Everlasting Chain

"And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day."—Jude 6

The word here rendered everlasting is not aionios, indefinite duration, but aidios, whose intrinsic meaning is endless. It is found in one other place in the New Testament, Rom. 1:20, "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead."

Now it must be admitted that this word among the Greeks had the sense of eternal, and should be understood as having that meaning wherever found, unless by express limitation it is shorn of its proper meaning. It is further admitted that had aidios occurred where aionios does, there would be no escape from the conclusion that the New Testament teaches Endless Punishment. It is further admitted that the word is here used in the exact sense of aionios, as is seen in the succeeding verse: "Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of aionian fire." That is to say, the "aidios chains" in verse 6 are "even as" durable as the "aionion fire" in verse 7. Which word modifies the other?

1. The construction of the language shows that the latter word limits the former. The aidios chains are even as the aionion fire. As if one should say "I have been infinitely troubled, I have been vexed for an hour," or "He is an endless talker, he can talk five yours on a stretch." Now while "infinitely" and "endless" usually convey the sense of unlimited, they are here limited by what follows, as aidios, eternal, is limited by aionios, indefinitely long.

2. That this is the correct exegisis is evident from still another limitation of the word. "The angels...he hath reserved in everlasting chains unto the judgment of the great day." Had Jude said that the angels are held in aidios chains, and stopped there, not limiting the word, it might be claimed that he taught their eternal imprisonment. But when he limits the duration by aionios and them expressly states that it is only unto a certain date, it follows that the imprisonment will teminate, even though we find applied to it a word that intrinsically signifies eternal duration, and that was used by the Greeks to convey the idea of eternity, and was attached to punishment by the Greek Jews of our Savior's times, to describe endless punishment, in which they were believers.

But observe, while this word aidios was in universal use among the Greek Jews of our Savior's day, to convey the idea of eternal duration, and was used by them to teach endless punishment, Jesus never allowed himself to use it in connection with punishment, nor did any of his disciples but one, and he but once, and then carefully and expressly limited its meaning. Can demonstration go further than this to show that Jesus carefully avoided the phraseology by which his contemporaries described the doctrine of endless punishment? He never adopted the language of his day on this subject. Their language wasaidios timoria, endless torment. His language was aionion kolasin, age-lasting correction. They described unending ruin, he, discipline, resulting in reformation.

Who these angels were, that fell from their first estate, it does not belong to our purpose to inquire at length. Their chains were to be dissolved when the judgment should come. They were only to last "unto judgment." See remarks under Tartarus in this volume.

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