The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Aionios in 2Tim 1:9, Titus 1:2 and Rom 16:25


#1

I am trying to work out what I think about the meaning of Aionios and was wondering what others think about its use in these three verses.

In 2 Tim 1:9
God saved us according to his purpose and grace before times aionion.
In Titus 1:2
God promised aioniou life before times aionion.
In Rom 16:25-27
The gospel, leading to the obedience of faith among the Gentiles, was kept secret in times aioniois, but has now been made known by the aioniou God.

I am finding it confusing to follow all this. It sounds like the aioniou God has saved us and promised aioniou life before aionion times while the gospel was kept secret during aioniois times but now has been revealed.

Does anyone have any thoughts about how all these thoughts fit together and the meaning of aionios in these passages? Thanks.


#2

I could venture my interpretation, but I’m waiting for the car to warm up, so I’ll tag [tag]JasonPratt[/tag], who will likely do a better job than me anyway.


#3

Craig, for an enlightening treatment of “ages,” please consider this online chapter titled, “The Ages Presented” by Charles Pridgeon. I believe the chapter looks at your verses, although the author (a Greek scholar), eschews Greek in his treatment; or get the entire wonderful book, Is Hell Eternal or Will God’s Plan Fail? in .pdf here, or as an online version here.


#4

aion is the translated Greek word for olam- the original Hebrew word(imo)

olam is a word that carries within a meaning that is of varying nature and duration, determined in conjunction with the subject to which it is attached.

There is a subtle shift in meaning in that translation (olam to aionios). olam is translated, “ancient times” in Genesis 6:4 “They were the heroes of old(olam), men of renown.”

Word Origin
from an unused word

Definition
long duration, antiquity, futurity

NASB Translation
ages (1), all successive (1), always (1), ancient (13), ancient times (3), continual (1), days of old (1), eternal (2), eternity (3), ever (10), Everlasting (2), everlasting (110), forever (136), forever and ever (1), forever* (70), forevermore* (1), lasting (1), long (2), long ago (3), long past (1), long time (3), never* (17), old (11), permanent (10), permanently (1), perpetual (29), perpetually (1).

As you can see the word/concept goes forward and backwards, an indeterminate time attached to whatever it is describing.

olam also carried the idea of world, and was used by the Hebrews- and still is to this day, to communicate an idea of different worlds in different times or ages. “olam ha-ba” means “world to come” in Hebrew today and describs ajewish perspective of the age of restoration and light for the righteous. “olam ha-ze” means “this present world” and it means the age and systems and mystical properties of this world of darkness and confusion.

Paul echoes this in Galatians 1:4 “this present evil age”(aionios)

I personally see the ages like a rose blooming, revealing the “manifaceted wisdom of God” in stages.

For instance, aion is in Hebrews 13 times… it is translated in one place “world”, another place “world to come”. This is because they were translating from olam, which in its 438 uses in the OT often carries the connotation of place and time, not just time. Not place as in specific location, like a city, but rather place as in unknown worlds and far distant times and lands and ages.

This is why in matthew 25 when Jesus speaks of aionian(olam) pyr(fire) or aionian(olam) kolass(correction)…versus aionian(olam) zoe(life), perceiving as a Hebrew, even if He spoke Aramaic or Greek His thoughts were out of the Hebrew mind and Hebrew scriptures, so there would be no contradiction between “forever” and “age-during”. If I could transliterate it i would read it

“These will go away for/into the time/age/other-world appropriate to correction, the righteous into a time/age/other-world appropriate for life.”

For instance, aion is in Hebrews 13 times… it is translated “world” and “world to come”. This is because they were translating from olam, which in its 438 uses in the OT often carries the connotation of place and time, not just time. Not place as in specific location, like a city, but rather place as in unknown worlds and far distant times and lands and ages, as I said above.

Hebrews 1:2; “through whom He made the world”(this time/age/world)

Hebrews 1:8; “your throne O God is forever and ever”(eis aiona tou aionos) To the age of the age means(imo) until God becomes all in all and is described in 1 Cor 15:24 “then comes the end”

Hebrews 5:6; "“YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER(eis ton aiona) ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.”

