When God wrote scripture, He chose two Greek words to reveal Himself and His purpose. These Greek words are aion and aionion. These have exact English equivalents in "eon" (a noun; a period of time) and "eonian" (an adjective; having to do with a period of time). Ignoring what God wrote, many scholars have decided that God must have meant to say something else.
A word about nouns and adjectives: A derivative adjective draws its meaning from its noun: rainy is of rain, golden is of gold, American is of America, eonian is of eon. This means that if eon is a period of time (which it undoubtedly is, as you will soon see from five passages in Matthew), then eonian has to be of or related to a period of time. Therefore, aionion (eonian) cannot mean eternal, since a period of time must have a beginning and an end.
Rejecting the inspired usage and meaning of eon and eonian, scholars have substituted words as unrelated as "forever," "eternal," "time," "universe," "world," and "life," all to translate this single Greek noun and its adjective. Having done this, they have the audacity to call their substitutions a translation. How can a seeking person know God’s thoughts when his Bible does not even tell him what God has said?
A translation should tell us, in the purest form possible, what God has said. It should then be up to the seeker to interpret what God has said. If the translators fail to accurately handle what God said, then the seeker only has access to (and is at the mercy of) the translators’ interpretations, which are not necessarily in accord with God’s thoughts.
Virtually unknown to believers is the truth that God created vast periods of time (the eons—Heb. 1:2) to effect a purpose (Eph. 3:11). The scriptural eons are buried under an avalanche of mistranslations. The tools required to dig them out are an accurate translation, an open mind, and a willingness to discard tradition whenever necessary.
There are 193 occurrences of aion/aionion in the New Testament. The NIV (New International Version, or, as I call it, the New Inconsistent Version) stumbles close to the truth in only 29 of these occurrences. In these 29 verses, aion and its plural are rendered "age," "ages," or "ages past." Although eon is the exact English equivalent of aion, the word age does somewhat convey the duration of time which God intended to express. In five crucial verses of Matthew (13:39; 13:40; 13:49; 24:3; and 28:20), among others, context forced the NIV people to render aion as age, thereby admitting that aion cannot mean eternity. Consider these verses:
Matthew 13:39— "The harvest is the end of the age (aion), and the harvesters are angels."
Matthew 13:40— "As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age (aion)."
Matthew 13:49— "This is how it will be at the end of the age (aion)."
Matthew 24:3— "As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? (aion)"
Matthew 28:20— "And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age (aion)."
So how could the NIV people have made this same word (aion) "eternal" in other places? Eternity cannot have a conclusion. Rendering aion as age in one verse and eternity in another is dishonest translating. Age and eternity are as different as black and white. To be accurate and honest, translators must choose an English word that fits all the contexts of the inspired word being translated. Only in this way can seekers like us determine the meaning of the inspired word. The greater the variety of words used to "translate" a word of the original, the more obvious it becomes that the goal of the translators is not scriptural accuracy, but the preservation of doctrinal bias.
Why did they do it? Consistent translation of aion/aionion would have upset doctrinal apple carts. The first apple to go would have been the teaching of the eternal doom of the unsaved. Accurately translated, verses formerly used to prove eternal separation from God would attest instead to God’s use of righteous, eonian (that is, time-limited) judgments. Read Matthew 18:8; Matthew 25:41, 46; Mark 3:29; 2 Thessalonians 1:9, and Hebrews 6:2 in this light, and you will have a new Bible. God’s goal is to reconcile His creatures to Himself, not drive them eternally away. It will be a great day for you when you can believe that God is absolutely loving, merciful and just, and not keep having to wonder how love, mercy and justice can possibly exist alongside everlasting pain and hopelessness.
By the way: Since only 29 occurrences of aion/aionion are translated accurately, the other 164 NIV verses are hard at work muddling scriptural truth.
Christians talk about God having a plan, but an honest consideration of God’s performance to date (from the orthodox viewpoint) raises legitimate questions about this plan: What sort of planner is God if His creatures can foil His intentions? What pall does such a situation cast upon God’s vaunted omniscience and omnipotence? From the moment of Eve’s desire to partake of the fruit, to the darkness of the cross, to the depths of today’s wickedness, mankind has scuttled God’s so-called plan. We are led to believe that God never intended events to turn out as they have. According to traditional teaching, the Almighty Sovereign God of the universe is reduced—by His own creatures—to the ignominious role of a celestial fix-it boy. And if Satan and his human minions have derailed God’s plans against His will, as traditional teaching say they have, what happens to our eternal security? How can we know that God will keep us if He has a track record of losing to the wily serpent?
In truth, God operates everything in accord with the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11). Nothing has ever happened which was not in perfect accord with God’s plan and intention. All is out of God, through God, and for God (Romans 11:36). And what is God’s plan? What is the purpose of the eons? This:
To head up the universe in His Son, Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:10-12). To reconcile the universe to Himself, through Christ, making peace through the blood of Christ’s cross (Colossians 1:20). Why? So that, at the consummation of the eons), God will be All in all (1 Corinthians 15:22-28).
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