The Evangelical Universalist Forum

into the ages of ages...forever and ever...

When I took Koine Greek in college my Greek prof said that the phrase “into the ages of ages”, which uses the Greek word aion that we’ve all talked about, was an idiom that meant “forever” in the strongest terms possible. I’ve heard some say that saying “forever and ever” doesn’t make any sense because you don’t add “ever” to “forever” since it is illogical. However, this doesn’t work as an argument if it is an idiom. When I use the English idiom saying “the ball is in your court”, the words themselves don’t convey the intended meaning of the idiom. It is the agreement on what the idiom means that gives it the authority. We all know that when I say “the ball is in your court” it means that it is now up to you to make the next move. We can’t tear it apart word by word to determine the meaning of the idiom or an illogic therein.

When I read scriptures like:

**Revelation 14:11 (NKJV)
11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” **

it sure seems to me like the verse is implying eternal. When you hear “no rest day and night into the ages of ages”, it sounds like it is trying to convey, at the very least a ridiculously long time, if not a never-ending time period. What are your thoughts? I know this has been discussed before but I recently read D A Carsons defense of hell and this was one of the things that stuck out in my mind.

Then God will be all in all. the end :smiley:

This is pictoral, visionary language. The smoke ascended forever and ever, out of site. It’s not technical language meant to be taken literally. One must remember that Revelation is apocalyptic literature, not didactic or historical narrative. Revelation is unique in its style amoung the books of the NT. Frankly, I never have, even when I was an Infernalist, used material from Revelation to “prove” any doctrine because the style of literature does not afford such. It is visionary language, more like short movie clips with absolutely no explanation from the author. The movie clips are meant to illicit an emotional response and not likely meant to be interpreted technically or literally, I think.

How does on “interpret” Picasso’s “Gunerica” or Lewis’ “Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe”? Revelation illustrates that God wins! He wins in our personal lives, in our cultures, in our nations, through out history, and ultimately over all! The kingdom of God reigns!

Even if you use that argument, you’re still stuck with aionos. The “ages of ages” idiom is actually not used that often, it’s not used in the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, for instance, or in the Gehenna passages iirc. aionos is much more frequent, and can easily mean “of age”.

The problem here is simpler, though. We’re trying to literalize a lot of stuff and dig at semantics to figure things out. I honestly never read the Bible where Jesus says “fiery furnace” and literally imagined a literal furnace where people are thrown. That’s just not how I perceive metaphoric language. We’re doing it all wrong. There is a place in the Bible where they use literally the word forever and the event is actually not forever:

"6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— " [Jude 1:6|ESV] - the Bible just goes ahead and breaks the English language. (word used is this:

With Revelation, things get considerably worse in terms of literalism. Taking Revelation literally seems almost illegal. What are we left with? Satan, the Beast, False Prophet? Who are they? What do they represent? What do the bowls represent? What does the Lake of Fire represent? These are all very problematic questions that have no answer. And if you have some experience interpreting metaphoric works, you know that it may take a while to understand what the author meant, and you can even have people arrive at interpretations different from what he meant. Especially common are direct opposite conclusions because of certain literally devices used. Ever tried reading Emily Dickinson? Revelation strikes me as one of the more bizarre allegorical works out there, not one for easy read, unless you’re going to be like my friend and say the locusts with lion heads are like helicopters… the Orthodox church largely does not read Revelation, even, and they do not have a foolproof interpretation of it, there were various ideas among saints, UR included. Please note that the Orthodox church, even if they do believe in ETC, do not believe in a literal Lake of Fire, they just think God IS the Lake of Fire. That’s a very big metaphorical jump if you ask me. Yet, Protestants do not permit us to make any other metaphorical jumps. That makes no sense.

The strongest argument for UR, I believe, is not in Revelation, but in other, less allegorical portions of the Bible. Some of the symbolism in Revelation can be in our favor but generally I would say the easiest thing to argue from Revelation is actually annihilationism. But if we do not know what it really means, it matters not.

I always look at the Second Death in terms of Christ’s statement in the Gospels.

“If you lose your life for my sake, you find it.” A very literal way of putting it would be; “If your soul is destroyed by reason of me, you will find your soul.”

The second death is the destruction of the soul, which I do not feel is a destruction in the sense of annihilation or infliction of wicked pain - but the sort of destruction that comes when one is given wholeheartedly to God’s purpose even in the face of its afflictions upon the darkness in us, or the afflictions on our whole being due to the darkness in others who attack and persecute, or due to the undeserved evils of the world; and the darkness in it. But in God we are found, because God is (I believe) the fountainhead of our being as individuals, in whom [God] we live, breathe, move, and have our being.

