the flaw in this argument. We know that ainios life is the life of the ages, available now. So, then we also can know that aionios judgment also pertains to the ages.
Immortality will cause knowledge of Christ (life) to continue past the ages. But aionios judgment has no connection to immortality. Jesus does not say that the "goats" will be judged forever. He simply says that judgment concerns a period of time. Judgment has an end point, and does not continue past its allotment of aions.
The true comparison here is not between infinite punishment and immortality but between between life of the ages and punishment of the ages. Consider the parable of the wheat and tares as an example.Matthew 13:40,49
As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in (Greek - en) the end of this world (aion - age).... So shall it be
Judgment occurs WITHIN the end of an age, not past the end of the age. That is "aionios" judgment. The word "en" is here is the same used for "in Christ." Christ is not specific about the actual times and dates, but he does not say that judgment continues AFTER that age and certainly not forever. Again, he restricts it to occur within the end of an age.Matthew 7:13-15
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction (apoleia - derivative of apollumi), and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
If you are a Christian reading this, how many times have you heard this verse twisted to say "narrow is the gate that leads to Heaven, and wide is the gate that leads to Hell?" How many times have you heard Christian preachers casually adding and subtracting from God's words as they see fit, to satisfy their doctrines?
When preachers play fast and loose with their Bibles like that, it is a very bad sign. It's called idolatry. That is when a person takes God's stated definitions of His own terms and substitutes them with his own Golden Calf reworkings. It's serious business (Exodus 32:19).
This is what the verse says, "narrow is the way that leads to life." Please observe, and remember God's perspective, not man's assumption:Rom 8:10
And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit ... is ... life because of righteousness. Rom 8:6
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Folks, we really need to get beyond the idea that Life = going to Heaven, and Death = going to Hell. The truth is that death = being carnally minded while Life = being Spiritually minded. The Bible literally teaches that! You just saw it. When we receive our new bodies in Heaven is when we attain immortality (1 Cor 15:53), which, again, is added to the life-of-the-ages.
The reason that the gate to destruction is wide is that the temptations of the carnal mind are easy to follow into a walking spiritual death. This verse has nothing to do with God sending people into eternal torture; it is about the difference between being spiritually minded and being carnally minded.
The Bible testifies about present ages and ages to come, and in those ages, some will receive aionios-life, and some will receive aionios judgment. If man may have the Spirit of Christ within him presently, can he also look forward to aionios-life in aions to come? Absolutely, and that even more abundantly!
- There was "a secret concealed from the aions" (past) (Eph.3:9)
- There was "the preparation of the aions" (past) (Heb.11:3)
- There is "the present wicked aion" (present) (Gal.1:4)
- There is "the conclusion of the current aion" (present) (Matt 28:20)
- There will be "the coming aion" (future) (Luke 18:30)
- There will be "the oncoming aions" (future) (Eph.2:7)
For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. Romans 8:23
And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering.
Yes, aionios-life can be within Christ's disciples now, as scripture is abundantly clear. But His followers have only received a foretaste, a hint of future glory. After this "present wicked aion" is over, the Spirit will be upon Christ's disciples without measure, doubled, tripled, quadrupled etc, in the "oncoming aion" (Rom. 8:18). Paul described this as the glory of the present age and the age which is to come (Eph 1:21, Eph 2:7) And if we understand that "aionios-life" is to know God now both in these present aions and in the coming aions, we also know what aionios punishment is, the perfect opposite:2 Thessalonians 1:6-9
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.
He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with aionios destruction (judgment of the age) and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power, on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
First, we see a great revelation in this epistle: "God is just." Ponder that for a moment, in your deepest heart of hearts. What is justice? Recall that famous American statue of the blindfolded woman holding the scales. Balance. God's justice is perfect balance through perfect wisdom. He judges until the debt is paid. Unlike vengeful human beings, God demands what is owed and not beyond: (Matt 18:21-35), as justice has obviously nothing to do with roasting human beings alive forever. The Biblical principle of "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" should reveal that. The wicked will be shut out from the presence of the Lord because He, in His awesome wisdom, has appointed an aion for aionios judgment.
Have you ever heard about the "unforgivable sin?" This is what the orthodox church names it, though the actual term "unforgivable sin" is not scriptural. Jesus warned that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a sin that is bound to be judged, but here are his actual words:Mark 3:29
But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath
It says they don't have forgiveness regarding an aion, but are in danger of a judgment of the aion. That's a far cry from eternal torment. Notice, they translated the term "ou aphesis aion" into "will never have forgiveness" omitting "eis aion." They didn't make that omission in other parts of scripture where the term appears. The word is there, but they opted for "never" instead. Nice, huh? Let's compare Christ's words in Mark to the parallel teaching from Matthew.Matthew 12:32
And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world (aion - age), neither in the world (aion - age) to come.