Here we see “to the age” again. I think this means until the all in all. After that there will be no preists, or kings, for God will be “all in all”.

Hebrews 6:5; and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age(kjv world) to come,

Hebrews 9:26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages(ton aionian- of the ages) He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

Notice here(9:26) the Holy Spirit indicates that the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is the “consummation of the ages” the nexus point of all the ages, because the Lamb was slain "from the foundation of the wold(kosmos)- the first thought in the mind of God(seed-logos) around which everything else, all creation and all the ages-the "adminsitration suiatble to the fulness of times’ was planned.

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the worlds(olam-age worlds) were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.

Hebrews 13:8; Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever(eis tous aionas-for/into the ages) .

Hebrews 13:21 working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever(eis tous aionas ton aionon). Amen.

“eis tous aionas ton aionon” is an interesting phrase because in the OT olam was frequently doubed, “olam olam” to mean(imo) forever, or “throughout the ages”.

As an example of how critical proper translation can be to proper understanding, the little word “eis” is translated “into” or “for” almost all the time everywhere, but “to” in most of these verses.

“to the age” means something signifigantly different that “into the ages” or “for the ages”

Just a few points. there is a lot more to be said about aionian/olam times.


#5

This is why “unto” IMO can be a reasonable rendering “eis” <εἰς>.


#6

Happy Christmas everyone!

Thanks Hermano. I have read a few articles/chapters about aionios from different people but I hadn’t read Charles Pridgeon before.

Thanks Eaglesway and Davo. I was wondering if you might explain a little more about the difference in how you understand “to” rather than “into”, “for” or “unto” the ages?
Also, a little more on how to understand aionian/olam times would be appreciated - like when would be “before” it, and “in” (or whatever the prepositions should be in the verses I mentioned in the OP). Thanks.


#7

Some people wouldnt make much difference between “to” the age, or “into” the age or “for” the age but they can be signifigant differences, especially when the word"forever" or “everlasting” have been placed over “unto the age of ages” “through the ages of the ages” “to the age” etc. Did i walk to the forest, or did I walk into the forest? Did I walk to the fire, or did I walk into the fire? In terms of time, up to and into or “for a time” makes a lot of difference.

But essientally, I like to look at three primary scriptures,

Eph 1:9,10 With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.(NIV)

In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth

I see the ages as “an administration” of the fulness/completion(pleroma) of times(kairon-epochs 1thess 5:1) - a process described in 1 Cor 15

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power
…For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death. 27 For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. 28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

The progressive revelation of God through the ages will eventually bring all things into communion with God untill He is all in all.

But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, 21 whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets* from ancient time*(aionos/olam) Acts 3:18-21

As far as the ages and their divisions, we see through a glass darkly, at least forward-wise, altho there are folks who think they have it all worked out. we know there was an age before the flood(3 Peter 3) and this present world is reserved to be destroyed(changed, its systems and principalities anulled) when the “period of the restoration of all things” begins(as I see it) at the second coming of Christ and the resurrection of the first-fruits(we are a kind of first-fruits of creation James 1:18, Romans 8:18-25)- but there are many views on this.

We know for certain the ages/times/epochs will end, or issue into a final everlasting age, when the last knee has bowed and the administration of the fulness of times has been completed through “the period of the restoration of all things”- which will be fulfilled when death is destroyed and God has become “all in all”.

Personally I see four “world/ages”. From creation to the flood(the world that was destroyed by water 2 Pet 3:6); “this present evil age”(Gal 1:4, Rom 8:18)- from Noah until the second coming; “the period of the restoration of all things”, from the second coming, though the millenial age and the great white throne/lake of fire(2 Peter 3:13); and then the final never-ending age where God is all in all… But a lot of folks would disagree with my view :slight_smile:

I also see those ages divided into epochs, or periods, but the main thing is, the ages are an adminstration, a plan made “before the foundation of the world”. God bound all men in disobedience(romans 11:32), subjected the entire creation to futility(romans 8:20)- “with a view towards” to redeem, reconcile and restore it all back through grace in order to reveal the glory of His grace and teach every one that ever was/is/will be the glorious liberty of love and communion.

