In light of all we have seen thus far, there is still one question that needs answering. If aion means age, and aionios means pertaining to an age, or age-long, age-abiding, age-lasting, etc… then exactly what does aionian life and judgment refer to? This is a very valid question; a question, which I feel that everyone who honestly approaches the information I have thus far presented, should have. If we have an incorrect understanding of a certain issue regarding God’s Word, then step 1 is to recognize the problem and step 2 is to seek out the truth.
God told the prophet Jeremiah that He would use him to “destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:10) He also told Hosea that He “tears in order that He may heal.” (Hosea 6:1) Historically, when God’s people went astray in their hearts and understanding, He would correct them with the prophets. The prophets’ words were designed firstly to tear down the lies and error in the minds and hearts of the people; and secondly to then begin to build them up with the truth. Hopefully, with all that we have looked at in the previous blogs, we have come to see that there is a major problem with the interpretation and/or translation of aionios as “eternal.” This means that we are half way to the truth. God is tearing down the misunderstanding in order to build us up with the proper understanding. Scripture doesn’t say that God will keep us from error, but rather that He will lead us into all truth (John 16:13).
My hope, therefore, with this specific blog is to show a more grammatically, culturally and historically accurate understanding of aionian life and/or judgment. But that doesn’t mean that my view is 100% accurate, nor does it mean that there aren’t exceptions to my view.
That being said, I believe that aionian life is referring to what most Christians understand as the Millennial Kingdom. That 1000 years of peace, where the resurrected and glorified Body of Christ is ruling over the whole earth (Revelation 20:4-6). Where all creation is set free into the glorious liberty of the Sons of God (Romans 8:21). Where the people of the earth hammer their weapons into gardening tools (Isaiah 2:2-4). Where the nations stream to Zion to hear the Word of God (Micah 4:1-4).
The Jewish mindset concerning the arrival of the Messiah was that he would be a great military leader and would set the Jewish nation free from its oppressors and then proceed to conquer the rest of the world. The culmination of this conquering of the world would see the Jewish people set up as its rulers. Christians also hold this same idea, believing that when Christ returns WE will rule with Him. The Jewish understanding of the arrival of the Messiah is our understanding of the Millennial Kingdom. Their term that they used for this era was “The Age.” In their mind, and in ours, it will be the greatest age that history will have witnessed.
To understand this a little better let me back track a little. We all recognize the Patriarchal Age, and the Age of Law, which is also known as the Mosaic Age, or the Passover Age. We also all feel that we are currently in the Gospel Age, which can also be referred to as the Church Age, or the Pentecostal Age, depending upon your denomination. We also know there was a certain age before the Patriarchs and the Law arrived. And we also all know that there is a great age yet to come that will comprise 1000 years of peace on the earth. The idea of ages is not unfamiliar to us, and if we are to incorporate a correct view of aionian life (age-long life), we will need to become more familiar with the concept of ages (see my previous blog – the Purpose of the Ages).
Strong’s Concordance says that the Greek word aion means, “specifically (Jewish) a Messianic period (present or future).” Which means that for Jewish people this word “The Age” specially meant a Messianic period. Which for Christians means the time when Christ (which is the Greek word for Messiah) rules over the world. We know this as the Millennial Kingdom where our Messiah will return and finally rule the world as the Jews previously were expecting.
That is why the closing verse in 2 Peter states,
“To [Christ] be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity (aion – singular form). Amen.”
Aion is in its singular form there so it should be literally translated,
“To [Christ] be the glory, both now and to the day of The Age. Amen.”
Peter was looking forward to and speaking of the day that the Great Age began, that Messianic Age where Christ ruled the world.
Thus, “The Age” (the Millennial Kingdom) that the Jews were looking forward to is the concept that Christ was directly addressing when He spoke of “aionian life.” In part He was expounding on what little they understood about it, and in part He was correcting their idea of it. They thought that it would appear immediately (Acts 1:6), but they did not fully understand God’s plan. So when Jesus said, “He who believes in Me will have aionian life.” (John 3:15,16,36, 5:24, 6:40,47) He was saying, “He who believes in Me will have life during The Age.” Or “Age-long life, Age-abiding life.” In other words, they would qualify to be alive (resurrected from the dead) during this great time in world history.
