The Bible seems to teach two different destinies for unbelieving mankind. Almost all agree that the believer, who trusts alone in the blood of Christ, is certain of eternal bliss. But those who do not believe -- what is their destiny? Many insist that they will be tormented forever, others say that they will cease to exist, and a few believe that they also will eventually be saved. All bring forward texts from the Bible. In each group are earnest, consecrated Christians who desire to know the truth and to live it out.
Teachers of eternal torment find quite a few strong texts in the Bible, such as the phrase "everlasting punishment" in Matthew 25:46. However, according to other divine declarations, all men will be saved, justified, made alive, and finally reconciled to God (1 Tim. 4:10; Rom. 5:18; 1 Cor 15:22; Col. 1:20). How can this be true? What is the cause of this clash?
It lies in the translation, not in the inspired Original. The words EVERLASTING, ETERNAL, FOREVER, FOREVER AND EVER, all come from a word meaning AGE or EON. There are five of these. We are living in the third. Two are future. They are called the eons of the eons. This is translated "Forever and ever." Even in English we can see that "forever" cannot be endless if "and ever" may be added to it. "Forever" lasts until the new earth. "And ever" commences then. These words NEVER DENOTE ENDLESSNESS.
An age or eon is a definite period of time.
The present eon began at the flood and will last to the coming of Christ. The next eon will last for a thousand years.
The Scriptures speak of a time BEFORE the eons (1 Cor. 2:7). They were not eternal in the past. They also speak of the ends of the eons (1 Cor. 10:11). They will not be everlasting in the future. They will come to a close at the "end" or consummation, when the Son abdicates the throne in favor of the Father (1 Cor 15:24). The throne of the Son lasts for the eon of the eon, not forever and ever (Heb. 1:8).
"Everlasting punishment" is for only one age or eon (Mt. 25:46). Eternal torment is limited to the age-times or eonian times.
This leaves us free to believe ALL of God's word. It magnifies the cross of Christ. It glorifies God. Sin, judgment, and death are temporary, confined to the times of the eons. After the ages of the ages (usually rendered forever and ever) God's great purpose will be fully accomplished. The eonian life of the believer will merge into the real eternal life, when death will be abolished, and all will be made alive in Christ, even as all are dying in Adam (1 Cor 15:22). All mankind will be Justified (Rom. 5:18). The entire universe will be reconciled to God through the blood of Christ's cross (Col. 1:20). God will become All in all.
"For God locks up all together in stubbornness, that He should be merciful to all" (Romans 11:32).
"Our Savior, God, Who wills that all mankind be saved and come into a realization of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4).
"We rely on the living God, Who is the Savior of all mankind" (1 Timothy 4:10).
"Through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus also ... through one just award for all mankind for life's justifying" (Romans 5:18).
"For even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall all be vivified" (1 Corinthians 15:22).
"Through Him to reconcile all to Him, making peace through the blood of His cross" (Colossians 1:20).
--- A. E. Knoch
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