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Problems of the Spiritual


VI. In your book—"Our Life after Death"—you contend that the word aionios (aionios) will not sustain the meaning of "EVERLASTING." What other Greek word could the New Testament writers have used to express that meaning?

This question, which is submitted by a Clergyman, is a very important one, for the reason that if this word aionios does mean "everlasting," and there are no other terms in the Greek language to convey the idea, then that greatest and most awful of all doctrinal errors—the dogma of unending woe— finds a support, as far as the letter of Scripture is concerned.

But, fortunately for the chance of doing away with this great stumbling-block to the Christian Religion, and of dispelling a grim and terrible shadow which has bedimmed men's vision of God and His Purpose—this is not so. The doctrine of unending woe is in opposition to the letter of the Bible, no less than to the enlightened moral instincts of mankind to-day. It is still held by some, but it is as an article of credulity, rather than as an article of faith. It is an ugly thing—a skeleton in the theological cupboard, which must not be brought into the light of day. It is a doctrine which must not be thought about, talked about, and argued about. It begins to disintegrate and to disappear from the region of the real and the true directly it is discussed. The only chance of retaining it as a belief, and of still remaining a God-honouring, loving and unselfish Christian, is not to face it and not to attempt to justify it. It cannot, without horror and doubt, be faced by any whose mental powers have not in regard to Divine love and justice been anaesthetized; and its justification is impossible.

Now, there will be no need for me, in this answer, to substantiate the assertion that the word aionios does not denote the idea of everlastingness.

The reader will find this point carefully and fully dealt with on pages 221-232 of the book—"Our Life after Death." The word is an adjective derived from a noun (aion). This latter word signifies an age—an age which may be long or short; but which, however long, is terminable. It is never in the Bible, or elsewhere, used to denote endlessness.

Therefore its adjective, aionios, means "age-long," or "that pertaining to an age or epoch"; and nothing more. There cannot be predicated of an adjective more than is predicated of the noun from which it is derived.

The Questioner asks—"What other Greek word could have been used (in place of this aionios) to denote everlastingness?

There is the word aei, an adverb = ever, always, for ever. With the article, this word was used to express unendingness; e.g. unending time (the unending time; i.e. eternity), immortals (those existing for ever; i.e. the immortals). Moreover, this word aei, conjoined with other words, imports into the latter the idea of non-ending. Thus, ever-budding = ever-budding; ever-sprouting = ever-sprouting; perpetual generation = perpetual generation; and so on.

The Translators have rendered our Lord's words, in Matt. XXV. 46 V. (everlasting punishment mistranslation) as, "These shall go away into everlasting punishment." The true rendering is—"These shall go away into an age-long pruning." A vast difference, surely! Why did our Lord, had He meant what the Translators stated, not say, "These shall go away unending vengeance" (into the unending vengeance, or punishment)? There could have been, in that case, no question as to the signification of His utterance. And we have to remember that what has just been stated in regard to this particular passage, applies to all those- passages in which the word aionios has been mistranslated, in order to make it bolster an erroneous and pernicious theological idea.

But there is another Greek word which the writers of the New Testament could have used to convey the sense of unendingness; and as a matter of fact it has been used by them for that purpose. I refer to the word aidios. It is an adjective derived from aei; and consequently there can be no question as to its signification being "everlasting." St. Paul, in Romans i. 20 v., uses the word in reference to God— everlasting power and divinity the translation of which is given in the Revised Version as "His everlasting power and divinity." This word aidios was commonly employed by the Greek writers; thus, for ever = for ever, while hich exists everlastingly (that which exists everlastingly) was a phrase employed to denote Eternity. Moreover, the noun formed from this word —Eternity—is the Greek word for "Eternity."