We have two ages here: this aion, or the aion to come. Harmonizing the scripture reveals that Jesus is talking about a judgment for the ages, not forever.
Just as Jesus said that believers have a promise of "aionios-life" "in the aion to come" he also spoke of some who will not have forgiveness "in the age" because they are in danger of the "aionios-judgment" (the judgment of the ages.) That this age-abiding judgment is not infinite agrees with God's statements about the fruit He produces in those judgment. The Scripture informs us:Isaiah 26:9
When Your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world will learn righteousness. Let favor be showed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD. Jeremiah 30:24
See what a scorching wind has gone out from the Lord, a sweeping whirlwind. It whirls round the heads of the wicked; the Lord's anger is not to be turned aside, until he has finished and achieved His heart's desire. In days to come you will understand.
Did you notice what God says through Isaiah about the wicked? Let favor be shown to the wicked, he will not learn righteousness. That's the reason why when God's JUDGMENTS, not his favor, are upon the wicked, they WILL LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS. Has a Christian ever told you that when God judges the earth, "the people of the world will learn righteousness?" Probably not. You probably heard that when God judges the earth, nobody will learn righteousness, but they will suffer torture forever instead. You probably heard that when God judges the earth nothing good will come from that at all. Liars.Psalm 96:11-13
Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice Before the LORD: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.
Why should we let the earth be glad? Why? Have you ever heard a Christian rejoicing at the prospect of God coming to judge the world with righteousness, and the people with His truth? Of course not. They have no reason to say "let the earth be glad" at such a prospect. Make no mistake, God does NOT show favor to the wicked. HE JUDGES THEM, but not the way the despicable eternal torment doctrine proposes. Through those judgments, the people of the world learn righteousness.
According to the Bible, it is not God's favor, but God's anger upon the wicked which shall not be turned aside...until? That's right "until he has finished and achieved His heart's desire." That the church denies before the world that God can achieve all he desires, through his judgments, is shameful teaching. Have you ever heard the church say such things? Of course not.
Just what do you suppose God's heart desires? Do you say He is able to finish and achieve those desires? You don't have to suppose. In a deafening voice, through his word: God declares "YES." His judgments - every last one - are able to accomplish what he desires, which is why, unlike the church, the Israelites rejoiced.
With their insidious, watered-down doctrines, it is amazing the undue credit that the Christian church has given Satan, insinuating that he wields the power to refute God's plan. He will shut many mouths. God's purpose is good. He is Love, and He does nothing dislocated from love. How can Divine wrath be detached from Divine love? He does nothing outside his nature. He is not fractured and polarized against Himself.
Is God at war with his nature when he punishes? Righteous judgment does not mean sticking a needle in someone's eye and it certainly does not involve handing his creation over to infinite defeat. A judge finds justice in all situations, and deals according to the heart's intent, making right what was wrong, and making whole what was once broken. That is God's wisdom and love in judgment.
Indeed, in the ages to come, His people will be glorified in him. In those ages, others will be shut out from his presence and judged. As we have seen: "The length of the aion depends on the subject to which it is attached. It does not mean a period of a fixed length for all cases. There is one aion of a human life, another of the life of a nation, another of a crow's life, another of an oak's life."
There is also an aion of judgment. During aionios punishment perfect justice is done by a perfect God who alone determines the time needed to achieve his own purpose - that the ones being judged learn righteousness. His wrath achieves his heart's desire. It has always been so.
Is anything too difficult for God?
The Lake of Fire and The Bride
The Bible says, that the sum of God's word is truth. (Psalm 119:160) For that reason, it's a challenge to talk about aspects of the Gospel without other important aspects. So I have included this section on the Lake of Fire both here, as it pertains to aion and aionios, and have also provided it in a paper concerning the judgment of the world, called The Judgment of The World by the Cross.
That paper contains much more information about the Lake of Fire and its connection to the Cross of Christ. Let's take a look at the lake of fire in relation to what we know about the age and ages God has created.Revelation 14:11
And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever (Greek - eis aion aion - unto the age of the age).
Once again, we see a literal translation replaced for an interpretive translation of "eis aion aion." We know that translations from language to language require extra words, because a completely literal - word for word - translation for every language would lead to absurdities. In this case "eis aion aion" would be "unto age age" which makes no sense for anyone in English. So, the KJV translators gave us four words "for ever and ever."
