The word is Kolasin. It is thus authoritavely defined: Greenfield, "Chastisement, punishment." Hedericus, "The trimming of the luzuriant branches of a tree or vine to improve it and make it fruitful."Donnegan,
"The act of clipping or pruning —restriction, restraint, reproof, check, chastisement." Grotius, "The kind of punishment which tends to the improvement of the criminal, is what the Greek philosophers called kolasis or chastisement." Liddell, "Pruning, checking, punishment, chastisement, correction." Max Muller, "Do we want to know what was uppermost in the minds of those who formed the word for punishment, the Latin p&na or punio, to punish, the root pu in Sanscrit, which means to cleanse, to purify, tells us that the Latin derivation was originally formed, not to express mere striking or torture, but cleansing, correcting, delivering from the stain of sin." That it had this meaning in Greek usage we cite Plato:(55) "For the natural or accidental evils of others, no one gets angry, or admonishes, or teaches or punishes (kolazei) them, but we pity those afflicted with such misfortunes. ** For if, O Socrates, you will consider what is the design of punishing (kolazein) the wicked, this of itself will show you that men think virtue something that may be acquired; for no one punishes (kolazei) the wicked, looking to the past only, simply for the wrong he has done,—that is, no one does this thing who does not act LIKE A WILD BEAST, desiring only revenge, without thought —hence he who seeks to punish (kolazein) with reason, does not punish for the sake of the past wrong deed, ** but for the sake of the future, that neither the man himself who is punished, may do wrong again, nor any other who has seen him chastised. And he who entertains this thought, must believe that virtue may be taught, and he punishes (kolazei) for the purpose of deterring from wickedness."
Like many other words this is not always used in its exact and full sense. The apocrypha employs it as the synonym of suffering, regardless of reformation.
See Wis. 3:11, 16:1; I Mac. 7:7. See also Josephus.(56) It is found but four times in the New Testament. Acts 4:21, the Jews let John and Peter go, "finding nothing further how they might punish them" (kolazo). Did they not aim to reform them? Was not their punishment to cause them to return to the Jewish fold? From their standpoint the word was certainly used to convey the idea of reformation. 1 John 4:18. "Fear hath torment." Here the word "torment" should be restraint. It is thus translated in the Emphatic Diaglot. The idea is, if we have perfect love we do not fear God, but if we fear we are restrained from loving him. "Fear hath restraint." The word is used here with but one of its meanings. In 2 Peter 2:9, the apostle uses the word as our Lord did: the unjust are reserved unto the day of judgement to be punished (kolazomenous). This accords exactly with the lexicography of the word, and the general usage in the Bible and in Greek literature agrees with the meaning given by the lexicographers. Now, though the word rendered punishment is sometimes used to signify suffering alone, by
Josephus and others, surely Divine inspiration will use it in its exact sense. We must therefore be certain that in the New Testament, when used by Jesus to designate divine punishment, it is generally used with its full meaning. The lexicographers and Plato, above, show us what that is, suffering, restraint, followed by correction, improvement.
From this meaning of the word, torment is by no means excluded. God does indeed torment his children when they go astray. He is a "consuming fire," and burns with terrible severity towards us when we sin, but it is not because he hates but because he loves us. He is a refiner's fire tormenting the immortal gold of humanity in the crucible of punishment, until the dross of sin is purged away. Mal. 2:2,3, "But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire and like fuller's soap. And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold or silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness." Therefore kolasis is just the word to describe his punishments. They do for the soul what pruning does for the tree, what the crucible of the refiner does for the silver ore.
Even if aionion and kolasis were both of doubtful signification, and were we only uncertain as to their meaning we ought to give God the benefit of the doubt and understand the word in a way to honor him, that is, in a limited sense, but when all but universal usage ascribes to aionion limited duration, and the word kolasin is declared by all authorities to mean pruning, discipline, it is astonishing that a Christian teacher should be found to imagine that when both words are together, they can mean anything else than temporary punishment ending in reformation, especially in a discourse in which it is expressly declared that the complete fulfillment was in this life, and within a generation of the time when the prediction was uttered.
Therefore, (1) the fulfillment of the language in this life, (2) the meaning of aionion, (3) and the meaning of kolasis, demonstrate that the penalty threatened in Matt. 25:46, is a limited one. It is a threefold cord that human skill cannot break. Prof. Tayler Lewis thus translates Matt. 25:46. "These shall go away into the punishment (the restraint, imprisonment,) of the world to come, and those into the life of the world to come." And he says "that is all that we can etymologically or exegetically make of the word in this passage."
Hence, also, the zoen aionion (life eternal) is not endless, but is a condition resulting from a good character. The intent of the phrase is not to teach immortal happiness, nor does kolasin aionion indicate endless punishment. Both phrases, regardless of duration refer to the limited results wronging or blessing others, extending possibly through Messiah's reign until "the end" (1 Cor. 15.). Both describe consequences of conduct to befall those consequences antedate the immortal state.
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