I agree with you Sherman about literally interpreting stuff from Revelation, however, this phrase is used quite often in the New Testament:

Galatians 1:5
to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:21
to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Philippians 4:20
Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

1 Timothy 1:17
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

2 Timothy 4:18
And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!

Hebrews 1:8
But to the Son He says: “ Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.

Hebrews 13:21
make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:11
If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 5:11
To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 1:6
and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

*Revelation 4:9
Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever,

Revelation 4:10
the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:
Revelation 5:13
And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “ Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

*Revelation 5:14
Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.
Revelation 7:12
saying: “ Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Revelation 10:6
and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer,

  • Revelation 11:15
    Seventh Trumpet: The Kingdom Proclaimed ] Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”

  • Revelation 14:11
    And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

    • Revelation 15:7
      Then 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.
  • Revelation 19:3
    Again they said, “Alleluia! Her smoke rises up** forever and ever!”
    Revelation 20:10
    The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night** forever and ever.**

    • Revelation 22:5
      There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

The ones that I italicized and underlined seem to be talking about duration since they are talking about how long God lives or how long he will reign. What do you make of the scriptures that say God will live into the ages of ages. We know that God does live forever, so what do you think the writer is trying to say? I think there is powerful testimony in the scripture to UR. Those of you who know me know I have argued to this end. I also understand that all positions have their difficult verses, and I think that ECT has some of the most difficult hurdles to overcome. But I think this is a difficult phrase when it talks about how long God lives or reigns because it seems to talk about forever at face value. What do you think?

If God lives forever and ever, He certainly lives unto the ages of the ages. The literal translation always works, while the idiomatic translation sometimes works.

There is also the view that the noun in some ways qualifies the adjectival phrase. That is to say that “ages of the ages” acquires the flavor of eternity when it refers to God, as we know that He is never ending and of course, never beginning. The same doesn’t hold true if the noun is temporal. The adjectival phrase is not, in itself, strong enough to evoke eternity since that is not its meaning, literally speaking. Only when coupled with God can it take on this quality. (I believe that this later is from Talbot’s book.)

Blessings, Cindy

MY friend. I have no clue what Picasso has to do with scripture, but

My question is if it can’t be taken literally, then how did you understand it so as to take it in a pictorial or visionary manner

My friend. You can ask till the cows come home, but all you will get is an interpretation based on the individual’s presupposition. There is one truth. Either it means forever or it doesn’t. For your sake I pray you get it right.

do we have anything in the Bible that truly is unambiguously eternal, ie something that could be translated as eternal?

i suppose if something “has no end”, it might be “eternal” as we understand.

also, we might infer that “eternal life” (life of the age) is eternal in effect because there is no death.

we know that God is eternal, because He was not born and does not die, but lives on and on. also, the word immortal is applied to Him in 1 Timothy.

when Jesus defines eternal life, He does so qualitatively…“Now this is eternal life (life aionian, i assume): to know You, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

are we guilty of reading the concept of eternity into Scripture when really we should be using language such as “without end” or “without death”, which would be far more descriptive, i feel, and more accurate as well. “eternity” is, i believe, a philosophical concept that might confuse matters. Infinity isn’t helpful either, as it is Mathematical, and implies we’d never reach a final point, which implies a lack of understanding. not sure if what i’m saying makes sense, but i’m just throwing it out there.

OXY!!! welcome back. there is another thread with some updated responses to you…i link:
[Blog: "why calvinism is more heretical than universalism")

does this phrase appear in secular literature of that time?

I know that it is found in one of the books of Maccabees (3rd ord 4th) which is no inspired writing, which troubled me a bit

“Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”

“I will restore their fortunes, both the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters, and I will restore your own fortunes in their midst, that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all that you have done, becoming a consolation to them. As for your sisters, Sodom and her daughters shall return to their former state, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former state, and you and your daughters shall return to your former state.”

Eh. I think the Bible is trying to make a point more often than it’s trying to reveal the darkest secrets of some afterlife.

