Eternal ((last update to this study was made on 08/25/2003; extracts from original article 'God's Love Towards All" found in ARISE Journal - 10/1993)
The following are additional thoughts on the
subject of eternal life dated 08/9/2003.
Well, when going to sleep last night, I could not stop thinking about life and when Jesus stated to search the scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life. Most Christians (including "kingdom" people) think they have eternal life. They (and I always have too) associate eternal life with longevity. In fact, the "life message" in the kingdom mainly has its focus on "you will never die."
It became clear to me that eternal life has nothing to do with time & space and nothing to do with duration. Though an unending life is true in having eternal life, I think that "unending" is only a byproduct. Eternal life has to do with quality and essence and it is a life that is to be experienced now in the kingdom. If we have eternal life, it is a realm we walk in and it is today. It is the mind of Christ in operation as we walk in the eternal spirit as a new creation man.
We read the following words on 08/25/03.
" Man has no life in himself. He is dead in trespasses and sins. But, as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself. John 5:26. When, therefore the soul that is dead in trespasses and sins hears the voice of the Son of God, he awakens to an entirely new life as Jesus said. "I give unto them eternal life." We are mistaken in our thinking when we conclude that eternal life is called eternal merely to signify duration. Eternal life does not speak of duration but of the kind and quality of life that Jesus gives. We already have physical life, and those who possess nothing more are dead while they live. Eternal life is not the life of this world, but the life of the ages, for that is what the Greek word aionian means. Christ gives the believer His life, and His life is the life of the ages. It is the life that will fill all things forever. It is the life of God, and, because it is His life, it is as timeless and endless as Himself" - George Hawtin, Treasures of Truth, Volume 26, page 56.
The following are extracts from 10/1993 with updates on 04/29/2003
There are numerous scriptures which use the words 'eternal' and 'everlasting'. A few common verses will be quoted, along with a few less popular, to demonstrate our theme to be true. Our challenge begins with 20th century usage of these words. Today these words take on the meaning of unending, perpetual, surpassing all time and space. But this was not how they were used by the early Christians. In fact, it is quite interesting in readings of the early church fathers, that although there were difference of opinions regarding the fate of the unbeliever, most of them carried the expressions 'eternal' and 'everlasting' to mean a duration of time having a specific end. Origen, perhaps one of the greatest of all early church fathers, freely used such expressions without any further explanation as is needed today. In fact, he was clearly a teacher of ultimate salvation and found it to be one of his more favorite lessons. It is not recorded whether common orthodoxy of his day opposed or agreed with him on ultimate salvation, however, Origen did not have to defend his position with them. It is also said of him to believe that the doctrine is to be "regarded as a mystery and it should not be divulged everywhere upon the imperfect and those of less capacity", yet he often taught the subject.
Our English words 'eternal' and 'everlasting' are mostly found in the Greek as either aion or aionios. The word aidios is also used in two places but will not be discussed in this article. Since most of the early Christians used the Septuagint for their preaching and study, we will stay with the Greek word and its meaning rather than the Hebrew word. For those unfamiliar with the name, the Septuagint was the translation of the Hebrew holy scripture into Greek and served as the scriptures for vast numbers whose native tongue was Greek. For example, Jesus and his disciples would have used the Greek word aion rather than the original Hebrew word owlam , yet carrying the same meaning. Our first word aion means a term, interval or period of time, an age or an epoch. (An epoch is a particular period of time marked by distinctive features, events, etc.). The word 'eon' has been translated into English from aion. Scripture clearly taught that this word meant a period of time having a specific end to it. So let the usage of the word in the context of scripture determine the meaning of these words.
