"Then eternal life is not endless, for the same Greek adjective qualifies life and punishment." This does not follow, for the word is used in Greek in different senses in the same sentence; as Hab. iii:6. "And the everlasting mountains were scattered —his ways are everlasting." Suppose we apply the popular argument here. The mountains and God must be of equal duration, for the same word is applied to both. Both are temporal or both are endless. But the mountains are expressly stated to be temporal —they "were scattered," —therefore God is not eternal. Or God is eternal and therefore the mountains must be. But they cannot be, for they were scattered. The argument does not hold water. The aionion mountains are all to be destroyed. Hencethe word may denote both limited and unlimited duration in the same passage, the different meanings to be determined by the subject treated.
But it may be said that this phrase "everlasting" or "eternal life" does not usually denote endless existence, but the life of the gospel, spiritual life, the Christian life, regardless of its duration. In more than fifty of the seventy-two times that the adjective occurs in the New Testament, it describes life. What is eternal life? Let the Scriptures answer. John 3:36, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." John 5:24, "He that believeth on him that sent me hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but IS PASSED from death unto life." John 6:47, "He that believeth on me hath everlasting life." So verse 54. John 17:3, "THIS IS LIFE ETERNAL to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." Eternal life is the life of the gospel. Its duration depends on the possessor's fidelity. It is no less the aionion life, if one abandon it in a month after acquiring it. It consists in knowing, loving and serving God. It is the Christian life, regardless of its duration. How often the good fall from grace. Believing, they have the aionion life, but they lose it by apostasy. Notoriously it is not, in thousands of cases, endless. The life is of an indefinite length, so that the usage of the adjective in the New Testament is altogether in favor of giving the word the sense of limited duration. Hence Jesus does not say "he that believeth shall enjoy endless happiness," but "he hath everlasting life," and "is passed from death unto life."
It scarcely need here be proved that the aionion life can be acquired and lost. Heb. 6:4, "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the holy
Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance: seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." A life that can thus be lost is not intrinsically endless.
That the adjective is thus consistently used to denote indefinite duration will appear from several illustrations, some of which we have already given. 2 Cor. 4:17, "A far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory," or, as the original reads, "exceeding an aiónion weight of glory excessively." Now eternal, endless cannot be exceeded, but aiónion can be, therefore aiónion is not eternal. Again, Rev. 14:6, 'The everlasting gospel." The gospel is good news. When all shall have learned its truths it will no longer be news. There will be no such thing as gospel extant. Faith will be fruition, hope lost in sight, and the aiónion gospel, like the aiónion covenant of the elder dispensation, will be abrogated, not destroyed, but fulfilled and passed away. Again, 2 Pet. 1:11, "The everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." This kingdom is to be dissolved. Jesus is to surrender his dominion. 1 Cor. 15:24, "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God even the Father," etc. The everlasting kingdom of Christ will end.
The word may mean endless when applied to life, and not when applied to punishment, even in the same sentence, though we think duration is not considered so much as the intensity of joy or the sorrow in either case.
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