Says Edmund H. Sears: "The passage has often been regarded as if the chief thing to be considered was the duration of the punishment of the unrighteous, over against the duration of the life of the righteous, and that since both are described by the same word, they are of like duration. That would undoubtedly be so if mere duration or extension by time were expressed at all, or any way involved in the contrast. But that, as I should interpret, is not the meaning of the original word. The element of time, as we measure things, does not enter into it at all. Not duration, but quality[editor's emphasis], is the chief thing involved in this word rendered 'eternal.' .. .The word aion and its derivatives, rendered 'eternal' and 'everlasting,' describe an economy complete in itself, and the duration must depend on the nature of the economy The New Testament, if it reveals anything, reveals the aion —the dispensation that lies next to this, and gathers into it the momentous results of our probation in time. But what lies beyond that in the cycles of a coming eternity, I do not believe has been revealed to the highest angel. Think of that endless Beyond! If every atom of the globe were counted off, and every atom stood for a million years, still we have not apporached a conception of endless duration. And yet sinful and fallible men affirm that their fellow sinners are to be given over to indescribable agonies through those millions of years thus repeated, and even then the clocks of eternity have only struck the morning hour! that the hells of pent-up anguish are to streak eternity with blood in lines parallel forever with the being of God! If Gabriel should come and tell us that we should have a right to believe that the history of the infinite future infolded in the bosom of God, had not been given to Gabriel!"(58)
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