Friday, September 1, 2023

A Refutation of “The Old Testament on Hell”

If what most Christians believe concerning the “eternal destiny” of those who die in their sins were actually true, then one would expect God to have revealed it to mankind at some point during the relatively lengthy span of time that’s covered by the first 39 books of the Bible. That is, if there has been a place or state of “eternal punishment” (or “eternal separation from God”) awaiting un-forgiven sinners for as long as mankind has been on the earth, then it’s entirely reasonable to believe that God would’ve revealed this fact somewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures. For a God who is perfectly benevolent and merciful – as most Christians would agree that God is – would surely want to warn his human creatures about such a terrible fate (so as to prevent as many from experiencing it as possible).

In fact, for a doctrine as consequential and far-reaching in its theological and practical implications as the doctrine of hell surely is, one would expect it to have been revealed by God shortly after – if not before – sin first entered the world through the first man, Adam. And not only this, but one would expect the subject of hell – and of the “afterlife” in general – to be one of the main focuses of God’s inspired written revelation to mankind (with clear references to, and frequent warnings concerning, such a place permeating the pages of our Bibles). But that’s not at all what we find. Not only do we not find it revealed early on in Scripture that a place or state of “eternal torment” awaits all who die in their sins, but we find no clear and explicit reference to it anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Lest one think that this is simply my own biased and unsubstantiated opinion, here is what one evangelical Christian scholar (Daniel Block) wrote concerning the subject of what the Hebrew Scriptures reveal concerning “eternal torment” (emphasis mine):

“We find hints of the netherworld and the afterlife as a place/time of eternal torment (in contrast to a beatific afterlife for the righteous) as we know it from the New Testament in only two Old Testament texts: Isaiah 66:24 and Daniel 12:2.” [1]

Setting aside the implication in Block’s statement concerning what the New Testament reveals about “a place/time of eternal torment,”[2] I find the above statement remarkable for a couple of reasons. First, the statement appears more than halfway through a chapter from a book that’s supposed to be devoted to providing evidence for the doctrine of hell from the Old Testament (and which is titled, “The Old Testament on Hell”). This means that, by the time we’re more than halfway through Block’s chapter, he has yet to provide the reader with any actual Scriptural evidence in support of the view that “a place/time of eternal torment” is revealed in the Old Testament. Second, not only are we told by Block that there are “only two” texts in the entire Old Testament that provide any support for the doctrine of hell, but these two texts from the Hebrew Scriptures are said to only provide us with mere “hints” that a place/time of eternal torment even exists!

So, is it, in fact, the case that the two Old Testament texts referred to by Block (i.e., Isaiah 66:24 and Daniel 12:2) actually support the doctrine that there is “a place/time of eternal torment” that awaits the unrighteous in “the afterlife?” As will no doubt be obvious to the reader at this point, I believe the answer to this question is “no.” But of course, such an answer needs to be substantiated by an examination of the texts themselves. It is, therefore, to this task that the remainder of this article will be devoted.

Isaiah 66:24

The first of the two verses from the Old Testament that Block believes provides us with a “hint of hell” is the last verse in the book of Isaiah. Before we examine this verse, let’s first briefly consider the context in which it’s found.

In the final chapter of the book of Isaiah, it’s prophesied that the nation of Israel – including its capitol city, Jerusalem – is ultimately going to be restored (cf. Ezekiel 37:1-14, where this supernatural event is figuratively referred to as the resurrection of the nation). We also read that this event – which will result in long-lasting peace and prosperity for Israel – will be accompanied by a fearful display of divine indignation against the enemies of God and his covenant people.

We go on to find a beautiful description of the conditions that will characterize this future period of time: following the geo-political restoration of the Jewish nation, the city of Jerusalem will become the center of worship for the world, with people from among the nations streaming into the city to worship Yahweh, the one true God (we find this future state of affairs prophesied in Isaiah 2:1-4 as well).

In what could be considered the final “prophetic snapshot” with which the book of Isaiah concludes, we find a rather unsettling description of what those among the nations who will be travelling to and from Jerusalem will see (or will be able to see) during their pilgrimage. Here is how Isaiah 66:24 reads as quoted in Block’s essay:

And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.

Block seems unsure as to the extent to which this closing verse actually supports the Christian doctrine of hell. At one point he notes that “the sight that greets the worshippers coming out of Jerusalem is not a netherworldly scene. On the contrary, the image is realistic and earthly.”

Block is, I believe, 100% correct here. Based on what we read in Isaiah 66:24 (and in the verses leading up to it), we have no reason at all to think that what’s being described will be occurring somewhere other than on the earth at a future time. That is, we have no good reason to think that there won’t be actual people on the earth from among the nations who will, at a certain future time, be travelling to Jerusalem to worship before Yahweh, and that these same people will ”go out and observe the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against [Yahweh].”

