"AION" - AN AGE
This brings us to the thought I want to share in this chapter. Let us consider the wonderful Kingdom parable Jesus told of the sheep and the goats. "When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry, and you gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and you took Me in: naked, and you clothed Me: I was sick, and you visited Me: I was in prison, and you came unto Me. Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry, and fed You? or thirsty, and gave You drink? When did we see You a stranger, and take You in? or naked, and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come unto You? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of one of these MY BROTHERS, you have done it unto Me. Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me, you cursed, into EVERLASTING FIRE prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry, and you gave Me no meat ... then shall they also answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto You? Then shall He answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as you did it not unto one of the least of these, you did it not unto Me. And these shall go away into EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT: but the righteous into LIFE ETERNAL" (Mat. 25:31-46).
There are many precious and important truths contained in this parable, but we must restrain ourselves from pursuing them at this time in order to deal briefly with two points. First, it is important to note that this separation of the sheep from the goats was brought about, not on the basis of whether one had accepted Jesus Christ as his personal saviour, but solely on the basis of WORKS. Everything depended entirely upon what the sheep or goats had DONE or had NOT DONE. There was nothing of faith or a spiritual experience connected with this separation. The sheep were set on God's right hand because of the fact that they had done something - given meat and drink to the LORD'S BRETHREN, clothed them, visited them, and comforted them. All these things the Lord said they had DONE TO HIM. But the sheep confessed that they had never seen Him, so how could they have done these things to the Lord? He answered, "Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of THESE MY BRETHREN, you have done it unto Me." All of this is a kind of ministry unto the Lord Himself and it brought all these people into a separation unto blessings of the right hand of God! This had nothing whatever to do with how the sheep treated the Jews, or the orphans in foreign lands, or the destitute masses or the poor drunk in the gutter. None of those are the Lord's brethren! Paul identifies the Lord's brethren in Rom. 8:29, "For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." The Lord's brethren are the sons of God, the members of His body, of His flesh, of His bone, of His spirit and nature. The sheep had responded in a positive way to these brethren in their time of testing and preparation during their sojourn in the flesh, and now there is rich reward!
This meant an entrance into a kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. This kingdom was not to be some far-off land of ivory palaces, golden streets, beautiful mansions, white nightgowns, wings and harps, where there is nothing to do and all eternity to do it in. THIS IS A KINGDOM. And because it is a kingdom it denotes rulership and advancement of all kinds. It indicates the bringing of a great many people into a higher realm in the Spirit than they have ever known before. It means WORK and RESPONSIBILITY and a place of ministry and authority to bless.
But the people who had never done all these things mentioned by the Lord were separated unto the left hand of God! They received no kingdom. There were no rewards for work done or attainments reached. Rather, they were set on the dark side of God, they were put under a kingdom and under authority and they were placed in a process of fiery judgment to receive correction. There is much subtle truth in these words of Jesus: "These shall go away into everlasting punishment." The word punishment is from the Greek KOLASIS which means simply that - punishment. But it comes from the root KOLAZO which sheds precious light upon the nature of the punishment. KOLAZO, according to Strong's Concordance, bears only two shades of meaning, namely, "to curtail" or "to chastise." To "curtail" means to restrain as a person is restrained in ail or a child is restrained when he is "grounded" for a week because of some disobedience. "Chastise" has one simple meaning according to Webster's New World Dictionary: to punish in order to correct, usually by beating. It should be clear to any thoughtful mind that the subject here is not meaningless, sadistic, unending torture, but PURPOSEFUL CORRECTION.
While the King James version states that these goats go into everlasting fire and everlasting punishment and the sheep enter into life eternal, that is not quite the meaning of the Greek. The Greek word here translated everlasting and eternal is AIONIOS and AIONIOS is the adjective form of the Greek noun AION. Some have arrogantly contended that the punishment must be everlasting because the same word is used of the life of God - eternal life - and if the punishment is not eternal then the life cannot be eternal. But that is an argument put forth by the ignorant, the result of the shallow reasoning of men who reach hasty conclusions not founded on the facts. "If the punishment ends then God's life must end, if the life is eternal then the punishment must be eternal," we are told!
In late years there has been much controversy over the meaning of the little Greek word AION. Certain deceivers, to further their unscrupulous ends and uphold their blasphemous and Romanish doctrine of eternal damnation, have maintained, contrary to and in spite of all revealed facts, that it means eternal. And our King James version renders it, together with the adjective AIONIOS as "age, course, eternal, for ever, evermore, for ever and ever, everlasting, world, beginning of the world, world began, world without end." What a horrible mixture!