"According to His kind intention which he purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of times, the “gathering together of all things into one in Christ”(kjv)…just awesome

Unless we had seen the ugliness(this present evil age) we could never appreciate the beauty of His character and the wonders of His friendship, in the ages to come.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.(Eph 2)


#8

Thanks Eaglesway.
If I am understanding you correctly, “aionian times” began with creation and will end with the consummation of God being all in all.
If that is the case, Titus 1:2 says that God promised aionian life before creation. I know he has promised aionian life a lot during aionian times (e.g. John 3:16 is a promise given in the first century AD, which is after creation and before the consummation) , but does it make sense that he promised it before creation? When did he do that? Who to? I can understand that God purposed life before creation but did he promise it?


#9

I have not studied Greek and so what I am thinking could be totally ridiculous but I will ask about it anyway so that I can be corrected. :slight_smile:

On other threads, I have read that Paidion thinks that Aionios means “lasting or durable”.
If that is correct, then “chronos” with “aionios” could mean “long time”.
If something occurred “before chronos aionios” could that just mean it occurred "a long time ago? For example, God’s promise “before aionios times” in Titus 1:2 could refer to God’s promise to Abraham “a long time ago”, rather than a promise to ??? “before creation”.
In Rom 16:25 the mystery was kept secret for a “long time” (chronos aionios) but has now been made manifest.
On this speculation, if someone wanted to talk about something that would happen a long time in the future, they could talk about it happening “after chronos aionios”.

Any thoughts?


#10

Some people from the church my son attends are endeavouring to persuade my son against Christian Universalism. At the moment they are looking into the meaning of aionios in the New Testament with him.
I think that the three passages I mentioned in the OP are important ones because they do not fit very well with the idea that aionios always means eternal or everlasting.
But I am still struggling a bit to understand how Paul was using the expression “times aionios”, so that I can positively help my son with its possible meaning in these verses.

After having read many articles on aionios, I have so far found that there are many possible meanings.

1 Everlasting - without beginning or end.
2 Everlasting - endless - has a beginning but no end.
3 Everlasting - in effect or consequence. The act or process may not be everlasting, for it does not take forever to complete, but its effect is everlasting.
4 Eternal - outside of time. Timeless - as distinct from endless in time. (Plato).
5 Of/pertaining to/belonging to an age, or to the whole period of the ages. Ages are seen as distinct, well defined finite time periods, each having a beginning and an end. e.g. beginning with creation to the flood, and the last age ending when God becomes all in all. Eonian -related to an eon.
6 Of/pertaining to/belonging to the age to come, the future eon in contrast to the present eon, the world to come in contrast with this world, the messianic age, the eschatological eon, the kingdom of God.
7 Of/pertaining to/belonging to God, the heavenly realm, God’s realm as distinct from the earthly realm.
8 Age-lasting, Age-(en)during.
9 Related to a lifetime or a particular period of time.
10 Lasting, enduring, durable, permanent, pertaining to a long period of time. No specific time period in view - depends on the noun being qualified. Some lasting things could actually be everlasting, while others have an end.
11 Very old, ancient.

In considering the meaning of the expression “times aionios” in 2 Tim 1:9, Titus 1:2 and Rom 16:25:
1 “The whole times of the ages from creation to God being all in all” (meaning 5) doesn’t seem to work so well to me.

2 "Lasting times” (meaning 10) seems OK to me (see my previous comment) but any comments from [tag]Paidion[/tag] would be appreciated.

3 “Times of the coming age, or the kingdom of God" (meaning 6) as it was breaking in at the time of Paul seems also a possibility to me, but I would like to please ask a question on this to any Greek experts here. [tag]JasonPratt[/tag]
In Rom 16:25, I was wondering if most of the translations could be wrong. By moving the comma, rather than the secret being kept in aionios times, the revelation could have occurred in aionios times. Thus the aionios times would not need to be finished and in Paul’s past, but rather be in Paul’s present and future. Could my wondering be possible?


