Joseph Herrin (11-22-2011)
Note: in this chapter I am using the word “aionian” as a transliteration of the Greek word that is often interpreted as “eternal” in the most popular English Bibles. Rather than translating the word as “age-abiding,” “age-lasting,” or “age-during” as some literal translations have done, I am presenting it in a form that serves as an English equivalent to the actual Greek word form.
As I have taught the doctrines relating to God’s plan of the ages I have encountered some common objections to what is being set forth. One of the more frequently raised protestations is that the same word is used in Scriptures to describe “aionian” fire and “aionian” life. The saints have heard it proclaimed with such repetitiveness that Christ has come to bring men “eternal” life, that any suggestion to the contrary is anathema to them. I am convinced, however, that God never meant to place man’s focus upon the length of the life which He provides. Aionian life is not an unending life, it is a life in union with the Father and the Son.
The two Scriptures below include the word aionios. Certain things can be discerned by looking at them.
And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal (aidios) bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal (aionian) fire.
Yahshua said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age (kairos), houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age (aion) to come, eternal (aionian) life.”
I have specifically chosen these two passages from the Scriptures as they show forth the problem of interpreting the Greek word “aionian” as eternal. In the first passage we read that God has been keeping disobedient angels in bonds until they can be delivered up for judgment at “the great day.” Seeing that these bonds are intended to hold these angels for a limited period of time, they cannot be eternal bonds. What is spoken of are temporal bonds.
In the second passage we read that Christ’s disciples will receive aionian life in the aion to come. We have observed previously that the Greek word aion means an age. How then can one receive eternal life inside the bounds of an age to come? This would be akin to trying to contain that which is infinite inside something that is finite.
In the passage from Jude we find that the first occurrence of the English word “eternal” is translated from the Greek “aidios.” This word only occurs twice in Scripture. Numerous Bible translations have rendered this word as “hidden” or “unknown” rather than “eternal.” If we examine the other Scripture in which this word occurs, we see that it is appropriate to render it this way.
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal (aidios - hidden) power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse...
The context of this sentence reveals that it is speaking about things that are invisible to the creation. If we translate the word “aidios” as hidden, or unknown, we find that there is a consistency of meaning to this passage. God is Spirit, and the Scriptures declare that no man has seen Him at any time.
“Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.”
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
Although Yahweh is Spirit and no man has seen Him, He has made known His invisible attributes, including His power and godhead. This is the sense of Paul’s words in Romans 1:20. The invisible God has revealed Himself in creation. When man observes the cosmos he is faced with the evidence of a divine Creator, for Yahweh’s power and wisdom are evident through the things that are made.
It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom, and by His understanding He stretched out the heavens.
Although Yahweh’s power is eternal, this is not what Paul is declaring in Romans 1:20. Paul is speaking of God’s hidden power and sovereignty. No man has actually seen God, or observed Him seated on the throne of heaven. Yet, we can discern Yahweh’s power and sovereign rule through that which He has created.
The Greek word “aidios” is followed by the related word “aidos” in Strong’s Concordance. James Strong defined “aidos” in the following manner.
aidos; perhaps from NT:1 (as a negative particle) and NT:1492 (through the idea of downcast eyes); bashfulness, i.e. (towards men), modesty or (towards God) awe:
Observing the similarity between these two words, and perceiving that “aidos” is expressing the idea of “downcast eyes,” it is not unreasonable to conclude that “aidios” would convey a similar concept. When one’s eyes are looking down, as when one is bashful, then they are not looking directly at something in front of them. In the same way, man cannot look directly at God’s presence, His power and godhead. Yet, we can look at the things Yahweh has made and discern much about His power and godhead.
Following is a rendering of this passage from Jude that I believe more accurately communicates the thought of the author.
And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in hidden bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of age-abiding fire.
Another point in support of this rendering is the reference to Sodom. We read previously that Sodom will be restored to her habitation one day. Sodom’s inhabitants are at this time kept hidden away in bonds, but they are not eternal bonds.
Your sisters, Sodom with her daughters and Samaria with her daughters, will return to their former state, and you with your daughters will also return to your former state.
The question remains, “If eternal life is not the correct understanding of aionian life, then what is this expression intended to convey?” If I do not err, aionian life must refer to that life that God provides for man within the bounds of the ages. This present creation is not eternal. It must one day pass away. Yahweh has devised a plan for the creation encompassing many ages. All will culminate in one great age of ages when all is reconciled to the Father and sin and death are no more. Then comes the end when Christ delivers up the kingdom, all rule and authority, to the Father. All things, including the Son, are then summed up in Yahweh so that He becomes “all in all.”
