The Evangelical Universalist Forum

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

What is your basis for this assertion?


My friend. obviously we have two different presuppositions and we have enough ammo to shoot at one another, but at the end of the day we must realize it is our presuppositions that drive our interpretation of how we see scripture. Do you agree?

That is a fair question Sonia, but I honestly do not want to get into the aionios debate.

i agree that it is hard to get rid of presuppositions. i did eventually manage, though, and (not to sound flippant) embraced UR! :laughing:

One obscure verse?! Oxy, you basically said that eternal had to mean eternal. I quoted the prophet Jeremiah, and not just one verse, where he is prophesying about Israel’s exile into Babylon. This is not an obscure verse or event - it is an often repeated prophecy in the scriptures about Israel, one of the HUGEST events in their history. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Lamentations, Nehemiah, and many other books talk about it. God says that he will punish them forever. He punishes them for seventy years. The passage in Jeremiah 29 is a favorite of many throughout history, the one about God’s mercy toward Israel, after he told them he would punish them “forever”. How is any of that obscure?

Also, you avoided the question, oxy. God said “forever” and he punished them for seventy years and then showed mercy. The word “forever” is “olam”. This is word that is often translated “aionios” in the Septuagint. Forever, olam, seventy years. You said that either it means eternal or not. What does God mean here, oxy? Give me your interpretation of the prophet Jeremiah. Does God mean eternal or not? Please answer the question.

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

NT authors borrowed from the OT all the time, and Revelation in particular draws tons of imagery from the OT prophets with a special fondness for Daniel and Isaiah. So it’s not a leap at all. The same imagery is present, making the same point.

Hi dirtboy

The reason that oxymoron does not answer your question is because he cannot. It is an indisputable fact, enshrined in the scripture that Calvinists claim to revere so much, that the Greek word ‘aionios’ and the Hebrew word it often translates, ‘olam’, cannot mean ‘forever’ in a high percentage of the places they are used, and likely do not in most, if not all, of the others. Hence oxymoron’s claim is, alas, demonstrably false.

Apart from the example you cite, consider these other examples, as quoted in Gerry Beauchemin’s book Hope Beyond Hell:

  • Jonah was in the fish forever [olam] until he left three days later (Jon. 1:17; 2:6).
  • Sodom’s fiery judgment is eternal [olam] until God returns them to their former state (Ez. 16:53-55; Ju. 7).
  • A Moabite is forbidden to enter the Lord’s congregation forever [olam] until the 10th generation (De. 23:3).
  • Hills are everlasting [olam] until made low…earth is burned up (Ge. 49:26; De. 33:15; Is. 40:4; 2Pe. 3:10).

Case proven.

It is one thing to bluster about ‘interpretation of scripture’. It is quite another to deny the unequivocal evidence of scripture itself.



I believe that in at least particular instances aionios was intended to mean the Platonic concept, especially where the Hellenistic Paul used it.

However, this does not in any way mean infinite time. In fact, David Konstan has done a thoroughly analysis on how exactly it was regarded in ancient literature on this very forum and I think we would be highly amiss to ignore it.


Have you done any reading on the New Perspective on Paul? N.T. Wright and others make a pretty excellent case that Paul was not nearly as Hellenistic as he has been thought to be by earlier scholarship.

No I haven’t, but I have good respect for N.T. Wright, and I think I’d like to get that. I’ll go put that on my wishlist now, thanks.

Regardless, I think that it’s doubtless that Paul would’ve been aware of some basic Platonic philosophy or at least linguistics, given that he quoted some pretty famous Greek poets on Mars Hill.

Oooh, that book just may be essential for analyzing Paul’s passages on universal reconciliation.

I suspect Oxymoron would agree that his theological presuppositions do not allow for aionios to mean anything other than “endless.” :sunglasses:



I’m not sure which book in particular you’re putting on your wish list, but What St. Paul Really Said by Wright was a big reason I became a Universalist. It rocked my theology. I haven’t had a chance yet to read Paul: In Fresh Perspective, but I hear it’s a more thorough treatment of more or less the same material, so I look forward to getting my hands on that.