But what, then, is meant by the “worm” that we’re told “shall not die?” The word translated “worm” in this verse (towla) only occurs a few times in Scripture. However, in two of its occurrences it is clearly associated with death and decay. In Exodus 16:20 we read that the leftover manna “bred worms (towla) and stank.” It also appears in Isaiah 14:11, where we read the following concerning the demise of the king of Babylon: “All your pomp has been brought down to Sheol, along with the noise of your harps; maggots are laid as a bed beneath you, and worms (towla) are your covers.” Here, “worms” are clearly associated with death and decay.

The New English Translation actually uses the word “maggots” to translate towla in Isaiah 66:24:

They will go out and observe the corpses of those who rebelled against me, for the maggots that eat them will not die, and the fire that consumes them will not die out. All people will find the sight abhorrent. 

The NET notes for this verse explain that it “depicts a huge mass burial site where [a] seemingly endless pile of maggot-infested corpses are being burned” (

The “worm” referred to in Isaiah 66:24 is said to “not die” to emphasize the fact that it will be present and active as long as corpses remain to be eaten. This is gruesome imagery to be sure, but it serves to further emphasize the dishonorable status and condition of those who rebelled against Yahweh. 

But what about the fire that “shall not be quenched” (or “will not die out?)” Answer: This expression has nothing to do with a fire that burns absolutely without end. For example, Leviticus 6:12-13 speaks of the fire on the altar as being one that “shall always be burning” and which “shall not be quenched.” The same language was used in Jeremiah 17:27 in reference to a fire that has long since gone out:

“But if you will not heed Me to hallow the Sabbath day, such as not carrying a burden when entering the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.”

Similarly, in Ezekiel 20:47-48 we read the following:

Say to the forest of the Negeb, Hear the word of Yahweh: Thus says the Lord Yahweh, Behold, I will kindle a fire in you, and it shall devour every green tree in you and every dry tree. The blazing flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from south to north shall be scorched by it. All flesh shall see that I, Yahweh, have kindled it; it shall not be quenched.

No one understands the language used in these verses to mean that the fires in view would go on burning for “all eternity.” The idea being communicated is that, once the fire was started, it would continue to burn as long as something remained to be burned. The fire would not, in other words, be prematurely extinguished.

That the burning and worm-infested corpses being referred to in v. 24 will be a visible sight for those travelling to and from the city of Jerusalem during the eon to come is further evident from the way the verse ends: “And they will become a repulsion to all flesh“ (or, as the NET reads, “All people will find the sight abhorrent.”).

Who are the “they” referred to here? Answer: it’s a clear reference to the corpses of those who transgressed against Yahweh. As if the sight of dead bodies wasn’t bad enough, seeing them being eaten by worms and destroyed by fire will indeed be a repulsive and abhorrent sight. It certainly won’t be something that anyone will want to spend an extended period of time observing. But it will be a fully visible scene, nonetheless, and will serve as a solemn and sobering warning to would-be transgressors during this future period of time.

But whose corpses was Isaiah referring to? Well, we know they’ll belong to those who “transgressed” or “rebelled” against Yahweh. And from the context of Isaiah 66, it’s reasonable to infer that the vast majority of the corpses will (at least initially) belong to the enemies of Yahweh that we find referred to in verses 14-16:

And the hand of Yahweh for His servants will be known,
Yet it will menace His enemies.
For behold, Yahweh, with fire shall He come,
And His chariots like a sweeping whirlwind,
To bring back His anger with fury,
And His rebuke with blazes of fire.
For with fire Yahweh shall come to judge,
And with His sword upon all flesh;
And Yahweh’s slain will be multitudinous.

However, it’s also reasonable to believe that any death-penalty-deserving rebels during this future period of time will, after being executed, end up among the corpses referred to in Isaiah 66:24. In any case, we have no good reason to reject a literal fulfillment of what’s prophesied in Isaiah 66:24. There is simply no good reason to believe that the future state of affairs described in this verse will involve anything other than literal corpses that will be seen by people travelling to and from Jerusalem at this future time (and that literal worms/maggots and literal fire will be contributing to the speedy destruction of these corpses).

Moreover (and in accord with the fact that those who have died are no longer alive), we know from elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures that those who have died (and who are thus lifeless) – i.e., those who have gone to what the inspired Hebrew writers referred to as “Sheol” (i.e., the realm/domain of death) – are no longer aware of anything, or engaged in any kind of conscious activity:

“The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing.” Eccl 9:5

Whatever your hand finds to do, do with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.” Eccl 9:10

“For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who can give you praise?” Psalm 6:5

“The dead do not praise Yahweh, nor do any that go down into silence.” Psalm 115:17

“His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” Psalm 146:4

“For Sheol cannot thank you, death cannot praise you; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness.” Isaiah 38:18

Thus, if anyone is going to be undergoing any kind of unpleasant sensations or experiencing any degree of discomfort at the time when the events prophesied in Isaiah 66:24 are being fulfilled, it won’t be the corpses of the transgressors (for, having been killed in the divine judgment of which we read in Isaiah 66:15-17, these future transgressors will be dead, and thus completely unaware of what’s happening). Instead, any discomfort that will be had at this time will belong to those among the living who will be observing the corpses (and who, we’re told, will be finding the sight “abhorrent”)!

