A REPLY by A. E. Knoch
by Arthur W Pink
THE EONIAN TIMES
TO ONE acquainted with the doctrine of the eons, as set forth in the works mentioned, the following criticism is most convincing! He prefers not to take up the subject of the ages or eons, though this is vital to the whole discussion! We particularly requested anyone who wishes to dispute this great truth to explain the three different phrases found in the Scriptures
THE EON OF THE EON, Heb.1:8.
THE EON OF THE EONS, Eph.3:21.
THE EONS OF THE EONS, Gal.1:5; Phil.1:20; etc.
So long as he has not even attempted to explain the three test phrases, we conclude that he cannot do so. If he cannot do so, let him acknowledge it publicly and not hide behind such futile excuses as that it is "outside the scope of the present discussion." It is not outside. It is inside. It is the very heart of the whole matter. We will go much farther than he dares. We will publish any explanation he may offer, within reasonable bounds. We are not afraid of having our readers consider any argument against the truth.
Just as he finds it necessary to misquote "in Christ all" and to bring up spurious passages to discredit our rendering "the universe," while avoiding the true texts, so now he finds it convenient to pass by all passages which prove our position and base his argument on two texts which he and everyone else knows are not even intelligible in the versions. Altogether apart from any argument, the necessity which compels him to do this, instead of boldly facing the facts, is sufficient to show how utterly untenable and hopeless his case is.
We might well conclude at the stage which has now been reached, but, lest those who have been ensnared by the sophistries of this system should conclude that what Mr. Knoch has advanced in connection with the Eons is unassailable, and for the benefit of those who are anxious for this part of his teaching to be examined, we have decided to offer a few remarks upon the closing sections of his books.
Mr. Knoch is determined to repudiate the endless punishment of the lost at all costs and so fearful that those he addresses may not be fully convinced by his interpretation of the scriptures, which he claims teach the ultimate salvation of all without exception, he has been at great pains to show that the many passages in the 1611 version which affirm the everlasting misery of those who die in their sins are erroneous renditions, that the Greek words do not mean what the English translators have made them to signify.
Mr. Knoch has drawn up an elaborate scheme concerning the Eons (Ages). He tells us that "time is divided into three grand divisions, which are characterized in Scripture as `before the eons' (query: what `time' was there before `the Eons?') `The eonian times,' and `the consummation,' which follows the end of the eons" (1 Cor.10:11). Instead of following Mr Knoch through all his wanderings on this subject, we propose to test his scheme at the one point which is most vital to our present discussion, and that is, whether or not the Word of God speaks of the ending of the Eons or Ages that follow the Great White Throne judgment. It is outside the scope of our present purpose to examine what he has written concerning the beginning of the eons, as it is to follow him with regard to his teaching concerning the present eons. Nor shall we occupy ourselves with the next eon--the millennium. What we are now concerned with is the eons which follow the millennium.
It should be apparent to all that what is of most vital moment in connection with the issue raised is whether or not the Holy Scriptures expressly affirm that the ages following the Great White Throne judgment have any ending. Once the inquiry is narrowed down to this point It will be discovered by any one who has given Mr. Knoch's writings a careful reading that here is the real weakness in his position. All that he has so laboriously compiled on the other branches of the subject of the Eons leads away from the vital issue in this inquiry.
It will be noted from the quotation made above that when speaking of "the consummation," which Mr. Knoch tells us "follows the end of the eons," and which in this connection can only mean the ending of all the eons, or to use his expression "the eonian times"--it will be noted, we say, that he refers to 1 Cor.10:11 as his proof. Let us turn then to this passage which he invests with such peculiar importance and see whether it furnishes what he leads us to expect from it.
1 Cor:10:11 in the 1611 version reads as follows, `Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.' The only change needed in its wording is to substitute `ages' for `world.' Reading it thus what are we told? This: "They are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come." This verse, then, makes no reference at all to what shall follow the Great White Throne judgment. It has nothing whatever to say about the ending of any future ages. Instead, it speaks of past ages, the "ends" of which had already arrived when the apostle wrote his epistle.
"The Ends of the World"-- When Is It?
