Whenever I speak of Universal Salvation I’m often accused of dreaming it up. Most agree that would be nice but is wishful thinking. They will point out that the bible clearly teaches that God imposes eternal punishment on non-believers. But is that true? The most popular bible versions use that very phrase. The idea of eternal punishment is very popular. But does popularity override accuracy?
Without the phrase “eternal punishment” in the bible the doctrine of eternal punishment becomes very difficult if not impossible to defend. Ironically the most accurate bible translations, those used for serious bible study, do not contain the phrase “eternal punishment”. Two examples of such study bibles are Young’s Literal and Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible.
These versions of the bible translate eternal as age-during or age-abiding in every instance related to punishment in the afterlife. They are translating the Greek word aión as being an age not eternal. That is the literal meaning of aión and all cognate adjectives derived from it.
Was the idea of eternity not known to the Apostles? Would they need to imply eternity by referring to an era of time? The Apostle Paul clearly knows the difference between an age and actual eternity. There is a Greek word that means eternal and literal bible translations use the word eternal.
“for the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world, by the things made being understood, are plainly seen, both His eternal power and Godhead — to their being inexcusable” – Romans 1:20 (Young’s Literal).
His eternal power and Godhead in this instance literally means eternal. Both Young’s Literal and Rotherham’s Emphasized bible use eternal in this passage. This is the Greek word ἀΐδιος, ον, transliterated aidios (ah-id’-ee-os), Strong’s Greek word ID 126. Definition: everduring (forward and backward, or forward only) — eternal, everlasting.
In other words, if the New Testament authors wanted to teach eternal punishment there is a Greek word they could have used but never did. Instead they always use the Greek word aión which is the idea of when and not how long. In the words of British theologian F. W. Farrar, D.D, F.R.S,
“Since aion meant “an age,” aionios means properly “belonging to an age,” or “age long” ; and anyone who asserts that it must always mean “endless” defends a position which even Augustine practically abandoned twelve centuries ago. Even if aion always meant “eternity” which is not the case either in classic or Hellenistic Greek aionios could still only mean “belonging to eternity” not “lasting through it.” Aionios does not even mean “endless within the sphere of its own existence.” (Farrar, 1882, p. 378-379).
Therefore the Greek word related to punishment cannot mean eternity but merely is a reference to when this will take place, in the coming age of God’s kingdom. Punishment is literally “age-during” or “age-abiding”, or dynamically in English “in the age”.
If eternal punishment existed that would be a very important message to get across. By using of the Greek word aidios the Apostles could have forced that understanding upon us. But this one Greek word that means eternal is never applied to punishment in the original manuscripts of the bible. If the New Testament authors wanted to teach eternal punishment they easily could have but didn’t.
In conclusion, the doctrine of eternal punishment is supported by one Greek word that does not mean eternal, and the one Greek word that actually does mean eternal is never used to support eternal punishment in the bible. Therefore the idea of eternal punishment should rightfully be rejected by all Christians. Eternal punishment is not in the bible and is merely a tradition of men.
Mercy and Judgment: Last words on christian eschatology with reference to Dr. Pusey s “What Is of Faith?” By F. W. Farrar, D.D, F.R.S., Canon of Westminster, Rector of St. Margaret’s, Westminster, late fellow op Trinity College, Cambridge, and Chaplain in Ordinary to the Queen. SECOND EDITION . MACMILLAN AND CO. 1882, p.378-379).
Archived photocopy of book direct page:
Tentmaker Ministries reproduced book:
Young’s Literal bible: Young’s Literal
Rotherham’s Emphasized bible: Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible
Strong’s Greek concordance: http://biblehub.com/greek/126.htm