Alot of good points made in this thread, but coming back to the point you make above that i have quoted, you are making the point that “forever and ever” is also used in non revelation passages and therefore one cannot dismiss that it should be interpreted as a literal phrase rather than than symbolic or non literal as much of revelations is.

But take a look at the passages you provided above. Have you noticed that every single one of them is in the context of a doxology or “prayer”. Notice how “amen” is used in all the non revelation passages you provided. Notice the use of “to him be glory” or “dominion” “honor”.

Just as others have mentioned that we don’t build our theology from non literal books such and imagery such as found in revelations, similarly It would be bad hermeneutics to also build our theology from doxology/ prayers.

The phrase “unto the ages of ages”, as far as I can tell is always used in non literal contexts. Prayers/doxologies and the book of revelations.

Yeah, Paul: In Fresh Perspective was the one I was talking about. Thanks for the heads up about the other one, though! I’ll go look at it, too. :smiley:

No problem. :slight_smile: One of my favorite passages from Wright came out of that book (toward the end, so… spoiler alert?):

*There [in Romans 8], Paul outlines and celebrates the hope that one day the entire cosmos will have its own great exodus, its liberation from bondage to decay. The point is this: the covenant between God and Israel was always designed to be God’s means of saving the whole world. It was never supposed to be the means whereby God would have a private little group of people who would be saved while the rest of the world went to hell (whatever you might mean by that). Thus, when God is faithful to the covenant in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and in the work of the Spirit, it makes nonsense of the Pauline gospel to imagine that the be-all and end-all of this operation is so that God can have another, merely different, private little group of people who are saved while the rest of the world is consigned to the cosmic waste-paper basket. It is not insignificant that the critical passages at this point, the middle of Romans 8 and the middle of 1 Corinthians 15, have themselves often been consigned to a kind of exegetical and theological limbo, with Protestant exegesis in particular appearing quite unsure what to do with them.

I suggest, in fact, that we should be prepared to think through the question of justice–God’s justice for the world, in the eventual future, and anticipated in the present–as part of the theme of what we call the righteousness of God. The word dikaiosune, after all, can just as easily be translated ‘justice’ as ‘righteousness’. If it is true that God intends to renew the whole cosmos through Christ and by the Spirit–and if that isn’t true then Paul is indeed talking nonsense in Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 15–then, just as the holiness of Christian living in the present is a proper, albeit partial, fitful and puzzling, anticipation of the future life of the resurrection, so acts of justice, mercy, and peace in the present are proper, albeit inevitably partial, fitful and puzzling anticipations of God’s eventual design. They are not lost or wasted; they are not, in the old caricature, a matter of oiling the wheels of a machine that is about to run over a cliff. They are signs of hope for a world that groans in travail, waiting for its promised liberation.

When we explore God’s righteousness to its very end, it reveals (as we saw) the love of God–the creator’s love for the cosmos he has made and his determination to remake it through the victory of Christ over the powers that deface and distort it. God intends to flood creation with his own love, until the earth is filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea. If the Gospel reveals the righteousness of God, and if the church is commanded and authorized to announce that gospel, it cannot rest content–for exegetical as well as theological reasons–with anything less than this complete vision. And it cannot therefore rest content while injustice, oppression and violence stalk God’s world. After all, Christians are commanded to bring one small piece of creation–their own bodies–into obedience to the healing love of God in Christ. Christians are to live in the present in the light of what God intends us to be in the future. That, as we saw, is what holiness is all about. How can we not then apply the same point to the whole of creation?*

When I read that, I had trouble understanding how Wright could not be a Universalist.

Another thread on this topic is the following with comments by Jason Pratt:

Regarding problem 1 (re Rev.20:10) above, it is suggested “very tentatively”, in the excellent book “The Evangelical Universalist” [2nd ed, 2012, by Gregory MacDonald i.e. Robin Parry], that Satan tormented “for ever and ever” (A) does not refer to a person but a thing or (B) the Satan in Satan is destroyed, but the Lucifer in Satan is saved, on pages 128-132 at: … ne&f=false

And that both (A) & (B) say Satan being tormented “forever & ever” is not to be taken literally, but understood metaphorically. The example is given of the city of Babylon not being literally tormented. Annihilationists view Rev.20:10 in similar ways (e.g. The Fire That Consumes, Fudge, p.245-8).

