Posted: Sun Mar 15, 2009 10:50 am
Michael wrote:P.S. Let me rephrase that last question.
Idiomatically speaking, what do you take "aion of aions" to mean?
(Would it mean "forever," "indefinitely," "for ages," "unto the age of ages," or something else entirely?)
Incidentally, I do kind-of like the idea of "age of ages" to mean something like "king of kings" (i.e. the greatest of ages). But as it happens, "age of ages" is super-rare as a phrase in NT Greek. (Only once that I can find, Eph 3:21.) Almost always it's "the ages of the ages".
Be that as it may. I think the plural of the phrase indicates an indeterminate but vastly long stretch of natural time. The singular of the phrase ("into the eon", "for the eon") may mean the same thing, keeping in mind that sometimes the reference seems to be for this eon (which we know is going to end) and sometimes for the Day of the Lord to come (which isn't going to end).
I will point out that even when the reference is to this current eon, the event being described may not end when this eon ends. Similarly, the event being described might or might not end in the eon to come (even if that eon itself never ends). It's also notable that the Day of the Lord to come, even though it counts as an eon, may itself contain sub-eons, themselves dividable into eons ("into the ages of the ages").
So it isn't altogether simple.
However, I will say that if I was a non-universalist, it wouldn't be based on whether an eon didn't end; similarly, my universalism doesn't depend on whether an eon does end. But I will also say that from a rhetorical usage standpoint, if I didn't have many other reasons to think otherwise and only focused on the rhetorical usage of "eon" in regard to punishment, I might very easily think this was a witness to the hopeless permanence of the punishment.
As it is, the stress on duration reminds me that even if the punishment is hopeful (and regardless of severity or lack thereof), it's still going to continue until the soul repents and agrees to cooperate with God in sending away its sins. If I insist on my sinning, it isn't as though I can expect to be freed of God's wrath simply because some period of time has passed.
(Although, not-incidentally, that does seem to be how the prophecies of the OT in regard to the sins of Israel were popularly interpreted during Jesus' day: we've done our time and now we can come out, right? Well, yes, the time of "God's Salvation", YSHuA, is coming and is even already here--but that doesn't mean you're going to automatically be set free of the results of punishment. The far more important thing is to be freed from your sinning, and if you refuse to be free of that... well, "until the last farthing" is rendered up, you won't be coming out!)