#11

When God created the earth, He made it according to a plan. Each thing He made serves a specific purpose and does so according to it’s order. When it came to man, God decided to do something a little different. Instead of operating by the laws of nature, such as that of beasts and animals, we were given and made to operate by another nature, that of the divine nature of God. And so it was that God created man in His own image, according to His word, these being eternal are the laws and ways in which man should also walk and live. The way I understand it, God made all of this known to man in the beginning;that should we live by His word, we would be fruitful, be blessed and have dominion over the earth.
This knowledge is to be passed on to our children so that they know the way of life as well, from one generation to the next, throughout all the ages. But as it happens, the knowledge was lost. This is one of the reasons Jesus came to earth, to restore the word of God.


#12

Craig,

I’m glad you’re taking this threat to your son seriously because while God will lead him into all truth, you as his father have (I think) an obligation to prevent, if you can, his being led astray in the first place. This divergence from the truth could (not necessarily would, but could) have a significant and potentially negative effect on his life. Don’t go quietly into that good night. If he ends up being deceived it’s not the end of the world, but don’t let it happen because you failed to do the best you could to help him see light.

IMO, aionios is best translated roughly as “the God kind of.” Jesus said, “And this is eternal (aionios) life, that they may know YOU and Jesus Christ, whom YOU have sent.” Knowing God certainly results in neverending life, but it isn’t, in itself, neverending life. It is a certain kind of life–the God kind of life. The punishment in the Sheep and the Goats is the God kind of punishment and the reward is the God kind of life. Neither have anything to do with a time period.

Now that’s not to say that aionios does not sometimes MEAN to refer to a time period. I believe it does. But the argument about aionios meaning “a long time” is usually unfruitful. “They” don’t want to study the word in enough depth to discover the truth, and they probably don’t want to listen to you either. For your son, it will only be your word against theirs, and while I’m sure he respects you, that doesn’t always mean he’s going to think you’re the one who’s right. In nearly all (if not all) scriptures in which the meaning of aionios can be misconstrued to mean everlasting torment, “the God kind of” works better than any other meaning. That is, incidentally, the criteria by which translators are supposed to judge, since they can’t always know exactly what the writer had in mind.

EDIT: BTW, I edited your tag of Jason for you. His “handle” is JasonPratt, not Jason Pratt. (Just fyi for the next time you tag him.) :slight_smile:


#13

Cindy- Are you saying that when we know God and Jesus and know the kind of eternal life They have, it is within ourselves here and now?? Like, our life experience can be heaven and hell in an inward sense depending on our relationship with Them?? Just want to read more of your thought on this :slight_smile:

Also Cindy, can you look at the thread below this about dying then the judgment?? I may have not written jasons name right either & want him to see it too :smiley:


#14

Thanks very much Cindy for your helpful thoughts.

My son and I talk a fair bit and he understands and leans toward UR and would like it to be true, but acknowledges that he hasn’t come to any firm conclusions.
He and his girlfriend are both involved in leading small groups in the church youth group. He is under pressure from the church leadership not to discuss UR with any others in the church as it is an “unacceptable" doctrine, and if he continues to consider UR as a possibility then he will not be allowed any further leadership roles.
The staff are concerned that he may influence his girlfriend and have expressed concern to her about continuing the relationship. So far, she is sticking with him.
One of the staff has been assigned to “sort him out” and so far after several hours of discussions, my son can see that the arguments for ECT are inconclusive and UR is still a viable option.

Last time they met, they began to look at aionios. The staff member is not interested in the use of the noun “aion” or the use of the adjective “aionios” in the OT but wants to focus on the use of “aionios” as it is used in the NT.
So far, my son can see that options 5 to 11 that I listed in my last comment give a viable option for its meaning in the passages they have discussed so far.

They have not discussed 2 Corinthians 4:17,18 yet, contrasting the suffering that is seen and temporary with the glory which is unseen and “aionios”. This is a favourite text for those who believe in ECT, but I feel comfortable in explaining that one to my son.

