In a recent post you said: “the word “eternal” always means until the thing is completed. This applies to our eternal life as well.” Where did you come up with that definition? Rev 22:5 says believers will reign forever and ever. There is no “until the thing is completed” attached to this. Neither does it make sense to interpret John 3:16 as “…shall not perish but have .. life “until the thing is completed”..


You are arguing from the English translation, using the Western concept of “forever.” I cannot blame you at all for coming to what seems a perfectly logical conclusion, for example, to interpreting John 3:16.

It is possible you slightly misquote me, but I am not sure. I am in Nigeria and do not have access to a lot of things I can normally do to study out such things, but my guess is that it is more likely that I said something like “The world “eternal” is generally used to refer to a time until the time is completed.” I kind of doubt that I said eternal ALWAYS means until the thing is completed. Who knows, I might have. I do misspeak at times.

A couple of points deserve to be made. First of all, obviously Hebrew and Greek writers do not use the word forever. This is an English word. Second of all, I will argue that neither the Jews nor the Greeks had a word which carries exactly the same meaning as the English word forever. In our culture, the English word forever means for an infinite number of years. I believe that the Hebrews did not even have this concept, never mind the word commonly translated as “forever” from Hebrew having that exact meaning.

Unfortunately, I do not have my Hebrew dictionary with me, so I cannot do the careful word study I would like, but let us consider the passage in the Genesis 17 in which God says to Abraham that “the covenant of circumcision is forever.” Of course, the word used here is not forever. It is a Hebrew word. It clearly does not mean for an infinite number of years because the covenant of circumcision was replaced by the New Covenant. Psalm 105:8 and 111:9 talk about the covenant God made with the Jews to be a covenant “forever.” Yet, God has revoked this covenant and replaced it with the New Covenant. In both cases, the Hebrew word which is translated as forever has a connotation which is not an infinite number of years. In all these cases, it means that God’s covenant was in force until its time was completed.

In the Greek, the word which is often translated as forever is aeon. The literal meaning of aeon is age. So, in Revelation, when it says that the smoke of their torment rises forever and forever, it literally means ages and ages. Or to put it more carefully, that is a perfectly reasonable reading of the passage to say that it means for ages and ages. We should avoid being dogmatic about the meaning of words which do not have an exact equivalent in our language.

Having said all that, we know that heven and hell are eternal. Exactly what that means, I will be humble enough to say I am not exactly sure. Does it mean that both will last for an infinite number of years? Possibly. I am not sure. However, I believe that both will be eternal (will be for an aeon). What I know for sure is that I do not want to be in hell, and I do not want to see anyone else go there. I want to be in heaven and to help as many as possible to be there. Whether the word translated as forever from the Greek literally means for an infinite number of years is not important to me at all, and I am humble enough (I hope) to say I am not absolutely sure what the original Hebrew or Greek text means when Jesus (in Aramaic, by the way) discusses heaven or hell or when Daniel (chapter 12) or John in Revelation talks about the final state of human beings.

So, if I said that the word eternal ALWAYS means until the end of a specific length of time, I may have spoken without sufficient care. In the Psalm and Genesis passages it means this, but it may not mean this in John 3:16. Thanks for the opportunity to make myself a bit more clear.

John Oakes



Comments are closed.