The book “The Evangelical Universalist” also offers viewpoint © that “forever and ever” (literally, into the ages of the ages, Rev.20:10) can refer to a limited though very long period of time. However this view is dismissed because if “one considers the other uses of ‘eis aionas aionon’ (in Revelation 1:6, 8; 4:9-10; 5:13; 7:12; 10:6; 11:15; 15:7; 22:5), most of them do seem to refer to things that last forever and ever, and this is a strong reason to see the phrase as having this meaning in Revelation 14 and 20 when it describes the duration of rising smoke and of the punishment of the demonic trinity” (p.128). That is a common argument as seen, for example, in Calvinist Matt Slick’s remarks here: It is this viewpoint © that i wish to comment on.

Position © re Revelation 20:10 is seen in a number of universalist writings. Various points that may be worth considering, including the following 12, have been given in support of ©, as follows:

(1) The smoke going up forever and ever (literally, into the ages of the ages, Rev.19:3) is finite in duration. For the fire as the source of the smoke will cease burning after the city is “utterly burned” (Rev.18:8) & “found no more” (18:21). Also the old earth passes away (Rev.21:1), so how would the city continue to smoke “for ever and ever”?

(2) The saints reign for “the ages of the ages” (Rev.22:5). But this is only until all rule & all authority are abolished (1 Cor.15:24).
Consequently one interpretation of the phrase “forever and ever” in Rev.22:5 is that it is of finite duration.

(3) Christ reigns “for the ages of the ages” (Rev.11:15). Since His reign is “until” He gives up the kingdom (1 Cor.15:25-26), His reign for “the ages
of the ages” is temporary, as is “the ages of the ages” related to it.

(4) Since Scripture teaches universal reconciliaton (e.g. Rev.5:13; Col.1:20), “the ages of the ages” referred to in Rev.20:10 re the torment of the devil cannot be endless. Likewise with other lesser sinners [e.g. humans] that may be punished in the lake of fire (cf. Rev.14:11 which uses a similar phrase, “ages of ages”, without the definite article “the”).

(5) Comparing Rev.20:10 with Matthew 25:41, Jesus said the future of the devil & his angels is fire aionios (Mt.25:41, 46), mistranslated everlasting or “eternal fire” by pro ECT (eternal conscious torments) Bible versions (e.g. KJV). Fire aionios is also associated with the fire that burnt Sodom (Jude 7). That fire was not eternal, went out long ago, & its effects will last only until Sodom is restored (Ezek 16). Thus there is a Scriptural basis for taking the same phrase, fire aionios, which also occurs at Mt.25:41 & 18:8, as referring to a fire that is of finite duration. Likewise with “into eons of the eons” in Rev.20:10 which also refers to the devil’s eonian (Mt.25:41) punishment associated with fire. So the devil’s eon related punishment by fire in both Mt.25:41 & Rev.20:10 is finite. Therefore, the period “the eons of the eons” (Rev.20:10) must end. And surely since the devil’s torments “into the ages of the ages” end, so do those related to human beings (cf. Rev.14:11; Mt.18:8; 25:41), for the same terminology is applied to them. Moreover, they are less sinful than Satan. If his punishment ends, then why not theirs also? Consequently the mistranslation “forever and ever” in Rev.20:10 & 14:11 refers to a finite period of time, with a beginning and an end.

