THE CONCORDANT VERSION has been adversely criticized in many particulars. Most, having misunderstood its principles (having failed as well to grasp the importance of its principles), have been unable to recognize the Version’s actual high degree of accuracy and faithfulness to the Word of God. By far the Concordant Version’s greatest perceived errors, however, in the eyes of nearly all its orthodox critics, are its renderings “eon,” “eons,” and “eonian,” instead of “[for] ever,” “everlasting,” and “eternal.”
Orthodox ministers commonly claim that all scholars worthy of the name recognize that the original Hebrew and Greek words in question, when used in reference to punishment or judgment, signify endless duration. Evidence from various scholarly works is given which shows that their authors’ findings indeed have been–and at least in part on philological grounds–that the Scripture reveals the punishment of the lost to be both endless in duration and horrific in nature.
Accordingly, it is claimed that the true gospel is the message which affirms that, by meeting certain required conditions, one may at once, and for all eternity, qualify himself for exemption from hell and inclusion in heaven. It is added, however, (1) that salvation is to be gained now (i.e., in this life) or never; and (2) that any who fail to obey and meet its requirements, will surely spend eternity in hellfire.
Many would even add the further claim that those who continue to disbelieve (or, some will say, even those who continue to doubt) “what the Bible says” concerning eternal punishment, will, for that very reason, be subjected to eternal punishment. It is claimed that such unbelief is inexcusable, and would never be countenanced by any truly regenerate person, inasmuch as the Bible is “so plain” concerning this subject. The reasoning is that any who deny eternal punishment, only do so because–any appearances to the contrary notwithstanding–they have not truly accepted Christ as their Saviour. Why, if they truly had done so, they would not deny eternal burnings!
Even by those who may not affirm these latter most extreme claims as well, it is nearly always insisted that, in any case, besides those who are unquestionably unbelievers, any who would stoop so low as to deny eternal punishment, are either apostate Christians, unconverted liberals, or non-Christian cultists.
The idea is that no one who is truly consecrated and enlightened would think of doubting the claims of orthodoxy, since, we are told, these very claims are so manifestly correct. And, the idea is very much as well that anyone who would dare to make known his repudiation of the teaching of eternal punishment, cannot expect to find acceptance much less popularity among his orthodox brethren.
At some point along the way, those who have obtained, or are considering obtaining, a copy of the Concordant Version, often learn that its translators, together with its publisher, the Concordant Publishing Concern, believe and teach, not eternal punishment, but universal reconciliation! Yet most who become aware that this is so, have been taught (or soon are taught) that all such translators and teachers are at least dreadful apostates, if not more likely unregenerate cultists. This puts the Concordant Version at a great disadvantage in the eyes of those who thus are prejudiced against it.
Consequently, the ordinary believer who had previously welcomed the Concordant Version due to its seeming excellence, now finds himself being constrained to be full of suspicions concerning it, even as to seriously doubt its worth. Under the delusion of the twin fallacies of Guilt by Association and Poisoning the Well, not to mention the baneful influence of orthodox authoritarianism and intimidation, even the sincere believer is often led to set aside the Concordant Version, with little or no further consideration.
Few, in the confusion of their own minds, are able to judge the Version on its own merits, let the beliefs of its translators and the teachings of its publisher be what they will. Yet when it is insisted by those of high position and renown that the CV renderings “eon” and “eonian” were made by unscholarly and unbelieving men for the express purpose of promoting the awful heresy of universalism, fewer still remain capable of any further objective consideration of the facts.
Yet the fact remains that the Hebrew “olam” (even as its Greek equivalent, aiõn) only says, “duration,” not endless duration. It is derived from “alam,” which means “hidden,” or more precisely, “obscured.”1 Common to all its occurrences is the idea of duration (or “on-goingness”), together with inherent inspecificity (i.e., intrinsic “obscurity”) as to the duration at hand.
Wherever olam appears in Scripture, it says nothing as to the specific length of the duration with which any certain passage may be concerned. Indeed, as is acknowledged by all scholars, in a great many of its occurrences, it is impossible for this word even to refer to (much less speak of) any notion of endlessness, but only of limited time.2
Olam does not denote any particular duration; the scope of time which any certain usage of olam may entail, is not conveyed by the word itself.3 Therefore, to say that olam should sometimes be translated even by “age,” not to mention by “everlasting” or “eternal,” is to say that olam should sometimes not be translated at all, but should instead be interpreted and its interpretations represented as translations, within a certain version of the Scriptures.
