Monday, March 11, 2019

The Translational Inaccuracy of “Forever and Ever”


Introduction


Predictably, not everyone seemed to be amused by the above Facebook meme. Although I’m not exactly sure if the comment was an expression of disagreement or confusion (or perhaps a little of both), someone commented on the meme with the following, single-word response: “Huh?” Now, I’ll admit that, like most memes, this particular meme presents an oversimplified version of reality that is vulnerable to exceptions and counterexamples. And insofar as this is the case, it’s unlikely to convince the average Christian that they are, in fact, “afraid of translation accuracy” (not that this was the actual purpose of the meme in the first place). But I also think that there is a great deal of truth in the message of the meme, and that the person who left the “Huh?” comment is very likely guilty of the very thing of which the meme is poking fun (in its oversimplified, exaggerated way).

Although most Christians cannot be said to “fear” translation accuracy in a general and unqualified sense, I’ve noticed that their positive stance toward translation accuracy changes as soon as they discover that a more literal and accurate translation threatens to undermine a particular doctrine that they deem important. Their “fear” of translation accuracy is, in other words, directly tied to the threat that a more accurate translation poses to some aspect of their theological system.

In response to the “Huh?” comment, I remarked that the subject of “hell” is a perfect example of how many Christians do, in fact, have a selective aversion to translation accuracy. In my comment, I pointed out how the English word “hell” is not an accurate translation of the Greek word γέεννα (“Gehenna”). As demonstrated in my study, “The Hell of which Jesus Christ Spoke” (http://thathappyexpectation.blogspot.com/.../the-hell-of), the decision to use the English word “hell” to translate the Greek word γέεννα cannot be understood as the result of a commitment to translation accuracy. Rather, such a decision betrays a doctrinal bias that is based on (of all things) Pharisaic views on the afterlife. And I think it’s fair to say that the average Christian is (or would be) suspicious of – if not outright dismissive of – any translation of Scripture that doesn’t contain the word “hell.” Thus, the exaggerated reaction seen in the meme could be understood as expressing their attitude toward a Bible with a more accurate translation of γέεννα.

The word “hell” is, again, just one example of a translation inaccuracy that is happily tolerated by the majority of Christians. In this article, I want to focus on another example of a translational inaccuracy that is present in most popular English Bibles, and of which most Christians are unaware (or, if they are aware of it, would likely prefer that it remain uncorrected so that their theological position can be preserved).

“Forever and ever?” 

The inaccuracy that I have in mind is the use of the expression “forever and ever” in most English Bibles. As with the word “hell,” the occurrence of this expression in certain verses has been used to support the mainline Christian position that at least some created persons will never be saved. Here, for example, is Revelation 20:10 from the English Standard Version

“…and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

It should be noted that we’re not actually told that any other persons besides the three beings referred to in this verse will, in fact, be tormented for any length of time in the lake of fire (and, as I’ll be arguing in a subsequent article, there is a very good reason for Scripture’s complete silence concerning others being tormented in the lake of fire). Still, according to the above translation, there are at least three beings who, after being cast into the lake of fire, are going to be “tormented day and night forever and ever.” This verse is, therefore, seen as a key “proof text” for those who believe that scripture reveals the existence of a place of “eternal conscious torment” in which some people (perhaps many) will ultimately “spend all eternity.”

Now, there’s no question that, if any sinners deserve an extended period of punishment as retribution for their evil deeds, these three wicked beings do. But a punishment that lasts “forever and ever?” I doubt I’m the only one for whom the words “excessive” and “gratuitous” come to mind in view of such a “punishment.” Some Christian thinkers have, of course, tried to justify and make some sort of theological sense of the disturbing scenario that this translation depicts. Although I believe their attempted explanations and rationalizations for why God would will or allow the endless torment of any of his creatures fall short, the purpose of this article is not to argue this point, specifically. Rather, what I’m going to be arguing for in this article is that the expression “forever and ever” doesn’t even belong in the text.