Toward the end of his remarks on Isaiah 66:24, Block writes that “the context clearly involves a contrast between the ultimate destiny of the righteous and the wicked.” It’s evident that, by his use of the expression “ultimate destiny,” Block believes that the state of affairs prophesied in Isaiah 66 will be final and unchanging. However, Block provides no argumentation in defense of this view (apparently, he thinks none is required). Despite Block’s apparent confidence in what he thinks the context “clearly involves,” we actually have good reason to believe that the prophesied state of affairs described in this verse will be temporary (and that it therefore does not pertain to anyone’s “ultimate destiny”).

We know that the state of affairs prophesied in Isaiah 66:24 will not commence until after Christ returns to earth (which will bring this present eon to a close and inaugurate what we find referred to in Scripture as “the eon to come”). In fact, Block – like most Christians – would likely agree that the fulfillment of what’s prophesied in Isaiah 66:24 is still future. However, this means that what’s prophesied in Isaiah 66:24 will be occurring during that period of time that John had in view in Revelation 20:4-6. In these verses we read the following:

I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

We also know that, at some point after the millennial reign of Christ and the saints referred to in the above passage has elapsed (and after the post-millennial events described in Rev. 20:7-10 have occurred), the earth is going to be destroyed and then replaced by a new earth (Rev. 20:11; 21:1; cf. 2 Peter 3:5-13). Since the earth on which the state of affairs described in Isaiah 66:24 will be taking place is not permanent, it follows that the state of affairs described in Isaiah 66:24 are not permanent, either. Not only this, but we also have good reason to believe that the state of affairs described in Isaiah 66:24 can’t be present on the new earth. For in Rev. 21:4 we read that, on the new earth, “death shall be no more.” Since the state of affairs described in Isaiah 66:24 is one that will essentially involve death and corruption, it follows that this verse is a prophecy concerning events that will be occurring before the new earth is created.

Moreover, if Isaiah 66 did reveal the “ultimate destiny” of the wicked, it would mean that the wicked are going to remain dead for all eternity (for it’s nowhere revealed in Isaiah that the transgressors whose corpses will be seen by the worshippers departing from Jerusalem will be restored to a living existence). But this would not only contradict what’s revealed in the Greek Scriptures concerning the resurrection of the dead (including what we read in Rev. 20:4-6 concerning the resurrection of those who will not be among those in “the first resurrection”), but it would also be contrary to what’s revealed in the only other verse from the Hebrew Scriptures to which Block appeals in defense of the doctrine of hell (i.e., Daniel 12:2). This means that those whose corpses will be seen on the earth during the future time period that’s in view in Isaiah 66:24 will not remain dead forever. They’ll be among those who, in Rev. 20:5, are described as “the rest of the dead” who will not “come to life until the thousand years [are] ended.”

Block then concludes his remarks on Isaiah 66:24 as follows:

“While Isaiah himself may not have had in mind hell as we later learn about it, it was a small and natural step for Jesus and later New Testament writers to utilize Isaiah’s image for their own purposes.”

Block seems to admit that the judgment of which Isaiah prophesied is a judgment that will be occurring on the earth. But as I’ve argued in my study The “Hell” of which Jesus Christ Spoke, there’s simply no good reason to believe that the judgment of which Christ warned when he quoted from Isaiah’s closing prophecy is a different judgment than the judgment of which Isaiah himself prophesied. We have no good reason to believe that Jesus “utilized” Isaiah 66:24 for a different “purpose” than the purpose for which the prophecy was originally given. When Jesus spoke of “Gehenna” (as he did when referring to Isaiah’s prophecy), he was simply revealing the geographical location where the corpses referred to in Isaiah 66:24 will be seen at the future time with which Isaiah’s prophecy is concerned. That is, according to Christ, “Gehenna” (or Hinnom Valley) is the location into which the corpses of the transgressors will be cast (and where they’ll subsequently seen by those leaving Jerusalem) after he returns to earth to establish the kingdom of God.

Daniel 12:2

As we’ve seen, the judgment being prophesied in Isaiah 66:24 not only has nothing to do with “the afterlife,” but it has nothing to do with anyone being “eternally tormented.” In fact, this prophecy doesn’t even refer to anyone being tormented at all. Instead – and as is helpfully explained in the NET Bible note on this verse – this prophecy “depicts a huge mass burial site where [a] seemingly endless pile of maggot-infested corpses are being burned.”