He asks "what `time' was there before `the Eons?'" It is written that God's grace was given us in Christ Jesus "before times eonian" (2 Tim.1:9). God promises us life "before times eonian" (Titus 1:2). God's secret wisdom existed "before the eons" (1 Cor.2:7). There was a gift, a promise, a secret purpose before the eonian times. If the period preceding the eons was not "time," what was it? When we use similar phrases, we always imply the presence of time. "Before the time of Christ" refers to a time.
The question here is really very simple. Does the phrase "the ages" or the "the eons" refer to the past eons or to "the eons" without any such restriction? Misled by the loose rendering of the context he insists that they are past. We propose to show that the context does not call for the past and that there were no ends of the past eons present when Paul wrote to the Corinthians.
The two simple phrases "from the eon" and "for the eon" define the length of the present eon. The present evil eon (Gal. 1:4) goes back to a time before David (Luke 1:70) and all the prophets (Acts 3:21). The nearest single end of an eon which might "come" upon the Corinthians was before the deluge, a matter of at least two thousand years. The present eon will continue as long as Israel is apostate (Matt.21:19; Mark 11:14). It stretches out beyond the time of the Corinthians nearly two thousand years. Then a single eon will end. How then can we understand "upon whom the ends of the ages are come," when the Corinthians were two thousand years from the beginning and end of the present eon? The answer lies in the word come, and is suggested by the translators themselves when they rendered precisely the same word attain in Phil.3:11.
The Consummations of the Eons have Arrived, in Spirit
About thirty different Greek words are translated "come" in our version. This is one of them. Five words are rendered "attain," but this one seems most suitable. Its ordinary, literal meaning may be expressed by "arrive at." Its figurative use in Philippians is the key to its meaning in Corinthians.
Paul desired to know Him,
and the power of His resurrection
and the participation of His sufferings,
being conformed to His death,
if somehow he should be attaining to the resurrection out
from among the dead (Phil.3:10,11).
It is evident, from the whole tenor of the epistle as well as the immediate context, that Paul is not concerned to attain to the literal resurrection when Christ comes. That is not a matter of attainment, but of grace. What he wishes is a present experience, based on the power of the future resurrection. He desires to live as a resurrection man. In this way he wished to attain to the resurrection. The following context confirms this conclusion. He has not already obtained or been perfected.
Here we have a use of the word attain which solves the whole difficulty in Corinthians. There is no need of involving ourselves in futile explanations. Just as Paul was not actually raised from the dead but entered into a spiritual realization of the resurrection, so the consummation of the eons does not actually arrive, but their spiritual counterpart is present with the Corinthians.
But is there any evidence that this was really the fact? What is it that will actually come to the nations at the various consummations of the eons?
The present eon arrives at its consummation when Christ comes to Israel. Then all the nations will be blessed through them. The blessing of Abraham will be theirs. But the Corinthians do not need to wait for that blessed era, for, in spirit, they received the blessing of Abraham long before it flows to the nations through Israel. They are justified. The end or consummation of this eon attains to them in the gift of justification.
The consummation of the next eon is the new creation. Then God will be at peace with the nations, and accessible apart from the mediacy of Israel's priesthood. Does this come to the Corinthians? It surely does! There is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17)! God is conciliated to the nations! They enjoy, in spirit, the consummation of the next eon. Is it not clear that the new creation which they entered is not the literal one which follows the next eon, but its spiritual counterpart? Just so, the consummations of the eons have become a spiritual reality to them, for the blessings of justification and conciliation are theirs, though these are not due until this eon and the next have run their course. Even the consummation of the last eon, which brings in the abrogation of all rule and authority attains to them in a small measure, though its full manifestation is seen more clearly in Paul's later epistles.
Did Christ Appear at "the End of the World?"
Thus we see the Corinthians enjoying the consummations or fruits of the three "ends" which are still future. All that we wish to prove is that each eon has an end or consummation, and that there is absolutely no shadow of suspicion for any such idea as that the Corinthians attained the consummations of past eons! The very absurdity of the thought ought to be sufficient to sink it into oblivion.