Aionian life must therefore constitute that divine life that is free of sin and death which Christ provides for men during the ages (aions) of creation. Aionian life is that exceptional life entered into by men who have been reconciled to the Father. These ones partake of fellowship with God, knowing Him, and being known by Him.
I Corinthians 13:12
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
There are many Scripture verses that speak of aionian life as something promised, something set before the Christian as a hope. Although we are partakers of the life of Christ now, we have not yet arrived at the fulness that Paul speaks of in the verse above. One day we will know (Yahweh and His Son) fully even as we are known. This is the end toward which all things are heading.
Knowing God is the predominant characteristic of aionian life.
Yahshua spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give aionian life. This is aionian life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Yahshua Christ whom You have sent.”
In these words of Christ we see that the true characteristic of aionian life is not eternal length, rather it is unfettered fellowship with the Father and the Son. Christ came to set the captives free. Those whom the Son sets free are free indeed. No longer will sin and death keep men from knowing the Father. The Son has brought life that all may know the Father and the Son.
I John 5:20
And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Yahshua Christ. This is the true God and aionian life.
Many Christians are taught that Christ came to give them eternal life. This places the emphasis upon the length of life. Such a translation obscures the true meaning of that life Christ provides. Yahshua made a way for mankind to KNOW GOD. I do not mean that Christians may simply know things about Yahweh. Rather, an entrance into fellowship and union with the Father is provided. Those who are “in Christ” are able to experience union with the Father, a true, deep, abiding intimacy with the One who created them.
I John 1:1-3
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life - and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the aionian life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us - what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Yahshua Christ.
In this passage we once again see aionian life related to fellowship with God and His Son. This is the true characteristic of aionian life; not that it is eternal, but that it is an entering into union with Christ and the Father. If a man were to live forever he might have eternal life. Yet only in Christ are men able to experience aionian life in union with the Father. This is why Christ came.
“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”
Savor these words of Christ. He yearns that men might experience a union with the Father and Himself that was not possible before His crucifixion and resurrection. Adam’s sin had brought a separation between man and God. Christ came to repair the breach. To be restored to fellowship with the Father and the Son is to become a partaker of aionian life.
I John 5:11-12
And the testimony is this, that God has given us aionian life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
Notice a key thought conveyed by John in these words. Aionian life is not like a gift one man would give to another. Aionian life is not something separate from Christ that can be handed to another person. Aionian life is found only “IN” God’s Son. This is what Christ symbolized at the last supper when He invited His disciples to drink the wine as a symbol of His blood.
And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”
The Bible teaches that life (the soul) is in the blood. We must sup up the life of Christ; His divine nature must be found in us; we must be directed and empowered by His Spirit if we are to truly experience aionian life.
So Yahshua said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has aionian life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.”
Here is the crux of the matter. Abiding in Christ is the essence of aionian life.
Consider for a moment the attitude of many Christians today. Many testify happily that in Christ they have received eternal life, but their actions reveal that they have little desire for intimacy or fellowship with the Son. It is a rare event for many Christians to spend intimate time in communion with Christ through seasons of prayer, meditation upon His word, or walking daily with a consciousness of His presence. Such ones are not abiding in Christ. They are not partaking of aionian life. Nor are they much concerned at this deficiency in their Christian walk. They are content to have ministers and other Christians assure them that they will live forever because they have said a sinner’s prayer and confessed belief in the Son of God.
Are not a great many Christians committing the same grave error as the Jews to whom Christ first appeared? To them He declared:
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have aionian life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”
Many Christians study doctrine and quote Bible passages while neglecting to daily abide in Christ. Knowledge about Christ, and a hope of living forever, is not a substitute for eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood. The very life of Christ must be in us. Consider the implications of the following words of Yahshua.
"For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is aionian life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me."
Yahshua did not do anything of His own initiative. Any action or word that is independent of the Father is contrary to life. We are only partaking of aionian life when we are being led of the Spirit in those things we say and do. When the life of God is animating us and directing us, then we are truly experiencing life. This was Christ’s meaning. He testified that to do the Father’s will, fulfilling Yahweh’s commandments to Him, is the essence of life. Such life by necessity is one of fellowship and union. We must know the mind of the Father, and we must look to the strength He provides to accomplish His will.
To walk in the light of truth we need to conform our thoughts to God’s thoughts. When we hear or read about aionian life, we need to think about union, intimacy, and fellowship with the Father and the Son. There should come to our minds a vision of abiding in the Son and the Father.
I John 2:24-25
As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. This is the promise which He Himself made to us: aionian life.
Mankind entering into an abiding relationship with the Father and the Son is the promise which God has given to us. This is aionian life.
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