A few months ago, I wrote an article entitled The Eternal Fate of Unbelievers which shows that the Bible clearly states that those who love wickedness and reject Jesus Christ as Lord will be eternally condemned to Hell in eternal fire, torture, and punishment. I make no apologies for what the Bible says. Jesus was not politically correct. He even said in Matthew 11:6, “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” Think about that for a second. He’s saying that some people will get offended and fall away from faith in Him on account of Him. I’ll repeat what I said a few days before that post… the gospel is offensive!
I have recently come across a new (to me) teaching that states that punishment in Hell is only temporary. The basis for this doctrine is in their belief that the Greek noun aion can only be defined as a temporary period of time, or age, and that when you turn it into an adjective, it cannot have greater meaning or force than the noun. They say that when aionion (the adjective) or its derivatives are used, that it can never mean things like eternal, everlasting, or forever.
On a quick side note, I also find it interesting that they use pagan Greek historians from the 1st Century B.C. and 4th Century B.C. to try to prove that the doctrine of Hell was fabricated by powerful church leaders in order to scare & deceive the masses so that the world would not go crazy in moral depravity. That’s confusing: first, they said Hell was only temporary, then they said Hell doesn’t even exist! However, the concept of everlasting punishment by fire for the wicked is an Old Testament concept written about in books such as Jeremiah, Isaiah, Daniel, and Psalms between 5th-14th Centuries B.C., at least a century before these people existed. And besides that, if you look at the world today, you can see that the concept of eternal punishment in Hell is certainly not curbing wickedness and moral depravity. People don’t need to be scared out of Hell into a relationship with God, they need to be loved into relationship with God and saved from Hell.
Getting back to the discussion of forever…
Quick Fact: The root word for aion is aei. The definition of aei is ever, unceasingly, always, and constantly. I acknowledge that there are places where a derivative of this word is translated as “age” or “world” and that the Bible talks about these ages coming to an end. English has its own oddities like this. But is it good common sense to try and argue that all derivatives of a root word mean the opposite of what the root word means? That doesn’t make sense to me.
The author of this doctrine makes a statement that “Since grammar rules mandate an adjective CANNOT take on a greater force than its noun form, it is evident that “aionion” in any of its adjective forms (ios, ou, on) CANNOT possible mean “everlasting” or anything remotely indicating eternity or unending time.”
Let’s look at the uses of aionion in the New Testament (Strong’s NT 166). I believe if we examine the usage of this Greek word in light of the entire New Testament, we can come to an accurate conclusion and determine whether the statement above is true or false.
46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
11But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. 15Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
2 Peter 1:11
11For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
If we were to agree with the above statement which says that aionion can only be translated to mean a temporary time period, then that would mean:
- Eternal life is merely temporary, which leaves open the possibility that we could die again.
- Jesus has only been resurrected for a temporary period of time.
- Jesus only secured a temporary redemption by sacrificing himself for our sins.
- The Holy Spirit is only temporary, not eternal. Temporarily what? Temporarily God? Temporarily Holy?
- Our promised inheritance in Christ is only temporary.
- The coming kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ is only temporary.
- That the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is temporary life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I want to point out that Mark 3:29 and John 10:18 both have the word “never” in them.
- Mark 3:29 – Does it make sense that blaspheming the Holy Spirit is a temporary sin that we can never be forgiven of?
- John 10:18 – Does it make sense that we will never perish, yet the life that Jesus gives is only temporary?
The most obvious contradictory verse I have found so far is this:
2 Corinthians 4:18
18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
If we were to subscribe to the theory that aionion can never mean eternal, then this verse would have to be reworded to state, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is temporary.” That doesn’t sound like much of a compare & contrast statement to me.
“FOREVER AND EVER”…
Finally, I want to take a look at a Greek phrase that most translators translate to English as “forever and ever” which the author of this false doctrine is also trying to distort into meaning a temporary and indeterminate period of time. The Greek, transliterated into our alphabet is eis toús aioónas toón aioónoon.
This Greek phrase is found 18 times in the New Testament. We can classify these verses into roughly four categories:
1. How long does God live?
- Revelation 1:17-18
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
- Revelation 4:9
And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
- Revelation 10:6
and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay,
- Revelation 15:7
And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever,
2. How long does God receive blessing, glory, honor, dominion, might, power, wisdom, and thanksgiving?
- Galatians 1:3-5
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
- Philippians 4:20
To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
- 1 Timothy 1:17
To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
- 2 Timothy 4:18
The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
- Hebrews 13:21
equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
- 1 Peter 4:11
whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
- Revelation 1:4-6
John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
- Revelation 5:13
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
- Revelation 7:12
saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
3. How long does God reign and how long will we reign with Him?
- Revelation 11:15
Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
- Revelation 22:5
And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
4. How long is the eternal punishment?
- Revelation 19:3
Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”
- Revelation 20:9-10
And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
I appeal to your common sense!
Does God only live for a temporary amount of time?
Does God only receive praise, honor, glory, power, etc. for a temporary amount of time?
Does God reign only for a temporary amount of time?
If not, then punishment in the lake of fire is not temporary either!
Nevertheless, the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Don’t fall into the trap!
For more reference to the Greek word aionion, see the following verses.
Verses that talk about eternal fire, destruction, judgment, and punishment:
2 Thessalonians 1:9
Verses that talk about eternal life:
Matthew 19:16, 19:29
Mark 10:17, 30
Luke 10:25, 16:9, 18:18, 18:30
John 3:15, 16, 36
John 4:14, 36
John 5:24, 39
John 6:27, 40, 47, 54, 68
John 12:25, 50
John 17:2, 3
Acts 13:46, 48
Romans 2:7, 5:21,
1 Timothy 1:16
1 John 1:2, 2:25, 3:15, 5:11, 5:13, 5:20
2 Corinthians 4:17-18
2 Corinthians 5:1
2 Timothy 2:10
1 Peter 5:10
2 Timothy 1:9