But we need not remain in darkness, for fortunately the Word of God tells us precisely what this Greek word means. Too few have taken the time or energy to consider the real meaning of AION. It is the word from which we get our English word eon. Eon, according to Webster, means "a long period of TIME." Many attempts have been made to prove that eons are eternal. But this is more than a grave error, it is the height of stupidity, for the divine Author of the blessed Bible has not Himself used them in that way. AION nowhere means eternal! Its simple meaning is an age. In its plural form it means ages. This fact can be unquestionably and incontrovertibly demonstrated from numerous New Testament passages. A glance at any Greek concordance proves that the noun AION, or AGE, is not the synonym of eternity. A study of each case would make a library; so, leaving this task to the reader, we must content ourselves with adducing a few specimens to demonstrate the fact. It is usage that determines meanings - THEIR usage, not ours; the meanings that the holy prophets and apostles gave to their words rather than those that our English translators may try to give. Let me illustrate.
The term forever (and its equivalents, eternal and everlasting) often occurs when it cannot possibly mean unending. In the story of Jonah one is surprised to hear him say while in the belly of the fish, "I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever" (Jon. 2:6). But he was in the fish only three days and three nights! When a Hebrew slave loved his master and did not wish to go free at the end of the seventh year, we read, "... His master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever" (Ex. 21:6). Of course, that couldn't be longer than his life span. Again, when Solomon built the temple unto the Lord, he began his prayer of dedication with the statement, "I have surely built You a house to dwell in, a settled place for You to abide in for ever" (I Kgs. 8:13). And the Lord answered Solomon, "I have heard your prayer and supplication that you have made before Me: I have hallowed this house, which you have built, to put My name there for ever" (I Kgs. 9:3). But Solomon's temple lasted for only about 400 years! And it was never in God's mind to dwell there for ever!
Here is something that ought to be clear to any intelligent, honest man. A word that is used to mean in one case three days and nights, in another case to mean a man's lifetime, and in still another case to mean a period of about four centuries, surely does not mean unending or eternal, no matter what English word is used to translate it. USAGE DETERMINES MEANING. Another illustration is the Aaronic priesthood. According to the King James version, Aaron and his sons were anointed as priests for ever. It says, "Their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations" (Ex. 40:15). Yet we read in Heb. 7:11-18 that the Aaronic priesthood is CHANGED to that of Melchizedek. "Now if perfection had been attainable by the Levitical priesthood, for under it the people were given the Law, why was it further necessary that there should arise another and different kind of Priest, one after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one appointed after the order of Aaron? For when there is a CHANGE IN THE PRIESTHOOD, there is of necessity an alteration of the law concerning the priesthood as well. For it is obvious that our Lord sprang from the tribe of Judah, and Moses mentioned nothing about priests in connection with that tribe. So, a previous physical regulation and command is CANCELLED because of its weakness and ineffectiveness and uselessness" (Amplified Bible). Amazing, isn't it, that the priesthood which was ordained for ever has been CANCELLED! There would be no contradiction if the statement in Exodus were translated as it should be, "to the age throughout their generations." That is, throughout their generations AS LONG AS THAT AGE LASTED. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures which Jesus and His disciples used, the Greek word AION was the word used for the Hebrew OLAM. According to Hebrew and Greek usage, therefore, these words mean a period of time, a period of unknown length, the duration of which is determined by the fact or condition or person to which the term is applied.
Furthermore, Lev. 24:8 states that the covenant given to Israel was an "everlasting covenant." Yet, it was conditional and based on Israel's obedience (Ex. 19:5-6). And the inspired writer of the book of Hebrews declares, "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, He says, Behold, the days come, says the Lord, when I will make a NEW COVENANT with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah... in that He says, A new covenant, He has made the first old. Now that which decays and waxes old is ready to VANISH AWAY" (Heb. 8:7 8, 13). Ah, did you notice? The everlasting covenant has been DONE AWAY! What a wonder, that! We are told that the "earth abides forever" (Eccl. 1:4), but Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away.. (Mat. 24:35).
The Lord announced through the prophet Isaiah, "Upon the land of My people shall come up thorns and briers; yea upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city: for the palace shall be forsaken; the populous city shall be deserted; the hill and the watch-tower shall be dens for ever; a joy of wild asses, a pasture for flocks; UNTIL the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the WILDERNESS BECOME a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest" (Isa. 32:13-15). Verse 15 limits the use of the word in verse 14, for the desolations of the land are "for ever" only UNTIL the Spirit is poured out from on high bringing glorious RESTORATION!
As regards animal sacrifices, dietary laws, ceremonial observances and sabbaths, each was to be "observed as a statute for ever" (Ex. 31:16-17; II Chron. 2:4; Lev. 16:31). But the New Testament clearly shows that these were, one and all, but "carnal ordinances imposed UNTIL the time of reformation" (Heb. 9:10). It is clear - if "for ever" really meant ETERNAL - we would still be offering sheep, bullocks, and goats as sacrifices to God! But - more startling still - the idea of endlessness does not adhere even to the reign of Christ. Heb. 1:8 says, "But unto the Son He says, Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever..." Now turning to another Scripture bearing on the same subject, we obtain additional light on this subject. "Then comes the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign TILL He has put all enemies under His feet. And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, THEN SHALL THE SON ALSO HIMSELF BE SUBJECT UNTO HIM that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all" (I Cor. 15:24-25,28). The Kingdom of the Son will have a conclusion. In some remote time the Son delivers up the Kingdom to the Father, the Kingdom continues no longer in the rule of Sonship, but in the rule of Fatherhood, that God may be known no longer in and through the Son and the Sons, but transcendentally as ALL IN ALL!