Question for you oxy. I did this post a little while back on Jeremiah. God tells Israel, through the prophet Jeremiah that he will punish them forever. He is repetitive about it:

Jeremiah 7:20 20“This is what the Almighty LORD says: My anger and fury will be poured out on this place, on humans and animals, and on trees and crops. **My anger and fury will burn and not be put out.
Jeremiah 13
14Then I will smash them like bottles against each other. I will smash parents and children together, declares the LORD. **I will have no pity, mercy, or compassion when I destroy them.’ ” **

Jeremiah 15
5No one will take pity on you, Jerusalem. No one will mourn for you. No one will bother to ask how you are doing. 6You have left me,” declares the LORD. “You have turned your back on me. So I will use my power against you and destroy you. **I’m tired of showing compassion to you. **

Jeremiah 17
4You will lose the inheritance that I gave you. I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you haven’t heard of.** I will do this because you have stirred up the fire of my anger.
It will burn forever. **

There were several statements that gave the impression that God’s punishment would not end. God said it would be forever. Then came the clincher:

Jeremiah 29 -
10This is what the LORD says: When Babylon’s 70 years are over, I will come to you. I will keep my promise to you and bring you back to this place. 11I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope. 12Then you will call to me. You will come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13When you look for me, you will find me. When you wholeheartedly seek me, 14I will let you find me, declares the LORD. I will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I’ve scattered you, declares the LORD. I will bring you back from the place where you are being held captive.

So here, oxy, God says “forever” he says that the fire “will burn forever”, but the punishment lasts for only seventy years. So you tell me, when God says “forever” what does he mean? You say “either it means forever or it doesn’t”, but God said forever and meant seventy years! Scripture disagrees with you!

My friend. Your interpretation of scripture disagrees with me. You clearly see verses that support the side you don’t like, so rather than accept it; instead your presupposition drives you to look for verses that support your view. Then after showing me one obscure verse, you then make an emphatic claim that scripture does not agree with me even though you displayed scriptures that did agree with me.

It’s interesting to note that Jeremiah isn’t the only one that uses “forever” language to signify something other than “forever.” Let’s not forget Isaiah 34:10, which says of Edom (I think) that its “smoke will go up forever,” that it will burn with a fire that “will not be quenched night and day,” and so forth. “Forever” language seems to be used to signify something like “to the uttermost” in the prophets, and as John was clearly drawing on Isaiah 34 in his lake of fire imagery, it makes sense that he’d be using it the same way.

Isn’t that a bit of a leap? as the book of Isaiah is written in Hebrew; whereas John is written in Greek? Style of writing is one thing, but translation is another. I am just asking. I don’t know

John, being a Hebrew, would’ve thought linguistically like a Hebrew.
the main issue is that Olam does not mean eternity as we’ve come to understand the word. it simply means far off, as Bird has shown.
Aionios also doesn’t mean eternal, unless you take the Greek philospher’s (Plato’s?) perspective and retroactively apply it to Scripture, written at a time when the disciples wouldn’t have had this perspective, and would’ve used it as it was commonly used at the time: to denote an age.

It’s not the language but the mindset. If a Hebraic thinker is going to use Greek he’s still going to import Jewish thought into his writing. And this is just what we see throughout the NT.

A couple points:

  1. If God goes on to the “ages of the ages” out of sight of every possible concept of time we could have, then if the same is said of the lake of fire, then it must be trying to say that the lake of fire is under God’s sovereign control. That’s the theological messaging there. The Mediterranean-Judean mindset was to think of the immediate present and sometimes the foreseeable future, the next turn of the road. They wouldn’t be trying to philosophically conjure up some concept of a line stretching off into infinity. That’s just absurd, really. Also, would not John have taken the Master’s words to heart that, “If he never dies, what is that to you?” (paraphrased) In other words, John’s giving immediate comfort to those suffering under the regime of the beast. Not those who have taken his mark, the persecutors. He’s not trying to convey what hope there is for them. Or is he? :wink:

  2. Given the parallel Isaiah passage and fiery imagery, the smoke rising “to the ages of the ages” seems to be a double entendre. The “torment” is testing, metaphorized by the concept behind the word “basanizos” which refers to the touchstone, which “tests” the purity of metals. And when one uses the touchstone with acid (in this case sulfuric acid), smoke literally rises up from it.

So basically God is managing the testing of the beast and those who took his mark - and what happens into the ages of the ages is none of our own personal business.

Lastly, and perhaps more importantly, prophecy is conditional. This isn’t absolute, like where the end result is God’s intention and depends solely upon his merit, but wherever the promise/warning pivots upon the human will it seems to be. Take for instance Jonah’s prophecy. Absolutely no hope for redemption or turning back around… and yet they were spared through repentance - and what’s more is that, not only did God expect it to happen, but Jonah did too! :smiley:

I understand that, but then the argument is style of writing vs translation. What about context?

“yom” Reminds me of the long age theory vs 24 hr day.

Actually it does.

Or you can say, even Plato an ancient Greek comprehended the concept of eternity.

yes, but my point is that the disciples wouldn’t have, not in his terms. therefore, they COULD NOT have meant eternal. also, they wrote in Greek, and being Hebrew, it was their own translation, so therefore, they wrote from the perspective that olam = aionios = age in the distance.