This, then, leaves us with the only other Old Testament text that Block believes provides some support for the Christian doctrine of hell: Daniel 12:2. So does this verse reveal, for the first time ever in Scripture, that the final state of some people will involve “eternal torment?” The main reason why Block and other like-minded Christians are inclined to answer this question in the affirmative is based on how this verse is translated in the most commonly-read English Bibles. Here, for example, is how Daniel 12:2 reads in the English Standard Version:

“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”

The term “everlasting” (in the expressions translated “everlasting life” and “everlasting contempt”) is, of course, the word that gives readers the impression that this verse is referring to the final destiny of certain people (and which, therefore, makes this verse appear to support the doctrine of hell). Now, I contend – and will be providing scriptural evidence a little later – that the English word “everlasting” does not accurately communicate the meaning of the Hebrew word for which it’s commonly used as a translation in this verse and elsewhere. However, let’s set aside the question of the translational accuracy of this word for the time being, and assume (for the sake of argument) that the Hebrew term that’s commonly translated “everlasting” in this verse actually means “everlasting.” Even if that were the case, this verse still falls far short of supporting the idea that those who “shall awake…to shame and everlasting contempt” will suffer endless torment.

Notice that, among those whom we’re told “shall awake” (i.e., be resurrected), it is only those in the first group are said to awake “to everlasting life.” The implication is that the second group who will be resurrected will not enjoy the blessing that is in view by the use of the expression translated “everlasting life.” But if that’s the case – that is, if those belonging to the second group aren’t going to be enjoying the blessing of “everlasting life” – then the following must be true: At some point after those in the second group are resurrected, they’re going to be returned to the same lifeless state they were in before being resurrected. In contrast, it is those belonging to the first group who will get to remain alive for the duration of time to which the Hebrew word translated “everlasting” refers.

Notice, also, that the “shame” to which the latter category of people “shall awake” is not what’s said to be “everlasting.” Thus, even if the “shame” to which they’ll awake is something that they’ll be experiencing after being resurrected, there is no indication that their experience will continue for the same duration of time as the life of the former group. Instead, that which is said to be “everlasting” with regard to the second group of people is “contempt.” And this does not refer to something that those who will awake to “shame” will be experiencing.

The Hebrew term translated “contempt” in Daniel 12:2 (deraon) is, significantly, the same term translated “abhorrence” in Isaiah 66:24. And just as this word has nothing to do with the conscious experience of the corpses in Isaiah 66:24 (it instead refers to the reaction and negative attitude of the living people who will be observing them), so the word in Daniel 12:2 should be understood as a description of how the first category of people mentioned in this verse (i.e., those who will awake to “everlasting life”) will regard the second category of people mentioned in this verse. In other words, for those who will awake “to shame and everlasting contempt,” that which will be “everlasting” in duration is the negative feeling or attitude that those in the first group (i.e., those who will have “everlasting life”) will have toward them.

That those who will awaken to “shame and everlasting contempt” will, after being resurrected, be judged and then returned to a lifeless state is confirmed from what’s revealed in Revelation 20:4-6 (which I quoted earlier). Those whom we’re told will share “in the first resurrection” belong to the first group people referred to in Daniel 12:2 (i.e., those who “shall awake…to everlasting life”), while those referred to as “the rest of dead” will consist of (or at least include) the second group of people referred to in Dan. 12:2. We go on to read the following in Rev. 20:11-15 concerning “the rest of the dead” who will not “come to life until the thousand years [are] ended”:

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Those whose names will not be “found written in the book of life” (and who will consequently be cast into the lake of fire and thereby undergo “the second death”) are those who we’re told in Daniel. 12:2 will “awake to shame and everlasting contempt.” It is these who are later described as consisting of “the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable” as well as “murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and liars” (Rev. 21:8). It is while they’re standing before the throne and being judged that they’ll experience the “shame” referred to in Daniel 12:2. After being judged, however, they’ll be returned to the same lifeless state they were in before being judged. It is this event (i.e., their being returned to the same lifeless state they were in before being judged) that will be their “second death.” And it is during the time that they’ll be dead that those who will be enjoying the “life” referred to in Dan. 12:2 will regard them with “contempt.”

What needs to be emphasized, however, is that the “everlasting” fate of those who shall be resurrected “to shame and everlasting contempt” will not, after they’re judged, involve being alive. In contrast with those who we read will have “everlasting life,” those in the second group referred to in Dan. 12:2 will, after being judged at the “great white throne,” be returned to a lifeless (and thus unconscious) state. As undesirable as such a state will be (at least, when contrasted with the blessing of those who will have a part in “the first resurrection”), it will not involve being “eternally tormented.”

The Hebrew term olam

As we’ve seen, Daniel 12:2 – even as it reads in the most popular English Bible translations – doesn’t support the idea that some people are, at a future time, going to undergo “eternal torment.” However, there is an even bigger and more fundamental problem with appealing to Daniel 12:2 in support of the doctrine of hell.