Such a notion, however, is quite mistaken; for a translator is not to tell us what he thinks is in view, or otherwise involved, but simply what is said. If, in faithfulness to his task of conveying God’s Word to us, a translator cannot always speak as smoothly as we might wish, or even as clearly as he might desire, we would gladly bear with him. It is vital that he only tell us what God has said, not what he supposes God’s sense to have been. If a translator should persist in presenting us with his own opinions about God’s Word instead of God’s own Word itself, and if, more seriously still, he should represent to us what is merely the former as if it were the latter, we must reject his renderings, deeming them to be at least incompetent and erroneous translations.
The truth is, then, that rather than the Concordant Version having been “gotten up” in order to teach “universalism,” and only presenting a “false interpretation” instead of a “true translation” as to the duration of the punishment of the lost, the Concordant Version does not present an interpretation at all, whether false or true, or even a translation, but simply a transliteration, in anglicized form. Its various “eon” and “eonian” expressions, considered as they are intended, as non-interpretative equivalents of the Original, should simply be understood as signifying “[intrinsically unspecified] duration,” or that which pertains thereunto. Rather than the Concordant Version being guilty of interpreting instead of objectively translating the Scripture on this august theme, the fact is that it is perhaps the only modern version that is not guilty of this charge.
EONIAN BURDEN OF GLORY
It is often claimed that in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “eonian” (aiõnion) must mean “eternal” because it is set in contrast to the word “temporal,” meaning pertaining to time as opposed to eternity. The Greek word, however, translated “temporal” in the AV (proskaira) has no connection with the word for “time” (chronos); in English form, the Greek is literally TOWARD-SEASON, and means “temporary” or “for [only] a part of a season.”
Contrastive terms need not be antithetical in meaning. Our Lord deemed it sufficient contrast to compare temporary (i.e., a part of a season) with a single season–less than a year (Matt.13:21). Yet here, in 2 Corinthians 4:18, while the contrast is far greater, it does not follow that it is therefore infinite. The contrast is between our afflictions, which last, so to say, but for a brief “partial season,” and our promised, long-enduring “eonian” glory which lasts throughout the oncoming eons, until the consummation, when God is All in all. The eonian life and glory which is our special portion (cp 1 Tim.4:10b; 2 Tim.2:10,11), no more debars the endless life and glory in which we shall participate as well (cp Luke 1:33b; 1 Thess.4:17b; 1 Cor.15:28), than youthful happiness precludes the happiness of maturity. Hence, in considering the “eonian” punishment of Matthew 25:46, none who are wise will make the claim that since we will be immortal, therefore the eonian life of which this passage speaks is to be understood as “life eternal,” and, in turn, the eonian punishment which this passage entails is to be judged to be “everlasting.”
Even if it should be conceded that “eon” signifies “duration” and never signifies “everlasting,” and even that it is always used, in itself, to refer to terminable periods, some might still claim that it, nonetheless, in certain instances concerned with judgment, is used to refer to an infinite series of eons (the terminable periods themselves) of which the interminable future will consist. This ingenious claim seems to be the argument of the ancient Eastern church. It is important to note that this is a disputation concerning interpretation between early Greek-speaking believers, not an argument among scholars as to essential word meaning or translation.
While some of the early Greek believers held to eventual universal reconciliation, they also believed in eonian punishment. Certainly, those Greeks who believed in universal reconciliation did not claim that aiõn or aiõnion meant everlasting or eternal. Indeed, in affirming the doctrine of endless punishment, even the Byzantine Emperor Justinian did not contend that such ones had misunderstood the meaning of eonian hitherto. Instead, he simply claimed orthodoxy’s divine investiture for deciding truth in matters of interpretation (similar to the “papal infallibility” of Rome). His point was that since they (the so-called “holy church of Christ”) taught the ateleutêtos (i.e., unconsummating [a non-scriptural word]) punishment of the wicked, therefore such a doctrine was true. Evidently, thus it was claimed that a never-consummating series of eons lay ahead for the lost during which their frightful torments would never cease.4
“The Emperor Justinian (540 A.D.), in calling the celebrated local council which assembled in 544, addressed his edict to Mennos, Patriarch of Constantinople, and elaborately argued against the doctrines he had determined should be condemned. He does not say in defining the Catholic doctrine at that time, ‘We believe in aiõnion punishment,’ for that was just what the universalist, Origen himself taught. Nor does he say, ‘The word aiõnion has been misunderstood; it denotes endless duration,’ as he would have said had there been such a disagreement. But, writing in Greek with all the words of that copious speech from which to choose, he says, ‘The holy church of Christ teaches an endless [ateleutêtos] aiõnios life to the righteous, and endless (ateleutêtos) punishment to the wicked.’ Aiõnios was not enough in his judgment to denote endless duration, and he employed ateleutêtos. This demonstrates that even as late as A.D. 540, aiõnios spoke of limited duration, and required an added word to [convey the thought] of endless duration.”5
THE GRACE OF GOD IN TRUTH
Most scholars today, in presenting their interpretations of kolasin aiõnion in Matthew 25:46 (“eonian chastening,” CV), will say words to the effect: “We must remember that most men die in unbelief; and, following the day of judging, will enter the second death. Therefore, on hermeneutical if not philological grounds, we must conclude that kolasin aiõnion must here be understood as tantamount to, if not expressive of, an endless series of eons, each one comprised of unspeakable torments.”