The most literal translation for sense would be "unto the age of the age." So, those who worship the beast and accept his mark are tormented "unto the age of the age." In fact, the Young's Literal Translation does exactly that:Revelation 14:11 (Young's Literal Translation)
... and the smoke of their torment doth go up to ages of ages;
Don't blame the YLT. It simply translates the words as they are, and leaves interpretation to others. Other than the decidedly interpretive translation of "eis aion aion" notice also that nothing in Revelation 14, or in chapters 20, 21, or 22, claims that anything John witness is "the end."
Nothing says that this lake of fire judgment represents the fulfilment of all time, or that it is the final stage in God's plan. Christians interpret this to be true, but Revelation makes no literal claim on that.
To really understand more about the lake of fire, we need to see what the lake of fire is compared to. As we turn to Revelation 21, John sees a City descending from heaven as "a Bride" prepared for "her husband." This is critical to our understanding of the lake of fire.Revelation 21:2-3
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
The city John sees, represents the bride, the people of God. In this vision, that's what the city represents. Christendom tells us that this city IS Heaven. No. That is a lazy reading. That's not what it says.
What does it say? New Jerusalem is BELOW heaven. In fact, to see the city closer, the angel takes John to the top of a great and high mountain (Revelation 21:10). We see the city in connection to a high place on the earth. This all has significance: the church of Christ in a high position concerning the earth.
Nevertheless, unlike what you heard in your church, the Lake of Fire is not set in contrast to Heaven itself, but positioned external to the Bride which is below Heaven. This is all spiritually significant. The lake of fire is everything external to The Bride.Revelation:21:25-27
And the gates of it (New Jerusalem) shall NOT be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.
You were told that the "gates of Heaven" will be "locked shut" at the end of time to all unbelievers in the lake of fire. No they won't! You see here, regardless of the lake of fire, the gates stay open.
The subject matter here is not "the end of time." Revelation 20, 21, or 22, never says that what John is seeing represents the end of God's plan, or the end of time. In fact, regarding the Bride, God says "Behold, I make all things NEW." (Revelation 21:5) not that everything has ENDED. The Bible contains one passage of scripture that does tells us what happens when "cometh the end."
We will get to that soon, and it's much different than you were told in church.
We see that those whose names are written in the Book of Life have entry into the Bride, the city. But NEVER says that those, whose names are not there, are forever unredeemable. Don't assume.1 Cor 6:9-11
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
Wait a minute. If the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God, why does Paul say "and such were some of you?" If they were unrighteous, then how did they inherit the kingdom? They had to be cleansed first, of course. As long as anyone is not cleansed, they have no part inside. But once cleansed, they they entered the kingdom.
Nevertheless, let's take account of everything Revelation says and does not say about the lake of fire to this point:
- The lake of fire is not contrasted with heaven itself, but the city descended from heaven, which is the bride. The bride is the church.
- The doors of the city Bride are always open, though nobody remaining in sin may enter. According to Paul, only when cleansed of sin may anyone inherit the kingdom of God.
Having established this contrast between the city Bride and the lake outside, having described every detail, at the very end of the vision, John receives a message from the Spirit and the Bride:Revelation 22:17
And the Spirit and the Bride say "come." And let him that heareth say "come." and let him that is athirst come. And whoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
That's the Bride talking, along with the Spirit. That's the Bride, the city with its open gates, speaking to who? Everyone outside the city. The City is certainly not speaking to itself! It wouldn't need to. New Jerusalem says to everyone on the outside, "anyone who is thirsty, come take a drink!" And "whosoever will" let him do it.
Well, if I was in a lake of fire, I'd be pretty thirsty, wouldn't you? That's a pretty generous invitation to those supposedly external to the Bride "for ever and ever." For those to whom the Bride and Spirit are speaking, the water is INSIDE the City.
Many Christians assume and suppose that this division between Bride and Lake is the end of the story. Maybe they get their assumptions from the fact that Revelation happens to be the last book of the Bible as MEN have placed it there. I suppose we are accustomed to having the end of a fictional story at the end of our books - but this is not a common work of fiction.
This is the word of God as canonized into an order set by man. HUMANS placed the book of Revelation at the end of the Bible, but Jesus never claims this revelation as concerning "the end." That's another tradition of man. So, what does happen next?
- We see the City adorned as the Bride, which is God's people
- We see others in a lake of fire, but not "for ever and ever"
- Finally, both Spirit and Bride inviting everyone else: "come take a drink"
...then cometh the end.