The problem I have in mind concerns the meaning of the Hebrew word that, in most English Bibles, is translated as “everlasting” in Daniel 12:2 and elsewhere (i.e., “olam”). According to the Brown-Driver-Briggs English and Hebrew Lexicon, the Hebrew word olam means “long duration, antiquity, futurity” ( The term was evidently derived from the verb “alam” (which means “to veil from sight” or “to conceal”), and can thus be understood as denoting an undefined or “concealed” duration of time (whether past, present or future). That is, olam denotes an “age” or “eon” (and not “eternity”).

In support of this understanding of the meaning of olam, we find that the term was regularly used by the inspired writers of the Hebrew Scriptures to refer to past, present and future periods of time that are ultimately limited in duration. The following are just a few examples from the Torah that demonstrate this meaning of the word olam (I’ve opted to quote from the Concordant Version of the Old Testament, since – in contrast with other, less literal Bible versions – it consistently translates olam with either the English noun “eon” or the adjectival form of this word [“eonian”]):

Genesis 6:4
They were the masterful ones, who were from the eon, mortals of renown.

Clearly, the “masterful ones” of whom we read in this verse didn’t exist from “eternity”; rather, they lived in what would’ve been considered by the writer (Moses) to be the distant past.

Gen. 13:15
For all the land that you are seeing, I shall give it to you and to your seed unto the eon.

Gen. 17:8 (cf. Gen. 48:4)
And I give to you and to your seed after you the land of your sojourning, all the land of Canaan, as an eonian holding; and I will be Elohim to them.

The land promised to Abraham and his “seed” is not going to belong to Israel for “eternity.” We know this because the earth of which the promised land is a part will one day be destroyed and replaced by a new earth (Heb. 1:10-12; 2 Pet. 3:7-13; cf. Matt. 5:18; Rev. 21:1). Thus, although Abraham and his descendants through Isaac and Jacob will be enjoying their promised territorial allotment for a long period of time (at least a thousand years; see Revelation 20), this promise has nothing to do with “eternity.”

Exodus 15:18
Yahweh, He shall reign for the eon and further.

The word translated “and further” in this verse is the Hebrew noun ‘ad (Strong's Hebrew: 5703. עַד (ad) -- perpetuity ( Here it expresses the idea of duration beyond the duration of time that’s denoted by the term olam (and which is translated “eon”). However, since there can be nothing further than eternity, the duration of time expressed by olam in this verse cannot be endless.[3]

Exodus 21:6
Then his lord will bring him close to the door or to the jamb, and his lord will bore his ear with an awl; and he will serve him for the eon.

Obviously, there are no servants from Moses’ day who are still serving their masters. The servitude in view in this and other similar verses (e.g., Lev. 25:46 and Deut. 15:17) is not something that is still ongoing, or something that will be occurring in “eternity.” The servant’s servitude was to continue “for the eon” – i.e., as long as he lived during this eon, or age. The indefinitely long period of time that’s in view here (and which is being denoted by the Hebrew term olam) has no reference to any period of time beyond the eon during which the lords and servants in Israel lived and died.

Exodus 40:15
So it will come to be that their anointing is to bestow on them an eonian priesthood throughout their generations.

The priesthood in view here will not be functioning for “eternity”; the state of affairs is confined to a long and undefined – but ultimately limited – span of time. Notice also the parallel use of the statement, “throughout their generations.” This indicates that the undefined span of time that’s in view here is one in which generations of Israelites come and go.

Numbers 19:10-11
This will be an eonian statute for the sons of Israel and for the sojourner sojourning in their midst: The one touching the dead body of any human soul will be unclean seven days…

Numbers 19:10 is just one of many examples in which the term olam is used to describe the duration of the statutes of the law of Moses. Although such statutes of the law could be accurately described as lasting for (or pertaining to) an indefinitely long period of time, they are by no means “eternal.” Scripture is clear that the law of Moses was never intended to continue for “all eternity.” Moreover, God (who inspired and instructed Moses to say what he did concerning the duration of the law and its statutes) knew that these and other statutes wouldn’t remain forever, and would not have inspired Moses to use the term olam if its meaning wasn’t consistent with the limited duration of the law.

Deuteronomy 23:3, 6
No Ammonite or Moabite shall come into the assembly of Yahweh. Even the tenth generation from them shall not come into the assembly of Yahweh for the eon…You shall neither inquire after their well-being nor their good all your days for the eon.

This restriction and command concerning the Ammonites and Moabites has no reference to anything that will be occurring in “eternity.” The state of affairs in view here is confined entirely to people’s mortal lifetimes (“all your days”) during the eon in which the commands were given.

Deut. 32:7
Remember the days of the eon; understand the years of generation after generation.

Israel was not being exhorted to remember the days of “eternity,” or of time that stretches endlessly into the past. Rather, it is the years of past generations that are in view (cf. Eccl 1:10; Isaiah 46:9; 51:9; Mal 3:4). 