The New Testament writers, therefore, could have used this word aidios instead of aionios, had it been their intention to convey the idea of unendingness. St. Paul did intend to convey that idea when he referred to God's "power and divinity"; and consequently employed the word. We can only suppose that the writers who used the word aionios (a word which is used hundreds of times in the Bible in the sense of terminableness) did not mean unendingness thereby. If, as the Theology of the past has asserted, they did mean that, then why, we ask, select a word open to doubt, when other words, whose signification is unquestioned, were available for their purpose? Reverting to the passage we have already quoted—"These shall go away into everlasting punishment," it would have been perfectly easy to convey that awful significance by the phrase everlasting punishment. Thus we see that other words were available to convey the idea of everlastingness.

A difficulty which presents itself to those who have not sufficiently studied this subject, has been dealt with on pages 269-273 of "Our Life after Death." Briefly stated, it is this: "If the word aionios does not mean 'everlasting' or 'eternal' in regard to punishment, then neither does it in regard to reward and blessedness; seeing that the same word is used in reference to the righteous—'The righteous shall go into an age-long life(into an age-long life).' What basis have we for a belief in everlasting life, if in this and similar passages in the New Testament only an aeonial or age-long life is promised?"

Our Saviour Christ in His reiterated promises as to this aeonial-life, and the writers of the Epistles in their constant reference to the same thing, were focussing their mental gaze upon that great Epoch which St. Paul, in Eph. iii. 21 v., describes as "The Aeon of the aeons"; a particular Aeon, the great Aeon, the consummating Age of all the ages, the Age whose closing shall see the fulfilment of God's "Purpose of the aeons" (Eph. iii. 11 v.), viz. the "Restitution of all things." It will be an Aeon of blessedness and of perfected being and life to those in affinity and union with Christ. "I give unto them this Aeonial (Æonial) life," said He. But this Aeon of blessedness and perfected life for the righteous will include its epochs of pruning and disciplining and even spiritual death for the unrighteous. Though it will be a terminable period, it will be a vast one, as is indicated by St. Paul's words—''all the generations of the Aeon of the aeons" (Eph. iii. 21 v.); and Christ spoke of "aeonial pruning" and "aeonial death." This great Aeon will close only when the great Purpose of God in Christ shall have been accomplished; when the epochs of pruning and death shall have passed away, and the last "lost" and "dead" beings shall have been found and made alive to God. To those who pass into that great Aeon, identified with Christ, it will mean an aeon of enhanced and superabundant life; a life which will place the participators of it beyond the reach of aeonial disciplining or aeonial death. That is what our Lord meant, when He said—"If a man keep My word, he shall not see death all through the Aeon" (If a man keep My word, he shall not see death all through the Æon) John viii. 51 v.

It may be asked—If that great Aeon will close, will not the life and blessedness of that Aeon also come to an end? Nay, that cannot be. Like a mighty river which has gathered the waters from the smaller rivers and brooklets, and then discharges itself into the great ocean, so the "Aeon of the aeons" will merge into Eternity; and the life pertaining to that Aeon, because it is God-life and Christ-life, will last for ever.

Not, then, upon the promise of Jesus to give us the blessing of the Aeonial life (grand as that promise is), do we base our hope of immortality; but upon the fact that linked with Him we are linked with God. The God-life will be in us, and that can know no ending. "Because I live," said Jesus, "ye shall live also" (John xiv. 19).

What has been said will be sufficient to show how superficial is the argument, that, in rejecting "everlasting" as the translation of the word aionios we demolish not only the awful doctrine of everlasting loss and misery, but also that of everlasting life and blessedness.

We should consider ourselves as being in a pitiable plight, had we to build our hope of immortality only on a word (aionios) which has been applied to the doors of a temple no longer in existence (Ps. xxiv. 7 v.); to a certain order of priesthood (the Aaronic), which has long since passed away; and to conditions of social and national life that have ceased to be.

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Other Books by Rev. Chambers:

"Man and the Spiritual World" (1903 UK Edition)
"Thoughts of the Spiritual" (1905 American Edition)

Rev. Arthur Chambers Returns From "Death" To Speak Through The Zodiac Circle

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