We would respond to such claims by saying that, first of all, any such assertions are wholly undiscerning as to the theme in view in Matthew 25:31-46.6 But even apart from this, in any case, no such conclusion follows from the two premises stated above, assertions with which, in themselves, we wholly concur, apart from their misuse in such a faulty syllogism. And, we would add that any claims, lingering in the background of such premises, to the effect that today is the only day of salvation or that death will never be abolished, are false claims.
Salvation, ultimately speaking, is a gracious gift, not a reward. It is achieved in the grace of God through the work of Christ. Monotheism is true; dualism is false. Monergism is true; synergism is false. Sola gratia. Soli Deo gloria.
God wills all mankind to be saved and to come into a realization of the truth (1 Tim.2:4). He is operating all in accord with the counsel of His will (Eph.1:11). All His counsel shall be confirmed, and all His desire He will do (Isa.46:10). Christ is giving Himself a correspondent Ransom for all (1 Tim.2:6). If One died for the sake of all, consequently all died (2 Cor.5:14). One who dies has been justified from Sin (Rom.6:7b).
God made Christ to be a sin offering (2 Cor.5:21). Sending His own Son in the likeness of sin’s flesh and concerning sin, God condemned sin in the flesh (Rom.8:3). Christ died for our sins (1 Cor.15:3); hence our sins have been died for. Christ is the propitiatory shelter concerned with our sins, yet not concerned with ours only, but concerned with the whole world also (1 John 2:2). Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim.1:15). For the repudiation of sin through His sacrifice, was He manifested (Heb.9:26). Lo! The Lamb of God Which is taking away the sin of the world (John 1:29). All is out of, through, and for God, to Him be the glory (Rom.11:36)!
Salvation is not ultimately granted in reciprocity, or according to libertarian free will, but in the grace of God. Faith and good works are the fruit of our salvation, not a requirement for our salvation. Even, under law, where faith and good works are immediately conditionally enjoined, they are ultimately graciously granted (cf Rom.11:1-6). Since salvation is a gracious provision and is designed for all, it will therefore be granted to all. Hence, endless punishment is simply impossible. Consequently, any claims to the effect that “eon” sometimes refers to the eons of the endless future during which punishment will never cease, are utterly false.
LIVING FOR THE EONS OF THE EONS
A related theme is that of God’s “living for the eons of the eons” (Rev.4:9,10; 10:6; 15:7; the AV rendering “liveth,” i.e., “lives,” is misleading). It is only because this emphatic expression is unfamiliar to us that it seems awkward or difficult. The sense is that the One Who is living today, will then, in the oncoming eons, make it known that He is the living God. He Who is living today (but not only today), will especially be “living” as well tomorrow (but not only tomorrow), in the scriptural morrow of the oncoming eons. Even as His living “today” by no means precludes His living tomorrow, neither will His glorious manifestation in the eons ahead as the living God, bar Him from life beyond the consummation.
The fact that He Who is living during this current era will also be living “for” (actually, “into,” eis) the eons of time ahead, constitutes a further word of assurance concerning His providential care during these future long eras of time.
It is to be regretted that the hazy English “for” can be misused in connection with the eons. The literal rendering “into,” in such cases, however, would unduly strain English idiom. Opposers imprudently couple “for” with their own gratuitous inference “only (for)” in order to “disprove” the usage of aiõn as “eon,” in the sense of a period of time. This is done in order to make the meaning “eon” appear to be obviously mistaken with regard to the revelation that God is living eis tous aiõnas tõn aiõnõn (“for the eons of the eons,” CV). Yet this declaration is hardly presented as a mere informative disclosure as to the scope of the Deity’s longevity, but as a glorious unfolding concerning a particular time during which God will be living (“God, Who is living for the eons of the eons,” CV), and so vitally operating accordingly.
Whenever we read the expression “for the eons,” we should always keep in mind the actual literal idea of into. That is, God will be living on, into these coming eras of time, in order that He should be living within or during those time periods as well, even as He is living within or during these present hectic times, when we need Him so much.
We believe that God’s life will never end, not because of any passages in reference to Him which include the word “eon,” but because it is written that His “years shall not come to end” (Psa.102:27). Furthermore, since God is the Source of all life, and since, at the consummation, all will be gloriously made alive so that He may become All in each one, it is evident that He must ever have life Himself in order to impart it to His creatures.