There are many more such examples throughout the Hebrew Scriptures in which the word olam was used to denote a span of time that most, if not all, students of Scripture would agree is limited in duration.[4] Although it’s clear that the word olam was used by the inspired Hebrew writers to refer to past, present and future periods of time that are limited in duration, Block would, nevertheless, likely object that olam was also used to refer to duration that is not just undefined and “concealed” but also absolutely endless. For example, Block attempts to defend this understanding of how olam was used (or, at least, how it was sometimes used) by appealing to Psalm 90:2. Here is how this verse reads in the ESV:

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

However, it’s not necessary (or even preferable; see below), to translate olam as “everlasting” here. In a more literal translation this verse reads as follows:

“Before mountains were brought forth, and Thou dost form the earth and the world, even from age unto age Thou [art] God” (Young’s Literal Translation).

Similarly, in the Concordant Version we read, “…even from eon unto eon You are [God].”

In the Hebrew expression that’s translated above as “from age unto age” or “from eon unto eon,” the noun olam occurs twice. In support of these more literal translations is the fact that, in the Septuagint – i.e., the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures that was in common use in the first century, and was occasionally quoted by the inspired writers of the Greek Scriptures – the Greek term that was used to translate olam is the noun aión (which means “eon” or “age”); see

In accord with this fact, we find the word aión used throughout the Greek Scriptures in both the singular form (denoting a single “age” or “eon”) and the plural form (denoting two or more “ages” or “eons”). We read, for example, of past eons (Rom. 16:25; 1 Cor. 2:7; 10:11; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:26, Heb. 9:26), of a present eon (Matt. 12:32; 13:40; 24:3; 1 Cor. 2:6-8; Gal. 1:4), and of future eons that will follow the present eon (Mark 10:30; Matt. 12:32; 13:40; 24:3; Luke 18:30; Eph. 1:21; 2:7; Jude 1:25).[5] It’s also clear from what is said concerning the past eons that they are limited in number, for we read that there was a time before the eons began (1 Cor. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 1:2). We also read of “the consummation of the eons” (1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 9:26), which indicates that the succession of eons revealed in Scripture has an end as well as a beginning. In fact, it’s implied that there was at least one eon that transpired before “the mountains were born.”

This isn’t to say that God’s eternality (i.e., his transcendence of time) can’t be understood as implied in the expression “from eon unto eon.” For it is by virtue of Yahweh’s eternality and unchanging nature that he is able to be the God who is “from eon unto eon.” However, this fact about God’s nature is not being directly communicated by the use of the term olam. That is, olam does not, by itself, communicate the idea of eternality (whether it be the eternality of God or anything else). All that olam denotes is a period of time of unspecified duration (i.e., an eon, or age). And even if every past and future eon is ultimately of limited duration (as I believe to be the case), it would still be true to say that Yahweh is God “from eon unto eon” or “from age unto age.” This fact in no way implies that God’s existence is limited to the eons, or ages. Again, the fact that God is “from eon unto eon” implies that his existence transcends the time periods that are in view.

Not only does Psalm 90:2 make perfectly good sense when olam is translated as “eon” or “age,” but the use of the term “everlasting” actually results in unnecessary confusion, and decreases (rather than improves) the intelligibility of the verse. It should be obvious that an everlasting duration of time can’t be followed by another everlasting duration of time. This means that the first “everlasting” of which we read in Psalm 90:2 would have to be understood as referring to time stretching endlessly into the past (i.e., from a present “starting point”), while the second “everlasting” would have to be understood as referring to time stretching endlessly into the future (from the same present “starting point”).

However, the idea of time stretching back infinitely into the past is, arguably, incoherent. If the present time had been preceded by an infinitely long span of time, then we would have never “arrived at” the present time. It is, therefore, impossible for the present time to have been preceded by an infinitely long span of time. From this consideration it follows that time had to have had a beginning (which was, most likely, when God created the heavens and the earth “in the beginning”). Thus, the first use of olam in Ps. 90:2 can’t be understood as referring to an endlessly long (or “everlasting”) past duration of time. But if that’s the case, then neither occurrence of olam in Ps. 90:2 can refer to endless duration (for, again, an “everlasting” duration of time can’t be succeeded by another “everlasting” duration of time).

Now, keeping in mind the fact that the Hebrew noun “olam” simply means “age” or “eon” (or, when used as an adjective, “lasting for an age,” “pertaining to an age” or simply “eonian”), let’s now consider a more literal translation of Daniel 12:2. In Young’s Literal Translation, this verse reads as follows:

“And the multitude of those sleeping in the dust of the ground do awake, some to life age-during, and some to reproaches -- to abhorrence age-during.”

And in the Concordant Version of the Old Testament we read,

“From those sleeping in the soil of the ground many shall awake, these to eonian life and these to reproach for eonian repulsion.”