Summing up the argument:

  • eonian fire is finite (Jude 7)
  • eonian fire is the devil’s punishment (Mt.25:41)
  • which is equal to his punishment in Rev.20:10
  • therefore his punishment is finite &
  • his torment for the eons of the eons is finite &
  • the eons of the eons themselves are finite

Regarding Jude 7 the following Interlinear does not say “suffering the vengeance of eternal fire”, but the cities are “set forth as an example”, “undergoing the penalty of fire aionion”: . Similarly, a literal version reads:

7 As Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them in like manner to these committing ultra-prostitution, and coming away after other flesh, are lying before us, a specimen, experiencing the justice of fire eonian." (Jude 7, CLV)

“The destruction of Sodom and the surrounding cities is still apparent to all who visit the region. In this way these cities are experiencing the justice of eonian fire. The fire has long ceased but its effects will remain and testify to God’s judgment until the close of this eon, after which Sodom shall return to her former estate (Ezek.16:53-56)” (Concordant Commentary of the New Testament, p.376) … testament/

“We likewise subscribe to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, who “are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7). This occurred many centuries ago. How poor a passage to apply to that which is thousands of years hence!”

“The word “set forth” is, literally, “lying before.” The term “example” or specimen, is from the word show. These are readily comprehended if we apply them to the sites of Sodom and Gomorrah today. Their destruction was so complete that their exact location is in dispute. Now the preponderance of opinion places them under the shallow end of the Dead Sea. No one can visit this terrible desolation without fully appreciating the force of these words.”

“But we are asked to forget this solemn and forceful scene for an “example” which no one can see, and which is not at all “set forth” or “lying before” us. We are asked to forget the fire (Gen.19:24) which destroyed these cities so that the smoke of the plain went up like the smoke of a furnace. The justice or “vengeance” of this fire is all too evident to this very day. It is a powerful reminder of God’s judgment which should deter those who are tempted to follow a similar path. This fire is called “eternal.” Just now the plain is covered by water, not fire. It was an eonian fire, as is witnessed by its effect for the eon.”

“Speaking of Jerusalem, Ezekiel gives us God’s thoughts concerning Sodom. “As I live, saith the Lord God, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters.” And again, “When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters…then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them…when thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate” (Ezek.16:48,53,55).”

“2 Peter 2:6 gives a parallel passage, where we read that God condemns the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, reducing them to cinders by an overthrow, having placed them for an example. This is perfectly plain, unless we try to distinguish between the cities and the people, and make conscious cinders suffer from flames beneath the waters of the Dead Sea.”

“If the Sodomites were on public exhibition where all could see them suffering in the flames of a medieval hell, we might consider them as set forth as an example, but as no one has ever seen them, and no one can see them, they are no example at all. The cities, however, are lying before us as a specimen of God’s eonian justice. The effects of the fire endure for the eon. When Jerusalem is restored, they will be restored.” … art-seven/

Next we’ll look at a 6th case that occurs in the book of Revelation where our phrase “the ages of the ages” is applied to God, either to His glory or living, etc:

(6) The book of Revelation makes several references to God living (or His glory) “for the eons of the eons” (Revelation 1:6, 18; 4:9-10; 5:13; 7:12; 10:6; 15:7). God living “into the eons of the eons” that end no more denies His future endless life than it denies He was living before the times of the eons (1 Cor.2:7; 2 Tim.1:9; Titus 1:2) that He created (Heb.1:2). “The existence of God is not confined to the eons. He made the eons; therefore, He existed before they began.” Eons come & go, but He is both before & after them. Similarly, God is living for the present eon, but that doesn’t mean He was dead before it, nor that He will be dead when it ends. Likewise He was living for past eons, but that doesn’t mean He died when they ended. Likewise with His glory.

His “years shall not come to end” (Psa.102:27).
But you remain the same, and your years will never end. (Heb.1:12b)

Further remarks on this point can be found in the following article in the section titled “Living For the Eons of the Eons”: … -part-two/

Continued at the following thread which includes also the other 6 points:

The point is rather, did John think in Hebrew or in Greek?

The Septuagint contains the same or at least similar phrases as the NT but should reflect Jewish thinking as should the entire Bible. So it’s more of important what Jewish writers understood with the terms in question rather than what Plato did.

I concur. The LXX/NT are of Koine everyday common man Greek, whereas Plato is of classical philosophical Greek. Apples & oranges.