The inconsistencies and inaccuracies of mainstream Bibles

I realize that most Christians will find it very difficult to believe that the majority of Bible translations could possibly be in error concerning their use of the expression “forever and ever.” To demonstrate that there is, in fact, good reason to question the accuracy of those translations in which the expression “forever and ever” appears, let’s consider the various ways in which Ephesians 3:10-11 and 1 Timothy 1:17 have been translated.

We'll begin with Paul's words in Ephesians 3:10-11. Here's how these verses read in three of the most literal and consistently-worded translations:

Young’s Literal Translation: “…that there might be made known now to the principalities and the authorities in the heavenly [places], through the assembly, the manifold wisdom of God, according to a purpose of the ages, which He made in Christ Jesus our Lord…”

Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible: “…In order that now unto the principalities and the authorities in the heavenlies might be made known, through means of the assembly, the manifold wisdom of God,—According to a plan of the ages which he made in the anointed Jesus our Lord…”

Concordant Literal New Testament: “…that now may be made known to the sovereignties and the authorities among the celestials, through the ecclesia, the multifarious wisdom of God, in accord with the purpose of the eons, which He makes in Christ Jesus, our Lord…”

The Greek word translated “ages” or “eons” in these translations is aiónón. It’s the plural form of the noun aión (“age” or “eon”), and literally means “ages” or “eons” (for confirmation of this fact, see the break-down of the verse here: https://biblehub.com/text/ephesians/3-11.htm). As I’ve argued elsewhere, Scripture reveals that there have been past eons (Col. 1:26), that there is a present eon in which we’re now living (Gal. 1:4), and that there will be future eons (Eph. 2:7). We also know that there was a time before the eons began (2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 1:2).

Given the fact that Paul used the plural form of the noun aión, we can conclude that these translations made the right choice in translating the word as “ages” or “eons.” But let’s now contrast these three translations of Ephesians 3:10-11 with what we read in the Bible version that I grew up with – i.e., the New International Version (or NIV). The NIV’s translation of Eph. 3:10-11 reads as follows:

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The adjective “eternal” refers to that which has no beginning and/or no end, and is not at all synonymous with the word “ages” or “eons.” So why did the NIV translators use the adjective “eternal” to translate the plural form of the noun aión in Eph. 3:11 instead of “ages” or “eons?” We’re not told. But what makes the NIV’s translation of aiónón as “eternal” in Ephesians 3:11 even more bewildering is the fact that, just two verses earlier, the same word aiónón is accurately translated as “ages!” Here is Ephesians 3:9 from the NIV: “…and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.”

Again, the same exact word that is translated “ages” in verse 9 (aiónón) is, in the NIV, translated as “eternal” just two verses later! Thus, it’s not as if the translators just forgot that they had a perfectly adequate English word available to them by which to accurately translate aiónón (for they’d just used the word in verse 9). It’s also not the case that the use of the term “ages” in verse 11 would’ve somehow confused the reader; the use of the term “ages” in verse 11 makes just as much sense as the use of the term “ages” in verse 9.

Such translational inconsistency as this is completely unwarranted (and, I believe, inexcusable). These words are part of those sacred writings which Paul himself referred to as “inspired by God” (i.e., “God-breathed”), and as “the word of God” (2 Tim. 3:16; Eph. 6:17; Col. 1:25). As such, they should be handled by any translator with the utmost care. And this means (among other things) doing everything possible to ensure that what Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:11 is as accurately translated as possible. But there is nothing accurate about using two completely different English words to translate a single Greek word used by Paul in Ephesians 3:9 and 11.

1 Timothy 1:17

Having considered the translation of aiónón in Ephesians 3:10-11, let’s now consider Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 1:17. As before, we’ll begin by quoting from three of the most literal and consistently-worded translations:

Young’s Literal Translation: “…and to the King of the ages, the incorruptible, invisible, only wise God, [is] honor and glory -- to the ages of the ages! Amen.”

Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible: “Now unto the King of the ages - incorruptible, invisible, alone God – be honor and glory, unto the ages of ages. Amen!”

Concordant Literal New Testament: “Now to the King of the eons, the incorruptible, invisible, only, and wise God, be honor and glory for the eons of the eons! Amen!”[1]

Notice that, in each of these translations, the plural noun “ages” or “eons” appears exactly three times. The reason for this is simple: in the original Greek, the plural form of the noun aión (aiónón) appears exactly three times. Here is what the verse looks like in the Greek (I’ve placed the relevant words in bold):

τῷ δὲ βασιλεῖ τῶν αἰώνων, ἀφθάρτῳ, ἀοράτῳ, μόνῳ θεῷ, τιμὴ καὶ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων· ἀμήν.[2]

Thus, the three occurrences of the English nouns “ages” or “eons” can be understood as grammatically reflecting what actually occurs in the Greek. This translational decision is consistent and logical, and serves to clarify rather than to obscure. But what does it mean for God to be “the King of the eons” (βασιλεῖ τῶν αἰώνων), and what is meant by the words, “the eons of the eons” (τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων)?

When Paul referred to God as “the King of the eons,” he was expressing the truth that God’s rule and sovereignty extends throughout the time of the ages, or eons. Concerning this expression, A.E. Knoch wrote, “The title “King of the eons’ does not limit God to the eons in time, even as ‘the Lord of the earth’ does not limit Him in space.” As far as the meaning of the expression “the eons of the eons,” this phrase simply distinguishes the future eons from those which precede them. A similar expression that can help us better understand the meaning of this phrase is “the holy of holies.” The expression “holy of holies” refers to the most holy place among the other holy places. Similarly, “the eons of the eons” should be understood as referring to the greatest eons among the other eons.[3]

A common objection at this point is that, according to these more literal translations, Paul would have to be understood as saying that God will receive honor and glory during the two future eons only. Notice, however, that the force of this objection depends entirely on a word that is completely absent from the above translations (i.e., the word “only”). But we’re not told that God will have honor and glory for the eons of the eons only (or that God will have no honor and glory beyond these future periods of time). According to the above translations, Paul was simply putting an emphasis on the honor and glory that God will be receiving during these future time periods (which, as will be argued below, are the eons during which Christ will be reigning after the kingdom of God has been established on the earth).[4]

Moreover, these “eons of the eons” during which God will receive honor and glory can be understood as standing in contrast with the present age or eon. Unlike the future eons, the present eon in which we live is referred to as “wicked“ (Gal. 1:4), and is the eon of which Satan is said to be the “god” (2 Cor. 4:4). It is the eon in which our Lord was crucified, and is characterized by spiritual deception and unbelief. Although God is “the King of the eons,” he is not, at present, receiving anywhere near the degree of honor and glory that he’ll be receiving during the future eons of Christ’s reign. Any honor and glory that God receives during this eon is the exception rather than the rule.

Let’s now contrast the more literal and consistent translations of 1 Timothy 1:17 quoted above with what we find in more popular Bibles. [5] Here is how the NIV reads: ”Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Despite the fact that the expression “King of the ages” or “King of the eons” is a perfectly clear and understandable translation, it seems that the NIV translator(s) of 1 Timothy decided that the more philosophical (and mentally straining) adjective “eternal” better conveyed what Paul was trying to say when he used the term “αἰώνων“ (aiónón) – a term which, again, would be more accurately translated “ages” or “eons.” However, God’s “eternality” (which is a truth that’s implied by the fact that God is both uncreated and immortal) is not the truth that Paul was expressing through his use of the term aiónón. Again, this term is the plural form of the noun aión (“age” or “eon”), and literally means “ages” or “eons.” And the divine appellation of which it’s a part (i.e., βασιλεῖ τῶν αἰώνων or “King of the eons”) simply emphasize the fact that God’s rule and dominion extends throughout the ages, or eons.