A commonly-raised objection regarding these more literal translations of olam could be expressed as follows: If the “repulsion” (or “contempt”/“abhorrence”) of which we read in Daniel 12:2 will only be temporary in duration, then wouldn’t it mean that the “life” of which we read will only be temporary as well? And if that’s the case, then wouldn’t it follow that those who are going to “awake to eonian life” are ultimately going to die?

This conclusion doesn’t follow, however. If the word “olam” refers to one (or both) of the future eons of which we read elsewhere in Scripture (e.g., in Eph. 2:7), then we’re simply being told in this verse that some will get to enjoy the blessing of life during these future eons(s) in view, while others won’t (they will, instead, be regarded by the living with a feeling of disgust and contempt during this future time period). This understanding of what’s being revealed in this verse is perfectly consistent with the view that those who will have life during the future eon(s) in view will continue to live after these future eons have run their course. What happens after the eon(s) in view in this verse is simply not being revealed here.

This lack of revealed information in Daniel 12:2 shouldn’t be surprising. God’s revelation of future events (and the periods of time during which they’ll be occurring) is progressive. We shouldn’t expect this verse from the book of Daniel to reveal everything that’s going to occur in the future with regard to those who will “awake” at the time in view. Or at least, we shouldn’t expect a verse from the book of Daniel to reveal as much information concerning the future of those who will be taking part in the resurrections referred to in this verse as we would expect to find in a later book of the Bible (i.e., one of the letters of Paul, or in the book of Revelation).

At this point, those who believe that the “abhorrence age-during”/“eonian repulsion” referred to in Dan. 12:2 will continue without end (and not “merely” for the duration of the ages/eons in view) may appeal to what we read in Revelation 20:11-15 concerning the fate of the “the rest of the dead” (i.e., those who we’re told won’t “come to life until the thousand years [are] ended,” and who – after being judged at the great white throne – will be cast into the lake of fire). However, we would only be justified in believing that those who are to be cast into the lake of fire will remain dead (or may remain dead) for an endless duration of time if there was no other information revealed in the Greek Scriptures concerning the destiny of these people (or concerning what, if anything, will be occurring beyond the future eon during which they’ll be dead). But the fact is that we are provided with information concerning the final destiny of these people. And their final destiny is not going to involve either endless death or endless torment.

For example, in 1 Cor. 15:20-22 we read the following:

Yet now Christ has been roused from among the dead, the Firstfruit of those who are reposing. For since, in fact, through a man came death, through a Man, also, comes the resurrection of the deadFor even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall all be vivified.

To be vivified in Christ is to be made immortal (1 Cor. 15:53-55) and receive the same kind of body with which Christ was roused – i.e., an incorruptible, glorious, powerful and spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:42-44; Phil. 3:21). Thus, being vivified in Christ involves being permanently saved from the condemnation of which sinners are deserving (Rom. 1:32) and of which we’re told sin is the “wages” (Rom. 6:23).

Moreover, the parallelism of v. 22 indicates that the same individuals who are included within the first “all” are included within the second “all.” That is, the individuals referred to by the two uses of the word “all” are identical, and the scope of the first “all” thus determines the scope of the second “all.” And since the first “all” is comprised of all mankind (i.e., everyone into whom “death passed through,” according to Rom. 5:12), it necessarily follows that all mankind shall be vivified in Christ.

The blessing of being vivified in Christ is, therefore, in no way restricted to the relatively small number of humans who die as believers (and who are later referred to as “those who are Christ’s in his presence”). Rather, this future blessing embraces the same individuals who we’re told in Romans 5:12-19 were negatively affected by Adam’s sin, and who shall be justified as a result of Christ’s obedience.

The fact that all mankind shall be justified (and thus vivified in Christ) does not mean that all people have already been justified (or that all people are being justified now). Only believers – i.e., those who have believed the gospel of the grace of God – have been justified at the present time. However, since Christ died for the sins of all mankind, it remains the case that all mankind shall be justified (and thus saved from death).

But when will all mankind be justified and saved? Answer: After revealing that the same “all” who are dying in Adam shall be vivified in Christ, Paul went on to write the following in 1 Corinthians 15:23-28:

Yet each in his own class: the Firstfruits, Christ; thereupon those who are Christ’s in His presence; thereafter the consummation,[6] 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. 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.

Notice that the same term “subjected” in v. 28 is used in reference to both Christ and those who are to be subjected to Christ. Since Christ’s subjection to God will involve his becoming a subject of the kingdom that he’ll be giving up to God (and of which God will become the sole ruler), we can conclude that the “all” who are to be subjected to Christ will also be becoming subjects of this kingdom. This is confirmed by the fact that the “all” who will be subjected to Christ before he gives up the kingdom to God are the same “all” in whom God will be “All.” And since the “all” who are going to be subjected to Christ will include all mankind (and thus everyone who dies in unbelief), we can conclude that the “all” in whom God is going to be “All” will include all mankind (and thus everyone who dies in unbelief). We also know that, before God becomes “All in all,” death is going to be abolished by Christ, and all mankind are going to be vivified. We can therefore conclude that, when all people become subjects of the kingdom that Christ is going to be delivering up to God, all people will be justified.