As the Lord declared, “Seeing that I am living, you also will be living” (John 14:19). In light of the fearful nature of the terrible judgments in the Revelation, one might infer that all hope is lost. But this is not the case. For the living God, Who is living today, will be living on into the coming eons! The fact that He is said to be living, at any time, is not declared in order merely to inform us that He still exists, but is a vigorous figure of speech (metonymy, i.e., association) designed to testify to His great power and subjectorship. He lives! He is the living God, and so is great and marvelous, strong to save, and “able to do superexcessively above all that we are requesting or apprehending” (Eph.3:20).
THE EONIAN GOD
Finally, let us consider the phrase “the eonian [aiõnion] God,” found in Romans 16:26. “The eonian God,” speaks of the God of the eons, even as “the French language” speaks of the language of France. He Who is the King of the eons (Rev.15:3), is the eonian King. Similarly, as the supreme God of the eons, He is the eonian God. Even as God is the God of Israel, He is also the God of all the earth. And, even as He is the eonian God, He is also the God of all duration, whether past or future. The titles “the God of Israel” and “the eonian God,” do not confine the Deity to these relations; instead, such titles simply speak of such relations, drawing our attention to them accordingly.
The notion of “lastingness” is neither expressed nor entailed in the Greek adjectival ending. Aiõnion (or aiõnios) no more means eon or ever-lasting, than ouranion (“heavenly”) means heaven-lasting.7 Hence the rendering, as in the Authorized Version, “[ever]lasting,” is quite wrong.
The thought, then, is not at all that God merely exists (much less, only exists) for some certain duration. Instead, what is expressed by the words “the eonian God,” is that God is the “of the [epochal] duration God.” In this usage, the epochal duration in view accords “with a secret [which is] hushed in times eonian, yet [which is] manifested now” (nun, i.e., “from now on”; Rom.16:25). This usage of “eonian” obviously has in view the entire duration (“eon”) comprising all the previous epochal durations (“eons”) of Scripture, namely, the entire duration from Genesis 1:1 until the time of Paul’s writing.
God is of the entire grand duration from the beginning to the consummation not in some lame sense that He merely manages to stay alive during this period, but in the sense that He is its God! He is the Almighty, the Supreme, the All-Sufficient One. Yahweh Elohim is the God Who, through the course of the eons, becomes the Saviour of all mankind (1 Tim.4:10). Through Christ, He is placing and subjecting all, according as He is intending. Thus the eonian God is the eonian God. That is, through the eonian times (Titus 1:2b), God, the King of the eons (1 Tim.1:17), Who makes the eons (Heb.1:2), achieves His purpose of the eons, which He makes in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph.3:11). In consummating His purpose, God will abolish death, and will finally become All in all (1 Cor.15:26,28).
It is this evangel itself, that finally settles the question of the duration of eonian judging and death. Through our acceptance of the evangel, we gain the realization that all eonian adversity and suffering is temporary adversity and suffering. To those of us who have been given this awareness, in spirit, “the consummations of the eons have attained” (1 Cor.10:11) even today.
“Now may the God of expectation be filling you with all joy and peace in believing, for you to be superabounding in expectation, in the power of holy spirit” (Rom.15:13).
1. e.g., Job 42:3: “Who is this who obscures counsel without knowledge?” Psalm 90:8: “You have set our depravities in front of You, our obscured deeds in the full light of Your face.” Ecclesiastes 12:14: “For the One, Elohim, shall bring every deed into judgment concerning all that is obscured, whether good or whether evil.”
3. In commenting on aiõnios, the Greek adjectival equivalent of the Hebrew olam, The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament states, “Without pronouncing any opinion on the special meaning which theologians have found for this word, we must note that outside the NT, in the vernacular as in the classical Greek (see Grimm- Thayer), it never loses the sense of perpetuus . . . . the spirit of [which is illustrated in] Job 19:24 [‘With iron pen and lead, that they should be hewn in rock for the future!’] . . . . In general, the word depicts that of which the horizon is not in view, whether the horizon be at an infinite distance . . . or whether it lies no farther than the span of Caesar’s life” (James Hope Moulton and George Milligan; London: Hodder and Stoughton, Limited, 1949, p.16).
6. For an extended treatment of this and related texts, see the studies, “The Judgment of the Nations,” and “Eonian Fire and Judging,” Unsearchable Riches, vol.84, pp.29-40, 71-82. See also the related U.R. writings, “The Living God and the Eons” (vol.79, pp.171-180); “For the Repudiation of Sin Through His Sacrifice” (re., Heb.9:26; vol.82, pp.17-22); and, “The Consummations of the Eons” (re., 1 Cor.10:11b; vol.82, pp.269-280).
7. Accordingly, the expression “the eonian God” no more means the eon or ever-lasting God, than “the American President” means the America-lasting President, or even “the yearly report” means the year-lasting report.
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