Following his introductory remarks upon the Eons, Mr. Knoch supplies a number of diagrams. The first and simplest is a perpendicular line divided into three sections, the first and last of which are very much shorter than the central one. These three sections are denominated respectively, "Before the Eons," "The Eonian Times," "After the Eons." Our object in quoting this is to call attention to the fact that, though it is vital to Mr. Knoch's scheme, yet the Word of God never uses the expression after the Eons." "After the Eons" is an invention pure and simple.
Some years ago a book appeared entitled "After the Thousand Years." This expression is not found in the Word of God. It, too, is an invention. But we are glad to be able to say that no one thought of attacking it on this score. Notwithstanding the fact that Scripture does not use the set phrase "after the thousand years," it speaks of the consummation of the thousand years (Rev.20:3,5,7), hence no sane expositor can object to speaking of the time after it.
The same word is used of the eons, and the objection to "after the eons" will be made by no one whose stock of arguments has not become very low. The fact remains that the eons have a consummation, or end.
The second diagram is merely an expansion in detail of the first, and concerning it we have nothing now to say. The third, arranged in the form of a chart, is so elaborate that we cannot properly describe it without reproducing it, but this is not necessary. It purports to show every reference in the New Testament to the various eons, plus their supposed beginnings and endings. Opposite the subsection entitled "The Consummations of the Eons," which comes right at the close of this chart, the only reference given again is 1 Cor.10:11. But in another section entitled "The Conclusion of the Eons" Heb.9:26 is the reference, and the only one that is furnished. Let us then return to it and see if this passage has anything to say about the ending of the ages which shall follow the final judgment:
`For then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.' Here again we need to change `world' to `age' or rather `ages' for the Greek uses the plural number. Having made this change, what does Heb.9:26 tell us? Is it referring to ages yet to come? Does it conduct us to the terminal of `The Eonian Times?' Not at all. Like 1 Cor. 9:11 this verse also refers to `ages' which are already past. It speaks of that point which had been reached in time when the Son of God `appeared to put away sin.' Little wonder, then, that Mr. Knoch terms Heb.9:26 `a puzzling passage' (`All in All,' page 53). The `puzzle' is for him to find a more satisfactory passage. Really, there is nothing `puzzling' about it, for it simply refers to `ages' already past!
1 Cor.10:11 and Heb.9:26 are the only passages to which Mr. Knoch appeals when speaking of the ending of the ages. And that for a very good reason--they are the only ones he can appeal to. As then these two passages refer to ages, the ends of which have already arrived, we may confidently affirm that the Word of God is absolutely silent concerning the ending of any age which follows the Great White Throne judgment. We earnestly entreat every reader to seriously and solemnly ponder this.
If the Authorized version of Heb.9:26 is not a puzzling passage to everyone it is simply because they are lacking in a sense of the fitness of things. Did the world come to its end when He appeared to put away sin? That is what is clearly stated by the common version. And the puzzle is quite as difficult when we substitute "ages" for world. Then Christ appeared in the end of the ages! If the ages ended then, why does our brother deny that they have any end? It is not vital to our position when the eons or ages end. If they have an end, that is all that is needed to show that they are not endless.
We sympathize with the popular misconception that the cross must of necessity be the great boundary between this and a previous "age." We talk about "the gospel age" as though it were inaugurated by the death of Christ. But the Scriptures are against any such idea. This eon did not commence at the cross. It is the same age as that in which our Lord lived.
When his disciples asked Him "...what is... the conclusion of the eon?" (Matt.24:3) did He tell them of His sacrifice on Calvary? No. He told them of the appearance of false christs, and of battles. But even then the end was not to be (Matt.24:6). There would be famine and persecution and the abomination of desolation and the proclamation of the evangel of the kingdom in the whole inhabited earth. Then the consummation will be arriving. The end of the age in which our Lord lived is still future.
The harvest is at the conclusion of the eon (Matt.13:39). The coming eon, of which he spoke, is not the present one, inaugurated at His death, but the still future Millennial age. No eons were concluded at His sacrifice for the "putting away" of sin (Heb.9:26).