Jonah was in affliction and cried out of the fish's belly. Yet Jonah said that the earth with her bars was about me for ever or owlam. This word is the exact same as 'eon' and means a duration of time. The story proves this to be true since the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land. We are told that Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. So Jonah used the word owlam to mean a period of time having an end. The Septuagint uses the word aion, and our English translation uses 'for ever'; all three meaning the same thing! The same word has been translated in the old testament as: perpetual, everlasting, the world, elam, ancient, of old, and eternal. We find several references of the Aaronic priesthood as an 'everlasting' priesthood having an 'everlasting' covenant, yet the new testament tells us that it ended since a better covenant and more excellent ministry was established. God Himself said it was 'everlasting', yet ended it. Was He incorrect in using the word 'everlasting'? Perhaps He changed His mind and just lied to us in the beginning? Or could it be that religion has led us astray in understanding the true meaning of these words. Let God be true and every man a liar. Even the leprosy of Gehazi, stated by Elisha as 'for ever', must end at his death. (ref. II Kgs. 5:27 )
Perhaps a little more difficult to both understand and explain are the following few verses. However, we must maintain a consistent meaning with our word and can only rely on the Holy Spirit to quicken to our minds such truths. "The eternal (qedem) God is thy refuge....." (Deut. 33:27). This word is also translated as east, eastward, before and anciently. It means antiquity and relates with time if one were to review the some sixty verses which use the word. For example, "the chief things of the ancient mountains" or "I have considered the days of old". The translators could have just as easy wrote "eternal mountains" or "days eternal". Yet, that would clearly be misleading since we know a mountain cannot be eternal nor can a day, which is clearly related to time. However, it is very true to say that "The God of the ages is thy refuge" since He acts within the limits and confinements of time with man. Paul writes "Now unto the King eternal (aion), immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen." (I Tim. 1:17). Dr. Robert Young translation gives "and to the King of the ages, the incorruptible, invisible, only wise God, is honour and glory - to the ages of the ages! Amen". Another reads "Now to the King of the eons, the incorruptible, invisible, only, and wise God, be honor and glory for the eons of the eons! Amen!". And yet again, "He is the King of the ages, the unseen one who never dies.......". So we can see that He is the King of all the ages of time and is to receive honor and glory in each one of them.
Now to that more difficult question, what about the 'eternal' life which God has given to us, or the 'eternal' life which we are to lay hold, or the 'eternal' life in which we are to believe so not to perish? And while on the subject, how about the 'eternal' damnation or 'everlasting' punishment for the wicked? Some have asked, how can the punishment or correction have an end, yet the same word for the believer's life mean eternal. On the surface this may seem to be a plausible argument, however as we seek the mind of the Lord, relatively simple answers are provided for us.
First of all, we have seen that the words under investigation can not mean eternal or endless. Eons have beginnings and have endings, however long or vast they may be, common sense demands it and the scriptures prove it to be so. I would be the first to admit that if I only knew of the phrases like 'eternal' life to rely on and knew nothing else of this life in which I now possess, I would tend to think that perhaps it has an ending somewhere in the far reaches of time. However, scriptures clearly show that this life is an endless life, never to cease, eternal without end. It is a life which can not be corrupted and shall never see death or an end. So now that we know a little more about this life, we can see that this 'eternal' life isn't talking about it's duration but rather it's quality. The life, which is endless, has been subjected into the time realm and will exist down through the ages or as some translators have accurately stated, ".....to the life age-during". Once the ages are complete, this life does not discontinue because it is endless, eternal! The word aion does not make it eternal, it simply implies that this life has been implanted into time or is life age-abiding. However, there are other verses which show us that it is truly eternal and shall never end! And besides, whoever heard of (or can find in the Bible) an eternal punishment? Isn't punishment a form of correction? Once the crooked is made straight, the punishment is no longer required. Don't let your carnal mind or your religious dogma get you all confused regarding this subject. Yes, this life endures throughout the ages, it is age-abiding life. But it goes past the idea of only 'during the ages'. It is an endless life subjected into the time realm, to be experienced by man throughout the ages and beyond.
So when we find words to mean a duration of time, we must conclude that these were used with specific intent since they were under inspiration when spoken. God in His dealings with man is working with the ages, it is 'age-abiding' life, 'age-abiding' salvation', etc. He is the God of all ages. Yet He is still Eternal and reaches beyond time. I do not think that the doctrine of eternal damnation belongs in the Christian faith. Those who teach such ideas are teaching against the character of God and are unskillful in handling the word of God. Surely, His whole mind is full of love towards His creation!