Yes, there is actually a scripture in the Bible - while not in Revelation - that literally says "then cometh the end." And you can believe that everything that cometh in "the end" - according to that scripture - is just as much true as the book of Revelation.
It starts here:1 Cor 15:22-28
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
Ok, let's stop right there. We see that everyone in Adam who dies (which is every living person ever) will be made alive in Christ. Many Christians will see this and say that Paul is simply speaking about resurrection, not spiritual Life. The problem is that they ignore the words. Let's look at each word: As in Adam all die...so...in Christ...shall all be made alive.
It's not just that they will be made alive, but HOW they will be made alive: "in Christ." Jesus says, "I AM the resurrection and the Life." (John 11:25)
What does the church say about every unbeliever eventually living "in Christ?" Nothing. In fact, they actively deny it. Nevertheless, the Bible says that anyone dead in Adam, not might, but WILL be made alive...in...Christ. I'm just repeating the words here. Send your complaints to Apostle Paul if you have them.
Ok, let's continue with 1 Cor 15:22-28, to see HOW this will happen:Then the end will come (KJV, "then cometh the end"), when he (Jesus) hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under-his-feet (Greek - hupotasso - under control). The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” (Greek - hupotasso)
Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him (hupotasso), it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything (hupotasso) under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject (hupotasso) to him who put everything under him (hupotasso), so that God may be ALL in ALL.
You just witnessed - unlike Revelation 20, 21, and 22 - everything that will happen when "cometh the end" what will happen with "the times will have reached their fulfillment:" the restoration of all things. We see Jesus, the first fruit, then the Bride...then the end. What happens in "the end" is much different than what you heard in church. In the end, Jesus places all enemies under his feet. The phrase "placed everything under his feet" stems from one Greek word (hupotasso)
It appears six times in the original Greek text between verse 24 & 28 alone! That's alot of hupotassos! Here is the definition according to Strong's Concordant:
To subordinate; reflexively to OBEY: - be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto."
Now, one thing we know about the lake of fire is that it is "the second death." But according to Paul, when the end comes, "the last enemy to be destroyed (done away with)…is death." So not only does Revelation not claim to be "the end" we have assurance through Paul, that when the end DOES come death itself will be done away with.
Death, after all, is an enemy to God. But, the reason death will be destroyed is stated in the next sentence, "for he has placed everything under his feet." (hupotasso) The word "hupotasso" appears within 32 verses of the Bible and it is never, not even once, translated to mean anything other than being placed under obedience to greater will.
So, the reason death will be destroyed because Jesus will bring death itself, along with every other enemy, fully under subjugation to him, and thereby dissolve death's power completely. What happens to death when man becomes obedient to God? It goes away. Then, all that remains is LIFE. So when "the end" comes, you can say, "bye, bye, lake of fire," and you can say, "bye, bye, second second, enemy of God."
Then the most beautiful culmination of all the work Jesus does - making all who were dead in Adam alive "in Christ," subjecting all enemies to his will- is this: he hands the kingdom over to God to be ALL in ALL. Not bad for thousands of years of work and a Son who died on the Cross to make it happen, huh?
Do you remember how I said the book of Revelation, regarding the lake of fire and the Bride, NEVER claimed to represent "the end?" What we witnessed regard God being ALL in ALL indeed was that culmination. That is what will happen in the end:Ephesians 1:9-10
And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring ALL THINGS in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
So while the lake of fire burns "unto the ages of the ages" when the ages are complete, we will have the restoration of all things.Acts 3:20-21
and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of the restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the ages began.
So, the question "If everyone will be saved, why did Jesus die on the Cross?" is counter-intuitive. Jesus died on the cross SO THAT everyone would be saved.
"The Times of The Restoration of All Things"
When anyone quotes the Bible to say that "God is Love" (1 John 4:8) Christians often remind others not to forget that God is also wrathful. But they cannot find a scripture that says "God is wrath." I hope you have seen in this paper that even God's wrath finds it's place in Love, and that his purpose for mankind is good for them. Let the Bible do the talking:
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject all things to himself.
He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities, all things were created through him and FOR him.
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw (Greek - helkuo, meaning "to drag") all people to myself.
God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
I Tim. 4:9-10
This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, Who is the savior of all men, especially of those that believe.
For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar.
I am God, there is no other, I am God, and there is no one like me; I reveal the end from the beginning, from ancient times I reveal what is to be: I say, "My purpose shall take effect, I will accomplish all that I please."
At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The way of God is perfect.