Sin will be Repudiated at the Conclusion of the Eons
Furthermore, sin was not "put away" at that time. Our version uses "put away" for eight different Greek expressions. Take away, release, thrust, pardon, expel, discard, are all rendered "put away." The word here used means to repudiate. In its only other occurrence our version makes it disannulling (Heb.7:18). The verb is rendered reject (Mark 6:26; 7:9; Luke 7:30; John 12:48), despise (Luke 10:16; 1 Thess.4:8,; Heb.10:28; Jude 8), bring to nothing (1 Cor.1:19), frustrate (Gal. 2:21), disannul (Gal.3:15), cast off (1 Tim.5:12). The best English term we could find which combines the thought of reject, despise, disannul, is repudiate. Hence, Heb.9:26 speaks of the time when sin is rejected, despised, disannulled, repudiated. The cross has made provision for this, but sin is still with us, and is not despised or rejected or repudiated by any means.
As this did not occur when the Sacrifice was offered, when will it take place? At the conclusion of the eons. The yearly sacrifices under the law suggested that sin never would be done with. The one Sacrifice is sufficient and needs no repetition. It insists that the question of sin will be finally settled. Here we are told when this will be. At the conclusion of the eons sin will be finally "brought to nothing," as the translators themselves render the verb when speaking of the wisdom of the world (1 Cor.1:19).
The CONCORDANT VERSION gives the following as the literal word for word, equivalent of the Greek: NOW YET once ON TOGETHER-FINISH OF-THE eons INTO UN-PLACing OF-THE missing THRU THE SACRIFICE OF-Him HE-HAS-been-made-APPEAR. This has been idiomatically rendered: "yet now, once, has He been manifested through His sacrifice, for the repudiation of sin at the conclusion of the eons."
In all this let us not lose sight of the fact that it makes no real difference to the argument when the eons end. He himself proves his own undoing when he speaks of ages already past. If some ages have ended, then ages have both a beginning and an end, and that settles the whole matter.
A brief word now upon the adjective `aionios,' rendered uniformly by the 1611 version (with one exception--`forever' in Phil.15) `eternal' and `everlasting.' The meaning of this word has been definitely defined for us by the Holy Spirit in 2 Cor.4:18: `While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.' Here a contrast is drawn between things `seen' and things `not seen,' between things `temporal' and things `eternal.' Now, it is obvious that if the things `temporal' should endure forever there would be no antithesis between them and things `eternal.' It is equally obvious that if the things `eternal' are only `age-long' then they can not be properly contrasted with things `temporal.' Mr. Knoch felt the force of this and has attempted to evade it. He tells us that "the word here rendered `temporal' is nowhere else so rendered, but rather by such phrases as `for a while' (Matt.13:21), `for a time' (Mark 4:17), `for a season' (Heb.11:25)."
But this does not help his case at all. Let us allow his alternative rendering--"The things which are seen are for a while--time--season." Quite so: very true. But now let us complete the sentence as he would have it worded--"And the things which are not seen are age-long." What point is there to this? There is no antithesis between `for a season' and `age-long.' No; this is merely an evasion. It is more: it is a denial of God's Word. Just as the things seen are but temporal, so the things with which they are contrasted will last as long as the things `not seen.' The difference between `temporal' and `eternal' in this verse is as great as the difference between the things `seen' and the things `not seen.'
Is Twenty Thousand Years a "Temporary" Period?
Our Lord Himself contrasts the seed sown on rocky places, which has no root and has but a temporary existence, with that sown in fine earth, which brings fruit to maturity (Matt.13:21-23; Mark 4:16-20). To make this as sharp as possible, we will suppose that the seed sown on the rocks sprang up and withered in a week and that the fruitful seed was harvested in six months. This will give the ratio of contrast as one to twenty-four. Of course, this is exaggerated, but we wish to make every concession possible. Our brother may object that there is no antithesis here, but our Lord thought there was, and we will defer to His opinion.
