An Objection Answered

Objectors sometimes say, "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 in

Hab. 3:6. "And theeverlasting 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. Hence the word everlasting may denote both limited and unlimited duration in the same passage, the different meanings to be determined by the subject treated.

The 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, regardless of the duration of the service. 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, in this life, shall enjoy endless happiness in the next, but hath everlasting life,: and "is passed from death unto life."

Clemence in his work on "Future Punishment" observes, correctly, that aion and aionion are "words that shine with reflected light," i.e., says Canon Farrar, "that their meaning depends entirely on the words with which they are joined, so that it is quite false to say that aionios joined with zoe must mean the same as aionios joined with kolasis. The word means endless in neither clause." Clemence continues: "If good should come to an end, that would come to an end which Christ died to bring in; but if evil comes to an end, that comes to an end which he died to destroy. So that the two stand by no means on the same footing."

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