SPECIAL TOPIC: ETERNAL (aiōnios)

Robert B. Girdlestone, in his book Synonyms of the Old Testament, has an interesting comment on the word "eternal":

"The adjective aiōnios is used more than forty times in the N.T. with respect to eternal life, which is regarded partly as a present gift, partly as a promise for the future. It is also applied to God's endless existence in Rom. 16.26; to the endless efficacy of Christ's atonement in Heb. 9.12; 13.20; and to past ages in Rom. 16.25; 2 Tim. 1.9; Titus 1.2.

This word is used with reference to eternal fire, Matt. 18.8; 25.41; Jude 1:7; eternal punishment, Matt. 25.46; eternal judgment or condemnation, Mark 3.29; Heb. 6.2; eternal destruction, 2 Thess. 1:9. The word in these passages implies finality, and apparently signifies that when these judgments shall be inflicted, the time of probation, change, or the chance of retrieving one's fortune, will have gone by absolutely and for ever.  We understand very little about the future, about the relation of human life to the rest of existence, and about the moral weight of unbelief, as viewed in the light of eternity.  If, on the one hand, it is wrong to add to God's word, on the other we must not take away from it; and if we stagger under the doctrine of eternal punishment as it is set forth in Scripture, we must be content to wait, cleaving to the Gospel of God's love in Christ, while acknowledging that there is a dark background which we are unable to comprehend" (pp. 318-319).

 

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