December Newsletter Online
Commentary for December 1, 2004 — God’s Plan of the Ages
This month’s December 2004 Newsletter and December Article continues the presentation involving God’s plan of the ages relating to particular divisions of time called in Greek aions. These ages have a definite beginning and have an indeterminate but definite duration, which is not known until the ages end. All of the ages end at the consummation (“the end,” the telos, 1 Corinthians 15:24) of God’s plan, which results in God the Father becoming “all and in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).
The plan of the ages relates to other schemes of salvation and other forms of symbolism. These will be explained in the December Article. However, all of those schemes were incomplete and the end unknown until the revelation of the Mystery to Paul, John and other apostles.
The Greek term aion certainly cannot mean “everlasting” or denote a sense of “eternity.” This is plainly seen by this passage:
“In whom the god of this world [aion, age] has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”The god of this aion struggles against the gospel of Christ. If aion means eternity then Satan will be the God of this “eternity.” This is not the case because aion does not denote eternity or everlasting.
• 2 Corinthians 4:4
There are several verses that contain both the noun aion (age) and the adjective aionios (age-lasting) within the same statement. Let’s examine these five instances from the Gospels. It would be best if you read the passages in the context of the verses before and after.
“Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost [Holy Spirit] has never forgiveness [no forgiveness for the aion, age], but is in danger of eternal [aionios, age-lasting] damnation. Because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’”This passage is in a section where Jesus is accused by scribes from Jerusalem of working with Beelzebul (Mark 3:19–30) to cast out unclean spirits. Jesus responds directly to them, warning them of a punishment for their particular sin.
• Mark 3:28–30
Note that the period of never being forgiven ends when the punishment (the damnation) ends. Then forgiveness will be possible. How can we know that? Because an adjective (aionios in this case) cannot have a greater force or effect than the noun (aion) from which it derives. If such a force or effect exists, no one has ever given evidence for it. There is no reason to do so based on language, although non-biblical Christian theology attempts to force that very thing.
Consider the next verse which discusses the future reward for the righteous. The context of this verse is that of the rich man enquiring of Jesus how he may obtain eternal life (Luke 18:17–31). The man was pious, kneeled before Jesus, called Him “Good Master” and asked him what do to inherit “eternal [(aionios, age-lasting] life” (verse 17).
“But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world [aion, age] to come eternal [aionios, age-lasting] life.”Jesus answers the rich man and gives him impossible requirements to fulfill, causing him to leave. Jesus then turns and teaches His disciples about the reward for total devotion, comparing the small benefit now with the future tremendous benefit of the age to come with its age-lasting life. The “age-lasting life” is not limited to the age to come, but it will continue throughout the age to come, at least.
• Mark 10:30
Consider the next passage:
“Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world [aion, age] to come life everlasting [aionios, age-lasting].”This passage is from the same incident as told in Luke 18:18–30. The King James Version uses “everlasting” instead of “eternal” in an identical sense — both are wrong. The Greek, by the way, is identical for the words “in the world to come eternal life/life everlasting.”
• Luke 18:30
Aion and Aionios Together in John
Next look at this passage in the book of John:
“Jesus answered and said unto her, ‘Whosoever drinks of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst [“shall not thirst to the aion,” age]; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting [aionios, age-lasting] life.’”This passage is part of Jesus’ discussion with the Samaritan woman at the well, John 4:1–43. Jesus used water in the second example as a symbol of the Holy Spirit which He gives to impart age-lasting life. It was on the basis of her discussions with Him that the woman truthfully declared him to be the Messiah, “the Savior of the world.”
• John 4:13–14
The adjective phrase is repeated again later in John 4:36:
“And he that reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit unto life eternal [aionios, age-lasting]: that both he that sows and he that reaps may rejoice together.”God will rejoice in those who receive that age-lasting life, and life beyond. In case there is any doubt about the lasting nature of the life beyond the aion, it is clarified in the final passage that contains both the noun and adjective of aion.
• John 4:36
Finally, look at John 10:22–42, during Hanukkah in December Jesus was in the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus was challenged directly to answer whether He was the Messiah. Jesus said He had told them and that secondarily the works that He performed bore witness to His authenticity (John 10:25).
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal [aionios, age-lasting] life; and they shall never perish [“not perish for the age,” aion], neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”In each of the five passages where the noun and adjective form of aion occur, there is no compelling reason to think that they have any force of time beyond a limited age with a beginning and an end. There is no sense of “everlasting” or “eternity” to either the noun or adjective in any of the verses. In fact a plain reading of these verses gives the opposite sense.
• John 10:27–28
Briefly, one reason for putting a sense of “eternity” on the terms aion and aionios, when decided by theologians, is because it is believed that when those terms apply to God, they must denote eternity because God is by definition eternal. Of course this is a weak theological reason based on a false premise, and a non-biblical definition of God, not mandated by either grammar or logic. God is defined only by His Self-revelation in the Bible, not by the reasoning of man.
A second reason is because the life of redeemed persons, according to theology, must extend beyond the aions. While this will be true, the scope of the redemption is limited by the context of each verse, which is bound by the ages. There will be life for the redeemed beyond the ages, to be sure, but at present the Scriptures only discuss salvation within the aions.
For those two reasons aion and aionios are believed to extend beyond the ages into a false “eternity.” The application is entirely theological and not evidenced by Scripture.
Learn more by reading and studying in your own Bibles about the ages and help us all come to a better understanding of God’s plan of the ages. The plan of God is defined in time and bound in time by the ages, the aions. Salvation will extend beyond the ages, but what will occur is at present unknown, limited to the revelation of God.
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