Moreover, the fact that Christ is eventually going to be “giving up the kingdom to his God and Father” means that he is eventually going to cease reigning over the kingdom. This is confirmed by Paul’s use of the word “until” in v. 25 (which expresses the idea that, when all of Christ’s enemies have been subjected to him, he will cease to reign). This same idea is also being expressed in the words, “then the Son Himself also shall be subjected to Him Who subjects all to Him…” It is by giving up the kingdom to his God and Father that Christ becomes subjected to God. When this occurs, God will become the sole ruler of the future kingdom.[7] And since we have good reason to believe that the future time period that’s in view in Daniel 12:2 will coincide with (and not extend beyond the duration of) Christ’s reign, we can conclude – even apart from what’s clearly revealed concerning the eventual vivification and salvation of all mankind – that the “eonian repulsion” or “abhorrence age-during” of which we read in Daniel 12:2 will ultimately end.

[1] Morgan and Peterson, Hell Under Fire, p. 59. 

[3] Similarly, we read the following in Micah 4:5: 

”Though all the peoples, they shall walk, each man in the name of his elohim, yet we shall walk in the Name of Yahweh our Elohim, for the eon and further.” 

In the LXX translation of this verse, the expression translated above as “for the eon and further” is eis ton aióna kai epekeina. The term “kai” means “and,” while “epekeina” means “further on” or “beyond” ( However, since there can be nothing further than or beyond “eternity,” it follows that the duration of time expressed by the use of the term olam in this verse (and by the use of the expression “eis ton aióna” in the LXX) cannot be a reference to eternity. 

[4] See, for example, the following verses: Genesis 17:7; 17:13, 19; 48:4; Exodus 12:14, 17; 27:20-21; 28:43; 29:28; 30:21; 31:16, 17; Leviticus 6:18, 22; 7:34, 36; 10:9, 15; 16:29, 31, 34; 17:7; 23:14, 21, 31, 41; 24:3, 8, 9; 25:34, 45, 46 [cf. Lev 25:10]; Numbers 10:8; 15:15; 18:8, 11, 19, 23; 19:21; 25:13; Deuteronomy 15:17; Joshua 4:7; 24:2; 1 Samuel 1:22 [cf. v. 28]; 27:8, 12; 2 Samuel 12:10; 1 Kings 8:13; 2 Kings 5:27; 1 Chronicles 16:15, 17; 2 Chronicles 6:2; Job 3:18; 10:22; 21:11; 22:15; 41:4; Psalm 24:7, 9; 73:12; 76:4; 77:5; 78:66, 69; 104:5; 105:10; 115:18 [cf. Psalm 6:4-5; 30:9; 88:10-12]; 143:3; 148:5-6; Proverbs 22:8; 23:10; Ecclesiastes 1:4; 12:5 [cf. 9:10; Job 17:13; 30:23]; Isaiah 24:5; 32:14; 34:10; 55:13; 57:11; 58:12; 60:15; 61:4; 63:9, 11; Jeremiah 5:15, 22; 6:16; 17:4; 18:15-16; 20:17; 23:40; 25:9, 12; 35:6 [cf. v. 8]; 51:39; Ezekiel 26:20; 35:5, 9; 36:2; 37:25; Amos 9:11; Jonah 2:6; Habakkuk 3:6; Micah 2:9. 

[5] In the CLNT, Jude 1:25 reads as follows: “…to the only God, our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, might and authority before the entire eon, now, as well as for all the eons. Amen!” In accord with the use of the words “eon” and “eons” in this translation, Jude used the noun aión twice in this verse (first in the singular, then in the plural). The “entire eon” to which Jude was referring is the present eon (hence the use of the word “now”). The expression translated “all the eons” (pantas tous aiónas) includes both this present eon and the future eons.

[6] In the context, the “consummation” of which we read in v. 24 refers to either the consummation of Christ’s vivifying work (i.e., the vivification of all mankind and consequent abolishment of death), or the consummation of Christ’s reign (i.e., the time when Christ will “be giving up the kingdom to his God and Father” and will thus “be subjected to [God]”). According to either understanding, the consummation of which Paul wrote is inseparably connected with both the end of Christ’s reign (when he delivers the kingdom up to God) and the abolishing of death (when all mankind are vivified in Christ).

[7] Moreover, we also know that the kingdom that will be given up to God will continue without end beyond the duration of the eons of Christ’s reign. It is for this reason that we’re told in Luke 1:33 that “there shall be no consummation” of Christ’s kingdom. For, although Christ’s reign over the kingdom will end when he gives up the kingdom to his God and Father, the kingdom itself will have no end (or “consummation”) after it has been delivered to God.