Returning now to 1 Timothy 1:17, let’s consider two more examples of how this verse is translated in some of the more popular English Bibles. In the English Standard Version (ESV) we read, ”To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Unlike the NIV, the ESV actually starts off accurately with the words “To the King of the ages.” However, as soon as the ESV begins translating the words eis tous aiónas tón aiónón, the translation abruptly goes off the rails. It must be emphasized that the plural form of the noun aión appears twice in this expression (making it the second and third time that the term appears in this verse). However, one would never know this from the translation “forever and ever.”

It should, however, be noted that what is obscured in the actual text of the ESV (i.e., the use of the plural form of aión) is acknowledged in a footnote. In the footnote for the words, “forever and ever,” we read, ”Greek to the ages of the ages. Notice that, in this more literal translation found in the ESV’s footnote, the word “and” is missing. Rather than saying “forever and ever” (or even “ages and ages”), the more literal expression is “the ages of the ages.” This is more grammatically correct, and corresponds better with what Paul actually wrote. There is no conjunction in the Greek expression eis tous aiónas tón aiónón (the Greek word for “and” is “kai,” not “tón”). So to replace the Greek “of the” (a genitive plural article) with “and” (a conjunction) is grammatically inaccurate.

Like the ESV, the New English Translation (or NET) has “forever and ever” in the main text while providing the reader with a more literal and accurate translation in a footnote. Here’s the NET’s translation of 1 Tim. 1:17: ”Now to the eternal king, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever! Amen.”

In the footnote for the words “the eternal king” we read,  ”Or more literally, “king of the ages.”” The NET has another footnote for the expression “forever and ever”: “Grk ’unto the ages of the ages,’ an emphatic way of speaking about eternity in Greek” (classic.net.bible.org). Once again, we find that the translator(s) apparently decided that the more literal translation (“unto the ages of the ages”) just wouldn’t do Paul’s words justice. But at least we’re able to see their justification for rejecting the more literal expression “unto the ages of the ages” in favor of the less literal expression “forever and ever.” According to the writer of this footnote, the expression “unto the ages of the ages” is “an emphatic way of speaking about eternity in Greek.”

There’s a big problem with this view. If any expression is to be understood as “an emphatic way of speaking about eternity,” it’s clearly the English expression “forever and ever.” The reason this expression is an emphatic way of speaking about eternity is simple: since a single “forever” denotes unending duration (or “eternity”), adding another “ever” could only be for the sake of emphasis (for there can’t be, of course, two eternities in succession). However, in order for the expression “unto the ages of the ages” to be parallel to the expression “forever and ever,” the word “ages” would have to be equivalent in meaning to the word “forever” or “eternity.” But it’s not. Rather, this term denotes two or more periods of time. Can there be a succession of two unending, “eternal” periods of time? Clearly not. Are the “ages” in view constituted by one or more finite ages as well as a single “eternal” age? If so, why use the plural “ages” when only one of the ages in view is really “eternal?” The more we reflect on the claim that the expression “unto the ages of the ages” is to be understood as “an emphatic way of speaking about eternity,” the more problematic and dubious it becomes.

Not surprisingly, we’re not provided with any evidence or argumentation in support of the assertion that the Greek expression translated “forever and ever” in the main text is “an emphatic way of speaking about eternity in Greek.” Of course, we shouldn’t expect much argumentation to be found in a mere footnote. However, apart from any evidence given in defense of this claim, the reader need not feel rationally obligated to agree with it. In fact, the more reasonable response would be to reject the validity of such a claim until being presented with compelling evidence in support of it. When the literal, straight-forward meaning of a word or expression makes sense in its context (i.e., when it doesn’t involve an obvious absurdity or contradiction), the burden of proof is on the one claiming that the expression shouldn’t be understood literally.