The contrast in 2 Cor.4:17,18 may be set forth as follows:
b transcendently transcendent eonian weight of glory
a that of ours which is observed
b what is not observed
a what is observed is temporary
b what is not observed is eonian
In a we have that which is momentary and temporary in b that which is eonian. It is a question of our present experience as contrasted with our resurrection life. Let us say that the average saint's experience lasts a hundred years. This is too long, but we wish to forestall every objection. We now need to discover how long the eons will last. We know that the next eon will exceed a thousand years. We have every reason to think that the succeeding eon will be very much longer. Considerations based upon the "thousand generations" of the Psalmist and the grand cycles of the heavens, suggest that the last eon will be at least seventeen thousand years in length. This makes the utterance of Paul about twenty thousand years from the end of the eons. The ratio, therefore, would be one to two hundred. Our Lord instituted a comparison between one and twenty-four. Why should Paul not be allowed to state a contrast over eight time as great?
How is it possible to deal in a kindly way with such a statement as "There is no antithesis between `for a season' and `age-long.' No; this is a mere evasion. It is more: it is a denial of God's Word?" Our Lord contrasts this very same term with a single season, yet we are pilloried for presuming to see a contrast between it and many thousands of seasons!
The definition of `aionios' supplied by the Holy Spirit in 2 Cor.4:18 fits precisely every occurrence of the word in the New Testament. Thus Rom.16:26 is accurately rendered `the everlasting God;' Heb.5:9, `eternal salvation;' John 3:15, `eternal life;' Mark 3:29, `eternal damnation;' Jude 7, `eternal fire.' There is only one seeming exception to this, and that is but a seeming one, namely, Phil.15, which reads `For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest received him forever.' Here the apostle is beseeching Philemon to receive Onesimus, who had left his master, and whom Paul sends back to him. When the apostle says `receive him forever' his evident meaning is never banish him, never sell him, never again send him away. In fact, it is to be noted here that the apostle has expressly contrasted `aionios' with `for a season,' which gives us another Divine example of its precise force and scope--it signifies that which is the very opposite of what `for a season' suggests. After having carefully examined each passage where this word is used in the New Testament, we have no hesitation in saying that the one unvaried meaning of "aionios" is `eternal.'
The dictionary definition of "eternal" is "having neither beginning nor end of existence." How does this accord with 2 Titus 1:9; Titus 1:2, "before eternal times?" Not a single passage is eternal in the past!
What about the future? If eternal is, strictly speaking without beginning or end, everlasting may apply to that which has a beginning, but can never have an end. Let us come right to the point and consider the phrase, "everlasting (or eternal) life." The apostle John certainly claims to possess everlasting life (1 John 5:11). Consequently he has not died, but is alive yet! So with all who believed on Christ (John 6:47; 10:28). As there is no death, there can be no resurrection. It is useless to cloud the issue with a mass of tradition. If this "everlasting" life can be interrupted by death now, why not in the glory?
John has died. All who had everlasting life died. Their life was not everlasting at all. It was eonian. It will commence with the resurrection and will continue for the eons, and thence onward through eternity.
Before Eternal Times!
If Rom.16:26 is accurately rendered "the everlasting God," then the previous verse can be accurately rendered "everlasting times." We then have the absurd statement that the secret which has been hushed in "everlasting times" is now manifest! In other words, the "everlasting times" have come to an end! More than one "time" can hardly be eternal. The God of the whole earth is not confined to the earth, neither is the eonian God confined to the eons. Just as the earth is a special section of the material universe, so the eons are a segment of the sphere of time.
As our brother has carefully examined each passage where this word is used we cannot doubt that he has considered Romans 16:25. The Authorized translators cleverly camouflaged the rendering by making it "since the world began." The Revisers have the blundering but honest "through times eternal." We now suggest that, instead of examining every passage he concentrate on this one. Let him explain the possibility of making manifest a secret hushed in times eternal. It cannot be done. He will then hesitate long before he says that "the one unvaried meaning of `aionios' is `eternal.'" It never has this meaning. Through the longest period of time in the Scriptures, there is always a beginning and an end.
This whole discussion may be narrowed down to one question, Was the secret spoken of in Romans 16:25,26, which is now manifested,
HUSHED IN TIMES EONIAN
or through everlasting times?
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