Dear reader, it is high time to stop acting the fool. It is high time to cease from exalting ourselves and our ignorant imaginings above the knowledge of God. It is high time to bow in humble submission to His Word and cease our own blasphemous and ignorant pratings. It is high time for a lot of people to curb their wagging tongues and do some listening for a change, if perchance they might at length learn something worth talking about. The Hebrew word OLAM and its Greek equivalent, AION, mean a limited time, an age, and their plural means ages. No one who is sane and reasonable can maintain otherwise. To do so is to contradict all known facts and to contradict God's own Word. That is precisely what all the "eternal damnation" people are guilty of. God be merciful to them!
Let us look at how the word AION is used in a number of passages. About 37 times in the New Testament it is rendered "world," twice as "worlds," twice as "ages," and once as "course." Every place where the word "eternal" appears, with but one exception, it is a translation of this word AION or its adjective form AIONIOS. Twice it is rendered "evermore." Ever place where the word "everlasting" appears, but one, it is this same word or its adjective form. With but thirteen exceptions, every place where the word "ever" appears it is the same word or its adjective form. And aside from all this confusion, the word also appears in the plural, and in a number of confusing combinations, such as "the aion of the aion," "the aion of the aions," and "the aions of the aions," etc.
Some of the passages where AION is found will give us added information concerning it. In Eph. 2:7 we find, "in the ages (aions) to come." In Col. 1:26 we find, "the mystery which has been hid from ages (aions). " In Eph. 2:2 we find "you walked, according to the course aion of this world." In Heb. 1:2 we find, "by whom also He made the worlds (aions)." In Heb. 11:3 we find, "the worlds (aions) were formed by the Word of God." In about fifteen instances, such as Mat. 12:32, 1 Cor. 1:20, etc., we find it rendered "this world (aion). " Twice we find "this present world (aion). " In Gal. 1:4 we find, "deliver us from this present evil world (aion)." In Eph. 6:12 we find, "the rulers of the darkness of this world (aion)." In 11 Cor. 4:4 we find, "the god of this world (aion)." In I Cor. 2:6 we find, "the wisdom of this world (aion)." In Lk. 16:8 we find, "the children of this world (aion)." In Mk. 4:19 we find, "the cares of this world (aion)." How much more understandable it would be if the translators had used the word age instead of world!
In Mk. 10:30 we find that there is not only this present aion, which is evil, but also "the world (aion) to come." In Lk. 20:35 we find, "but they that shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world (aion), and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage." In Heb. 6:5 we find, "and have tasted the powers of the world (aion) to come." And in Lk. 1:70, Jn. 9:32, etc., we find that the aion had a beginning: "since the world (aion) began."
And now in reviewing the Scriptures we have just quoted we note that this aion is something which has a king; it has princes; it is in darkness; it had a beginning; it has an ending; it is evil; it has wisdom; it has children who marry; it has cares. The aions we find were made by Christ, simply through His spoken Word, and we also find in Col. 1:26 that the mystery of Christ in us, the hope of glory, has been hidden from these aions.
Now, if AION means ETERNAL, consider how ridiculous the Word of God would be! The Holy Spirit would be found saying, "the mystery which has been hid from eternities;" "the mystery of Christ which in other eternities was not made known;" "in the eternities to come;" "You walked according to the eternity of this world;" "by whom also He made the eternities;" "the rulers of the darkness of this eternity;" "now once in the end of the eternities has He appeared;" "the harvest is the end of the eternity;" "since eternity began;" "in the eternities to come," etc. etc. Let the scholars whose business it is delve into the many intricacies of expression, and worry over the many grammatical combinations. Suffice it to say here that there have been "aions" in the past, there is this present "aion," and there are "aions" to come. And these all combined make up TIME, encompassing the whole of the progressive plan and program of God for the development of His creation.
Any thinking person should clearly see that if you translate the word AION which means an age by the word eternal, which has nothing to do with time, you immediately get the wrong idea. The same thing applies when the word AION is translated by the word world. It is incorrect and brings nothing but confusion. That is why so many Christians have been worrying about "the end of the world" when they should have been understanding God's special dealing here at "the end of the age." There is a great deal of difference between the expression, "He shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever," and the expression, "He shall be tormented day and night unto the ages of the ages." For ever and ever has no end. The ages of the ages do have an end, and their end will see every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Jesus Christ is the Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:10; Rom. 14:10-11). The first expression forbodes complete hopelessness for billions and makes the faith of God of none effect. The second expression, which is completely correct, not only offers hope but expresses the ultimate fulfillment of the purpose which was purposed in Christ Jesus before the world began or before the ages were framed.