Those who believe the more literal translation “unto the ages of the ages” (or “for the eons of the eons”) does not as accurately express the thought of the inspire writer(s) as the less literal expression “forever and ever” need to justify their deviation from the literal wording. Otherwise, we can simply assume that the translator’s departure from the more literal wording was nothing more than an interpretive decision that’s motivated more by the translator’s own theological bias than to a commitment to translational accuracy.

The duration and goal of Christ’s reign

Having considered certain inconsistencies and inaccuracies involved in the use of the expression “forever and ever” in mainstream Bible versions, I want to now present a scriptural argument that I believe puts the final nail in the coffin for this particular translational inaccuracy.

In 1 Corinthians 15:22-28 we read the following:

22 For even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall all be vivified.
23 Yet each in his own class: the Firstfruit, Christ; thereupon those who are Christ's in His presence;
24 thereafter the consummation, whenever He may be giving up the kingdom to His God and Father, whenever He should be nullifying all sovereignty and all authority and power.
25 For He must be reigning until He should be placing all His enemies under His feet.
26 The last enemy is being abolished: death.
27 For He subjects all under His feet. Now whenever He may be saying that all is subject, it is evident that it is outside of Him Who subjects all to Him.
28 Now, whenever all may be subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also shall be subjected to Him Who subjects all to Him, that God may be All in all.

According to what the apostle Paul reveals in this remarkable prophecy, there is coming a time (which Paul referred to as “the consummation” or “the end”) when the kingdom over which Christ will be reigning is going to be given up to Christ’s God and Father. In other words, the kingdom that is in view in verse 24 will be under Christ only up to a certain point. When it’s given up to God, it will cease to be Christ’s, and will belong solely to the One from whom Christ originally received it. It can also be reasonably inferred from this passage that, after the kingdom has been given up to God, the kingdom will then continue, without end, under the rule of God.

That the kingdom will not always be under Christ’s reign is further confirmed from verse 25, where we read that Christ is going to reign “until” he places all of his enemies under his feet (with the last enemy being death). The word translated “until” here (ach’ri) means, “to a given limit.” Paul’s use of this word not only confirms that Christ’s reign is temporary (which verse 24 also makes clear), but it reveals that the placing of Christ’s enemies under his feet is the goal of his reign. When this goal is reached, there will no longer be any need for Christ to continue reigning, and his reign will, consequently, end (hence the use of the word “until”).

This is in accord with Psalm 110:1-2 (which Paul undoubtedly had in mind when he wrote the above words). In this prophecy we read: Yahweh says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool. Yahweh sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies!’” Notice that the rule (or reign) of Christ is to be “in the midst of [his] enemies. His reign continues only for as long as there are enemies remaining. Since, according to Paul, death is the last enemy to be abolished, it follows that the end of Christ’s reign - referred to in v. 24 - comes after death is abolished (which is to occur through the vivification of every last member of humanity). After the destruction of death, Christ then “gives up the kingdom to his God and Father,” thereby subjecting himself to God so that “God may be All in all.”

Moreover, verse 24 makes it clear that the kingdom over which Christ will be reigning will not end when his reign ends. This kingdom will continue in existence even after it has been voluntarily returned to its source (i.e., Christ’s God and Father). It’s further evident from verses 27-28 that, when the kingdom is finally given up to God, it will at this point be universal in scope. It will embrace not only the “all” which had previously been subjected to Christ, but also Christ himself (who, we’re told, will “be subjected to Him Who subjects all to Him, that God may be All in all”).  

Having demonstrated from 1 Corinthians 15:22-28 that Christ’s reign will be temporary (while the kingdom over which he reigns will be endless in duration), let’s now consider the prophetic words of Gabriel in Luke 1:32-33. Here is how these verses are translated in the ESV:

“And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

As will likely be evident to the reader, there is a rather glaring contradiction that is created by the way in which Luke 1:32-33 is translated in this particular Bible version (which can be understood as representative of most English Bible versions). The contradiction that I have in mind involves, of course, the use of the word “forever” in verse 33. Insofar as Christ is only going to reign “until” all his enemies have been placed under his feet (with the last enemy, death, being abolished), it can’t be the case that Christ is going to “reign over the house of Jacob forever.”