That is why Christ said,
“…everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have Aionian life (life in The Age), and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:40)
Jesus affirmed this elsewhere speaking about,
“…those who are considered worthy to attain to THAT Age and the resurrection from the dead.” (Luke 20:35)
Jesus was teaching them that aionian life was a resurrection life, and that if they wanted to be alive during that great Age they needed to have faith in Him – for Jesus alone is “the Resurrection and the Life.” (John 11:25) Those that do not believe in Christ will not have life in The Age; instead, b/c of their failure, they will have judgment in The Age.
This is why, right after Christ states that whoever believes in Him will have Aionian life (John 5:24), He proceeds to say,
“…an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear [My] voice, and will come forth; those who did good to a resurrection of life, those who committed evil to a resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28,29)
The unbelieving world will not qualify to be raised into aionian life in The Age, instead they will miss out on inheriting the world and undergo judgment.
Thus The Cambridge Bible Dictionary, by A.W. Argyle, says about Matthew 25:46,
“Eternal punishment, i.e., punishment characteristic of the Age to come, not meaning that it lasts for ever. Eternal life, i.e., the life that belongs to the Age to come…” (Italics mine.)
And Dr. Bullinger in Appendix 129 to his Companion Bible says,
“The root meaning of aion is expressed by the Hebrew olam … which denotes indefinite, unknown or concealed duration; just as we speak of ‘the patriarchal age,’ or ‘the golden age,’ etc. Hence it has come to denote any given period of time, characterized by a special form of Divine administration or dispensation.”
The masses that Christ was teaching all held certain beliefs concerning the Messiah’s reign upon the earth. They believed that those who were with the Messiah, would receive “life in The Age,” and those who were against the Messiah, would receive “judgment in The Age.” So when Christ was speaking about losing this life and the things in it – He declares that the reward for such people would be to,
“receive many times as much at this time, and in The Age (aion) to come, eternal (aionian) life (Age-long life).”
In other words, “In The Age to come you will receive Age-long life.” Again, to reiterate, in that great Age to come you will receive life in that Age, a.k.a – Age-abiding life (life pertaining to that Age).”
This also helps clarify certain other confusing verses like,
“Truly Truly, if anyone keeps My word He will never (eis ton aion) see death.” (John 8:51)
Surely Jesus is not a liar, and yet everyone since Adam has died (with the exception of Enoch and Elijah). So He must be referring to something else. If you notice, the word translated “never” is actually the Greek phrase we translate elsewhere as “forever” (to the age). But it is expressed as a negative. So Christ is actually, literally saying, “If anyone keeps My word He will not see death in The Age.” It is another way of saying that he will have life in The Age.
Since this is not a Bible course, I will leave it at that. There is much more we can share concerning this concept of “The Age” and “Age-long life,” but I will leave that to you to study for yourself. There is a great many sources that are easy enough to look into if you are interested in studying this out further; and I would be glad to point them out if you so desired.
So far in this blog’s 1st series we have only looked at the meaning of the words that are unfortunately mistranslated as “forever” and “eternal.” I hate to have to spend so much time on something so small, but I feel that it is necessary. Sadly, the doctrine of endless hell is too deeply rooted in the heart of the Church for us to see the clear teaching so prevalent in Scripture that, “God will have all men to be saved,” (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9) and that, “as in Adam all die, so in Christ will all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22; Romans 5:18) I would love to launch right into that series (for it is my personal favorite) but there is yet more foundation we need to lay before we can get into that.
The 2nd series of this blog will concern our misconceptions of hell in Scripture. We will look at how Gehenna, Hades, Sheol, Tartarus, the Outer Darkness, the furnace of fire, and the weeping and gnashing of teeth have all been misunderstood.
So, to wrap this up, I hope that what I have shared in this 1st series helps prove that the Word of God does not completely endorse an endless judgment of 95% of humanity; but rather gives substantial credibility to a judgment of limited duration. Having seen this, the door to Universal Reconciliation has begun to crack open, and very soon – will be flung wide open!
Thanks for reading,
God bless you,