I think your understanding of “aionios” as "the God kind of” is similar to what I have read from Thomas Talbott and Jason Pratt and what I have tried to summarise as possible meaning number 7 in my post above. I think this sounds plausible in many passages but not really the ones that I have asked about in the OP unfortunately. What would “before the God kind of times”, or "a mystery kept secret in the God kind of times” mean?

These passages seem to have more of a long time/age feel about them to me, but definitely not an everlasting feel, so I am still thinking in terms of possible meaning number 6 or 10 above.

John Stott understood “aionios life” as life of the age to come and they at least have some respect for him at my son’s church.

Ultimately, I don’t think it would be conclusive against UR even if aionios did mean eternal, because of the thoughts expressed in Conditional Futurism by James Goetz.

Thanks for fixing up my tagging Cindy.
Thank you Paidion for replying with a PM. It didn’t look like I could PM you back for some reason.


#15

not interested in its OT usage ?..that’s strange as it’s OT usage is crucial in understanding its usage and meaning…‘aionios’ is the Greek word used to transliterate the Hebrew word ‘olam’ in the OT…read the LXX (Septuagint, ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew OT)) or the Polygot Bible in Greek…find the index in these Bibles and look up ‘aionios’ and you’ll see it occurs hundreds of times in the Greek OT, indeed in every place where ‘olam’ occurs in the Hebrew OT.You will soon find that ‘aionios’ does not really mean ‘eternal’ in the Bible but carries the sense of pertaining to the next ‘age’ beyond this life (more of a sense of ‘quality’ than linear time duration) (amongst several other meanings i.e. often in a temporal sense ) … The NT writers (and Jesus) were devout Jews (apart from Luke of course), Greek speaking and quoted more from the LXX (Septuagint) Greek Old Testament than the Hebrew Old Testament text…


#16

I agree Neil, but that was the way he wanted to play. My guess is that he could see that the OT usage of aionios would not help his cause. He thought the meaning of aionios may have changed from OT to NT, and the meaning of the noun aion is not necessarily indicative of the meaning of the adjective, so he thought that the NT usage of aionios was the best place to start.
My son is aware that this could be ignoring important clues to its meaning.


#17

I think what Paul might be trying to say is this: All throughout history, there have been men who like to think that they are more superior than others. In times past, the kings, queens, and ruling classes of society claimed to be of “royal blood”, chosen by their gods and given the right to rule over others because they had divine connections. Everyone else was simply a stupid human. The truth is that all men are created equal, and all have the divine nature of God. It’s a matter of whether or not we choose to follow it. It was not God who kept this secret. It’s men who seek power and glory for themselves who try to cover up the truth. I believe the apostles and disciples were fighting for this truth in hopes that the generations of children not yet born would know the way of life according to God.


#18

hmmm, ok…interesting…well, there’s nothing that I can see that suggests the meaning of ‘aionios’ changed from OT to NT…and the Septuagint
( LXX ) is an authoritative translation in the eyes of God and has God’s stamp of approval because, as I said, the NT writers (and Jesus Himself) quote from the Septuagint many times…far more than they quote from the Hebrew text of the OT (interestingly enough)…thus putting their seal of approval on the Septuagint (LXX)…therefore, the meaning of ‘aionios’ in the OT and it’s relationship with ‘olam’ is most pertinent in understanding the meaning of ‘aionios’ in the NT, indeed, it is crucial to understanding the NT meaning of ‘aionios’.


#19

how can the meaning of the noun ‘aion’ not necessarily be indicative of the meaning of it’s adjective ‘aionios’ ?..sorry, but that seems preposterous.It goes against all the rules of grammar. An adjective cannot carry an entirely different meaning to the noun it proceeds from…how in the world can the noun ‘age’ (meaning something with a beginning and an end ) magically turn into meaning something as entirely different as ‘eternity’ (meaning without beginning or end ) in it’s adjective sense ?.


#20

common sense dictates that if the NT writers wanted to tell us beyond any doubt that certain things were eternal (such as punishment etc ) they would have used one of the Greek words that conclusively beyond any doubt meant ‘eternal’…such as ‘aidios’.