Consider the following argument:

1. If Christ’s reign is to eventually end, it can’t be true that he will “reign over the house of Jacob forever” (as Luke 1:33 reads in most English Bibles).
2. According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:22-28, Christ’s reign will eventually end.
3. It can’t be true that Christ will “reign over the house of Jacob forever.”

But how do we resolve this contradiction? Answer: As the reader may have guessed, the contradiction can easily be resolved through a more accurate translation of the Greek words that have been erroneously translated “forever” in the ESV and other popular Bibles.

The Greek expression translated “forever” in the ESV is comprised of three Greek words: eis tous aiónas (this expression should be familiar to the reader, as they also appear in the expression most commonly translated “forever and ever”). Even aside from the contradiction that the word “forever” creates when we take Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 15:22-28 into account, the fact that a single English word was used to translate three Greek words should alert the reader to the possibility that something is amiss here. And something is, indeed, amiss here. As has been pointed out earlier, the word aiónas is simply the plural form of the Greek noun aión (which the ESV usually translates as “age”). As such, it should be translated “ages” or “eons.”

Here is Luke 1:32-33 as it appears in the Concordant Literal New Testament:

“And the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for the eons. And of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

The “ages” or “eons” that are in view here are simply the coming “ages” or “eons” that Paul was referring to in Ephesians 2:7 (significantly, the ESV – as well as every other mainstream Bible I’ve consulted – accurately translates the plural form of the noun aión as “ages” in Eph. 2:7). It is during these future “ages” or “eons” that Christ will be reigning “over the house of Jacob.” And the last “age” or “eon” during which Christ will be reigning will conclude after Christ has placed all his enemies under his feet, and “abolished” the last enemy (death).

Consider the following argument:

1. If Christ’s reign is to eventually end, then the eons for which he shall be reigning will eventually end as well.
2. Christ’s reign will eventually end.
3. The eons for which Christ shall be reigning will eventually end.

Not the end of their story

The closing chapters of Revelation reveal what are, arguable, some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring scenes found in all of Scripture. Most Christians see these chapters as revealing the ultimate goal of “redemptive history.” The creation of the “new heavens and new earth” and the descent of the “new Jerusalem” from heaven are viewed as the climax to which everything is heading. It is at this time that God’s plan of salvation is thought to finally come to fruition, with everything that God has been working toward finally becoming fully realized.

In light of the position for which I’ve been arguing in this article, I believe it can be shown that this common view is mistaken. To demonstrate this, let’s consider the last scriptural occurrence of the expression that we find translated as “forever and ever” in most English Bibles (i.e., “eis tous aiónas tón aiónón”). Here is Revelation 22:5 as it reads in the ESV:

“They [the saints] will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”

In this verse, the expression “forever and ever” creates the same contradiction as does the word “forever” in Luke 1:33. As was argued earlier in this article, Christ’s reign is not going to be “forever” (or “forever and ever”). And the same can be said for the reign of the saints (whose reign will, at the most, be concurrent with the reign of Christ). When Christ himself ceases to reign, it follows that all who will be reigning under his authority will have ceased to reign as well.

As was the case with Luke 1:33, a more accurate translation can resolve the contradiction that is created by the use of the expression “forever and ever” in Rev. 22:5. Here is how the relevant portion of this verse is translated in the Concordant Literal New Testament: And they shall be reigning for the eons of the eons.” This translation is not only more literal and accurate, but it’s consistent with what we know concerning the duration of Christ’s reign. Again, we know that the eons during which Christ will be reigning will continue for only as long as his reign lasts. When Christ’s reign ends and he gives up the kingdom to God, the eons of his reign will end as well. And since the reign of the saints will continue no longer than Christ’s reign, it follows that the eons of their reign (being the eons during which Christ will be reigning as well) will eventually end.

