Eonian life, not eternal life
By Martin Zender
It is common knowledge among students of the Bible that, following this evil-ridden existence, there will be a one-thousand year kingdom on earth (Revelation ; 20:4). Jesus referred to this as "the coming eon" (Mark ). This gives way to a new heavens and a new earth (Revelation 21:1), which is yet another eon (Ephesians 2:7). Those who receive faith now live during these two future eons. This is the life Paul spoke of when he said, "the gift of God is eonian life" (Romans ). Jesus spoke continually of this life. This is the way that Jesus referred to as "narrow" (Matthew ). The narrow way had to do with Israel and the few who would enter immortal into that millennial kingdom, not with the eternal fate of the majority of mankind (Matthew 15:24).
The word eon will be strange to some. It mustn’t be any longer. This noun and its adjective ("eonian") appear in the New Testament over 190 times (in the original Greek) as aion and aionion. Why haven’t many recognized them in our English versions - Because "expert translators" have decided to interpret rather than translate, more on this in a moment.
No two words in the history of man have been so tortured as aion and aionion. No two words in the history of man, mishandled by man, have contributed more to the physical, emotional and spiritual harm of so many, than these. You think I must be exaggerating. But I am not. It is the mistranslation of these two words that has foisted the false and destructive doctrine of eternal torment upon the church and the world.
Eternal torment is built on the sand of mistranslation, slipped easily upon saints who would like eternal torment to be true, if only to anoint themselves "divine messengers" on a "great commission," mandated "by God" to lord fear and power over lesser men under the misnomer: "evangelism."
It is where the King James and other versions unaccountably use eternal and everlasting (for aionion) to describe the chastisement of the wicked that a false Scriptural veneer is lent to an otherwise insane (and inane) concept.
What is an eon?
The following considerations are vitally important to your peace and understanding of God. Our English word eon is derived from the Greek word aion. (Remember, the New Testament was originally written in Greek.) It even sounds like it and is nearly spelled the same. Obviously, it would be the perfect translation of aion. An eon is "a duration of time." So is an aion. (See W.E. Vine’s An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Vine defines aion as "an age, era; signifies a period of indefinite duration, or time viewed in relation to what takes place in the period.") Had this word been left to speak for itself (the Concordant Version does that, putting "eon" for aion, always, and "eonian" for aionion, always), the false terror of eternal torment would never have arisen to deceive the saints and turn the world from God. Several versions do translate it consistently. (Besides the Concordant Literal New Testament,
The ineptness of the orthodox translators can be easily verified. Look up the words "ages," "world," "eternal," "everlasting" and "forever" in either a Strong’s or a Young’s concordance. (These reference tools list every word in the King James Version and their source word from the original languages.) You will find that these words, a veritable hodge-podge, are all interpretations of this single Greek noun (aion) and its adjective.
Such interpretations are not only disparate, they are asinine. The same Greek word cannot mean ages in one place and forever in another. Ages have to do with time and plurality, while forever is the opposite of time and defies duplication. (If the reader wishes to imagine two forevers, he may try it. Minors attempting the feat will require adult supervision.) Can one word mean both day and night? Neither can one word mean both time and no time. An orthodox bias has made fools of otherwise intelligent men.
Yet here is the rub. Even where the scriptures speak of the life of believers as eternal, an error is an error.
Eonian a timely word
Eonian life is falsely reported in the King James version and elsewhere as "eternal life." It will come as a shock to many to learn that neither Jesus nor Paul ever spoke of eternal life but rather eonian life, or that life which endures through two future eons (the thousand-year kingdom eon, already discussed, and the new heavens and new earth). If this disclosure spoils the meter in some beloved Christian hymns, let truth conquer cadence.
The initial knee-jerk reaction to this truth is that, since eon and eonian pertain to time, the saints must not live forever. This is faulty reasoning. The saints do live forever, but not because of eonian life. The saints live forever because they are made immortal (1 Corinthians ). Immortal people can’t die, no matter how hard they try.
Eonian life defines life during the coming eons only. As not everyone has this, this term distinguishes those who do. As the eons end (and so they will, see 1 Corinthians and Hebrews ), so ends the appellation eonian life. And yet the saints live on, for at the consummation of the eons death is abolished (1 Corinthians -26). If you have enough water to make it to a well, do you die of thirst? Neither does a saint who has eonian life die when the eons yield to deathlessness.
Many suppose that eonian must denote endlessness when describing God, as in Romans 16:26- "the eonian God." (King James wrongly makes this, "the everlasting God.") No. It’s another overreaction.
This verse isn’t trying to tell anyone that God lives forever. Everyone already knows God lives forever. Psalm 102:27 testified long ago that "His years shall have no end." It’s old news. The vital question is: Does God sit on high, removed from our struggles in time, or does He care what happens during the eons? He cares. Thus, He is the eonian God. This does not limit Him to the eons any more than "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" limits Him to those patriarchs.
What about His everlasting mercy? This, too, is limited to the eons. (And yet, verify this, the church would rather teach a lie than rewrite a hymn.) Mercy presupposes unworthies, of which someday there will be a blessed lack. Eternal mercy demands eternal imperfection. Mercy finds no object when all return to Him.
Won’t the saints reign "forever and ever" as King James reports in Revelation 22:5? No. They will reign for the eons. Reign presupposes insubjection, another deficiency unworthy of Christ. Not even Christ reigns forever and ever. scripture says that "He must be reigning until He should be placing all His enemies under His feet" (1 Corinthians ).
The King James Version contradicts itself on this count. The KJV translation of Revelation reads, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever." Yet their rendition of 1 Corinthians reads, "For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet."
An accurate translation of Revelation 11:15 eliminates this discrepancy. The Concordant version has, "The kingdom of this world became our Lord’s and His Christ’s, and He shall be reigning for the eons of the eons." (As the phrase "king of kings" highlights one king among others, thus also "eons of the eons" highlights two eons among others. Neither phrase carries the idea of "an endless succession," as commonly supposed.) Discrepancy disappears when God’s words are respected.
It’s a slap in the face of Christ to say that Christ reigns forever. Does He never perfect the universe? He does. He will one day subject everything to God, who will then be "all in all" (1 Corinthians -28). With no more in subjection, reign becomes impossible. Christ reigns so well during the eons that He eliminates the need for it for eternity.
Those not blessed with belief now miss these glorious, future eons. They will be dead while the eons run their course, unaware of the passage of time. Is it their fault? No. But Christ died for them just the same. While they miss these eons, they certainly do not miss living with God for eternity, for He is "the Savior of all mankind, especially of believers" (1 Timothy ).
Note that the inspired statement does not say He is the Savior exclusively of believers. That would be the lie of Christianity. He indeed saves all, but only those who believe now live through the two future eons. This is the "especially" salvation of the context.
This news should relieve the troubled saint who, as he has been reading this chapter, has ruminated to himself, "You mean they are going to be where I am?" Happy day; they will be dead while you live through the eons. The gift of belief grants you eonian life; they don’t have it. Yet they rise to immortality later at a time known in scripture as "the consummation" (1 Corinthians ), when God abolishes the one thing holding them back: death (1 Corinthians ). If they don’t rise to immortality, then God isn’t their Savior and the scriptures lie. I prefer to believe that religion lies.