When Forever is Not Forever

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By Femi Aribisala

When the English bible says something is “forever,” one thing is for sure; that “forever” will come to an end.

Not even once did anyone in the bible ever talk about everlasting life.  At best, they talked about “age-lasting life.”  Neither did anyone say anything would happen forever or forever and ever.  As a matter of fact, the words “forever,” “eternal,” and “everlasting” never once occur in the bible.  If these words are in your bible, they are the result of wrong translations of the Hebrew word “olam” and the Greek word “aion;” which correctly mean a period of time or an age in English.

What the scriptures talk about are ages past, this present age and ages to come.  When the English bible says something is “forever,” one thing is for sure; that “forever” will come to an end.

Not forever

Take a look at the following anomalies.  Jonah was swallowed live by a big fish.  While in the belly of the fish, he says: “I went down to the moorings of the mountains; the earth with its bars closed behind me FOREVER.” (Jonah 2:6).  However, Jonah was not in the fish forever.  He was only there for three days and three nights.

When a slave loved his master and did not wish to go free at the end of the seventh year: “Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him FOREVER.” (Exodus 21:6).  Of course, that “forever” could not possibly be longer than his lifespan.

When Solomon built the Jerusalem temple, he told God in his prayer of dedication: “I have surely built You an exalted house, and a place for You to dwell in FOREVER.” (1 Kings 8:13).  The Lord answered Solomon: “I have heard your prayer and your supplication that you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built to put My name there FOREVER, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.” (1 Kings 9:3).  However, Solomon’s temple did not last forever.  It only lasted for about 400 years.

Clearly, these bible translations are wrong and misleading.  In one case “forever” means only three days and nights.  In another case, it means a man’s lifetime.  In yet another case, it means 400 years.  This demonstrates the original words could not have meant unending or eternal.  They mean an age with both a beginning and an end.  There are 339 “forever” in the Old Testament King James bible and 51 “forever” in the New Testament, making 390 in all.  Not a single one of them means forever.

Time-bound forever

Given the wrong translations in the English bible, we discover time in eternity.  Revelation says: “The smoke of their torment ascends FOREVER and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image.” (Revelation 14:11).  However, there is no time in eternity; neither can there be day or night.  Once we are still talking of day and night, it means we are operating in time and have not yet reached timeless eternity.  Therefore, this scripture should not say in English “their torment ascends for ever and ever.”  It should say “their torment ascends for the ages of the ages.”

Take a second look at this proclamation in Isaiah: “The forts and towers will become lairs FOREVER, a joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks- until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field.” (Isaiah 32:14-15).  This translation has an inherent contradiction.  It situates eternity (forever) within time.  Since the forts and the towers will become lairs until the Spirit is poured from on high, then the situation cannot be forever.  The “forever” is limited by the “until,” meaning the “forever” is not forever.

Forever and forevers

Moreover, the singular form of a word cannot have the same meaning as the plural.  If both the singular and the plural are used in the original Hebrew or Greek, the distinctions must also be presented in the English translation. Yet, in certain places in the English bible, the plural form of the Greek word “aion” (which is “aions”) is translated as exactly the same word as the singular form and thereby its true meaning is lost in the English translation.

For example, in Ephesians 3:21, the original Greek says: “Unto all generations for the AION of the AIONS.”  However, in the English translation, there is no indication that the first “aion” is singular and the second plural.  It still says: “Unto all generations for ever and ever” because the translators cannot say “for ever and evers.”  In Revelation 1:6, the original Greek bible says “To him be glory for the AIONS of the AIONS.”  However, the English translation does not indicate the “aions” are plural.  It still says: “To Him be glory for ever and ever” because the translators cannot say “for evers and evers.” English translators muddle up everything; failing to differentiate between the “age of the age;” the “age of the ages;” the “ages of the ages” and eternity.

Forever and ever

In their arbitrary harmonization of the scriptures, English translators also rendered what is in the original Greek text as “the ages of the ages” as “for ever and ever” in the English bible.  This is nonsensical.  “For ever” cannot be endless if “and ever” can be added to it.  Only time can be compounded.  But no time can be added to eternity.  You cannot have two eternities.  Neither can you add one eternity to another eternity.  Eternity is absolute timelessness, without beginning or end.  Granted, we cannot add “and ever” to “forever;” as obtains in the English bible, making it “forever and ever.”

But ages are time and time can be added to time.  Therefore, when the Greek New Testament speaks of “the ages of the ages,” it is not speaking of eternity but of aggregated periods of time.  We do not get eternity by adding up all the ages of the past to the ages of the future.  That means we are still operating in time, which has a beginning and an end. However, eternity is everlasting; completely outside of time.

Doctrinal Gaffes

Because the English bible talks of eternity (“forever and ever”), when no such expression actually exists in the original Hebrew and Greek scriptures, we have misunderstood the scope of God’s wrath and judgment.  Christians assume these have eternal implications, when in fact the bible does not say so.

A key example here is the “Christian hell,” where God allegedly burns and torments sinners “forever and ever.”  Such place is without scriptural validity.  The bible only talks of ages to come.  It does not deal with eternity.  There is also no indication how long an age or the ages will last.

Much of what we know about “hell” is extra-biblical, developed long after the bible was compiled, and often extrapolated into the scriptures by bible redactors and translators.  There is persuasive evidence that “hell” is something the Catholic Church invented in order to control lives and scare unbelievers; but that would have to be the subject-matter of another article of faith.

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