Before concluding this article, I want to revisit the verse I quoted in the introduction (and which, if we move backwards in Revelation, is the verse in which the next occurrence of the expression “eis tous aiónas tón aiónón” is found). Here, again, is how Rev. 20:10 reads in the ESV:

“…and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

Now that we know that the expression “forever and ever” is an inaccurate and untenable translation of the words eis tous aiónas tón aiónón, let’s consider a more literal and accurate translation of this verse. In the Concordant Literal New Testament we read:

And the Adversary who is deceiving them was cast into the lake of fire and sulphur, where the wild beast and where the false prophet are also. And they shall be tormented day and night for the eons of the eons.

The “eons of the eons” referred to in this verse are the very same eons in view in Rev. 22:5 (which are, again, the eons during which Christ and the saints will be reigning). From this it logically follows that the time period during which the three wicked beings who we’re told will be “tormented day and night” in the lake of fire will eventually end. Consider the following argument:

1. The words commonly translated “forever and ever” in Revelation 20:10 (eis tous aiónas tón aiónón) refer to the eons during which Christ and his saints will be reigning.
2. The eons during which Christ and his saints will be reigning will eventually end.
3. The time period during which the three wicked beings referred to in Rev. 20:10 will be tormented in the lake of fire will eventually end.

But what will happen after their time of torment in the lake of fire comes to an end? We don’t have to guess or speculate, for Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:25-28:

For He must be reigning until He should be placing all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy is being abolished: death. For He subjects all under His feet. Now whenever He may be saying that all is subject, it is evident that it is outside of Him Who subjects all to Him. Now, whenever all may be subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also shall be subjected to Him Who subjects all to Him, that God may be All in all.

These three beings will, in other words, be subjected to Christ, and will thus become part of the “all” in which God is going to be “All.” And, as Paul tells us in Colossians 1:17-20, this final state will involve being reconciled to God:

And He [Christ Jesus] is the Head of the body, the ecclesia, Who is Sovereign, Firstborn from among the dead, that in all He may be becoming first, for in Him the entire complement delights to dwell, and through Him to reconcile all to Him (making peace through the blood of His cross), through Him, whether those on the earth or those in the heavens.




Note: Editing credit goes to fellow-believer William Fay for the version of the meme used in this article. 

[1] http://concordant.org/version/literal-new-testament-online/15_firsttimothy/

[3] Significantly, in the LXX translation of 1 Kings 8:6, the Greek expression translated as “into the holy of holies” (εἰς τὰ ἅγια τῶν ἁγίων) has the same grammatical construction as the expression translated “for the eons of the eons” in 1 Tim. 1:17 (εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τν αἰώνων): https://biblehub.com/sepd/1_kings/8.htm

[4] The same can be said for those verses in which we’re told that God “is living for the eons of the eons” (Rev. 4:9-10; 10:6; 15:7). In these verses, we’re not being told that God is living only for the eons of the eons (for, of course, God was alive before the eons began, and will continue to live after they’re over). But why would the truth that God is “living for the eons of the eons” be a truth worth stating (and repeating)? Answer: God often prefaced a promise or pledge that he would bring something about with the words, “As I live” (Numbers 14:21, 28; Isaiah 49:18; Jer. 22:24; 46:18; Ezekiel 5:11; 14:16, 18, 20; 16:48; etc.). This was a way of emphasizing the certainty with which something he promised would occur would, in fact, occur. Thus, the repeated affirmation that God is living for the eons of the eons implies that everything which we’re told will be occurring during these future eons will, in fact, take place.  

[5] With the exception of the CLNT, Rotherham’s and the NET quotation, the quotations and footnotes from the NIV and ESV are from BibleGateway.com.